Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, March 26, 2018

An Inside Look #49 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Sarah Weeks
(Author of Soof)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over first season I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*I ran a series of interviews for Season #TWO over the summer of 2017.  It was great to get back to these conversations, that I decided to run Season #THREE during the 2017/2018 school year.  

*Thank you to Sarah Weeks for being the Forty-NINTH author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FORTY-EIGHT interviews…


*I've read most of the Sarah Weeks novels for middle-grade readers.  I even had the honor of Skying with her when my readers read Save Me a Seat.  I was lucky to receive an ARC of her newest work of fiction called Soof.  It was literally a "one-take" read the entire story in a sitting.  I absolutely loved the story and reached out to Sarah as soon as I finished.  

*She was kind, gracious, and giving with her answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post the responses with my "Inside Look" feature.   

*Here is a link to my review of Soof...

*Thank you Sarah Weeks for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog...

by Sarah Weeks (Released October 9, 2018)

Where did the idea for SOOF come from?  
I find sequels very challenging to write.  I've never written a novel with the intention of continuing the story later on.  Instead, I work very hard to tie up any loose ends, complete each character's story arc and answer questions my readers might have  come up with along the way.  After writing So B It, I received many letters from people asking if I planned to write a sequel.  I always said no, I had told the story I wanted to tell. Then one day, several years after So B It was published, I was visiting a middle school somewhere in the midwest and a boy raised his hand.  "I know you've said you don't ever want to write a sequel," he said, "But just in case you change your mind, I think I have a pretty good idea...."  He was right! His idea was to write a story from the point of view of Aurora - Roy and Ruby's baby and to set it 12 years later so she would be the same age that Heidi had been when she came to Liberty, NY. Several years later, I decided that was exactly what I would do.  Unfortunately, I never asked his name, but I found a way to dedicate SOOF to him anyway .  I hope he reads it someday and knows how grateful I am to him for planting the seed of that idea.

What do you think is Aurora's most admirable quality?
I admire Aurora's honesty.  She knows who she is and she's okay with it.  What I like best about her is that she doesn't quite fit the mold.  I felt that way as a kid sometimes.  Different.  I compared myself to my older brother and sister, who were very good at subjects like math and science and geography - all subjects that I struggled with at school.  I liked writing stories, and making up songs, walking on my hands (I was VERY good at that!) and speaking in foreign accents and made up languages just for fun.  Aurora compares herself unfavorably to Heidi - just as I did with my siblings.  It took me a long time to realize that it was okay to be who I was.  Fortunately, Aurora catches on to that concept a lot faster than I did!

What was your favorite scene to write in the book - without giving too much away, of course?)
I loved writing the scene in Dr. Harris's office.  I found that very amusing - and I was pleased with Aurora's snarky comment about playing Chutes and Ladders.  I am also really proud of the scene that takes place in the woods between Aurora and Heidi.  That was hard to write, but ultimately really satisfying.  When you write a sequel - even if it's set 12 years later than the original book, readers expect to find connections.  Those connections came together beautifully and I cried at the end of the chapter, so I hope my readers will be moved by it too.

What do you think Aurora can offer to other children who are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?  
I hope that kids who worry that their differences might make them seem less valuable or less important in the world than others, will realize that being different from everyone else can be a wonderful thing!  Who wants to fit in, when you can stand out?  There are lots of kids in the world like Aurora, and lots of worried parents like Roy and Ruby. I hope maybe my story will bring them some comfort.  

How did you research Aurora and the circumstances she found herself in?
As I said earlier, I see a lot of myself in Aurora.  So, that part was pretty easy to research.  I had many conversations with a good friend in Tennessee who is a child psychologist and I also reached out to my friend, Cynthia Lord, the author of Rules among many other wonderful books, for some sage advice about how best to understand the complicated feelings a parent of a child like Aurora might struggle with.

Do you and Aurora share any similarities?
Definitely.  We both march to a different drum and we've both struggled with how to live in someone else's shadow.

What was the hardest scene to write about Aurora?
To be honest, I didn't struggle much with how to portray Aurora.  I felt I really understood her and I also really like her.  I struggled more with how to write Ruby, Aurora's mother.  For one thing, I had just finished working on the movie of So B It, and the actress who played Ruby was very much in my head.  She did a wonderful job in the film, but I needed to find my way back to my original inspiration for Ruby in order to tap into her feelings.  Once I got a handle on that, it was much easier to figure out how she would react to Aurora's jealousy of Heidi.  

Who do you think was Aurora's biggest supporter and why?
Aurora had a number of strong supporters.  First and foremost her parents, but also Heidi and Mr. Taylor, her fifth grade teacher.  He's actually based on a real Mr. Taylor, a third grade teacher I met a couple of years ago when I visited a school in Olney, IL- a town whose claim to fame is a population of rare white squirrels.  There was something about him and the way he respected and enjoyed his students that stuck with me. I wanted Aurora to experience having a teacher like that.  I wish I could have seen his face when he read the copy of Soof I sent him and discovered that he had been immortalized.

Why do you think some children, like Aurora, are comfortable in their own skin and willing to stand out, while others desperately try to fit in with the other” kids?   
I think there's a lot of pressure in the world to fit in. And to be honest, there's something to be said for it.  Not that it's better to fit in, but it is easier sometimes.  If I wasn't okay with being a little odd, I might not be a writer.  Sometimes it's that one teacher --like  Mr. Taylor -- who makes you realize that it's okay to be different, or an understanding parent or a friend who's just as quirky as you are. I hope that writing books like Soof, and Oggie Cooder and As Simple As It Seems that celebrate unusual characters will help kids feel okay with being exactly who they are.

What do you think Aurora is doing at the present time? 
I like to think that she and her new best friend, Rosemary are lying next to each other in the back of the old  pick-up truck watching clouds, while Duck digs happily in his favorite corner of the backyard.  Roy's at work and Ruby's in the kitchen making sandwiches  for the girls to have for lunch. The postman is coming up the street with a letter from Heidi, full of happy news about Bernadette and Sophia. Oh, and Lindsey Toffel? Well, I'm afraid she's come down with a terrible case of poison ivy, poor thing.

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