I am so pleased to invite Sarah Beard, author of the Young Adult book Porcelain Keys to her Behind the Author interview here on Acting Balanced!
1. Tell us a little bit about how you write your books:
Usually my story ideas begin with a single scene rather than a story premise. I’ll imagine something happening—characters having a serious conversation, or finding themselves in a particular scenario—and I’ll write down that scene. Then I develop that scene into a story by asking questions. Who are these characters? Why does he have a pulse rifle at his hip? And what is she so anxious about? Why does she keep looking over his shoulder like that? It goes on, and on, until I have a story. I try not to think too much about the quality of writing in my first draft. The goal is just to get the story down. If I worry too much about word choice or sentence structure, I get paralyzed. I keep a sticky note above my computer that says, “Dare to write badly.” Because giving myself permission to write badly is the only way I can get through a first draft.
Once I finish a first draft, I go back and rework sentences and paragraphs to make them prettier. Also, I am a discovery writer, so there are always plot elements and details I have to go back and change to keep things consistent. As I revise, I begin sharing chapters with my critique partners to get feedback, then implement the suggestions I agree with. Then I read through it again and make more revisions. Then I repeat the process. Then repeat it again. And maybe again for good measure. And once it’s accepted for publication, it goes through more revisions. To paraphrase a quote from author John Irving: writing is mostly rewriting, and it’s not so much talent as it is stamina.
2. How long have you been writing and what do you love about it?
I’ve always loved making up stories. I was that weird kid in elementary who spent most recesses alone in the school yard lost in her own world. But it wasn’t until jr. high and high school that I started capturing the details of those worlds on paper. I wrote a lot of poetry and some short stories, and was on my high school’s literary magazine. Then in college, I took writing classes for my communications degree and wrote a lot of depressing poetry and song lyrics.
It wasn’t until I was married with two small kids that the novelist came out in me. One day the story for Porcelain Keys hit me out of nowhere, and I knew I had to write it. It took me a few years to finish, and throughout the process I discovered just how much I love writing. Words are beautiful and powerful. I enjoy the process of finding the perfect words and putting them together in way that evokes a specific image or emotion. And I love that I can put to use all the seemingly random scenes that pop into my head. Otherwise they might drive me crazy.
3. What hobbies/interests do you have?
I’m interested in so many things that I have trouble becoming an expert at anything. I’ve dabbled in drawing, painting, guitar, pottery, snowboarding, wakeboarding, karate, photography, and piano. Writing is the one that finally stuck. And I still play the piano a lot, mostly composing my own music. I also like making cookies. Well, maybe not making them. But I enjoy eating them, which is why I make them.
4. Something people would be surprised to know about me is…
I was a wedding photographer for 3 years. I found that I didn’t have a passion for it though, so I got out.
5. If you could invite 4 people (real or fictional, living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you invite and what would you serve?
I would invite all four of my grandparents. I never knew my maternal grandma because she died before I was born, and my other three grandparents are gone now. I really miss them and wish I could sit down with them to ask all about their lives. And we would go out to eat, because I’m not the greatest cook and they deserve a gourmet meal.
6. I can’t live without…
A lap cat, chocolate, and a sturdy notebook to keep track of all my writing notes.
7. Tell us a little about this current book - what was your favorite part about writing Porcelain Keys?
It’s a love story about a girl named Aria and a boy named Thomas. Aria loves music and has been trained as a classical pianist, but she lives in a situation that makes it impossible to play the piano openly. Thomas comes along and helps her find the courage to free herself from the restraints that keep her from her dreams. But what she doesn’t realize is that Thomas is carrying his own burdens, ones that he keeps hidden. The story is full of secrets and twists and turns, and explores the themes of grief, forgiveness, and the healing power of love.
My favorite part of writing this story was how real the characters became to me. I really grew to love them, and found it very satisfying to write their personal journeys. I also enjoyed the overall process of creation. When I began writing this story, I had two very small kids and had been suffering from postpartum depression. I’d lost touch with my creative side because I was so focused on meeting the needs of my children. So when I began allowing myself time to create again, the depression lifted, and I became passionate about life again. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy motherhood—I did and still do immensely. But water can’t be drawn from an empty well. And writing filled my well after a long dry spell.
8. What's next for your writing?
I’m finishing up the first draft of another young adult romance. This one is on the supernatural side, though I don’t want to call it paranormal because I always associate paranormal with mythical creatures. Everyone is human in my new story and no one has special powers, but there are some definite unearthly things going on. And after that, I have two more young adult romances lined up.
9. How can your fans stay up to date with what you are doing?