Interview with Sara B. Larson, YA Author of DEFY
I’m so EXCITED for many reasons. First, I have this snazzy new website thanks to the incredibly patient and awesome Andrew Heacock (quikchaos on twitter)! I couldn’t have asked for a better web dude than Drew. He was a delight ;o)
I’m ALSO excited because we have a guest today!! The amazing and sweet author of DEFY Sara B. Larson! This was a fun interview, you guys. I’ve always adored Sara since we connected about a year ago. She’s one of the kindest people I’ve met in the writing world. So I’m seriously honored for hers to be the first post on my new website! Sara’s book, DEFY is everything I’ve been looking for in a YA fantasy, and I just know readers are going to love it! It’s definitely become one of my favorite YA fantasies! So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Welcome to the mosh pit, Sara! We’re a good group of rock stars, so grab a drink, relax and enjoy!
*grabs a Shirley Temple* (Yes, I really am a fourteen-year-old in disguise.) Thanks for having me!
1. Okay, first. We have to talk about Alexa. LOVE HER. She’s brave and strong and someone I want on my side. Where did you get the inspiration for her character from? Other characters? Real life people?
Alexa is a very complex, fascinating character, and I absolutely loved writing her story. She is a very tough, strong, and determined young woman. But she also has this vulnerable side that she tries to hide—a softness, deep down inside that’s trying to work its way out, that reminds you she’s still a teenage girl. She’s incredibly talented at fighting—and she’s worked extremely hard to reach that level of skill. Alexa has dealt with some horrible losses and situations in her life, but she’s always done what she had to do to protect herself and keep moving forward. Alexa came to me exactly how she is; I didn’t have to think up her character. Sometimes I do draw on people in my life to help shape characters, but not too often.
DEFY came from a very difficult period in my life, when I lost someone I loved. I was so upset by his death that I couldn’t write anything, but a friend of mine told me to stop trying to write a book and just write what I was feeling. So that’s exactly what I did. I sat down and wrote a scene, not intending for it to go anywhere…but then I got curious about the characters. This whole fascinating world unraveled itself and I realized Alexa had a very intriguing, difficult, but ultimately amazing story that needed to be told. I threw myself into that writing and from there the story took on its own life. It became a story of survival and moving forward, a story of what true courage and strength is, and a story about the many different kinds of love, and hope (even in the most desperate of situations) and risking everything for the chance of a better future.
3. What draws you to writing fantasy? Have you written any other genre before?
Oh man, I guess the easiest answer is because I just love magic and making the impossible seem possible. I love escaping our actual world and immersing myself in something completely different and new, but with enough similarities to still feel familiar. Plus I love being able to make up my own rules. I get so stressed about getting every little detail and fact right when I write anything set in our world/society. (Which I have also done.) I have written other genres, and I probably will in the future. But most of the time, I usually end up having some sort of magic or fantastical element in my stories.
4. What did you do first when you learned your book was going to be published?
I cried. No, literally. When my agent called and told me “Guess what? You’re going to be a published author!” All I could say was, “I am?” and then commenced trying very hard to not break down into sobs. They were tears of happiness, tears of relief, and tears of disbelief. It was such a long road to get to that moment, and it’s been my lifelong dream, and I almost couldn’t believe it had really happened. Eventually I did stop crying and started jumping up and down and screaming in joy. Then the celebrating commenced!
5. How many drafts of DEFY did you write? Was this a story that came easily to you?
When I first started writing Defy, I hit a sort of block about 8k words in and put it aside for quite a while. But the characters wouldn’t leave me alone and when I came back to it, I realized one of them was keeping a VERY big secret from me. As soon as I figured out that one integral secret, the book took a totally different direction —in a totally awesome way. The rest of the plot clicked into place after that and I finished the first draft two weeks later. I revised it for two months, and got my first agent offer two days after I started querying (twelve hours after I sent that particular agent my query). It was an amazing whirlwind that I still can’t quite believe happened after everything else I’ve been through to get here!
6. What do you hope readers will get out of DEFY?
I hope that they will come to love these characters as I do, with all of their strengths and flaws. I hope that as they learn about all of the struggles and tragedies that many of them have endured or deal with in the book, and that they will be able to see their strength and courage and be inspired by them. I think that ultimately, DEFY is a story about hope, about never giving up no matter how bad things seem. And it’s a story about love, in all its many forms, and the power for good it can have.
Okay, now the fun ones! (Haha, I’m actually the worst at these because I am SO indecisive. Just ask my husband!)
Favorite movie(s) – See? I’m already struggling. How to pick? I love so many and they’re all so different. Growing up I’d say THE PRINCESS BRIDE and WILD HEARTS CAN’T BE BROKEN were my faves. Now some of my faves are the extended versions of LOTR, THE ULTIMATE GIFT, I know it might be clichéd but I really loved THE NOTEBOOK and recently I really loved AUSTENLAND and CATCHING FIRE. And THOR. Who doesn’t love Chris Hemsworth? And Loki, of course. Man, I could keep going so I better just stop.
Favorite book(s) and why – This list is so huge, I don’t even know where to start. But I think if I HAD to pick just one book (or series) that I could read for the rest of my life, it would be Harry Potter.
Favorite line you wrote – Hmmm, that might be too spoilery. But here’s a snippet that I love that I think is okay: “True beauty is what lies inside of us, not what the world sees. A beautiful shell that houses a vile soul becomes sullied over time. But an outer shell, imperfect as it may be, that houses a beautiful soul shines with that beauty, radiating it for all who have eyes to see.”
Favorite hot beverage (since it’s winter and all) – Hot chocolate, hands down. I LOVE hot chocolate with whipped cream. (And ironically my kids are watching The Polar Express right now and Tom Hanks is singing about hot chocolate as I type this!)
Thanks so much for visiting! Thank you so much for having me! This was fun!
Until next time.