Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Interview with Sarah Quigley

Today's star author: Sarah Quigley
Author of: TMI
Bookworm: Welcome, Sarah! To begin, please tell us: how long did the writing process for TMI take?
Sarah: TMI's journey to publication is a bit different from most other books. In 2004, I was living in New York, teaching English, and blogging about my life. I wasn't writing novels or even thinking about it, really. Then, I received a life-changing email from an editor at Dutton Children's Books. She'd randomly run across my blog and contacted me because she though my writing style would work well in a young adult novel. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I wrote an outline for TMI. That took a few months, and with the editor's input, I made improvements. A few more months went by, and I signed a book contract with Dutton.

I finished the first draft of TMI in six months. The editing process took another year, and a little over a year after that, the book finally came out. So from start to finish, it all took about three and a half years. That may sound like a long time, but in the publishing world, it's pretty standard.

Bookworm: How are you and Becca alike? How are you different?
Sarah: Becca and I both enjoy knitting, baking, and watching classic 1980s movies like Heathers. We have a similar fashion sense. And we're both emotional and dramatic.

I don't have as much in common with Becca as I used to, though. When I was a teenager, I was definitely a TMI sort of girl. I liked the attention I got from oversharing, but underneath it all, I was pretty insecure. I didn't understand the importance of personal boundaries until I was a little older. As an adult, I still have a fairly open personality, but I don't feel the need to broadcast everything about my life to everyone.

Bookworm: Have you ever had a TMI moment like Becca?
Sarah: Too many to count, but I'll share one of the best. One of the earliest entries on my blog was a story about a boy I'd kissed when I was in college. I made the mistake of using the boy's first and last names--I couldn't resist. Everyone who hears this boy's name laughs out loud (sorry I can't share it with you, but I've already gotten into enough trouble).

Several years passed, and I forgot about the story even though it was still in the blog archives. Then I received an email from the boy, who was now 28 years old and in business school. It turns out someone had Googled him and found my blog. According to him, the story had caused some "awkward personal and professional situations", and he wanted me to remove his name from the blog. The whole message was very kind and polite, but I was horrified by what I'd done. I immediately deleted the entire post and sent him an apology.

Bookworm: Why did you choose to include the aspect of blogging into your book?
Sarah: This was my editor's idea since my blog caught her attention in the first place. On my blog, I wrote in the third person and created an alter ego for myself called Babs. My editor really liked that and thought it would be fun for the main character to do the same thing.
By the way, I made my blog private a while ago. Sorry to pique your curiosity, but some of the content isn't appropriate for young readers.

Bookworm: Have you ever been in a musical, like the Grease production in the book?
Sarah: Yes, I was quite the theater geek. My little hometown has a great community theater program, and I was involved in a dozen productions over the years. I never got a chance to be in Grease, though. My favorite role was Fruma Sarah, the butcher's dead wife, in Fiddler on the Roof.

Bookworm: Who was your favorite character, other than Becca, in the book (mine was Jai)?
Sarah: Everyone loves Jai! I do, too, of course, but my favorite character is Evan Johnson. He is exactly the kind of guy I would have had a crush on when I was fifteen. And confession: he's loosely based on my actual ninth-grade boyfriend.

Bookworm: What was a YA book that you recently read and loved?
Sarah: That's easy: Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu. It's about a girl whose mother is a compulsive hoarder. This means she never throws anything away, and their house is packed from floor to ceiling with junk. The author does an amazing job of helping the reader understand this mental illness and the effect it can have on a family. I was absolutely fascinated.

Bookworm: What's your next writing project about?
Sarah: Well, my next big project actually doesn't involve writing. I'm expecting my second baby this winter, so I'm taking a break from writing. It was a tough decision but ultimately what's best for me right now. My plan is to concentrate on being a mom for a while and return to writing when I feel ready.
Thank you so much to Sarah for sharing (and not oversharing!). I loved her hilarious story of her own TMI moment--to learn more about Sarah, visit her website here!
Sarah, I wish you all the best on the coming addition to you family--congratulations!

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