Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Author Interview: Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, graphic designer, introvert, closet geek, enthusiastic eater, struggling blogger, lapsed piano player, household-chore-ignorer and occasional world traveler. Her previous lives include spelling bee nerd, suburban Southern California teenager, Berkeley art student, underappreciated temp, and humor columnist for a video game website.

Throughout said lives, she has acquired numerous skills of questionable usefulness, like intaglio printmaking and Welsh language. She lives in Northern California with her husband, who is also an artist, and two cats with astounding sleep-inducing powers.

She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland, CA, a post-baccalaureate certificate in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a BA in Art Practice and Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley.
*Bio taken from Sarah's site
When did it hit you that you were going to be a published author and other people would be able to walk into a bookstore and buy your book?
Every stage of the publication process brought it further home that I was really and truly going to be a published author, but I don't think it actually hit me until the advance reviews started coming in that this meant *other people* were going to see, and buy, and read my book. And that they already *had* started reading it! Of course, the other major moment when it all became real was when I held the first ARC in my hand. :) It's hard to be in denial at that point.
I can imagine it would be difficult to say, 'no, I didn't really write a whole book,' when you're holding it in your hand.

What were your first thoughts when you saw the cover for The Latte Rebellion?
"OMG my drawings made it onto the cover!!!" Or something like that.

I was absolutely thrilled. I'd had some input in the process, but I had no idea what it was ultimately going to look like until I was sent the cover draft. Lisa Novak did an incredible job, and I'm pleased beyond words that she was able to incorporate some of my interior artwork into the design. It went far beyond my expectations, it doesn't look like anything else out there, and I think it looks amazing.
I love the drawings and the texture of the book - the napkin's roughness and the design in the coffee
Is there anything you absolutely need while writing? (Drinks, snacks, music, etc.)
Coffee (or tea, depending on my mood) is usually a must. I love music, but I often need silence to write, especially if I'm having trouble concentrating. And I work out of a home office, so I can find distractions everywhere.

One last thing: bribes. Sometimes I have to bribe myself with tasty treats or promised reading breaks. Sad, but true.
What's wrong with a good bribe? I bribe children all the time, why not bribe yourself?
Did you make any character sketches for The Latte Rebellion?
If you mean literal sketches as in drawings--yes. I often do that, especially if I'm having trouble picturing a character. In this case, I also wanted to have cartoons that were part of the book (like on page 117) and "starring" the main characters.

I also do written character sketches, especially in the early drafts when I'm trying to nail down distinctive details and personalities for the characters. Sometimes they're those character questionnaires or lists of telltale traits; other times they're mini-stories written from the different characters' points of view so I can get a handle on voice.
I love the little sketches in the book. They perfectly capture Agent Alpha, Captain Charlie, and Lieutenant Bravo.

If you could live in one book for a day, what would it be?
That's a tough question! It would have to be someplace really cool, really different, and in which I was unlikely to come to grievous bodily harm. So I guess Dragonriders of Pern is out, since I'd probably fall off a dragon and die. The Golden Compass would be pretty awesome, as would Harry Potter.
I'd fall off a dragon too. And even though HP could be dangerous, I want to live in Rowling's world
How do you balance writing alongside your art? (Which I think is amazing)
With great difficulty! I have to focus on just a couple of projects at a time if I want to make any significant progress on anything. Lately I've had a lot of freelance writing work as well as the work surrounding my novel, so I've had to be really patient about my artwork. I try to stay in practice by doing as many sketches and drawings as I can, when I can find time and energy. But I have a whole set of art projects I'm hoping to devote some serious time to before too long. If I spend too much time away from the art studio, I start fiending!
Check out Sarah's art at The Deckled Edge
Are you currently working on another novel?
I'm working on another YA novel about a girl who develops the power to hear thoughts in the wake of a family tragedy.
Ooh, a paranormal! Sounds interesting

What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you?
In early 2010, I got to appear as one of several volunteers on an episode of Mythbusters entitled "No Pain, No Gain." The volunteers had to take a pain tolerance test by submerging a hand in icy water in order to prove that women have a higher pain tolerance than men. (The answer, according to this test: yes.) I even got a couple of lines in the episode. After the pain test, once I was off camera and in the debriefing room, I fainted, which was really embarrassing and has only ever happened to me once before in my life.
MYTHBUSTERS!!! (The excessive use of exclamation points was completely necessary)
And the most important question last: What is your favorite kind of cookie?
Do I have to pick just ONE? Hmm. I love both chocolate chip and peanut butter, but snickerdoodles are good, too...Basically anything without walnuts.
Why pick just one? They are all yummy :D

*Photos link back to sources

  Thanks for stopping by and answering the questions, Sarah! I'll be doing a special edition of Think About It Thursday tomorrow that ties into The Latte Rebellion and my review of the book will be up on Friday.

Find Sarah Jamila Stevenson online:

Buy it online:


aquafortis said...

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Nikki! I had a lot of fun answering the interview questions. It took me a long time to figure out what was the craziest thing that ever happened to me, since my life is, for the most part, pretty routine!

I hope you enjoy the book. :)

Candace said...

Great interview! I really love that cover!
And I SO remember that episode of Mythbuster's!

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

Amazing interview! I loved The Latte Rebellion, and I thought the cover was definitely something special. Plus, hey, who wouldn't want to live in the world of The Golden Compass?!?! :)

Jessica (BookLover) said...

Cool interview! I've been meaning to pick up The Latte Rebellion - I keep hearing such great things about it.

brandileigh2003 said...

Great interview! I've been wanting to pick up this book!

Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Sarah - I don't think it's all that routine to be on Mythbusters. That is pretty incredible!

Candace - I tried so hard to find that episode online and I did, but not the parts with Sarah in it :(

Melissa - I've never read the book version of The Golden Compass, but the movie version looks pretty fantastical, but a little cold for my liking.

Jessica - It's a great book! My review will be up tomorrow and the giveaway post should be up Saturday.

Brandi - You should definitely pick it up. It's a great read :D

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

great interview!! this sounds really good, i've never seen the book before

Bere said...

Awesome interview, Nikki! Sarah sounds like a super cool person. I would love to meet her! And I love Mythbusters too haha. I'm really looking forward to reading The Last Rebellion. =)

~The Book Pixie said...

That is so cool about the drawings! And yeah I've had to bribe myself before for certain things. lol. The YA she's working on sounds like it's going to be really good! Great interview. :D


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