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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interview: Sara Grant, author of Dark Parties

Sara Grant was born and raised in Washington, Indiana, a small town in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Sara now works as a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners, a London-based company creating series fiction for children. Dark Parties – her first young adult novel – was published in March in Germany (as Neva) and comes out in the US in August and in the UK in October.
Sara volunteers for SCBWI-British Isles. She has served as editor on Goldfish, the first anthology of Goldsmiths College’s creative and life writing programme, and is co-creator and co-editor of Undiscovered Voices, a bi-annual collection of writing from unpublished SCBWI members in the UK.

Welcome Sara, Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me.

It’s my pleasure. Thanks for reading and reviewing Dark Parties.

I am in a quest to make movie fanatics into a book reader as well, if you were to introduce reading the Dark Parties, how would you describe it to a movie fan?

My publisher has promoted Dark Parties as 1984 meets Handmaid’s Tale (okay, these are books, but they have been made into movies). I’d add that there’s a hint of the forbidden love and attraction of Twilight – without the vampires.

My German publisher created a video, which looks like a movie trailer. (Dark Parties is titled NEVA in Germany.) Movie lovers and potential readers can view it on the front page of my web site: (scroll down and hit the play button). In less than a minute, it captures the dark eerie feel – and the passion – of the book.

I remember Stephanie Meyer saying that she dreamt of her characters and just started writing, how did you get started with writing the story?

Dark Parties evolved from a writing exercise. I’d just moved from Indianapolis, Indiana, to London, England. I was interested in immigration issues on both sides of the Atlantic. I wanted to write something about national and personal identity, something that explored the power of a diverse society. The story started with a ‘what if’. What if a country closed its borders to people and ideas? Dark Parties was originally a short story about a daughter writing a good-bye letter to her mother. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and the ideas in the story. I had to find out what happened next.

Why choose a dystopian theme for your book?

Writing a dystopian novel gives you incredible freedom. Anything is possible in a world completely of your own making. With dystopian fiction, you can really shine a light on a particular aspect of society or human nature. You whittle away the parts of the real world that don’t serve your story.
Another benefit of writing dystopian fiction is the ease with which it can cross borders and appeal to readers around the world. I intentionally didn’t identify the country in Dark Parties. In my mind, it’s a mixture of my two homelands – the US and UK, but it could also easily represent other countries. Dark Parties has sold to the US, UK, Germany, Poland and China.

Who or what inspired your main character Neva?

I think Neva is who I would like to be. At the beginning she sees herself as a bit of a follower, but as the stakes and the risk increase, she discovers her inner strength. Like Neva, I am fiercely loyal to family and friends.
In Dark Parties, I wanted to explore this idea of how far you would go to stand up for what you believe in. We would all like to think we would do the ‘right thing’, but how much would you sacrifice for the good of the many? As Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Which part of the book is the most complicated to write?

The first and final chapters are the most difficult to write. So much is riding on the first chapter. It needs to hook the reader and provide a hint of the journey to come. The first and the last chapters must resonate with each other. One asks the question and the final chapter needs to provide a satisfying answer. The first sentence should be a gasp and the last a sigh. It’s easy to say, but feels next to impossible to do.

I was going to ask you if you have a playlist for the Dark Parties but I see you already have it up on your website. Which one of the song would be the main music for the book?

My niece introduced me to Superchick. When I heard the song titled It’s On, its lyrics spoke to the heart of Dark Parties. Here’s just the first verse, if you read Dark Parties, I think you’ll see what I mean.

“It all comes down to this. You take your best shot, might miss. You take it anyway. You're gonna make your move today. Got the will, you'll find the way to change the world someday. Grab this moment before it's gone. Today's your day; it’s on.”

I listened to it quite a lot while writing the book – sometimes over and over and over.

What is your all-time favorite book and author?

Last year I read To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee for the first time. I was blown away. It’s exactly the type of novel I love: quirky and engaging characters, an intriguing and original plot and that extra something that grabs hold of you and won’t let go and makes you analyze your life and the way you look at the world. I only regret that I didn’t read it sooner, and I more deeply regret that she never wrote another book.

If you were to host a party, which fictional character would you invite? Why?

I’d love a heart to heart with Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mocking Bird. His fatherly advice and insights into the human spirit would be valuable.

Dark Parties will be available on August 3, 2011.
  Read my review of the book here.

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