Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Debut Interview - Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Our first Wednesday Debut Interview of 2016 is Sara Barnard, here to talk with us about her debut YA novel, BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS!


Welcome! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
I live on the south coast of the UK, just outside Brighton - where I lived for five years - in a small town with my boyfriend and my tuxedo cat. When I'm not writing books I'm a freelance content professional, which means I help companies with their online materials and websites. I'm a big reader, strident feminist and somewhat-lapsed Quaker.

How would you describe BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS?
Beautiful Broken Things is a platonic love story about best friends. It follows three girls - Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne - as they learn about the world and each other. Along the way there's tears and giggles, beaches and Nandos, trauma and survival. And a lot of hugging.

Let's talk a bit about your writing process. How long has it been from the time that you began the first draft of this book until the date of its publication?
A long time! I wrote the very first version of this book when I was 13, which was 15 years ago now. It's obviously gone through a lot of incarnations since then - and so have I! I'm glad now that it took its time coming; it was worth the wait!

What scene, character, or aspect of this book did you most enjoy writing?
I always loved writing the scenes between the three girls when they're just being together. I honestly could have written entire novels based around just this, but I don't think that would have been as interesting to everyone else! The conversations were the easiest for me and when I was at my most relaxed as a writer. The best ones always felt like I was listening to a conversation instead of writing it myself - like they were there in the room with me.

BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS deals with, among other things, mental illness. What research did you do to portray this in an accurate, realistic, and respectful way?
As with most things I write, I started with the characters. With Suzanne, understanding where she was coming from and how she'd react to things was central to the struggles she was facing with her mental health. If I'd started with research on depression or suicidal ideation, it wouldn't have been *her* in the way it needed to be. I needed to know her first and then do more specific research - and by that stage it was all coming very naturally.

It was slightly more complicated with a character like Tarin (Caddy's older sister), because I knew less about bipolar disorder, but again I researched everything from the perspective of her character. It's always character first and though that is of course influenced by things like mental health, it was important to me to show that it's not everything. Having bipolar disorder is the least interesting thing about Tarin - I hope!

On the topic of your publication journey: every writer experiences some rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?
Unfortunately there's not a magic phrase or piece of advice that will make rejection hurt less - it's just something you have to go through as a writer. I remember when I got my first "real" rejection through (from a literary agency) I felt like I was earning my chops as a professional, because being rejected is what happens to professionals! It helped a *tiny bit* to think of it that way!

How did you find your publisher? What makes them a good fit for you and your book?
My brilliant agent - Claire Wilson - did all the hard work for me. She submitted the finished book to a number of editors at different publishing houses and then it was a case of seeing who was interested and what the offers were. The first publisher I met was Macmillan, and I knew immediately that was where I wanted to be. Their enthusiasm for the book was so clear and they're such a brilliant publisher. It was a no-brainer. The team who work with me and BBT at Macmillan Children's are so talented and passionate. I couldn't be happier.

Tell us about your book cover! Who designed it? How much say did you have in it? What do you want it to tell your readers about your story?
Rachel Vale at Macmillan designed it! It is obviously the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I was lucky in that I had some say in the cover design, but luckily I didn't need to get involved much because Rachel did such a brilliant job. We went through just one different design before this final one came through.

Above all, I wanted the cover to tell readers that this is a story worth reading, without giving the wrong impression of what they'd find inside and without giving too much away. I think it does it perfectly.

Tell us about your title. Was this the original title you'd had in mind? If not, what made you change it?
Beautiful Broken Things went through a *lot* of titles! It actually had a different title at every stage of the process! While I was writing it, I was calling it Third Wheels, but it was also known as Cracked and Thanks To You at various stages! My publisher felt the book needed a stronger title, and I'm VERY happy with the title it ended up with.

Can you tell us about some of the things you been working on between signing a contract for BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS and its release?
I spent some time working with my editor to polish up Beautiful Broken Things, but I've also been working on my next book, which is another contemporary standalone about love, communication and anxiety.

How does it feel to finally have your book out in the hands of readers? Do you have any events planned you want people to know about?
It feels amazing! (And a bit scary!) I'm going to be doing several events that I'm excited about, such as the World Book Day Teen Fest event in March with Holly Bourne and Juno Dawson.

Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
KEEP GOING. There is honestly no better advice I can give than that. Maybe I could have done some things differently, but I'm glad I didn't. I've ended up with the best agent, editor and book I could ever have hoped for. It was worth it!

And, just for fun, which book in your own library do you think would be your main character Caddy's favorite?
I feel like Caddy would be a big John Green fan, to be honest! I can imagine her shedding some tears over The Fault in our Stars.

Thank you so much for your participation in this Wednesday Debut Interview! And congrats on your new book!



Do you or someone you know have a debut book coming out this year? If you'd like to be featured in a Wednesday Debut Interview, please email wendynikel at gmail dot com with your book's title, release date, publisher, and category/genre.

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