Hi everyone, today I am very happy to post this interview, because one of the characters of Sarah Wathen’s book name is Meg and my friends call me Meg as well, which makes her book even more interesting for me. 🙂 Sarah Wathen is the author of The Tramp (The Bound Chronicles, #1). She is a storyteller by trade and a painter at heart. Sarah was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, then completed graduate studies in Fine Art at Parson’s School of Design in New York City. Her first step into the world of independent publishing was as an illustrator, and Sarah quickly realized she wanted to write her own books rather than illustrate other’s. That reinvention came as no surprise to family and friends, who remember her as a child always ready to turn a tale. Hours spent under the backyard stairs with her sister—dreaming up imaginary friends with outlandish names like Afisha and Pekins, and designing social networks called the Plant Club and the Tutu Group—were recorded and illustrated, too. Copies still exist under lock and key! Sarah currently resides in Florida and runs the indie label, LayerCake Productions.
Hi Sarah, thank you for participating in my MOMENT TO SHARE interviews section.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background? What were you like at school? Were you good at English? What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I loved school, all the way from Kindergarten to Master’s Degree, and I was almost a straight-A student. It’s funny, because I had been working as an artist for over ten years before I started writing. I thought friends and family would think it was weird for me to just change careers abruptly, until I talked to one of my oldest friends whom I met when I was nine-years-old. She thought the transition from artist to author was a perfect full circle, and she reminded me of how much I loved to write and tell stories as a kid. Then I remembered that English was always my forte—I just never thought it was a viable career choice for some reason. I guess I had always heard about how hard it was for authors to get published, but Kindle and social media changed everything. I’m so lucky to be living and writing during this indie author zeitgeist!
- Which writers inspire you?
The first writer that comes to mind when I think of inspiring books is Arundhati Roy, who wrote The God of Small Things. That book is pure artistry and she achieves the kind of literary perfection that I don’t even hope to approach. The story is beautiful, honest, and true—it’s also so painful that I’m not sure I can recommend it in good conscience. But beauty is like that sometimes.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
I loved painting and I always will. But for me, after grad school and having to slosh through the New York art scene, most of the joy of art making was extinguished. I was forced to keep going, because I had thrown so much of my life and money at becoming a professional artist. I was trapped and stuck, and pretty unhappy about it. Rediscovering my passion for writing set me free.
- Which comes first – the character’s story or the idea for the novel? What sparked the idea for your book?
The idea, the situational climax, comes first. That’s how I began writing and it just worked for me. When I decided to write full-time, I knew I wanted to write fiction. But, I had been writing non-fiction for so long (tons of art theory and criticism in grad school, plus tutorials while I was teaching design), and I didn’t know where to start. My husband Bill, who I call “the idea guy,” came up with a handful of story possibilities that he had always thought would make a great book. The one I liked best was partly taken from real life; one of his co-workers was hosting an Italian foreign exchange student, and she lived in a small mountain town in Tennessee. That, together with Bill’s own imagination formed “the situation” that is the climax scene of The Tramp. So, Bill provided that one, key scene, and then I built the fictitious town of Shirley and all the people that live there, to make that scene happen.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was twenty-six, I was in a terrible car accident that left a lot of residual damage—physical and emotional. As a way of working through my issues, a few years ago I decided to write a memoire about the experience of healing. I wrote in first person, present tense, and I revisited every second that I could remember from the moments before and after the actual crash (I was unconscious for hours). It was important that my story be accurate, so I described every sensation, fear, and pain in detail, from all the hospitals, surgeries, and drug-laden months of recovery. When Bill read it, he told me, “You know your art is pretty good, but you’re ten times a better writer than you are a painter.” I was freaked out at first—artist was how I had thought of myself for so many years. That’s who I was. That’s what I did. But when Bill asked me if making art really made me happy anymore (he suspected it didn’t and he was right), he asked the question that changed my life: “Well, why not just decide to do something else?” Why not indeed.
- Why do you write?
Writing is just another art form for me. I write for the same reason that I painted: because I have to or I’ll go crazy. When I was painting a lot, I would see designs and forms and colors everywhere that I just had to mix together and put down on paper or canvas. I’d constantly be pulling interesting imagery out of everything that I saw. Now that I’m writing all the time, my characters are alive in my mind. They are constantly talking, interacting and moving around in the world with me. I simply must write the stories down to get them out of my head! Plus, the feeling of creating worlds with words is super fun.
- So, what have you written?
