For A Cornucopia of Dystopia we asked readers to submit questions for Sara Grant, author of the novel Dark Parties, and she is here now to answer some of them!
1. Has psychology had a significant impact on the idea for your novel? If so, what aspects and in what way?
Understanding – or at least observing – human behavior plays a fundamental role in developing characters. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University, but I think my life experiences have a bigger influence on my characters than any scholarly study.
Like most writers, I am fascinated by the complexity of relationships and pivotal moments in people’s lives. I wanted to explore a number of issues in DARK PARTIES, including:
· the nature of attraction. We’ve all been attracted to the ‘wrong’ person, haven’t we?
· why and how people rebel – to make a splash or make a difference.
· personal and national identity.
To a lesser extent, I also wanted to play with that moment when parents switch from being parents to people.
2. What or who inspired you to write your novel? And where did you get your plot idea?
DARK PARTIES was the result of my move from Indianapolis, Indiana, to London, England. Both the US and UK are struggling with immigration issues. I believe that diversity makes us stronger. So I said: what if we closed our borders to people and ideas? DARK PARTIES is my answer.
I’m really lucky to have a writers group, an agent and editors that are partners in my creation process. I had a lot of smart people asking me questions and challenging my thinking at many different points in the development of DARK PARTIES. I learn so much by bouncing ideas off other people. They don’t solve my plotting problems, but they can highlight issues and ask questions that ignite new ideas and directions for my story.
I get plot ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Things I overhear while riding the Tube in London. Memories from high school. Reading books, magazines, blogs, etc. Listening to music. Going to a museum or gallery. Watching TV or movies or just sitting around doing nothing.
I think inspiration can be practiced. You can train your brain to look for ideas and ask ‘what if’. The key is to not be afraid to look stupid. Some of the best ideas grow from god-awful ones. Once I decided not to worry so much about looking stupid and judging every idea as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, I was free to be more creative – and much, much happier.
I also work for a company that creates series fiction for children and young adults (www.workingpartnersltd.co.uk). We are asked on a daily basis to generate ideas and brainstorm stories together. It’s a very creative environment and I am continually inspired by my fellow editors and writers.
3. Are you close with other authors? Who are they?
I’m very active in the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators in the UK (www.britishscbwi.org). I’ve met some amazing writers who continue to inspire and support me.
I am co-creator and co-editor of UNDISCOVERED VOICES, an anthology that endeavours to help fresh, new voices in children’s literature find agents, publishers and ultimately readers. (www.undiscoveredvoices.com) DARK PARTIES was featured in the first anthology and helped me find my agent. From the first two anthologies, 13 of the 24 selected authors have had their novels contracted for publication and most have signed up with agents.
I’ve recently joined with seven other UK-based writers who write edgy teen fiction. You can check out our blog at http://edgeauthors.blogspot.com/.
I keep in touch with writers that I met while studying for my MA in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths.
And...I also work with a very talented group of editors at Working Partners who are also writers.
Here is a list of some of the writer friends I’ve made along the way.
o Ashley Dartnell author of upcoming memoir FARANGI GIRL (http://www.tworoadsbooks.com/index.php/books/farangi-girl-ashley-dartnell/)
o Bryony Pearce author of upcoming ANGEL’S FURY (http://www.bryonypearce.co.uk/)
o Candy Gourlay author of TALL STORY (http://www.candygourlay.com/)
o Dave Cousins author of upcoming FIFTEEN DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD (http://davecousins.blogspot.com/)
o Harriet Goodwin author of THE BOY WHO FELL DOWN EXIT 53 and GRAVENHUNGER (http://www.harrietgoodwinbooks.com/)
o Jasmine Richards author of the upcoming BOOK OF WONDERS trilogy.
o Karen Ball author of STARING ME A THIRD DONKEY (http://www.karen-ball.com/)
o Keren David author of ALMOST TRUE and WHEN I WAS JOE (http://wheniwasjoe.blogspot.com/)
o Lil Chase author upcoming BOYS FOR BEGINNERS (http://www.lilchase.com/)
o Michael Ford author of POISON HOUSE
o Miriam Halamhy author of HIDDEN (http://www.miriamhalahmy.com/)
o Paula Rawthorne author of upcoming THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA FROST (http://www.facebook.com/TruthAboutCelia)
o Sarwat Chadda author of THE DEVIL’S KISS and DARK GODESS (http://www.sarwatchadda.com/)
o Steven Hartley author of the DANNY BAKER RECORD BREAKER series (http://www.stevehartley.net/)
Thanks Sara for answering those questions in such detail, and thanks also to everyone who submitted one!