Welcome to today's stop on the THIS IS SARAH Blog Tour!
Publisher: Bookfish Books
Release Date: July 3rd 2014
Get it Here: Amazon
Synopsis:As you know, I'm totally into mysteries and also am very up for contemporaries at the moment, so this book sounds perfect for me right now! I'm very excited to read this book and I'm excited to bring you guys a Q&A sesh with Ally!
When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin's world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, how far will he go to bring her back?
As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going, even if it kills her.
THIS IS SARAH serves as a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.
Ri: What inspired you to write the novel, THIS IS SARAH?
Ally: That's a really good question. I had the character that became Colin in my head for quite some time back when it was just a short story. I referred to him as my Furious Boy. Back then it was writing a ghost story – and not the romantic kind. Claire, Sarah's sister, joined the story later once it started morphing from a short story to a novella. While I, thankfully, haven't experienced anything similar to what Colin and Claire go through, like anyone else in this world, I have lost people that I cared about and struggled with coming to terms with those unsettled feelings.
Ri: Do you listen to a playlist while you write, and what does it consist of?
Ally: I don't listen to playlists. I write at 5 am and I listen to the classical station WQXR. In the morning Jeff Spurgeon is on and he's by far one of my favorite DJs of all time. I used to write to music with lyrics but I found it too distracting. Classical music plugs right into that part of my brain that needs to be inspired without distracting me from the task at hand. I highly recommend it.
Ri: Is there any sort of weird topic that you had to research while writing this book?
Ally: Actually, yeah. It wasn’t weird as much as sad, but I did a lot of research on police actions in the first few weeks of a missing person’s case. I spent quite a bit of time on sites dedicated to people who have vanished and it was difficult. While it’s wonderful when people rally around a case that gets solved, especially when it has a happy ending, for so many people the question of what happened to their loved one remains a mystery. They’ll never have those answers. What an incredibly tragic thing to have to live with for the rest of your life.
Ri: This is your first YA novel. What was the writing experience like compared to your other works?
Ally: My first novel was a middle grade fantasy and other than that I have a poetry collection and stories out in the world. This is Sarah was different because I felt a wider range of freedom. For instance, writing middle grade locks you into certain experiences, certain ways of understanding the world and certain language. When I was writing Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb, the middle grade book, I was unable to explore complex emotions. While Lizzy definitely experiences some difficult situations, on a base level at 12 years of age she lacked the necessary tools to really delve into the overall effect those situations had on her. She’s a kid – kids are all about action.
With This Is Sarah, my main character, Colin, is 17. I was dealing with an emotional driven story and I believe, on a core instinctual level, a 17 year old responds to intense emotions much the same as a 30 year old. The only real difference is that a 17 year old lacks the emotional maturity to manage and compartmentalize those feelings. He cannot step away and assess and reason as well. Often he just drowns in his own complicated emotions. That is precisely what happens to Colin during the course of This Is Sarah. He finds himself without the means to express and comprehend his feelings so they come out in other, sometimes violent ways. Colin has the sort of comprehension tools that Lizzy lacked – he’s just a little sloppy with the application.
Ri: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Ally: I like to travel. I’ve traveled the US by car and I’ve been to many countries in Europe. As a big fan of Robert Falcon Scott, I am dying to go Antarctica.
Unfortunately it’s not like I can finish a novel and then flit off to Spain. So the real answer to the “what do you like to do when you’re not writing” question is easy: I read. A lot.
Ri: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what one book would you want with you?
Ally: Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger.
I‘m not sure what it is about this book specifically but whenever I start to feel...off or like my life has gotten out of control this book calms me down. It’s sort of hard to explain. Yes, there is the great dialogue and Zooey is hilarious but really behind there is this film of melancholy over everything. Maybe that’s what I relate to. The whole family is just dusted with sadness. Ultimately by the time I get to the end, I feel like something has changed. That moment when Franny can finally get to sleep again – sometimes I feel whatever clawed thing was perched on my shoulders has flown off, too.
And that one moment when Franny, full invested in her nervous breakdown, tells her brother Zooey that he just better got on with whatever he’s got to say:
“All right, Zooey. Just stop, please. Enough’s enough. You’re not funny….In case you’re interested, I’m feeling absolutely lousy. So if there’s anything special you have to say to me, please hurry up and say it and leave me alone.” This last, emphasized word was oddly veered away from, as if the stress on it hadn’t been fully intended.I don’t even know if I can fully explain what that moment – what that phrase “you think everybody is made of iron” and then Zooey’s subsequent response – really means to me. I only know that when I am at a low point, I understand it the deepest possible level.
There was a peculiar silence at the other end of the phone. And a peculiar reaction to it from Franny. She was disturbed by it. She sat down again on the edge of her father’s bed. “I’m not going to hang up on you or anything,” she said. “But I’m – I don’t know –I’m tired, Zooey. I’m just exhausted, frankly.” She listened. But there was no response. She crossed her legs. “You can go on like this all day, but I can’t,” she said. “All I am is on the receiving end. It isn’t terribly pleasant, you know. You think everybody’s made of iron or something.” She listened. She started to speak again but stopped when she heard the sound of a voice being cleared.
“I don’t think everybody’s made of iron, buddy.”
Ri: Is there anything you're currently reading?
Ally: I read multiple books at a time and I’m currently reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Tune In: The Beatles by Mark Lewisohn and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Today I just finished Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch.
Thank you so much for your time, Ally, and for your great answers as well!
Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the children's fantasy Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.
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Happy Reading and look out for THIS IS SARAH!