An Interview with Sarah J. Schmitt
Here's my "author" interview with myself. I think it gives you a little insight into me and my personality!
When did you realize you were born to be a writer?
I started writing when I was a kid. I even came in second in a county wide writing contest when I was a freshman in high school. (I lost to my English teacher’s son… I wanted to cry fix, but they showed me the shiny trophy and I was distracted.) When I got to college, I decided I needed to get serious and got a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology, but I kept writing a few pages of fiction here and there. When I graduated, I was pretty directionless. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so when someone commented that I would be a good college administrator, I thought, “Sure, what the heck.”
Best and worst mistake of my life. Worst because midway through my first semester, I realized I was tired of school and just wanted to be a writer. Best because I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I met so many amazing people who encouraged me to follow my dreams. They continue to be the greatest cheerleaders of all time. I finished my program, came home, wrote seventeen chapters of a horrible novel, had two babies and thought this is as good as it’s going to get.
Then one day, when I was folding clothes and watching The Ellen Show. Ellen was interviewing Stephanie Meyer about Twilight and I remember Stephanie saying she had three small kids at home and had never wanted to write a book before but she had to know how the dream ended. I thought to myself, “Hey. I only have two kids and I’ve always wanted to write a book. If she can do it, why can’t I?” That week I started writing my second novel and within 6 months had a first draft. It was that moment, on October 3, 2009, that I knew this is what I was supposed to do with my life. (In case you're wondering, my first novel, written two years before was so horrible that I had to write a chapter where all the characters were on a bus that flew off a cliff in a firey accident. I kinda felt bad for the bus driver because he hadn't had the time to become a one dimensional flake of a character like his passengers, but he was a casualty of bad writing. It couldn't be helped.)
What inspired you to write It's A Wonderful Death?
Desperation. No seriously, that's what it was. I had spent the better part of five years studying my craft by writing two first books in two different series. They were good and the concepts got some attention but one was a paranormal and one was a dystopian. By the time they were done, there was a flooding of the market and they didn't stand out enough to make the scene. In a frustrated call to my mother I declared I was tired of saving the world and I just wanted to save the cheerleader. (Shout out to fans of the awesome series Heroes.) And that's what I did. I created this beautifully flawed character who was, in some ways almost un-redeemable, put her in a weird situation and tried not to make the predictable choices when it came to writing. Apparently it worked.
What is your current work in progress about?
I just started a new book and I'm being pretty tight lipped about it, but I will say that is has a main character who is snarky and borderline hateful who is cursed to become an under-represented paranormal creature. Lots of fun to be had with this one!
Who are your favorite authors?
Wow. You know that’s a common writer question, but when you have to answer it, it can be tough. I would have to start with Lurlene McDaniel. She was the first author who kept me reading well into the early morning. Then Marcus Sakey who is not only my first author mentor, but a genius at building suspense into a grocery list; Kelsey Timmerman, who has changed the way I look at sweat shops and underwear; and Veronica Roth, who writes books I wish I had thought of. And then there is the iconic J.K. Rowlings. Give me a few months and I'm sure I can add a ton more names to this list.
What are your top three favorite books?
I have an all-time list and then I have the current trend list. On the all-time list, hands down: The Stand by Stephen King, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and the Harry Potter series. Honorable mention goes out to Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor. It’s a diverse group, but in their own ways, they have all inspired me to be the writer I am becoming. On the current list, The False Prince (and sequels) by Jennifer A. Neilson and I Funny/I Even Funnier by James Patterson and Survival Colony 9 by Josh David Bellin. All time best audio book is Beauty Queens by Libba Bray!
Do you outline?
Yes and no. I typically use Blake Synder’s 15 Beats or Christopher Vogel's Mythic Structure to set up what the pivotal moments in the plot. How I get from one point to another is a complete mystery. I tried outlining the first horrible seventeen chapters of that first novel that was destined for manila envelope hell. That experience convinced me that I have to allow my characters to grow into themselves and a lot of times they don’t behave the way I think they should. So now I give them freedom, with a few constraints.
What is your writing routine?
I need to get one! I try to write in the evening for about four hours, edit all weekend and then slip in reading in the afternoon. In addition to being a writer, I'm also a school librarian part time and work at my public library working primarily with teens. It's a great combination for a book lover, though it doesn't lead for a lot of time for a routine. However, I've found that I write best in marathon sessions. NaNoWriMo is a great example. If I can write something in a month, yes, there is a lot to edit, but the meat of the book is on paper and then I can edit whenever I get a chance.
Do you have any quirky habits when you write?
I hate to admit it, but I have several. First, I can not write without coffee. I prefer to write in a public place, like Starbucks where I can constantly feed my addiction. I always start my writing session out with the same song. Each book has it's own song, but for It's A Wonderful Death, it was Extraordinary by Mandy Moore. I have a playlist for each of my characters and I play that while I'm writing scenes from their POV. Since IAWD is written in first person, I'm really glad my MC likes the same music I do!
What is your favorite thing about writing?
Talking to other writers! Writing a book is a solitary task and I am a people person, so sometimes it’s hard for me to stay focused on the work when I want to be on the social network sites. I’ve found conferences give me the right balance of learning my craft and commiserating with my people.
What is your least favorite thing?
The amount of time I sacrifice with my family. I love my kids and husband like crazy, but in order to pursue my dreams, sometimes I have to let the Wii U babysit my kids. Don't get me wrong, I spend time with my kids and we have a lot of fun advnetures, but I still feel guilty. I find comfort in the fact that I'm teaching my kids the power of passion, which I think is part of my job as a parent. (Say that five times fast!)
If the author could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think it would be Maureen Johnson. I follow her on twitter and in addition to being a talented writer, she’s freaking hilarious. Seriously, if you don’t follow her, you should. I just want a chance to observe her and see how her mind works. Wow. That was a little creepy!
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
It’s so simple, but it has to be said. Don’t dream about writing. WRITE. AND READ. A LOT (And then edit. Also a lot!)