Because of an episode of Call the Midwife, the song, “Catch a Falling Star,” is going through my mind. And if you know the song, you probably have it in yours now. Anyhoo, with me on the blog today is a rising star to catch—the energized and engaging Sarah Aronson. (And yes, I know Sarah from VCFA.) Sarah is represented by Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency.
Sarah is here to talk about her latest book, Believe, which is available right now, thanks to the good folks at Carolrhoda Lab. She also is the author of Beyond Lucky and Head Case.
When Janine Collins was six years old, she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing that killed her parents and dozens of others. Media coverage instantly turned her into a symbol of hope, peace, faith–of whatever anyone wanted her to be. Now, on the ten-year anniversary of the bombing, reporters are camped outside her house, eager to revisit the story of the “Soul Survivor.”
Janine doesn’t want the fame–or the pressure–of being a walking miracle. But the news cycle isn’t the only thing standing between her and a normal life. Everyone wants something from her, expects something of her. Even her closest friends are urging her to use her name-recognition for a “worthy cause.” But that’s nothing compared to the hopes of Dave Armstrong–the man who, a decade ago, pulled Janine from the rubble. Now he’s a religious leader whose followers believe Janine has healing powers.
The scariest part? They might be right.
If she’s the Soul Survivor, what does she owe the people who believe in her? If she’s not the Soul Survivor, who is she?
What a ride, huh? I’m giving away a $20 Amazon card this time with the stipulation that you must purchase Believe. More on that later.
El Space: Hey, Sarah! Congrats on the release of Believe. Please share four quick facts about yourself.
Sarah: I never read manuals. I once won a state sanctioned power lifting contest. I could deadlift 320 pounds. When I’m drafting, I also cook a lot. I delete all my first drafts. My mottos are “Try everything,” and “They’re only words. Re-imagine!” I met my husband when, thinking he was someone else, I kissed him. About the time when my lips hit his cheek, I realized I had no idea who he was!
El Space: Wow. Cool facts! I would never try to arm wrestle you! What inspired you to write Believe?
Sarah: Faith, fame, and family are themes I write and think about a lot. These themes, in some way, are important to all my stories.
I started thinking about Janine’s story when I was at the salon, reading People! There was a story about the woman who was once known as Baby Jessica. She was the baby who fell into the well. I was surprised to find out that one of the men who saved her had killed himself—he couldn’t deal with his life after his fifteen minutes of fame was over. I was also surprised how judgmental I felt about her adult life. This was a person who never asked to be famous. She didn’t seem to want it either. I decided to explore the nature of celebrity in our world today. I knew right away that I was taking a big risk making Janine a figure in the faith community. But I also knew that faith was something that would present itself no matter what I did. The more I wrote, the more I understood Janine’s skepticism and doubts and her selfishness. She lost her parents! She would naturally wrestle with the nature of faith.
El Space: What was most exhilarating or challenging about writing Believe?
Sarah: The voice. The challenge of creating a character who was not all that likeable, but still interesting, who grew up a celebrity, was a lot of fun.
El Space: What strength does your main character have in common with you?
Sarah: She’s determined. She loves her family. She’s impulsive and skeptical and can be pretty impatient. She wants to be admired for who she is, not what people want her to be.
El Space: What authors/books inspire you?
Sarah: There are so many! I love books that take chances, that explore a darker side of life. When I first decided to write and was finding my own voice, these were the authors and books that inspired me: Nancy Werlin’s books. The prologue of Killer’s Cousin. The risks she took in Rules of Survival and Impossible! I was thrilled when she blurbed Believe. Walter Dean Myers, especially Monster. That book! The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier. That ending! Carolyn Coman’s Many Stones and What Jamie Saw. I still strive to write sentences as perfect as hers.
Of course, there are many other books that continue to inspire and motivate me! I could give you a long list!
El Space: What do you hope readers take away from after reading your book?
Sarah: I hope that people will talk about faith and how it divides us, when it should bring us together on every level. I hope that we can begin to have more interfaith conversations. Skepticism is normal. I would love it if this book gave young adults a chance to have that discussion.
Of course, I also hope readers think about our world and our obsession with fame and an unending stream of information. We idolize celebrities and at the same time, we love to watch them crash. We are a nation of rubberneckers! I hope Janine’s struggles with her celebrity get people talking!
El Space: What advice do you have for an author who wishes to write about a provocative subject?
Sarah: Be brave. Be determined. Take out an index card and write down what you want your book to say. Find a supportive reader and don’t worry about the politics. Explore your character. Be true to your story. There’s an audience for this, and they need your book.
Thanks, Sarah, for being my guest!
If you’re looking for more about Sarah, you can find her at her website, Twitter, and Facebook. Oh, and also here too. Believe is available here:
Barnes and Noble
The Book Stall
One of YOU will receive the Amazon gift card just by commenting. This giveaway is for followers and regular commenters. Eligibility has reset, so past winners are now once more eligible.
POST UPDATE: The winner will be announced on Thursday!
Book covers with the exception of Believe, are from Goodreads. Camera from cliparthaven.com.