Interview: Sarah Smith

NRR: Can you share with us how you got started into writing?

When I was a kid, two children in the family haunted me.  I still have a picture of one of them, a round-faced little boy who died when he was very young.  His eyes follow you round the room.

The other was an older boy who had walked out of our house one day in 1887 and had never returned.  

Eventually the two vanished boys blended into Richard Knight, who sees a murder and then disappears in The Vanished Child.  I had to write about what happened to him. 

Ever since, I’ve been writing about “what happened to X?  And what would happen to X if…?”

NRR: How were you inspired to write The Other Side Of Dark?

Law was one of those “what-ifs.”  I was reading a radical African-American historian whose ideas I like, and I thought “Wouldn’t I hate to be his kid.”  Anything that includes the words “I’d hate to” is the beginning of a story.  
Katie and George just walked into the book.  The first scene with them is the first scene I wrote.  There was Katie, seeing ghosts, and there was George, being one.

NRR: Have you always been intrigued to write in the Young Adult genre?

Many of my favorite books are YA books, but I didn’t even think of it as a YA until after I’d finished it.  I was writing a novel about what happens to two people who are 16 and 15 and who are attracted to each other but too unsure about themselves to say so.   When the first draft  was finished, I showed it to my editor, who said, “This is a YA, you know.”  

Duh!  No kidding!  I got to write a YA?

Now I want to write more of them.

NRR: Do you prefer e-reader or books?

I love books, and I always have more books than shelves, so it’s attractive to move books onto my iPad because electrons take up almost no shelf space. But only certain kinds of books.

Graphic novels and comics?  Great to be able to zoom in on details. Big fat reference books, where it’s great to be able to search for something?  Cool.  Books I want to read but may not want to keep around?  Love my iPad.

Books I’d like to share with friends?  Books I particularly love and want to keep a long time?  There I want books.  I want to see the book on my shelves and see the little marks from reading it and maybe get the author to sign it.  I like the book as an object, with a history.  

I know that in a few years the books that are on the iPad will look strange and quaint and might not work, but the books that are on my shelves will last.

NRR: What is your favorite holiday and how do you enjoy spending it?

My absolutely favorite holiday is Halloween. A block from where we live, every year some people turn the entire front of their house into a pirate ship.  So I get dressed up in a great costume, hand out candy with my sweetie, and then go see the pirate ship.  

NRR: Can you tell us a little about The Other Side Of Dark?

The Other Side of Dark is set in Brookline and Boston. In the book, two high-school students from Brookline meet during the last days of Pinebank, the Perkins family’s house. Law Walker is the son of a radical African American historian.  Law is no radical.  He wants to become an architect like his mom—but he doesn’t dare tell his dad.  

Worse, for years he’s had a crush on Katie Mullens, who’s white.  Katie is a talented young artist, but since her mom died, Katie’s drawings have gone dark.  She draws people who have died by violence.

She thinks she’s making them up, but when Katie meets and draws a picture of a boy named George, Law recognizes him and realizes that Katie sees ghosts.  George lived at Pinebank.  George’s grandfather put him in charge of something important, something hidden at Pinebank.  And 150 years later, George still is garding his grandfather’s bequest.  

But George isn’t the only ghost at Pinebank…

NRR: What can readers expect to see from you in the coming year?

I’m working on a book about the Titanic, but you won’t see that in the coming year unless a major miracle happens.  Books take a long time to produce.  Then I’m doing another YA.

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