Thursday, November 19, 2009

Author Spotlight: Sarah Ockler Interview!

Today I am Interviewing Sarah Ockler, Author of Twenty Boy Summer here on That Chick That Reads.. Here's a little bit about Sarah...

Sarah Ockler wrote and illustrated her first book at age six—an adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Still recovering from her own adolescence, she now writes books for young adults. Sarah has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of New York at Buffalo and also studied creative writing through Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

After several years of wandering between New York City and Denver, Sarah and her husband Alex live in Upstate New York with an ever-expanding collection of sea glass (hers) and dinosaurs (his).

TWENTY BOY SUMMER is her first novel.

1. Okie we'll start off with the basic question: Where did you get the idea for your novel?

The idea for Twenty Boy Summer was inspired by the teens I met through my work with the National Donor Family Council, an organization that supports families whose loved ones have died and donated organs or tissues. These teens had suffered through the unimaginable tragedy of losing a sibling or friend, yet their courage and hope remained strong. That always stayed with me, even years later. When I set out to write my first YA novel, I knew that I wanted to share a little bit of their stories.

2. I know atleast for me, it was extremely difficult to read about Matt's death and how it affected the people he knew; Why did you choose that to be his fate?

I didn't exactly choose that to be Matt's fate as much as that was just the story that had to be told. I wanted to explore the everyday things that happen in the lives of teens, like friendships and parents and first loves, but in the aftermath of tragedy, where everything is somehow clouded by the death of a young person and the sadness that followed. Matt's death allowed me to write about love, loss, grief, forgiveness, and hope, and ultimately, that's what Twenty Boy Summer is about.

3. I abs love the idea of the notes she wrote to Matt, growing up, did you have a journal that you would share with your friends? Diary?

Yes, my best friend and I both wrote our own journals and would often swap them to write letters to each other. We both trusted that the other wouldn't read the remaining journal entries without specific permission. I think that trust is what enabled us to write so freely for ourselves and in the letters we shared together. Sometimes I wish I could do that now, but it's not quite the same with everyone chatting online!

4. How long did it take you to write this novel? Any advice for aspiring authors?

I worked on Twenty Boy Summer for about 4 years, but that was mostly because I wasn't focusing on it. I would let myself get discouraged easily, walking away for months at a time. I was also working full time and going to graduate school, but finally, something inside me woke up (thanks in large part to my husband's unending faith and encouragement!), and I knew that if I truly wanted to be a writer, I had to make it a priority. Once I did that, I finished up in a matter of months, even though I was still working in another job and doing all of the other things I had to do.

So if you want to write, you have to *really* want it, and you have to make it a priority. One of the easiest ways to do it is to turn off the television. You'd be amazed how much time, energy, brain power, and creativity free up when you turn off the tube! I have some other information and writing advice on my Web site, here:

5. Okie lets say you are in the middle of writing a chapter and the phone rings, that call can not wait. How easy or hard is it to jump right back into the flow of writing?

Actually, it's not that hard. Unless I'm completely interrupted from a flashing thought and that thought just vanishes, I can usually get back into the flow pretty quickly because if I've got the idea and the energy going already, I can jump back in with excitement, knowing that I have something to work on. I have a harder time when I'm staring at a blank screen, willing an idea to come. When the phone rings at those times, I know I've got nothing waiting for me but an endless blank screen, and that can be disheartening. For the same reason, I often stop writing while I'm in the middle of a good flow just so I have something to jump back into the next time I write.

6. Can you tell us something unique about yourself?

Even though people think I'm sweet and quiet, I'm a complete lunatic at home. My secret antics include inappropriate jokes, animal noises, weird dances, insane faces, and sometimes -- if I'm in the mood and particularly inspired -- a rap. My husband says I have a "home voice" and a "work voice," and it's rare that the two cross paths!

7. If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would you meet and what would you say or ask them?

I would love to meet Jack Kerouac, but I don't know what I'd say to him. I think I'd just sit there and let him talk, because I know the conversation would take me on some crazy trippy wild ride, just like his books.

8. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

No. When I write, I set out to tell a story. Through that story, through writing about the things that all humans share and experience -- love, loss, sadness, disappointment, joy, hope -- I want to connect with readers, but I don't try to convey any specific messages. I don't judge the characters' actions or choices, or try to lead readers to a conclusion or judgment. I want readers to find their *own* messages in my books simply by relating to the characters and their experiences and emotions. When that happens, I know I've done my job as a writer.

9. What books have most influenced your life most?

Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD

(that's soooo cool i abs love the truth about forever!! That's my favorite book!)

10. Who designed the cover?

The cover for Twenty Boy Summer was designed by Saho Fuji at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Saho is awesome and talented and I love love LOVE the cover!

11. "What's the number one coolest thing you've ever seen in your life?" (love this question matt asks anna!!)

I've been so fortunate in my life to see lots of really cool things, but if I have to pick just one, it would be the Grand Canyon. The first time I saw it, I just stood there with my mouth hanging open, unable to speak. I blocked out all of the tourists and the sounds of industry and just looked across the expanse, and it brought tears to my eyes. I will never forget that moment or that feeling.

Muchos thanks to author Sarah Ockler for letting me interview her on my blog! She is abs awesome and Twenty Boy Summer is AMAZING! You can learn more about her HERE or you can read my review of her novel HERE!

As always,
That Chick That Reads


  1. Hi Leslie :)
    Thank you for the excellent interview with Sarah Ockler. Thank you Sarah for taking the time to share. I enjoyed learning more about Sarah & her writing.
    All the best,

  2. Gret interview, I just recently read Twenty Boy Summer and absolutely loved it :)

  3. great interview! I've heard really good things about her book, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Going to have to bump it up on my list.

  4. Awesome interview! Sarah totally rocks (and she's super nice on twitter/Goodreads!). TBS completely rocks as well, she's definitely an author I'll be keeping a good eye on. Great questions too, it was nice getting to know Sarah more. ;)