Sunday, March 8, 2015

0 Sarah Tomp, author of MY BEST EVERYTHING, on making friends with creative people

Please welcome Sarah Tomp, here to share more about her novel MY BEST EVERYTHING.

Sarah, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I don’t want to give away too many details, but I can’t even begin to count how many times I rewrote the final climactic face-off scene. I wrote and rewrote it on my own many many times, and then for each editorial pass I had to give it another re-working. There were just a lot of logistical and motivational and emotional elements that had to all be aligned and revealed at the right moment. I can’t say for sure I’m most proud of it, because when something gets that beat-up and battered, it’s hard to see it clearly.

One scene that I really love is the whole night of the Fourth of July. That’s the night things really start to change for everyone. Roni sings with her band for the first time, Lulu and Mason are finally starting to admit their serious attraction to each other, and Lulu has her first foray into the secret world of moonshine dealings.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I would much rather worry about my characters and their problems than my own! The worse their problems, the more invested I am in the story!

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

It took me a long time to realize I wanted to write! But once I did, I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts to try and speed up my learning curve. That was an incredible experience and definitely helped me develop my skills and, even more importantly, writerly habits and discipline. During and following that program, I wrote two novels—one middle grade and one young adult—before I wrote My Best Everything. So, it took a long time to get to that point! But then things moved pretty quickly. My agent was enthusiastic from the start. I signed with her less than a week after sending my query and we went to auction a month later. My release date is almost exactly two years to the date from when we first went on submission.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

When I was working to shape the plot of My Best Everything, my good friend Andrea Zimmerman, a picture book writer, helped me to see that using a particular story structure can require even more creative effort—and be more ultimately satisfying—than just winging it and having a bunch of random—even if they are exciting—things happen. Cause and effect is a wonderful thing to remember!

A clarifying moment was reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and realizing that the movies Jaws and Fatal Attraction follow the same basic story structure. That gave me the confidence to embrace plot structure without worrying that the story would feel formulaic.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I do most of my writing—especially the raw initial drafting—early in the dark pre-morning hour, when my house and the world outside is quiet. I still work a day job so I try to get in at least an hour or two of writing before everyone gets up. I can do some revision and planning work in the afternoons and evenings, but I prefer mornings for any brand new writing.

But, because I write in the main part of my sometimes chaotic home, I am quite good at tuning out excess noise. Sometimes I’ll work in a coffee shop or the library, but I am a restless writer. I like to get up and move frequently, and I read a lot of my work out loud, which doesn’t fit into most public settings!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

1) Make friends with other creative people! Writing can be so lonely, and so taxing on our emotions and psyches. It’s important to have those friends who A) understand and validate; but also, B) know when you need to get out of your own head, plus C) are making pretty and inspiring creations too—whether they’re words or pictures or songs or sculptures from mud and feathers. It’s so important to find the joy in being creative!


2) Make/keep friendships with people who don’t care about writing at all! Perspective and balance is crucial!


My Best Everything
by Sarah Tomp
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released 3/3/2015

An Appalachian summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating in this debut novel about first loves, broken hearts, and moonshine.

Luisa "Lulu" Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they're out of their depth, they turn to Mason, a local boy who's always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything?

My Best Everything is Lulu's letter to Mason--but it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye?

Purchase My Best Everything at Amazon
Purchase My Best Everything at IndieBound
View My Best Everything on Goodreads


Sarah Tomp Author PhotoSarah Tomp has a MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

My Best Everything, a novel for young adults, will be published March 2015 by Little, Brown Books.

She is also the author of a picture book; Red, White, and Blue Good-bye (Walker Books for Young Readers).

Sarah teaches creative writing for University of California San Diego Extension. She reviews books for and co-authors the blog, Writing on the Sidewalk.

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