Sarah Mlynowski e-interviewed by Hilary Williamson (July, 2010)
Sarah was born in Montreal, Canada. After graduating with an Honors degree in English literature from McGill University, she worked for Harlequin Enterprises in Toronto. She used her romance publishing experiences to fuel her first novel Milkrun. Since then Sarah has written the teen novels Bras & Broomsticks, Frogs & French Kisses, Spells & Sleeping Bags and Parties & Potions — all in the Magic in Manhattan series. Along with Lauren Myracle and E. Lockhart, she also wrote How to be Bad.
Sarah's four additional novels for adults were published by Red Dress Ink. She also co-wrote a guide to writing chick lit, See Jane Write, co-edited two bestselling charity collections, and contributed to anthologies. Sarah's books have been translated into twenty-one languages. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in New York City. Her new YA offering, Gimme a Call: be careful what you wish for ... is a breezy yet thought-provoking read with a most intriguing premise - a high school senior manages to contact and influence her younger self. Here's what Sarah has to say about it.
Q: You write both chick lit and teen lit - is there anything in particular you do to turn your writing focus to the teen mindset?
A: Before I start a book, I reread my high school diaries. Times may change, but emotions stay pretty constant. Love is love. Angst is angst. I also pump my teen cousins for current lingo — can't have my characters calling their cell phones groovy, now can I?
Q: Gimme a Call is quite different from your pointy-hatted Magic in Manhattan series; where did the idea come from (and have you ever dropped your cell phone in a fountain)?
A: No, I've never dropped my cell in a fountain. Thankfully! I have dropped my laptop down the stairs, does that count? As for the idea for the book… I've always been fascinated by the concept of time travel. And my favorite part of a time travel story is when a character bumps into herself at another age. Also, I'm a huge worrywart, so the possibility of peppering Future Me with questions is very appealing.
Q: Before she contacts her younger self, Devi seems to have lost her balance in Gimme a Call, her obsession with Bryan taking her away from relationships with friends and family - amidst all the fun of the story, are you trying to get across a message about this?
A: Absolutely. I think that when people become overly obsessed with any one aspect of their lives—be it a boyfriend, their grades, a sport — they miss out on other great experiences.
Q: As well as learning to better manage relationships, young Devi achieves a better balance than her senior did between academics and social life - do you have any advice for young people on handling this?
A: I think it's a matter of remembering that academics and social life are important to growth. Carve out time for both, and learn to prioritize. If you have a major calculus test on Monday morning, then maybe going to the mall with friends on Sunday afternoon is not the best plan. On the other hand, you don't have to get 100% on everything. You probably can't get a 100% on everything. And learning to navigate friendships and social politics will most definitely help you in the days to come.
Finding balance (work, love, friends, family) is an issue I still struggle with every day - unfortunately, it's not something that gets easier as you get older. At least, not for me, and not yet.
Q: Devi has a long list of things she'd like to go back and do differently, like putting marshmallows in the toaster oven and having to dig through cafeteria garbage bins to find her retainer. Do any of them come from your personal experience?
A: Hah — both of those! I lost numerous retainers to garbage bins and I used to love toasting marshmallows in the toaster oven - until the toaster oven caught fire, and my stepfather had to toss said (flaming) toaster oven into the bathtub.
Q: Is there anything major that you yourself would do differently in high school?
A: I'm one of those weirdoes who enjoyed high school. Sure, I had my heart-breaking experiences (like getting dumped by my best friend of five years in a letter), and some mortifying ones (accidentally waxing off half my left eyebrow), but now that I'm a novelist, I draw on that real life pain when I'm trying to make my characters' emotions believable. So. No. I'd leave the past alone. Sorry, high school me.
Q: A great deal of the hilarity of Gimme a Call occurs in the unintended consequences that come about from Devi's trying to fix the past - did you plot all of them in advance or create them on the fly as the story progressed?
A: Thanks! I used a detailed outline when writing Gimme a Call. I had to in order to keep all the plot points straight. But some of the consequences came to me as I wrote. For example, whenever Freshman Devi changes her present, Senior Devi inexplicably has a new prom date.
Q: You seem to specialize in putting real young women into weird and wonderful situations, and working out how they deal with them; what's next for your growing legion of fans?
A: I just finished writing Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have). It's about two high school friends who move in together when their parents leave town. Craziness ensues.Sarah's photo above was taken by Sigrid Estrada. Find out more about Sarah Mlynowski, her background, her chick lit & teen lit books, and read her blog at SarahM.com. Also check out Sarah's Facebook fan page and don't miss her appearances at Cynsations (7/10) and Through a Glass, Darkly (7/13).
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