Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Author Interview- Sarah Porter
1) How did you get the idea for Lost Voices?
It came from a bunch of places, really. I used to have recurring dreams about being a mermaid swimming under these gritty, industrial docks. (You'll see the influence of those dreams in the third volume of the trilogy.) Then there was an extremely crazy story I wrote in graduate school, about ex-human mermaids who could tunnel through earth as well as swim in water, and who stole little girls from their families. And there was story I made up with a friend, about a punk mermaid who lived isolated from the others. All that came together in the book!
2) Tell us all about The Call/The Email for publication! Where were you when you got it? Did you do anything to celebrate the sale?
Well, it didn't come as that much of a surprise because I'd already had phone conversations with editors at a couple of publishing houses that were interested, and I'd made some revisions in response to their ideas. I was extremely nervous because there was a two week period when I knew something was about to happen, but I didn't know exactly what it would be. I'm thrilled that I ended up with Harcourt. They're wonderful and very supportive of the book/series. They know it's a little bit off the beaten track, but I think that's what they appreciate about it. My husband Todd and I went out for dinner somewhere awesome once the official email came.
3) I absolutely love cats and own quite a few. Your bio mentions that you have two cats named Jub Jub and Delphine. How did you get them, and do you have any funny stories about them?
They were feral kittens born in a yard in Queens, rescued by the lovely couple who lived there. Todd and I had just moved in together, and we'd been checking online for free kittens. We went out to meet them--there were four in the litter, only five weeks old--and within seconds Jub Jub was crawling inside Todd's collar and purring up a storm. There was no way we weren't going home with him! Delphine was more standoffish, but she caught our attention because she was stalking around in this very stylish, big-bad-queen-of-the-jungle way. Now she's just as loving as Jubby, but it took a while.
As for funny stories, well, there was the time Delphine ate a lot of Todd's boxers and threw up on the rest of his underwear. I thought that was pretty funny.
4) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)?
Cherry, for sure. It's also my favorite kind of pie.
5) You teach creative writing workshops in New York public schools. How did you get involved with that? What do you enjoy most about teaching? Is there anything you enjoy least about it?
It might be hard to answer this briefly! I wasn't sure how to make a living, and I decided that since the things I cared about most were literature and kids I should try to put them together. I went back to college and invented my own major, all about children's writing and the development of creativity and also writing about childhood. I was lucky enough to start getting work right away.
As for what I enjoy most, it's the experience of finding genius everywhere. If you challenge kids, there's an incredible spark that flares up all over the place. I've seen third graders, eighth graders, write lines that I think are as beautiful and profound as anything in literature. Before I taught, I had a much narrower view of what genius was: that there were just a few very special people, separate from the rest of us.
The hard part is that I'm often working in sort of tough schools. A lot of the kids don't believe they have much future, or that something like college would be possible for them. It's pretty heartbreaking to see kids who do have that kind of raw genius and realize that way too many of them are probably not going to realize their potential.
6) What book(s) are you reading now, or about to start?
China Mieville's Embassytown. It's amazing, lusciously inventive and insightful and oddly sweet. I'd say it's definitely his best since Iron Council, which I also loved.
I've been nibbling away at a disappointing history of naval warfare, too, but it's not that informative and I might drop it.
7) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?
I'm working on the third volume of the Lost Voices Trilogy. It's hard to say much without spoiling the story, because Luce is a long way from Alaska now, and everything the mermaids take for granted has been turned inside out. But I'm very proud of her and of how far she's come; she hasn't had any easy time, and the challenges she's up against now are even bigger.