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Sarah Holt: Interview with the Author

May 1st, 2014 by

Sarah Holt speaks to Mark Bonington on the art of good writing, her first novel Love and Eskimo Snow and how to become a published author.

What is the premise of your book?Sarahforwordpress2

It’s an inverted Cinderella story, about the nature of love. The title comes from the myth that eskimos have thousands of different words for snow. The idea is that love should be the same, because everyone’s experience of love is different. One person could love two people in their lifetime, but completely differently.

Love is just a four letter word, isn’t it? The way I feel about someone in my life won’t be the same as the way you feel about someone in your life. Part of it is based on the social psychology I did at university. I learned a lot about love and how we interpret it. The idea that we all fall in love differently is backed up in science.

I would describe the novel as being like Fight Club, as there’s a big twist at the end, but without soap.

Why do you write?

I love it. It’s a challenge to try and turn clichés inside out; make them into things you’ve never heard before. Also, you get a rush when you write a sentence that sounds really good.

It’s like playing, essentially. You remember when you were a child, you made up stories and spent hours with imaginary characters. It’s like that. It’s like playing for grown-ups.

What’s your creative process?

I don’t really have one. It all comes out in one massive dollop of about 20,000 words. I just exorcise the words initially.

By then you have an idea of your characters and you know what you want to write about, so I work on structure. You delete stuff, you add stuff in. Sometimes you’ll create entirely new characters.

I don’t do it in order, either. I write on what I feel like at the time. If there is a fight scene that is technically next on the list, and I don’t feel like writing a fight scene, I’ll just miss it and go to the next one. It’s quite instinctive.

What inspires you?

I’m always coming up with ideas for novels. I’ve got my next five planned out. Sometimes it will be stories in the paper, and I’ll think “what would it have been like for that person?” Or it’s conversations with friends about ideas.

Or the bath! I get a lot of ideas in the bath.

How did you go about getting published?

Getting published is the hard part of writing a book. You’ve written 80-100,000 words and you think “done”. But that’s when the hard work begins.

You have to research. Every agent wants different things; you normally send a synopsis and a certain number of chapters. But not everyone wants that. Some will want the first 4 chapters some will want 3000 words. All sorts. So you send it off and wait for the rejection letters to roll in. I had about 11, altogether, which isn’t too bad.

I cherished each one. I was expecting them, because no one gets published on the first round. But I just thought “one day I’ll look back and laugh at these”. As well as agents I contacted a few publishers that were interested in submissions, and it was one of the publishers that got back to me and offered me a book deal.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a published novelist?

You shouldn’t aim to be published. You should aim to write a book. That should be your pride, because so many people start one and can’t be bothered to finish. But to have pride in that finished manuscript on your desktop, that should motivate you to go through the dull and tedious process which comes next.

You should also take every bit of criticism you can get. If someone says “I hate this character”, ask them why. Don’t take the positive feedback too seriously, because people will always be nice. Get the people you trust to read it, and make them be honest. Prepare to be mauled, because then you can go back and make it better.

What is your next novel about?

My next novel is about family relationships and dynamics, and how people recover from grief and loss. I don’t know if this is starting to be a theme in my books, but there’s a death on the first page. It sounds very morbid, but there’s a lot of happiness in the book too, but it opens with a little boy being run over by his dad, and dies.

The book then explores how human relationships cope with such tragic events. But there’s a twist in the end of that one as well.

To launch Sarah’s new book, Boxpark will be staging the world’s first ‘edible book launch’ in a scrumptious 6-course dinner reflecting the themes of the novel. Tickets are on sale now and you can book your place here!

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