Monday, December 17, 2012

YA Author Spotlight: Sarah Fine

GRAFFITI PROMOTIONS is a regular feature on Writer's Alley, where authors and aspiring writers, editors, publishers, and anyone from the publishing world, to share their journeys, valuable wisdom, and to promote their work along a road of humor, encouragement, and inspiration. Features include Author Interviews, Book Promos, and Character Introductions.

Today's feature is YA Author Sarah Fine. Sarah was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast, where she lives with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, she's working as a child psychologist. No, she is not psychoanalyzing you right now. SANCTUM is her first novel. She is represented by Literary Agent Kathleen Ortiz. Sarah can be found on her Website and blog, The Strangest Situation.

What or who inspired you to start writing?
I started writing pretty abruptly. In November 2009, a few days after my 30-mumble-mumblth birthday, I decided to write a novel. And a month later, I was finished. My family and friends were utterly shocked, because I'd never talked about writing before. I guess I just felt this internal push, and finally it exploded out of me. For a while, I was afraid it would stop, but at this point I've completed something like ten manuscripts (SANCTUM was the second book I ever wrote). I'm pretty confident this writing thing is going to stick.

I love the name of your blog - The Strangest Situation. Tells us a bit about it and how you began blogging. 
I started my blog right after I got my agent, because I knew I needed to enter the social media world. As a psychologist, I thought I might have the opportunity to share some of the stuff I know, and I've truly enjoyed the dialog I have with my extremely smart blog readers. I try to keep the blog focused on questions related to psychology and YA, and I think that's served me well. People know what they're going to get when they visit.

Share what it's like working with your agent and publisher.
My agent, Kathleen Ortiz, is the awesomest. Her work with me goes so far beyond getting me book deals (which she happens to be very good at)--she advises me in all things, from strategizing about social media to planning for my long-term career. I am so so so fortunate in my agent, and I'm extremely grateful to her.

As for publishers--I have three! And each one is different and fantastic in its own way. I'm lucky to have dedicated and talented editors, and they continue to help me improve my writing and storytelling. It's been a great experience so far.

Description: A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos's best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone – she's determined to save her best friend's soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she's captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city's endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn't – the dark city isn't the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate. Available on Amazon & Goodreads.

What do you feel is the most important to successful writing - drive, honing the craft, betas, perseverance, CPs, research, platform, or cyber-presence, and why?
I suppose I'm rather old school--I think writers should focus on the quality of their writing and storytelling first and foremost. I don't believe that one needs an MFA or a library full of craft books or anything like that (though I don't have anything against those things). But I do think that a writer should know her way around the language and should have a good sense of story structure, characterization, etc. Most of my knowledge comes from 1) reading A LOT, 2) writing A LOT,  and 3) feedback from critique partners, editors, and my agent. In other words, nothing formal. But those things alone have allowed me to improve my writing to publishable quality over the last three years.

This is a great answer! Thank you.

Lastly, here's a fun question: How do you name your characters?

I admit to sometimes choosing names based on meaning. The protagonist of Sanctum is Lela Santos. "Lela" means "loyal" in French and "dark-haired beauty" in Persian. And "Santos", of course, means "saint."

I definitely don't make all decisions about names based on meaning, though. For example, I just love the name "Malachi", and chose it only for that reason!

Thank you, Sarah for sharing yourself and your work with us. 

Alleywalkers, for those of you who are writers, how do you name your characters?

Interested in being featured? Just click on one of the three links under Graffiti Promotions Submissions in my left sidebar.


  1. Great interview Sheri and Sarah. I loved learning more about Sarah because I see her around other blogs. I loved hearing what it was like working with her agent. I'm looking forward to reading Sanctum.

  2. Excellent interview!

    I pick character names based on what the characters like. :-D No idea how else to put it without sounding insane.

  3. Great interview, Sheri and Sarah. I loved Sanctum and the sequel. I'm waiting impatiently for book #3. :D

    I spend a lot of time coming up with my character names. I pick them based on the character's heritage. Fortunately there are baby naming websites that categorize names based on country of origin.

    1. Ooh, I'd forgotten you've had the pleasure of reading Book 2, already. I can't wait!

  4. Three different publishers? I think I would confuse myself.
    I spend twenty minutes brainstorming simple science fiction sounding names and then just match them to the characters.

  5. So excited for Sarah's success! I love her blog. It's incredibly informative, for life and for writing. :)

  6. Great interview, Sheri! I love Sarah's answer to the "What's most important" question, and I love her obvious commitment to continuing to work on craft. Reading is such a huge part of all of that, not to mention why most of us want to be writers in the first place.

    Hope you are all set for the holidays!



    1. That's what I've been spending the past two months since I sent my edits to my agent - reading, reading, and reading more. It's been great! I always learn something new from another author and usually discover something new about myself as a writer, too.

      Have a wonderful holiday!! (and...NO...I'm not ready yet. Yikes!)

  7. Great interview! And I love her words on her agent. That is so cool. ;)

  8. Replies
    1. It's the insidiest of inside jokes (of the nerdy psychology kind). There's a famous protocol for assessing attachment between parent and child called "The Strange Situation", which I always thought was a rather fantastical name ... so I stole it. Sort of.

  9. Great interview. Wishing you and your book great success, Sarah.

  10. Great interview!!! Love learning more about Sarah! :)

  11. I usually have to search for a bit for just the right name but recently I had a character choose a name I wouldn't have. Awesome to learn how Sarah chose her names. I'm looking forward to reading Santum :)

    1. I seriously loved it!

      Isn't it cool when a character does that?

  12. Great interview, Sheri! And great answers, Sarah! I'm drooling over that cover! Nice! I'm off to check out Sarah's blog (and book) now!!! Happy holidays!

  13. Thanks for your kind words, everyone, and to Sheri for hosting me! It was a fun interview!


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