* Hello Sara, welcome to tall tales & short stories. Before we talk about Dark Parties, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I moved to London eight years ago to marry a man I met while standing in line at Universal Studios in Florida. I’m originally from a small town in Southern Indiana in the US. After I moved to the UK, I earned a master’s in creative and life writing from Goldsmiths College. Now I’m a senior commissioning editor at Working Partners – where I create series fiction for children and teens.
Hmmm...what else can I tell you... I wrote my first story for children when my niece Megan was born and received my first book contract the year she graduated from high school – so 17 years later. (That makes me the poster child for ‘never give up’.) I’m an eternal optimist who believes the best in people. I’m a compulsive list maker. I think the most perfect food in the universe is mashed potatoes and I will eat them for any meal. I prefer winter to summer. And, my favourite colour is orange.
Neva keeps a list of ‘The Missing’ — people like her grandmother who has vanished.
The people that everyone else pretends never exist.
In a world isolated by the Protectosphere - a dome which protects, but also imprisons — Neva and her friends dream of freedom. But a forbidden party leads to complications.
Suddenly, Neva’s falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, uncovering secrets and lies that threaten to destroy her world — and learning the truth about happens to ‘The Missing’...
* Dark Parties is your debut novel, what inspired you to write this?
I’d just moved to London, England, from Indianapolis, Indiana. I was immersed in the paperwork of immigration and uncovering news stories on both side of the Atlantic about who and how many should be allowed to enter a country. That got me thinking....what if a country closed its borders to people and ideas? This question led to more questions of national and personal identity.
Dark Parties started as a short story about Neva and her best friend Sanna who host a party for their friends in the pitch black and secretly plot a rebellion. I was intrigued – some might say obsessed – by this idea. I spent the next three years writing and revising Dark Parties.
* Some of the scenes are very intense, especially the incident in the WEC, how easy/difficult was it to write these?
I admit that initially I shied away from writing the tough scenes set in the WEC. My editor encouraged me to be more honest and really explore the setting. I’m glad she did. Even thought I was very uncomfortable writing some of these scenes, it was the right decision. I think it’s much better to show the reader the line and let them cross it. I think some of my discomfort has translated onto the page, and I hope my readers will be as unsettled reading those scenes as I was writing them.
* If you could draw any parallels with Neva and yourself, what would they be and why?
I completely identify with Neva’s desire to make a positive change in the world. Like Neva, I am fiercely loyal to family and friends. And, like Neva, I miss my grandma, also named Ruth, who passed away more than a decade ago.
* What made you choose a dystopian theme for your first novel?
I love the freedom – not only the freedom to imagine the future and make the rules, but also the freedom that I can afford my teen protagonist. I can rid teen protagonist of pesky parents, mobile phones and the internet. A story void of competent parents and efficient technology allows for greater adventure.
And dystopian novels allow readers and writers the freedom to explore themes in a way most contemporary teen fiction can’t. You can illuminate a particular aspect of society or human nature and whittle away the parts of the real world that don’t serve your story.
Another benefit of writing dystopian fiction is the ease with which it can cross borders and appeal to readers around the world. I intentionally didn’t identify the country in Dark Parties. In my mind, it’s a mixture of my two homelands – the US and UK, but it could also easily represent other countries. Dark Parties has sold to the US, UK, Germany, Poland, Turkey, China and Taiwan.
* Would you say this is your niche or will you be experimenting with different genres in the future?
My second book, titled Half Lives, is futuristic – more apocalyptic really. I’ve also started another novel set in multiple space-time dimensions. I never thought of myself as a dystopian or sci-fi writer, but I love the freedom and the challenge of writing in this genre.
I do plan to experiment in other genres. At Working Partners, I get to write in a variety of genres and for a variety of age groups. I love a good romance or comedy. But for now...I guess I’m staying on the dark side!
* Will you be staying with YA, or do you have any plans to write for different age groups?
I love YA! My heart, mind and voice seem best suited to YA, but, as I mentioned above, I love writing for younger audiences, too. I quite fancy writing something funny for a much younger age range. You never know!
* Moving on, you are the co-creator and co-editor of Undiscovered Voices, tell us a bit about this project, and what inspired you to do this?
My friend and fellow editor Sara O’Connor and I cooked up the idea. We worked with SCBWI British Isles and Working Partners to make it happen. I’m very proud of this initiative. The third UNDISCOVERED VOICEDS anthology will be launched in February.
From the first two UNDISCOVERED VOICES anthologies, 13 of the 24 selected authors have had novels contracted for publication and most have signed with agents. It’s how I got my agent and ultimately my book deals. I want to help other writers achieve their dreams of publication and UNDISCOVERED VOICES allows me to ‘pay it forward’.
* How have you found your own ‘writers’ journey’ since being published in UV 2008?
In the words of Neva’s best friend Sanna – a-maz-ing! I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful agent who supports me every step of the way. I also get to work with some incredibly talented editors. They gave me great editorial feedback and made Dark Parties a much better book. The revision process was pretty stressful. But I am very lucky and try to enjoy every minute.
* And lastly, Do you have any words of advice for our budding authors?
Read. Read. Read. Read broadly for the age group for which you are trying to write. Read the classics but also keep up with what’s on bookstore shelves right now. Learn from the current masters of fiction.
Revise and polish your manuscript until it sparkles and until you can’t think of any way to improve it. Then give it to a fellow writer whose opinion you respect – better yet find a writers group – and then revise some more.
Write. Revise. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Be obsessed by your story. If you get published, you will be working on this story for years and will be connected to it for the rest of your life. Love your story and characters. Write a story that will continue to intrigue you.
But most importantly...believe in your work and never stop learning and improving and writing and rewriting.
Thank you Sara, for answering our questions, good luck with the UK launch of Dark Parties. KL
DARK PARTIES ~ a tall tales & short stories review
‘Gripping from start to finish, the tension builds beautifully with each turn of the page.’
I have to be honest, dystopian novels aren’t usually my first choice, but there was something about Dark Parties that drew me in; everything about it resonated with me, from the book’s premise right down to the stunning artwork.
So, what is Dark Parties about? In short, It is a story about personal survival, wrapped cleverly inside a blanket of heartache, betrayal, courage and self discovery.
Neva, the protagonist, is born into a world of oppression, a totalitarian state where everything is recycled, including the people. Her life is played out, both figuratively and literally, beneath the ‘Protectoshpere’, an electrified glass structure erected by Homeland after a devastating terrorist attack. Her world is controlled through fear and paranoia. Those who rebel, suddenly disappear, to become what Neva names ‘The Missing’.
Each page adds to the tension as we follow Neva in her bid for freedom, to uncover the truth behind the ‘missing’ and the brutal reality behind Homeland’s plans to maintain humanity.
Dark Parties draws parallels with current affairs, giving it an ‘on the pulse’ vibe. The characters are well rounded and believable, although it is heavily based on the female characters. There are some wonderful plot twists and turns and a few surprises along the way.
So, would I recommend Dark Parties? Definitely.
This is a well imagined, debut novel from Sara Grant; I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!
Sara also blogs at THE EDGE