I am so extremely excited to share this interview with you today! Sarah Rees Brennan is an amazing author of the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, and most recently, her new series, which starts with the novel, Unspoken. The second of that series, Untold, just released a few weeks ago, and I’m excited to read it. I know that its going to be SUPER awesome.
I first discovered Sarah when she went on tour with Cassandra Clare this past spring, for Cassie’s Clockwork Princess tour. She had her pals, Sarah and Maureen Johnson, with her, which was really awesome. I had already read some of Maureen’s books, but I will admit, I had never even heard of Sarah, but she was SUPER hilarious and I have to admit, the dress she wore was so cute that I was obsessed with the dress!
I also interviewed Cassie at that particular signing, and when I went to the “green room” to go interview her, Sarah was like, “Oh my god, you’re so cute!” which kind of made my whole life, and I knew immediately that between her hilarity, her calling me cute and her fabulous taste in dresses, I just had to read her books.
I’ve read the entire Demon’s Lexicon, and now I’m eager to dive into her Lynburn Legacy books. I was extremely excited when she agreed to do an interview and even MORE excited when I read her answers. She’s an awesome author, very inspiring and her books are great.
Update: I decided to dive into Unspoken as soon as I finished writing up this interview, aaaaaand ended up finishing the book in a couple hours. A review will be coming later but let me just say this: this book was absolutely amazing and I am blown away right now. Absolutely blown away. I want to read the sequel right this moment but its late and I have school in the morning. I also never thought a fictional boy would make me fall in love and break my heart like Jace Wayland until Jared Lynburn. Sigh.
Enjoy the interview!
Sara: What can you tell us about your new book, Untold? Where does it take us from Unspoken?
Sarah: It takes place a few weeks after the end of Unspoken, though there’s a story that bridges the gap called The Night After I Lost You (which you can read here!). Unspoken was set in autumn–a time of change, of the leaves turning gold. Untold is set in winter, a time of loneliness, of cold and despair–but despair that passes, for most of us. (There’s always a last winter.)
… Obviously it’s a very cheerful book. Actually, there are a lot of jokes–I don’t want to spend time with people who have no sense of humour, and that includes fictional people. But a big change happens at the end of Unspoken, both for the town and in the relationships of the main characters, and that means the next book starts out with uncertainty, hurt and fear. (And then stuff gets better! Or does it get worse. You never know which way I’ll dart.)
Sara: Was it easier or harder to write the sequel now that you’ve written Unspoken? Why?
Sarah: Easier, I think. I knew and loved the characters, and I could feel the shape of the story. I wrote it after I’d sold Unspoken but before it came out, and that’s a magic time: full of hope, and the happy knowledge that this book you’re writing will be published. Though there’s always a worry with sequels–you don’t want to let anybody down! I think book two is really the rest of every series–can the author keep it up? can she STEP it up? I tried!
Sara: What is your writing process like? What is the hardest part of writing a novel?
Sarah: I write a chapter plan, constructing plot with several helpful critique partners, and I try to follow it. I think the hardest part of writing a novel is the middle part, where you don’t remember why you started and can’t imagine how you’re going to finish.
Sara: Where do you get your inspiration from? How did you come up with the idea for Unspoken, and in turn, Untold?
Sarah: I had the original idea for Unspoken–a girl finds out her imaginary friend is a real guy–when I was about seventeen. I wrote a book about it–Beyond Imagination, I called it, because I was a super imaginative writer. The idea kept coming back to me. The hero of Unspoken has the same name as that original book (Jared) though he’s a different guy–all the characters are different, except one. She was called Kelly Preston in the first book, but in Unspoken, she’s called Holly Prescott, because turns out Kelly Preston is a real person people may have heard of…
When I decided I loved the idea, and I wanted to go back to it, and talk about how telepathic soulmate-style bonds would actually be TERRIBLE, and also build a Gothic mystery (fear, atmosphere, being trapped, and having no way to talk about your experiences). I tried to read Beyond Imagination again. It was too awful. I threw the book like a snake and rewrote it from scratch.
Sara: What advice do you give to aspiring writers, not only on writing but on the world of publishing, as well?
