June 29th, 2009

book magic

Blog Tour: Sarah Ockler and TWENTY BOY SUMMER

Please welcome Sarah Ockler, author of the haunting yet hopeful YA novel TWENTY BOY SUMMER, which was released earlier this month.

About the book:

While on vacation in California, sixteen-year-old best girlfriends Anna and Frankie conspire to find a boy for Anna’s first summer romance, but Anna harbors a painful secret that threatens their lighthearted plan and their friendship.

An Interview with Sarah Ockler:

Me: What were your favorite books (or types of books) as a teen, and what was it about them that appealed to you? What, on the other hand, would make you put a book down?
Sarah: My grandmother died when I was 13, and we spent a lot of that summer cleaning out her house and having a million garage and estate sales. Lots of times, mostly to get out of all the manual labor, I'd sneak into her old bedroom and read books from her shelves, which included tons of horror and thriller novels by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Robin Cook. It was kind of by default. I mean, if her collection was all historical biographies or romance novels, I'd probably have a completely different answer. :-) For a long time after that summer, I was really into Grandma's types of books, mixed in with a little V.C. Andrews and Mary Higgins Clark from Mom's collection. I loved stories that kept me guessing and gave me chills, especially if I could creep myself out late at night while babysitting!
I'm kind of cursed with that compulsion that forces me to finish a book to the end, even if I'm not into it, so I never really put any books down. But I didn't like books that dragged -- I'd usually just skim those in search of the good parts!

Me: Have your reading tastes stayed the same, or have you discovered new loves and peeves (and if so, what are they)?
Sarah: I can't say that I don't love the horror or thriller stuff anymore because I honestly haven't read those kind of books in forever! Now, I mostly read YA contemporary or YA fantasy. My reading tastes have changed but I bet if I were to pick up an old horror book, I'd get right back into it.

Me: What was your favorite part of writing TWENTY BOY SUMMER, and what was the hardest?
Sarah: My favorite part was the revisions, because that's where I really uncovered the core of the story, stripping away the trappings to reveal the truths underneath. It was challenging but I really love that part of the writing process. It's like mining for gems or doing Crest Whitestrips. :-) The hardest part was starting. It was exciting and fun, but also confusing. Where do I go from here? What about this? What am I missing? How can I work this in? Do I need to cut this out? Still, I love the entire process of developing a book from the kernel of an idea to something on the shelves.

Me: Did you draw on any people/places/experiences from your life while writing?
Sarah: Yes and no. The story is entirely fictitious, but I was inspired to write it by my work with the National Donor Family Council, an organization that supports families whose loved ones died and donated organs or tissues. I met many grieving teens through the Council's programs and events, and when I set out to write my first novel, I knew that I wanted to share a little bit of the love, loss, and hope they'd shared with me.
The setting of Zanzibar Bay is sort of a compilation of all the summer places I've visited over the years. I wanted to create a place where readers could escape, just like on summer vacation, and get lost in the smell of cocoa butter, the sound of the crashing ocean waves, and the impermanence of those summer boardwalk towns that seem to exist only for a season.
On a lighthearted note, the title itself was actually inspired by real events. My BFF and I decided to have a contest the summer we were 15 years old to see who could kiss the most boys. At the end, I got to 20 and she had 17. It forever became known as my summer of 20 boys. ;-)

Me: What was the most exciting moment during the publishing process? The scariest?
Sarah: The most exciting... I feel like I change my answer every time I hear this question because there have been so many incredibly exciting moments! Getting THE CALL that the book had multiple offers was huge. Seeing the cover was another amazing moment. Signing stock from the bookshelves in the store. Connecting with the YA blogging community. Getting the first reader email. It's all been a whirlwind, and I'm so grateful for every moment.
The scariest was when we first went out on submission. My agent and I had spent some time polishing the manuscript, and then, all we could do was wait for the responses. Talk about a nail-biting roller coaster of emotions! Fortunately, the wait wasn't too excruciating. It just seemed that way!

Me: What are you working on now?
Sarah: I'm working on revisions for my second YA novel, FIXING DELILAH HANNAFORD, which comes out from Little, Brown next summer. It's the story of a sixteen-year-old girl coming to terms with three generations of family secrets and the ways those secrets affected the women in her family. It deals with mother-daughter issues, sisters, regret, and of course, there's a super cute boy in the mix. :-)

Hope you enjoyed getting to know Sarah! More interviews to come next month. :)