The Opposite of Me and forthcoming Skipping a Beat. To get to know Sarah better, we asked her about how she began her writing career. Enjoy!
What was your favorite book(s) when you were a child?
I adored the Nancy Drew mysteries and still have my old set in my basement. Another favorite was Little Women. My grandmother gave me a beautiful, hardback copy of that book and I cherished it. And, of course, anything by Judy Blume. I remember reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and feeling almost electrified - the writing was so good and real!
When did you start writing?
When I was a kid, I used to write books and send them off to publishers, then confidently wait to see them on shelves at the store! I've got an old letter on Raggedy Ann stationery that I wrote to a publisher, asking when my collection titled "Miscellaneous Stories and Poems" would be published. My niece actually found that letter tucked inside of one of my Nancy Drew books, and now it's one of my most cherished possessions. It's up on my website, at www.sarahpekkanen.com
What kind of writing did you start with? (short stories, poems, articles, etc.)
After college, I went into journalism and worked for papers including The Baltimore Sun. I did a bit of political writing, but I was the worst Capitol Hill reporter ever. Politicians didn't interest me - real people did. I wrote freelance articles for magazines, then, after my kids were born, stayed home with them. But I missed writing so much. It was like losing my best friend. So one day I began playing around with a novel.... and, after some twists and turns, I finally did get to see my book, The Opposite of Me, on a shelf at the store!
When did you decide to become an author and how did you know it was the right career for you?
I always knew I wanted to write, but it wasn't until my late 30s that I turned to fiction again. It just felt right to me - like slipping on a perfect, comfortable pair of jeans. I feel sort of itchy and unsettled when I'm not writing and I can't imagine my life without it.
What was the most challenging part of starting a writing career? What was the best part?
Fighting through days when the writing comes so slowly (and badly!). Everyone has those days. It's agonizing to even put down a few sentences, then you're sure they're the worst sentences ever written. But you need to keep going. If you abandon your work on the tough days, you'll never complete that book. And you can always go back and fix your prose - that is, if you've written something in the first place. The best part was learning editor Greer Hendricks wanted to buy my book! Greer edits Jennifer Weiner, my favorite author, so her enthusiasm for The Opposite of Me meant the world!
Describe what it was like to see and hold the first published copy of your first novel. Were you relieved, excited, anxious? How did you celebrate the launch?
Surreal and crazy and thrilling, all rolled into one! I couldn't believe it. I kept moving the book around my house - I put it on my mantle, then my nightstand table, and carried it into my car the next morning. I still love seeing it. For the launch, I did a big booksigning at my local Barnes & Noble, then went across the street to a bistro with a huge group of friends. We drank chocolate martinis and laughed and talked. I'd had my makeup professionally done and wore a new outfit, and, of course, sky-high shoes. It was truly a dream night. Of course, the next day it was sweatpants and Grape Nuts again!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can - and write the sort of book you love to read, be it chick lit, a mystery, thriller..... whatever lines your own bookshelves. And try to write something every day, even if it's just 200 words. If you manage a page a day, you'll finish your book in a year. I've also got lots of information, including how I got my agent, up at my website - www.sarahpekkanen.com