Sarah: Publishing is so different from writing. And you never know how you’re going to be treated, going in: self promotion is difficult, and you might have to do a lot. If you’re lucky and you do get promoted by your publisher, then awesome, but it brings with it its own set of stresses. Be as ready for the world of publishing as you can be, I guess is my advice. Writing is only half of your job, and its the half that comes most naturally–the half that made you want to take on the rest. Before I was published, I really had no idea what being published entailed: how suddenly I would have to learn, and come to care passionately about, covers and distributions and awards and what hills to die on when you’re editing and how to coax marketing departments and promotional items and so much else I never dreamed of. It’s like a life-long apprenticeship: you keep on learning. Be ready for the learning!
Sara: What inspired you to add the elements of diversity into your stories? Elements of the LGBT lifestyle?
Sarah: I don’t really think of it as adding those elements, any more than I add any other essential bit of a story. Life’s diverse, so books should be, too. It should be as simple as that. It isn’t, of course–LGBT authors and authors of colour face prejudice they shouldn’t, and diverse books are seen as ‘less marketable’ and given less promotion–but the only way to effect change is to write diversely and make clear your wish to see more diversity. Plus, writing about a world in which, for instance, no body was LGBTQ would have to be a conscious choice to exclude: the world I live in and want to reflect is one that includes them. They’re my friends, family, loved ones, they’re my readers. I want no part of any world, real or fictional, that excludes them.
Sara: What are some of your favorite books and authors to read?
Sarah: Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Margaret Mahy, were my childhood classics. (I fangirl SO hard every time I read an author loving Tamora Pierce). Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, centuries-old forever favourites. I love romance novels and my favourites are Courtney Milan, Laura Kinsale, Tessa Dare, Mary Balogh and always Georgette Heyer. Right now in YA–Marie Lu writes the best dystopian fiction around. Robin Wasserman wrote this horror novel that’s like Stephen King with chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream, the Waking Dark, that I love. I’d so like to see some more YA horror: Kendare Blake also writes awesome YA horror.
Sara: What are some of your favorite things to do in your “spare” time, when you aren’t writing or touring?
Sarah: Tell me more about this spare time…
I love traveling, and do it a lot for fun. I’m lucky to have a job that I can travel with, without a boss to call me and be like ‘Rees Brennan, what do you mean, you’re in Copenhagen? This is the last time, you crazy maverick! You’re fired!’ It does mean, though, that my best friend once asked when I’d last taken a holiday where I hadn’t worked, and I was like, ‘Oh…three years? Maybe four…no, three! Yay, three!’
I like cooking, and vintage stuff, and dancing, and country music. I live in hope someone will send me to Nashville someday.
Sara: What is your favorite part about being an author?
Sarah: Having readers! I started writing when I was five. That someone likes your words enough to buy or librarify or loan from a friend the book, and spend time with it, and invest in the characters and the story. It seems like passing a snow globe from hand to hand, with a whole world inside it. It makes me so happy.
Sara: What are you working on now, and what do you have planned for the future?
Sarah: I’m finishing up the third book in the Lynburn Legacy series, which I hope will tear out people’s souls and turn them into soul confetti–I MEAN, WHICH I HOPE PEOPLE WILL ENJOY, phew, good save self–and I just finished Tell the Wind and Fire, which is set in an alternate New York torn apart by dark and light magic, starring a girl who’s a celebrity for something she did when she was younger that she’s not exactly proud of, and who finds out that her beloved boyfriend has a doppelgänger: a being identical to him, created by dark magic, and with no soul… (Also, its a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities).
And for the future, I’d like to write a revenge narrative (What Would Shakespeare Do?) about a mad, bad girl.
Sara: Lastly, a question I ask everyone I interview, because it’s fun: who is your fictional crush?
Sarah: Mr. Darcy, Colin Craven, Howl of Howl’s Moving Castle, Gen of the Queen’s Thief series, Cricket of Lola and the Boy Next Door…I’m a bit of a fictional harlot. Girls just wanna have fun…with a paperback.
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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Sarah, as much as I did. She had some seriously awesome answers, and I am excited to have her on my blog. I enjoy immensely that she reads Diana Wynne Jones and Tamora Pierce (you guys know how I like to push Tammy on all of you), and that Howl is one of her fictional crushes.
She has some amazing advice and insight, and she’s a great writer and story teller. I definitely recommend The Demon’s Lexicon series, and I will be reviewing both Unspoken and Untold very soon, as I dive into that world. I’m sure its going to be awesome!
Can I just say though: I’m SO sad I wasn’t able to really meet and get books signed by Sarah when I saw her back in March! She lives overseas most of the time, and tours over there often. I sincerely hope she makes it back to California soon so I can meet her again!
Happy Reading everyone!