1--What is the title of your latest release?
THE TWO LIVES OF SARA
2--What’s the “elevator pitch” for your new book?
Sara King flees Chicago for Memphis, Tennessee harboring dark secrets and along the way she discovers love, acceptance, found family and new dangers.
3--How did you decide where your book was going to take place?
I essentially painted myself into a corner as The Two Lives of Sara is based on a character from my debut novel Saving Ruby King. Near the end of the novel, I mentioned how Sara went to Memphis. It was a throwaway line, but the more I thought about it, the more I was interested in exploring what actually happened to her at that place during that time.
4--Would you hang out with your protagonist in real life?
It depends. Sara isn’t always very open to new people which means I’d need to do some work to get her to trust me, but once we got over that hurdle, I think we’d be great friends. And she’d share that pineapple cake recipe with me!
5--What are three words that describe your protagonist?
Fierce. Smart. Hurting.
6--What’s something you learned while writing this book?
As the story takes place during the 1960s and we’re dealing with aspects of educational desegregation in the South, I was surprised to find not all states handled it the same. Most were adamantly opposed to desegregation, but some states were unapologetically vocal and violent about it, and some states and cities, like Memphis, were quiet and insidious about blocking educational integration.
7--Do you edit as you draft or wait until you are totally done?
I’m an editor at my day job so I can’t help but to edit as I draft, but I still go back over my draft MULTIPLE times after the draft is completed to edit it. I feel my stories can always be better.
8--What’s your favorite foodie indulgence?
I refuse to choose just one. So, I’ll pick a food and a desert. For food, I love a medium rare steak. For a desert, a nice piece of cheesecake with fresh strawberries. If you ask me next month, my answers will likely be different.
9--Describe your writing space/office!
I write in a space in my living room in front of my bay window. I have a simple desk, my laptop and a wonderful, soft pattered chair with a dusty pink back pillow my mom bought me.
10--Who is an author you admire?
Once again, I can’t pick just one, so I’ll give three as they were (and are) instrumental in the writer I am now. Charles Dickens. Zora Neale Hurston. Hanya Yanagihara.
11--Is there a book that changed your life?
One book in the past few years I can’t stop raving about is A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara. The reason this book was so influential for me is her book didn’t have a happy ending. I think as readers we get used to everything being wrapped up in a neat little bow when life isn’t at all like that. For me, it’s important my books reflect real life while also being compelling. Reading Yanagihara’s book gave me permission to explore this option with the caveat of knowing some readers won’t like that. And that’s okay. I write the stories that are meaningful for me and reflect what I’m feeling in that moment.
12--Tell us about when you got “the call.” (when you found out your book was going to be published)/Or, for indie authors, when you decided to self-publish.
It was on a snowy day in January 2019 was on the last leg of my commute home when I found out about my debut novel, and I screamed on the bus and scared a child. For this book, the publisher had first look so it was A LOT less dramatic. It was more a warm feeling of ‘okay I’m good at this and the first book wasn’t a fluke.’ I was sitting in my bedroom when my agent called. It was a pretty frank discussion of what I wanted to do with this offer. I accepted but then became terrified if I could write a second book. I think the second time you’re offered publication, it’s joyous and anxiety-inducing. I don’t know if that feeling will leave me, be it my second book or 22nd book.
13--What’s your favorite genre to read?
Contemporary fiction, but I read outside of my genre quite a bit.
14--What’s your favorite movie?
Once again, I can’t choose. So my favorite animated movie is Beauty and the Best. Favorite live action movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
15--What is your favorite season?
16--How do you like to celebrate your birthday?
I go out with my mom and we hang out that whole day. We go to breakfast. We go shopping. We go to the movies. We go to dinner. A day or two later I hang out with my brother and friends. I legit celebrate my whole birthday month. Yes, I’m one of those people. Unapologetically.
17--What’s a recent tv show/movie/book/podcast you highly recommend?
I’ve been evangelizing Abbott Elementary. I LOVE that show.
18--What’s your favorite type of cuisine?
I love Italian food, but once again there are so many other types of foods I adore.
19--What do you do when you have free time?
I watch a ton of television when I have free time. It’s relaxing and, believe it or not, helps me with dialogue in my own books.
20--What can readers expect from you next?
Well, my debut, Saving Ruby King, was contemporary fiction. The Two Lives of Sara is historical fiction. My third book will likely be something entirely different. It’s speculative fiction with hints of urban fiction and religious elements. I don’t like writing in a specific genre as I don’t want to be creatively pigeonholed.
In 1960s Memphis, a young mother finds refuge in a boardinghouse where family encompasses more than just blood, and hidden truths can bury you or set you free.
Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.
Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness and lead Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.
With a charismatic cast of characters, The Two Lives of Sara is an emotional and unforgettable story of hope, the limitations of resilience and unexpected love.
Literature and Fiction [Park Row, On Sale: September 6, 2022, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780778333227 / ]
Catherine Adel West graduated with both her BA and MA in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her work has been published in Gay Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Five2One, Better Than Starbucks, and others. Catherine was born and raised in Chicago.
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