My guest today is Sara Alva whose tender M/m and LGBT YA novels and short stories are getting a great following. I was very pleased to see that her novel, Social Skills, is a Finalist in its category for the Rainbow Awards. 🙂
Elin : Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Sara : I have a day job and another side job. My day job doesn’t really allow me to think about anything else while doing it, so it can be tricky to find time to write, or even brainstorm. But writer was always my childhood dream-job…the kind you’re positive you’re going to have when you’re nine or ten, then slowly begin to doubt as you reach high school, the push aside for more “practical” things in college…and then dive right back into with the joy of finding a long-lost friend as soon as the opportunity presents itself. So more and more these days I’m finding myself being drawn to the “author” title as a primary identifier.
Other than that, I’m from a small town in the South (of the U.S.) but I live in Los Angeles now. I have a husband, two cats, and all the characters in my head to keep me company.
Elin : When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Sara : I always tell my friends I have zero artistic ability, and they shoot back at me that music is art. I suppose I know what they mean, but I consider it a completely different art zone. If you give me a blank piece of paper and a paintbrush and tell me to make art, I’ll probably end up in tears (hopefully laughter-borne ones when I look at the mess I’ve made).
But I am a violinist, though in recent years I’ve taken a break from the classics. I occasionally perform and sing with a folk band, and I’ve played my fair share of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star during the lessons I give to little ones.
As a chance to step outside my relatively shy persona, I also dance with a troupe and participate in as many flash mobs as time permits.
I’ve incorporated what I know about music into a novel, but not dancing…at least not yet. =P
Elin : In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Sara : It’s probably character, for me. I won’t begin writing (or I’ll scrap everything I do attempt) if I don’t really know my characters inside and out. Of course, they can’t go anywhere without plot, but that’s something that takes a little more time to develop in my head. Plots I can change, but characters are usually stubborn and don’t like being altered too much mid-stream.
Elin : Can you name any author/authors, past or present, who have been a great influence on your work?
Sara : I read so much as a kid that it would be hard to pinpoint a specific author’s influence. One of my favorites, Anne McCaffrey, wrote sci-fi and fantasy novels, but I haven’t written any of those yet. However, her amazing ability to craft a moving, emotional story is something I aspire to.
Libby Drew was the first published m/m author I ever read. She was my introduction to the genre, and it was through her work that I realized there were good stories out there and people willing to read them, so that definitely inspired me.
Dani Alexander is a monumentally talented writer, and also my crit partner. He published his first novel a year before I did and with some gentle nagging, err, nudging, got me on the road to publishing as well.
Elin : Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Sara : A bit of both, I’d say. I don’t really do outlines, but sometimes I will scribble down scenes…and then ‘pants’ my way from one to the next. But I usually (preferably) ‘live’ with my characters in my head for up to several months before I touch fingers to keyboard. I work out the plot in those moments when I’m staring into space and my husband is waving a hand in front of my face, asking “what is going on in there?”
Elin : Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Sara : Again, both. I usually feel like I know them very well before I begin writing, but every once and a while an extra layer or some added depth will reveal itself as the story progresses. This particularly happens when a character has to experience some kind of growth…I may know it’s going to happen, but it’s almost as if it occurs as I’m writing it.
Elin : Do you have a crisp mental picture of your characters or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Sara : I have a pretty crisp mental picture—part of why I never thought I’d want photos on my covers. What’re the odds of finding someone who matches the picture in my mind?
Of course…my first novel has a huge photo on it—one that I selected after having a jaw-drop this-is-him moment. I guess the odds aren’t that bad after all.
Elin : What inspired you to write about the inner city in Silent?
Sara : When I was formulating the plot for Silent, I realized there was a world within Los Angeles that even many Los Angelenos didn’t get to see. I wanted to give voice to characters and lives that may be less visible in America. There are many difficult, heartbreaking issues that inner city teens face, and I think it’s important to take notice of that, but I also wanted to show the courage and the hope I’ve witnessed in my time here in Los Angeles.
Elin : Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Sara : My husband, because he puts up with my insanity.
Austin, from Dani Alexander’s Shattered Glass, because he’s got means and money.
Dani, too, because you always want an experienced rabble-rouser on your side. Also I hear he has some ass-kicking abilities that could come in handy.
Madison Parker, because she has math smarts and if you need to calculate an angle of escape or break a code, she’s your gal.
Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders (and their dragons). Because awesome.
I have an urge to list a bunch of hot fictional guys now (Thor, Horatio Hornblower, John Barrowman in every role he’s ever played…even when he’s a villain) but I think I might be getting off task here. 😛
Elin : Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The bigoted society. What sort of villains do you prize?
Sara : I don’t do “pure-evil” villains. I prefer my villains to have a touch of humanity in them…or at least have something in their past that shows how they may have lost that humanity. It makes things more tragic.
Elin : What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Sara : I’m going to be secretive for now. 🙂
Elin : Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Sara : Here’s a little snippet from my recent release, Silent. I have part of the first chapter up on my blog, so I picked something from chapter six this time, when Alex is entering foster care.
Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central L.A. is far from perfect, but it’s his life, and he knows how to live it. He knows what role to play and what things to keep to himself. He’s got it all under control, until one lousy pair of shoes kicks him out of his world and lands him in a foster care group home.
Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.
It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.
A sickly-thin gray street cat dashed across the road when we reached my neighborhood, just barely making it to the other side in one piece. I was pretty sure I’d seen that cat before.
In fact, I’d seen it all before. I’d seen the homeless man curled up in the green flannel blanket under the freeway bridge, one arm slung protectively over a plastic bag that contained all his worldly belongings. I’d seen those same wrinkled old señoras digging in the gas station trashcans and pulling out plastic bottles for the measly five-cent return rate. And I’d seen that ice-cream truck with the dent in its side, playing its obnoxious song over and over again as it rolled through the streets.
Everything was exactly as I’d left it.
Only I was different. I was the sell-out, being “escorted” to my own home by a cop and a social worker. God, I could only pray no one I knew would catch sight of me and set their tongue to chismes.
There goes Alex, hauled off by the police. And he thought he was so smart…
Thanks Sara for being such a good sport. If you would like to follow Sara please click on the links below: