I have exciting news to announce! Our very own Prime Advertising Copywriter, Sara Biren, is a published author. That’s right, she wrote a book! I am in awe of her! I sit by her at Prime. Look…that’s her. I know a famous author.
Sara is author of The Last Thing You Said, a beautifully written young adult novel that hit bookshelves on April 4th. SHE HOLDS REAL ESTATE AT BARNES AND NOBLE!!! Have I mentioned that I am in awe of her? Sara is an amazing lady with an absolute gift. As I have gotten to know her over the past few months, I can honestly say that she was born to be an author. Sara loves words. She loves to write. She loves to read. She respects the laws of grammar more than any person I have ever met.
I don’t know many authors, so I thought it would be fun to ask Sara a few questions about her journey. I hope you enjoy!
Who is your favorite author(s)?
It’s a long list, and I know I’ll forget some. From childhood: Maud Hart Lovelace, Beverly Cleary, and L.M. Montgomery. I love Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Tim O’Brien. My favorite young adult authors are Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Kasie West, Morgan Matson, Jessi Kirby, and Sarah Ockler. I’m sure this list is different every time I’m asked the question.
What is your favorite book(s)?
My all-time favorite book is GONE WITH THE WIND. I was ten the first time I read it. My mom told me I was too young for it, although I’d seen the movie countless times, so I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings and sneak-read it behind the green chair in the living room. For a long time, I read it every summer. Then I had kids.
Other favorites include ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen, and THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien. I’m a bit obsessed with the Harry Potter series as well as a YA time travel series by Kerstin Gier – RUBY RED, SAPPHIRE BLUE, and EMERALD GREEN.
Is there a special place, band, person, etc. that you turn to when you need inspiration to write?
I have to listen to music when I write. I usually have specific playlists for each manuscript. Some of the bands I’ve turned to over the years are Coldplay, Foo Fighters, and the Beatles, but more than any other, I’ve been inspired by the Jayhawks. Some of my short stories share titles with Jayhawks songs, and I try to sneak bits of lyrics into everything I write. It helps that they are from Minnesota, so I get to see them in concert frequently.
How do you break writer’s block?
I used to say that writer’s block didn’t actually exist, that it was a trick of the mind. I don’t say that anymore. I know that writer’s block is a real thing for a lot of people. For me, it’s more of a sense that maybe today isn’t going to be the best day for writing, and that’s okay. But no matter what, I sit down at the laptop and start to put words down, and usually the fog clears. If not, I don’t beat myself up about it. I either take a break and come back to it or read.
Have you always wanted to write a book?
Yes. I started writing copy-cat stories like Betsy-Tacy and B is for Betsy in first grade. I took classes and workshops all through school, got an English degree, and went to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing. I started writing young adult fiction in 2009.
When did you decide to write The Last Thing You Said?
I started writing the first draft of this book in July of 2011, while I was attempting to sign with an agent for my first novel, CLOUD 9 (which didn’t happen). I joined that month’s Camp NaNoWriMo, a summertime version of National Novel Writing Month, in which you write a complete, 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I got a good start on the book, but because of the difficult subject matter (and life), it took about eighteen months for me to complete the first draft.
Did you always have the storyline in your head or did it come to you one day/night?
I never have a complete storyline in mind when I start a new project. For this, I had only the characters and the setting: two teens in a small Minnesota resort town whose lives and friendship are forever changed by a shared grief. What happens in the book plot-wise came to me as I wrote, rewrote, and revised over the years.
If so, do you remember the moment that the idea came to you?
The idea came to me while reading the Caringbridge account of a local teen who was dying of cancer. I thought about the people he would leave behind, his parents and siblings and friends. I knew that I wanted to write a story about grief — how the grieving process and how we experience loss is different for everyone.
Do you have plans to write another book?
I’m currently working on the rewrite of a book about the only girl on a boys’ hockey team, set in the same town as THE LAST THING YOU SAID. I’ve also got a good start on a first draft that’s told in alternating chapters from the perspective of an aging rock star’s son and the daughter of the caretaker of his family’s farm – sort of Sabrina meets This is Spinal Tap.
What advice would you offer someone starting the process of writing a book?
Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read books of the same genre. Read outside of that genre. Read books on the craft of writing (and take some classes if you’re able to). Read poetry for examples of rich and lyrical language. Read books recommended by others and re-read favorites to be reminded of why you love them. Read every day.
We understand that you enjoy a drink called the Pink Squirrel. What is a Pink Squirrel? Would you recommend?
Well, if you’ve heard that I enjoy Pink Squirrels, then you’ve probably also heard that I am a big fan of the supper club. The Pink Squirrel is the nutty cousin of the minty Grasshopper – an ice cream drink made with almond and cocoa liqueur with a hazelnut on top. It’s a standard menu item at your midwestern supper club, as well as in my kitchen.