My Beautiful Struggle + [The Lying Game]

Interview & Giveaway: Author Sara Shepard

1. Everything We Ever Wanted is a novel that focuses on an entire family and their struggles. If you had to describe the overall structure of the Bates-McAllister family in 3 words, what would they be?
Hmm… probably things like repressed, analytical, and perhaps lonely. They all feel like they aren't living up to the others' expectations, whether that be the community at large or their mythical ancestors. The family also has a difficult time communicating with one another… but what family doesn't?
2. This book involves the topic of hazing and bulling. What type of emotions does this topic bring up for you, and what would you like teens to know about bulling?

I wasn't bullied as a child per se, although I had my fair share of snubs from cliquey girls, etc. I luckily flew under the radar, and then I went through a transformation in tenth grade where it was actually a badge of pride to be made fun of-- this was back in the grungey early nineties where being different and alienated was"in," at least in my mind. I'm not sure it's like that anymore. But I certainly saw a lot of bullying, especially when it came to sports. I grew up in an area where sports meant everything-- even swimming, the sport I did the most. Not only were kids ruthless with the swimmers who weren't as talented, but parents got in on the action, too.
I thought about this a lot when I wrote about the school scandal Scott is embroiled in--there's so much pressure to be the best these days. Even adults can lose their heads. As far as what I want teens to know about bullying, hazing, and the like: some of the most amazing people I know today were bullied. Their high school experiences were miserable. They were different, outcasts, shunned, and teased. But the most amazing, successful ones held their heads high and got through it. And fifteen years later, they're the ones doing great things with their lives-- traveling through the outback, working for record labels in New York City, making art in San Francisco. The people that teased them? Their lives aren't particularly special. Maybe they never were. I know that's a tough thing to keep in mind when you're young, but I'm a firm believer in whatever doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

3. You have experienced enormous success with your novels Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, with both being widely watched now on ABC Family; but, what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
That's a tough one. Writing the first Pretty Little Liars felt like a big accomplishment, only because I had to blindly quit my job and take a chance that the book series would even sell to do it. I also moved across the country to a place where I knew absolutely no one and had to start over from scratch. But as a writer, I am overly modest and self-deprecating, so my true answer is that hopefully my greatest accomplishment is yet to come. I'd like to think I still have a few good books in me. Or maybe more than a few!

4. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned from fans of your novels and tv shows?
I love how much everyone has gotten into the series and the shows. You never know if your concept is going to work with audiences or not or if they're going to go with your plot twists and characters. What makes me happiest is that the readers buy the mystery's big reveals-- who is A, for example-- instead of saying,"Yeah, right! As if that could happen!" I'm always surprised, too, when people guess correctly who A is. There have been some great theories about who A isn't as well-- some awesome alternate As perhaps for later books.
5. Is it difficult for you to switch gears between writing young adult and adult novels? What is your favorite part of the writing process?
It strangely isn't, although it takes me a lot longer to write an adult novel than it does to write a young adult one. That's probably because I have a set plan for YA novels before going forward, complete with an outline, etc.-- with adult novels I sort of wing it, follow a path, and then end up having to scrap whole chapters and start over. I've tried outlining an adult novel, but it never really works. I don't know why. My favorite part of the writing process is fine-tuning the words I already have on the page. I'm a firm believer in just writing something, even if it's bad, and fixing it later. Just having something on the page helps me to go in and flesh out a scene and make it shine. But there are some days where writing is a chore-- nothing is flowing, you can't put a sentence together, you think you're just about the most uncreative person in the universe. It's tough to stick with it sometimes. Deadlines help. So does walking away from the computer and coming back later. So do cookies.: )

-- Thanks so much to Sara for being on my blog! This was, very much, a dream interview for me! Also, thanks to HarperCollins for making the giveaway possible.

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard Publisher: HarperCollins (October 11th, 2011) Reading Level: Adult Paperback: 352 pages How do you choose between your family and your history?

Emotional and compelling storytelling from Sara Shepard, author of All the Things We Didn't Say.

A late-night phone call on a Sunday evening rarely brings good news. So when Sylvie, a recently-widowed mother of two, receives a call from the head teacher of the school she's on the board of, she knows it won't be something she wants to hear. The school was founded by her grandfather, and she's inherited everything he strived to build up — a reputation, a heritage, the school and the grand old family house. And with this inheritance comes responsibility.So when her son Scott is whispered to be involved in a scandal that led to the death of one of the boys he coaches at the school, it throws the family into chaos: Sylvie has to decide between her loyalty to the school that has been part of her family legacy for years and her son who she feels wants nothing to do with her. She starts spying on the dead boy's father, making an unlikely connection.Sara Shepard's compelling new novel tells how hard it can be to really, truly connect to people, how making quick, easy judgments can come back to haunt you, and how the life you always planned for — and always dreamed of — often doesn't always turn out the way you imagined at all…

Prize:

  • 1 winner will receive a copy of Everything We Ever Wanted.
Rules:
  • You must be at least 17 to enter.
  • Name and email must be provided.
  • Extra entries are possible and links must be provided.
  • Contest is US Only and ends November 9th.
  • Once contacted, the winner will have 48 hours to respond.
  • The form must be filled out to enter.

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Pretty Little Liars will have a special Halloween episode on tonight at 8/7c on ABC Family.
The Lying Game will have all new episodes coming in January.

Promotional images from ABC Family.