Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Author Interview with Sarah Porter

Today I have an interview with Sarah Porter, whose debut novel Lost Voices came out yesterday. You can find my review of the ARC here.

1. Have you always been interested in mermaids/mythology with mermaids? Or was it something that came to you when you started to write?
I've definitely always been fascinated by mythology: by the sense that there are alternative worlds hidden just beneath the skin of the world we live in, or secret parts of ourselves that are most truly depicted as spirits or monsters. I didn't have a love of mermaids in particular until recently, but they're such a perfect image of being divided between two natures, or trapped in two different personalities that can't really be reconciled. There's so much inherent drama in that situation!

2. How did the idea for Lost Voices originally come to you? Did the idea take a while to form or was it something that all came to you instantly?
Well, there were earlier versions of the idea. There was a very strange story I wrote in graduate school, about mermaids who could swim through earth as well as water. When they started burrowing near your house, you'd know they were coming to steal your girl-children away. Those mermaids were ex-humans, just like the Lost Voices mermaids.  And then there was a story I made up with a friend, about a punk mermaid who lived apart from the others. Somehow these ideas came together, and I started writing the book.

3. Out of all your characters, which one did you find the most difficult to write? Which one was the most fun?
Catarina was definitely the most difficult to write! I felt like I understood her inner conflicts very well, but once I finished the first draft I realized that everything driving her wasn't really coming across on the page. Most of the revisions involved Catarina, trying to bring her motivations out more.
Much as I adore Luce, I have to say that the character who's the most fun to write is Nausicaa. You haven't met her yet, but she's a major character in the second and third volumes of the trilogy. She's been around for three thousand years, and she's somewhere between wise and jaded, with big doses of irony and tenderness thrown in. She becomes Luce's best friend and mentor, and writing her dialogue is always a blast. (If you look at the front page of my website, sarahporterbooks.com, those are my drawings of Luce on the left and Nausicaa on the right.)

4. Can you tell us about your daily writing process?
 I usually start the day with rewriting for an hour or two, unless I'm really on a tear, in which case I jump right in to continuing the story. I might write for four or five hours most days, though I've sometimes kept going for as long as twelve. Since it's summer, I go out and weed the garden whenever I get stuck. I'm about halfway through the third volume now, and I'm really wrapped up in the story, so I don't need discipline to keep writing!

5. Was there a scene in Lost Voices that was your favorite to write? Which one was the most difficult?
I loved writing Luce's dreams! I feel like they reveal how much the loss of her humanity hurts her. Even though she tries to convince herself it's better to be a mermaid, her dreams show her feeling of being driven out and rejected by humankind, and her longing to get back in. As for the most difficult, maybe Catarina's big scene at the end was the hardest to pull off, though it's also one of my favorites.

6. Did you know exactly what was going to happen in Lost Voices when you started writing? Or did things fall into place or change as you continued to write?
I knew a lot. I'd done an outline of all three volumes, so I had a pretty good sense of how things were going to unfold. But there were still a lot of surprises, which I like. Writing can be a process of discovery just as much as reading can, and it's thrilling when you suddenly get new insight into your characters or there's an unexpected twist in the plot.

7. Can you tell us about the next book in the Lost Voices trilogy?
 The next volume is called Waking Storms. There's already a description of it up on my website. I don't think it's giving away too much to say that Luce starts learning to open up and express what she actually thinks and feels, which is very, very hard for her to do in Lost Voices. She finds both love and a truly close friendship for the first time, but those things aren't enough to protect her from all the overwhelming challenges that she has to confront. The mermaids have been extremely naive about the consequences of their actions, but they can't escape from those repercussions forever!

8. I know you are working on the Lost Voices trilogy, but is there anything else that you would consider writing? What would you write about?
Lost Voices was actually the fourth novel I wrote; the first three just weren't published. My favorite is called Umber, and it's a creepy dystopian adult novel where children hatch from light bulbs. I also have a half-finished sort-of-horror adult novel called Boudoir which I'm dying to get back to as soon as the trilogy is finished. For future YA projects, I'm thinking of an urban fantasy based on Russian fairy tales, and I'd love to do something set in Antarctica, too.

9. What do you have in your summer reading pile?
It's funny because I've always been a fiction person, but these days I'm reading more nonfiction, including lots of books about the sea. I just finished Lansing's Endurance, about Shackleton's disastrous adventures in Antarctica, and Patti Smith's lovely Just Kids. This summer I'd like to read The Eye of the Whale by Russell, Jared Diamond's Collapse, and the new China Mieville novel. For YA, I'm intrigued by Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Riggs.

Also, here's the book trailer:

Thank you so much for stopping by, Sarah! I loved Lost Voices.

                                                                About Sarah Porter:

Sarah  Porter

I'm a writer, artist, and freelance teacher. I teach creative writing workshops in the New York public schools via Teachers and Writers Collaborative; I've worked with kids in grades K-10, but I've focused on junior high and high school for the last several years. I don't think I would have written a YA novel if it weren't for that experience! Reading my students' intense, passionate poetry and stories recalled my own emotions at that age. Lost Voices was my attempt to write the book I most needed as a twelve-year-old struggling with what it means to be human: a book I never really found.

I live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband Todd, an artist and fabricator of electronic art, and our cats Jub Jub and Delphine. I have an M.F.A. from City College.

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