Welcome to #BeyondTheBio! It's great to be back for another awesome interview after taking last week off. Today's guest is Sara Zarr, who’s the author of six amazing books for young adults. Her most recent, Gem & Dixie, was just released earlier this month, and it’s an absolute must read. She's also written How To Save A Life, The Lucy Variations, and the National Book Award finalist Story Of A Girl. If you haven't read any of Sara's books, you're going to want to after this. Let’s get to it!
James: Hey Sara! Thanks so much joining me on #BeyondTheBio today! You just released your seventh novel, Gem & Dixie. It's a heart-breaking story about two sisters who run away to escape their dysfunctional family, and it's guaranteed to make turn reader's eyes into waterfalls. Can you tell our readers a little about where you got the idea for the story?
Sara: Thanks for having me! The book started with the idea of sisters. I wanted to write a sister story, and thought about different contexts I could put them in to really explore the dynamics of that relationship. I wanted them to have a kind of tense relationship, but be put in a situation where they'd be forced to rely on each other. From there, I thought about some themes from my own childhood and sisterhood: financial insecurity, a history of alcoholism and codependence, etc. That all eventually came together into the story of Gem & Dixie.
James: So are you personally more of a Gem or a Dixie?
Sara: More of a Dixie. Like Dixie, I'm the younger sister, and I know my older sister dealt with more of the anxiety of our family situation, and had a role in taking care of me when I was younger. The book is from Gem's point of view, though, which I thought could be interesting in a different way than writing from a more familiar viewpoint.
James: I have to admit, I have a weakness for books about getting away. They always stir up the wander-lust in me. I'm curious if your own travels made their way into the pages at all. Did you go on any trips while you were writing this book?
Sara: The book is set in Seattle, and I have good friends there that I've visited over the years. I did take a particular trip a couple of years ago while working on this book, paying attention to the details of being on the ferry, what it felt like to be on the islands, all of that.
James: I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be making their way to their local bookstore in the next few days to pick up a copy of Gem & Dixie. What are some other books you'd tell them to add to their bookbag?
Sara: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
James: One of the things I appreciated most about Gem & Dixie was the realistic way you portrayed dysfunction's impact on teens. What would you tell those teens who've experienced that kind of dysfunction in their own home?
Sara: I guess that you don't have to be trapped or defined by your family patterns or scripts. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to save yourself.
James: So what's next for you, Sara? Any future projects you can tell us about?
Sara: I'm working on my seventh book now! It's about a big batch of cousins and their lives and relationships.
That's it for today's interview with Sara. If you have questions for Sara or want to let her know how much you love Gem & Dixie, be sure to reach out to her on Twitter or stop by her website. And be sure to come back to #BeyondTheBio next week, when we'll be interviewing Laura Silverman about her new book, Girl Out Of Water.