What are some authors that inspire you and that you consider rockstars?
Too many to count! But I’ll give you my current top 3 obsessions: Maggie Stiefvater, whose RAVEN BOYS, DREAM THEIVES, and SCORPIO RACES make me want to be a better writer. Jessi Kirby, who writes smart, down-to-earth heroines with just the right mix of swoon and sass. Deb Caletti, who makes everyday moments in her stories special and extraordinary.
What is your favorite part of being a writer?
Another tough question for which only a top 3 list will do: the uniform (PJs, fuzzy socks, bedhead, accessorized with a bottomless cup of coffee). Connecting with YA readers of all ages. Telling stories (a.k.a. giving voice to the voices in my head).
Your debut novel, Twenty Boy Summer, came out 4 years ago. How have things changed for you, as an author, since then?
In some ways, my writing life is completely different. When my debut hit the shelves, I was a brand new author, still transitioning from full time work and still getting used to sharing my stories with such a broad audience (meaning, more than just my #1 fan, a.k.a. Mom!). I was still learning how to manage my day – what it truly meant to be a working writer (hint: um… it’s a lot of actual work). Some of those things I’m still figuring out four years later! And it’s a difficult transition to go from writing just for the pure love of writing to writing for a commercial audience, with reader and publisher expectations, insecurities about reviews, knowing that making a living depends on people buying your books. I lost a little bit of that initial naïve joy I brought to the page when I was just writing for myself. But it’s all part of the process, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it!
In other ways, my writing life hasn’t changed at all. I’m still me, still writing stories and daydreaming, still road tripping for inspiration, still staying up past my bedtime to read and write, and still eating things I probably shouldn’t under the guise of creative fuel. 😉
Out of all your books, which one was the hardest to write? Which one was the easiest?
Each book had it’s own challenges and simplicities. Twenty Boy Summer and The Book of Broken Hearts were really emotional to write – the first dealing with the death of a young person and the main
character’s first love, and the second with the slow decline of a parent to early onset Alzheimer’s.
Fixing Delilah was tough because it forced me to reflect on my own issues with family and past family secrets. Bittersweet was challenging because I was writing it right after Twenty Boy Summer hit the shelves, so there was a lot of doubt and fear about whether I could actually succeed as an author – I still felt so untested and clueless!
But they were all fun to write, too. I loved the ocean setting in Twenty Boy Summer, the love story in Fixing Delilah, inventing cupcakes for Bittersweet (um… so was watching hockey boys on YouTube for “research purposes.” The Book of Broken Hearts allowed me to revisit my middle school obsession with Grease 2 and cute motorcycle boys. And my latest, #scandal, was so funny and fun to write – I mean, there’s a unicorn-costumed horse named Prince Freckles, a conspiracy theory club called (e)VIL, and vibrator jokes. How can it not be fun to write that stuff? 😉
Which one of your books do you consider your favorite? Which character do you consider your favorite?
There’s no way I can pick a favorite book or character! Like the ups and downs of the writing process, each one has its own unique place in my heart. I guess you could say they’re all my favorites for different reasons. Twenty Boy Summer was my first, and will always have that special honor. Fixing Delilah has Patrick, my favorite book boy. I love Hudson’s determination in Bittersweet, despite her mistakes and missteps. In The Book of Broken Hearts, Jude is spunky and loyal, and I love her relationship with her dad and with Emilio. In #scandal, it’s just a fun book all around, and I loved writing Lucy’s character growth in the face of adversity. I think if they weren’t all my favorites in some way, I wouldn’t have been able to write them. Lots of ideas float through my mind, but many of them don’t make it to the page, because they don’t have enough “favorite potential.”
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
For aspiring authors, I’ll share three pieces of the most basic yet important advice there is:
1. WRITE. Don’t give up, don’t stop putting your stories to the page, don’t stop studying and practicing your craft. If you get rejected, and you lose faith in a project, write something else (and possibly go back to the original project and rewrite it). Write, write, write.
2. READ. I’m shocked at how many aspiring authors tell me they don’t read. Writing is not something you just decide to do… and then wait for the reward. It’s like any craft. Just because you can envision your dream house doesn’t mean you can build it from scratch without years of training from those who’ve gone before you. Writers write, and writers read. Read voraciously, in your genre and outside of it. Read for pleasure, then read to study. Reading must be part of your training—you can learn just as much (or more) from regular reading than you can from taking a writing workshop. You must make time for it.
3. PRIORITIZE IT. This might sound harsh, but I needed to hear it once too (oh, who am I kidding. I still need to hear it!): We all have the same number of hours in the day, and most of us aren’t basking in endless hours of idle time. It’s up to you to prioritize and make time for writing, otherwise it’s never going to happen. When I wrote Twenty Boy Summer, I was working 70 hour weeks and attending a full time MBA program. I wrote on my lunch hour at work (which I insisted on taking). I wrote at night, sacrificing sleep. I stopped watching television. I didn’t go out with friends as much. Eventually, I had to make the decision between writing and my graduate degree… I chose writing. It was all a tradeoff. If you have young children who require your attention during the day, for example, you have to stay up late or get up early. Yes, you’ll be tired. Yes, it will be hard. But guess what? If you don’t find a way to make writing your priority, it won’t be. Funny, that!
Your latest novel, The Book of Broken Hearts, was just recently released. Can you tell us
anything about what you’re working on now?
Aside from the aforementioned vibrator jokes? Why would you need to know anything else? 😉
#scandal is about a formerly under-the-radar gamer girl dealing with the aftermath of a sexting scandal that mysteriously explodes on her own Facebook profile the day after prom. It’s written in the vein of movies like Easy A and Mean Girls – tackling a serious issue (in this case, cyberbullying) with a combination of realistic emotional challenges and a big dose of humor. Readers can find the full synopsis (and add it to your to-read list!) here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17415348-scandal
Bad Boys or Good Boys?
Bad boys with good hearts.
Happily ever after or happily never after?
Happily ever after with some realistic losses and nevers. Hey—you can’t have everything!
Series or standalone?
Love triangles or soulmates?
Write at night or write during the day?
Embrace your inner vampire! I love writing at night, when the moon is high and the rest of the neighborhood’s asleep.
Write in silence or write with music?
Draft with music to get in the mood, polish with silence.
Print, audio or eBooks?
I’ll take them any which way!
About Sarah Ockler:
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of several books for teens: The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, and the upcoming #scandal. Her books have received numerous accolades, including ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls’ Life Top 100 Must Reads, Indie Next List, Amazon Top Movers and Shakers, and nominations for YALSA Teens’ Top Ten and NPR’s Top 100 Teen Books.
She’s a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading at home in Colorado, Sarah enjoys hugging trees and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex. In addition to her website at sarahockler.com, fans can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.