I also have an offshoot novel, Catchpenny, due for release in July. There just isn’t enough room in one book—or even in one long, epic story—to tell it all. After working through several drafts of The Tramp (and while I was waiting on my editor again), I just wanted to write a simple romance. That’s where Catchpenny came in. One of the characters in The Tramp is pissed off at her son, Tristan: he dumps his long-term girlfriend and asks Meg Shannon, the town “sure thing,” to the Homecoming dance. Rumor has it, he just wants to get laid. Although the Homecoming dance is an important event in The Tramp, Tristan and Meg are side characters. Meg is only mentioned and never actually makes an appearance. But I thought, “Well, what is Meg really like? What about Tristan, who seems like a total jerk in The Tramp? What happens between them? What if all the nasty rumors are totally wrong?” Catchpenny is the story of Tristan and Meg. It started out as a short little romance, but it has blossomed into a full-length coming of age novel. It will be released serially, in six parts (one part each month), in between book one and book two of The Bound Chronicles. I had so much fun with Catchpenny that I plan to extract a couple minor characters from The Glamour and do the same thing again next year!
Before I started writing fiction, I was illustrating literary works from the public domain. The first thing that I published under my indie label, LayerCake Productions, LLC, was an illustrated edition of “Song of Solomon.” I included a foreword text detailing my research and explaining my process in creating the imagery. Here’s a link to the book: http://amzn.to/1Bk9Ujs And here’s a link to the illustrations: http://bit.ly/1wlWsLL
I also love to blog—either to write about writing, discuss art, explain processes, and especially to review the work of other indie authors: www.sarahwathen.com
- Where people can buy or see them?
The Tramp can be pre-ordered in print and ebook format: http://amzn.to/1vCfurF
Read excerpts on my blog: http://bit.ly/1MnCSCQ
Don’t miss the Rafflecopter give-away:
I’m giving away the following gifts to one winner of the Rafflecopter.
- Signed print copy of the book + Kindle download
- MP3 download of The Tramp theme song, “Bound Hearts”
- Cover art T-shirt
- Give me an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Candy Vale is a teenaged girl in a small mountain town who doesn’t think there is much special about her at all. She’s not too popular, not so beautiful, and hasn’t really found her niche in a highly talented, musical family. It’s hard for her to believe that the alluring new stranger in town, Sam, is nearly as into her as she is into him. But when Sam insists Candy has the same eyes—black, fathomless eyes— as the exotic woman in a three-hundred-year-old painting, she can’t help but take note. After digging around in her grandma’s old photo albums, she finds the link to a disturbing family history. Candy’s about to discover that she’s the mainline back to a woman who has haunted Shirley Valley for centuries.
- How do you market your book? Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Well, this is the first for me, so we’ll see how well I’m doing when The Tramp goes on sale! But mostly, I’m trying to connect as much as I can with other authors, readers, and book lovers. I love to tweet and share on Facebook and Tumblr, and of course anytime I write on my blog I blast it around. One of the most important things to me when I post anything is to include beautiful imagery. Eye candy is what I notice first, and I’ve found that the better the art is, the more clicks I get. Art is so much a part of my stories and my life, that it’s an integral part of my marketing.
- What do you do to get book reviews?
So far, I’ve been the one reviewing instead of being reviewed, but now that I’ve finalized the last draft and format of my book, it’s ready for the world. Let’s hope I’ve built up some good karma in all the indie book reviews that I’ve been doing, because I’ve been paying it forward! Even if I don’t get tit for tat, though, I’ve really enjoyed reading and reviewing indie books. There is nothing like reading a book so good it becomes a part of you, then being able to talk about it with the author. I’ve met some amazing people that way.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
If you want to write, just pick up your pen and get started. The only way you get better at it is to write, revise, edit, then repeat. Do not skip the editing process, as expensive and downright grueling as it is. It’s necessary and it helps you become a better writer every time you do it. Let me restate that: do not skip the editing process. I have begun reading too many promising novels that I’ve ended up wanting to throw against the wall for lack of editing. For a reader, it’s just insulting. For a writer, it’s shooting yourself in the foot before you even get off the starting block.
- Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
My book has a theme song! Listen to it, it’s fabulous! Actually, The Tramp has a full length musical soundtrack album, written and composed by the band Her Last Boyfriend. Check out a sample here: http://bit.ly/1ELTcL1 Music and art is at the heart of all my stories, and I highly encourage readers to listen to The Tramp Soundtrack when it’s released in April. It’s more than just awesome alternative rock—it’s a concept album that follows the story from beginning to end, with lyrics and instrumentation specifically designed for the characters. Also, look for my video trailer for The Bound Chronicles later this year—there will be plenty of art to see! Make sure to follow my blog on WordPress, www.sarahwathen.com, because I’ll be posting artwork that is featured in The Tramp, as well as music links, playlists, and YouTube links to videos I used in my research for the book.
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Sarah Wathen, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Sarah!!! Good Luck with everything!