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Hello, bookclubbers 🙂 This month’s interview is with Sarah Epstein, the author of our book-of-the-month, DEEP WATER. Sarah gets the chance to explain why she writes for teenagers, the real-life dimensions of a graveyard mausoleum, and her perfect writing conditions – read on…
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or something in between? Do you even believe in that ‘plotter Vs pantser’ stuff?
I’m very much a plotter. I like to plan and outline my novels in quite a lot of detail before I start writing, or at least before I get too far into drafting the opening chapters. I find that if I don’t, I’ll lose steam on what I’m writing because I’m not entirely sure where it’s going. Then I stall. And then I start glancing sideways at shiny new ideas. If I’ve outlined the chapters and have some idea of what comes next, it gives me the freedom within chapters to explore characters and their connections, making sure all the pieces are moving. Plotting gives me a framework I can work within, but on a chapter by chapter level I do a bit of discovery writing (or pants-ing) on how those plot points will play out.
What are your perfect writing conditions?
I need peace and quiet, a cup of tea, and a few hours stretching out ahead of me. That’s about it! And if that doesn’t work out, I need headphones playing white noise or thunderstorms, and whatever time I can snatch between other things. My favourite time to write used to be at night after my family had gone to bed, because night time feels infinite and there’s no chance of being interrupted. But these days I find I’m not as productive at night anymore because I get too tired and just kick around the edges without really getting stuck into anything. So now I often work on big picture brainstorming or outlining at night and leave the actual drafting for daytime.
Why write for teenagers?
Back in high school I wrote a creepy short story with a teenage protagonist, and my English teacher gave me full marks for it with a comment about wanting to read more because she was dying to know what happened next. When I decided to try writing my first novel-length story as an adult, I thought this was as good a starting point as any. I found my 16-year-old voice came through very naturally and I could easily tap into those same emotions, frustrations and challenges I felt as a teen. Then, as I started reading YA more widely, I found the taut plots, character arcs and themes of self-discovery so appealing, and very suited to the types of stories I wanted to tell.
While researching your book, you found out some crazy stuff, and it was…
The size and interiors of graveyard mausoleums. I had to figure out what they looked like inside and how much room there’d be for a couple of (living) people to hang out for a little while. I also found out how microbursts work in a thunderstorm, and how it’s like a huge water bomb dropping from the sky, sending wind and rain in every direction at once with wind speeds up to 160km/h. Intense!
What are the key themes (or maybe just the key feels!) that you hope readers take away from your book?
It’s interesting how I never really think about themes at all when I’m writing, and it’s often when I get to the climax that I come up with a line of internal dialogue for the main character that basically sums up what I’ve been trying to say all along. In Deep Water I realised the core of the story is how the trajectory of our lives can drastically change with a couple of wrong turns or for reasons out of our control, and how our mistakes show we’re human but it’s what we do next that reveals who we truly are.
Thank you for joining in with us, Sarah!
Please keep an eye out for the upcoming discussion post for DEEP WATER on the #LoveOzYAbookclub FB thread, and have a great week!