Rival: Interview and Giveaway

I'm thrilled to welcome Sara Bennett-Wealer.  She's a Tenner (once a Tenner, always a Tenner) and a founding member of the debut author group, The Elevensies. Sara and I went lunch in Cincinnati last spring, where she lives and I have family. She's lots of fun and a wonderful writer.I'm also thrilled that Sara has agreed to donate a signed copy of Rival for one lucky winner. (See below for details.) Lauren Myracle said the novel is "Awesome, awesome, and more awesome. Not one wrong note."  I agree.  This is an especially must-read for all Glee fans, and, of course, I LOVE that cover.

Welcome, Sara!

What's your favorite flower and why?

I’ve always loved pansies, mostly because of the bold contrast of color. Also because they seem so shabby-chic and hardy, the way they like the cooler weather. Pansies seem friendly and welcoming.I always plant pansies!! Pansies are for "thoughts of you" in the language of flowers. Ophelia carries them in her going-mad bouquet inHamlet.

Is there a quotation you live by or have posted at your desk?

“Don’t ruin your day until your day is ruined.” I’m a worrier and have to remind myself that worrying really does no good—except to make me sick.

Which book do you wish you could live inside?

So many of my favorite books are sad, so I wouldn’t want to live anything close to some of my favorite characters’ lives. If I could live in Edith Wharton’s Gilded Age New York or the Victorian England of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty I think I’d find it interesting. Barring that, I’d probably enjoy a visit to Wonderland.

Fun! Who's your favorite dead writer and what book of his/ hers would you recommend?

Oh! Edith Wharton. The House of Mirth is my favorite of her books, but keep a box of tissues nearby, especially as you get to the end!

What book have you read more than any other and why?

Cumulatively over a lifetime, I’ve probably read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn the most. They were my favorites when I was about eight – I sort of had a crush on the boys! Then I read them again in school, and then again as an adult for pleasure. My husband comes from Mark Twain’s hometown, so it’s easy to get inspired to revisit those books. I also never get tired of Alice in Wonderland.

How do you plot your novel?

I let things swirl around in my head until I feel like I’ve got a grasp on the overall story arc and the main character(s). Then I sit down and write until I hit a dead end. After that, I get out graph paper and pencil and map out the rest of the plot, drawing lines and making notes in the margins so I can see how everything is connected.

What was the greatest challenge of writing from a dual perspective?

Making the voices sound distinct enough. I had a couple of drafts where I made Kathryn really flowery and Brooke really short and staccato. TOO staccato! I had to find a happy medium. Also, I had to make sure that one character didn’t come across as more flawed or likeable than the other. I tried to give both girls aspects people could root for and moments when each is pretty unlikeable.

What was your favorite or least favorite scene to write?

The Homecoming dance gave me lots of trouble – trying to figure out how to wrap everything up. And believe it or not, I didn’t enjoy writing the scenes where the girls are singing. It’s hard to describe something like that, and I worried people would find it boring. I liked the scene where they get into their big confrontation, because they both had so much to say to each other at that point. The dialogue just sort of flew!

The dialogue in Rival has been widely praised.  How did you get it just right?

I basically tried to write like I would talk. I feel like I still have a lot of teenager in me (though God forbid I end up one of those middle-aged moms who thinks she’s hip – ack!), plus I work in advertising which keeps me tuned in. I feel like I have a decent barometer for what sounds real. During revisions, I could tell something needed fixing if it ever seemed stilted to me.

What advice would you give to wannabee writers?

Be willing and able to take criticism. Realize that most authors go through many, many drafts before their work is publishable – and revising doesn’t just mean correcting typos. It means chopping things up, rearranging, getting rid of scenes and characters you love, changing entire story arcs—whatever it takes to make the book the best it can be. Ask for critique, develop a thick skin, and try to look at your work objectively. Basically, get ready to work hard. But also prepare to have fun and meet some awesome people along the way!

Thanks so much for coming by, Sara!

To enter the contest to win Rival:

The contest is open to anyone age 13 and over in the U.S. from March 3rd to March 11th. Here’s how to enter to win. Please comment on this post.+3 entries for telling me which special flowers and herbs you’d include for a friend competing in a musical contest (see language of flowers list above)+2 entries for linking to this post on your blog or posting a link on your Facebook page.+2 entries for tweeting this giveaway to your followers.+2 entries for following me or Sara on Twitter+2 entries if you fan Rival on FacebookShamrocks and lavender for good luck!! Please have all entries to me by midnight on 3/11 EST. All entries will be assigned numbers, and the winner will be chosen randomly by random.com. Thanks for entering!

Language of Flowers - pansies are for thoughts of you.