Author Crush Friday: Sara Shepard
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to Sara Shepard, the #1 NY Times Bestselling author of the YA thriller, The Amatuers (November 1, 2016; Freeform). We can’t wait for the second installment, Follow Me, which releases next fall. Thank you for talking to us today, Sara! We’re honored!
GLITTER: For those who haven’t read your work yet, how would you describe your writing style?
Sara: So I try to write with a mix of humor and suspense, which isn’t an easy mix, really. And I love to write fast-moving stories that end on big cliffhangers!
GLITTER: When did you first start writing and what drew you to writing?
Sara: I was always writing as a kid. My sister and I always had made-up worlds. When my dad brought home a computer from his office when I was in third grade (one of those boxy Macs with the tiny screens) I immediately found the Word program and started writing “chapter” stories…though I could never get past chapter 1. So I’d just start over and write a whole new chapter one…and then eventually abandon that story, too. I even made my science papers into stories. In fourth grade, we had to write papers on a different bodily system each week. I wrote about a bunch of characters including a five-legged camel floating through the circulatory system or getting lost in the stomach. I suppose I found it way more interesting than just writing a boring old science report.
GLITTER: What one message would you like readers to walk away with when they’re done reading The Amateurs?
Sara: That it ends in a way you don’t expect! And also, WATCH OUT FOR EVERYONE. No one is as they seem.
GLITTER: How alike and unlike is The Amateurs to Pretty Little Liars?
Sara: They are the same in that they’re both thrillers where a crime has happened and a group tries to get to the bottom of it. But I think the characters in The Amateurs are a little more realistic…and definitely struggling with more serious problems than the characters in Pretty Little Liars. PLL is a little tongue-in-cheek, and The Amateurs is straight drama. The Amateurs also features a few male character— it was fun to explore a different point of view.
GLITTER: We are sad that the final episodes of Pretty Little Liars are set to air in 2017, are any of your other books in the works to be on TV or the big screen?
Sara: I’m sad too! I have such fond memories of visiting the set, having cameos on the show, and interacting with the cast, writers, and crew. It’s tough to get your project made into a TV show, and projects go through many steps just to be considered. That said, a few of my series are in development for TV— one is The Perfectionists, which Marlene King is adapting right now, and the other is The Amateurs, though I’m not sure the deal is officially done yet. I’m also developing my own pilot/ series, and though I can’t say much about it yet, I’m really excited for it. But I do want to reiterate that it’s tough to make it over all the hurdles and through all the hoops and actually get something on TV. I’m still astounded PLL passed all the tests and was green-lit for production all those years ago. It’s a testament to the amazing PLL team that it remained such a successful show for so long.
GLITTER: Can you tell us about the final few episodes of Pretty Little Liars without giving anything away?
Sara: You know, I’m in the dark like everyone else! I actually ask NOT to know what’s going to happen because I like to watch alongside the rest of the audience. I feel like they’ve given interesting hints, though— a musical number? I can’t wait to see it, though I’m glad I wasn’t asked to appear in a cameo in that episode.
GLITTER: Did you always want to be an author? Did you ever feel like giving up? Did you receive rejection letters in the beginning? How did you get over them?
Sara: It’s weird— I always liked writing stories, but I didn’t think of becoming an author as a career goal. In school, I wanted to be an artist, and then a scientist, or maybe a doctor. Even when I went to grad school for fiction, it was so that I’d “maybe” publish a novel in addition to my day job. Rejection letters were definitely tough— you have this awful feeling that everyone out there is a better writer than you are and you should just stop now. Trouble is, those feelings don’t go away— I still feel inadequate most of the time. If you’re faint of heart or have a hard time with criticism, writing might not be the right profession for you. I got over rejection, I guess, by just pushing ahead. I probably blocked a lot of it out, though. Because who wants to dwell on feeling awful about yourself?
GLITTER: Do you have any crazy writing rituals?
Sara: I write in my office on the top floor of my house. I used to be able to write anywhere— on a park bench, in a busy train station— but now I need the office. I also need a pretty big screen. Laptops don’t cut it anymore— I feel like I can’t see the page properly. Maybe I’m going blind. And if I’m stuck on a scene, I usually leave the computer and go running. I used to run to complete silence, but now I listen to audiobooks, podcasts, which seems counterintuitive to working out a writing issue— you’d think other voices/ plots would get stuck in my head— but really I think it’s just physically getting away from the computer and empty page that helps.
GLITTER: Is there one thing you need when writing?
Sara: I tend to need silence. I wish I could write to music. I also wish I could multitask and watch my favorite TV shows while writing a scene. I wish I didn’t need my fingers to type and could knit something while somehow mentally dictating how I’d hope a sentence could go. It would definitely have to be mental dictation, as I don’t like the sound of my own voice when recorded. Ahh! But basically, silence. Even the sounds of dogs barking out the window drive me insane.
GLITTER: What are you currently working on?
Sara: I’m working on the second installment of THE AMATEURS, which is called FOLLOW ME. It’s out next fall. After that, I’m going to start laying out what’s going to happen in the third installment— the conclusion! I can’t wait.
Sara Shepard is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, and The Perfectionists. Her most recent novel, The Amateurs, published in November 2016. She graduated from NYU and has an MFA from Brooklyn College.