Wanna know some ugly secrets about really pretty girls? Don’t wait and read this interview with Sara Shepard, talking about her first YA novel, “Pretty Little Liars”.
Hi Sara! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! Please introduce yourself to our readers…
My name is Sara Shepard, and I’m the author of the Young Adult book series “Pretty Little Liars.” I’m 29, and my husband and I moved from New York City to Tucson, Arizona, where we have three dogs and a cat. We like animals a little bit too much.
If you could describe yourself with three words…
Silly, impatient, creative. But that’s only how I’m feeling today. Tomorrow, the three words might totally change!
You’re Aries, aren’t you? They are known for being courageous, dynamic but really impatient. Do you think you’re a typical Aries?
Yeah, I would say I’m a typical Aries, although I think some people are a lot more courageous than I am. I am, however, VERY impatient. It’s definitely something I need to work on. I like being Aries, though!
Now, tell us everything about “Pretty Little Liars”!
Pretty Little Liars is about four girls in suburban Pennsylvania who have a lot of things to hide. Suddenly, they start getting messages from a mysterious person called “A” about their deepest, darkest secrets. The secrets are things only their old best friend, Alison, who went missing three years ago, could know—could she be back? If it’s someone else, how do they know so much about them? The series follows them through their lives, old and new secrets, and solves a few mysteries, too.
There will be a sequel to “Pretty Little Liars”… what will happen?
Well, I can’t give too much away, but it continues their stories. In the first book, the girls are mostly very selfish/ repressed/ confused…as the series goes on, they start to take responsibility for their actions. And they learn there are a lot of people around them they can’t trust.
Won’t you tell us (or at least me 😉 who is the mysterious “A”? 🙂
I can’t tell you too much! A is text messaging/ imming, and emailing the girls with secrets they thought NO ONE knew. At first, the girls keep their A notes to themselves, but not for long. As the series goes forward, A’s teasing turns to taunting, and then it turns threatening. It gets pretty scary.
How did you get that idea?
I’m friends with the editors on the project. We helped create the book together. I owe them a lot!
Do you know Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna in real life?
I think there’s something of me in Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna. But in other ways, I’m not like them at all. I wasn’t like Hanna—completely obsessed with how the world saw me. But then, we find out that Hanna’s behavior is based on stuff from her family life…same as Spencer’s, Emily’s and Aria’s. Like Emily, I was a swimmer, and like Aria, I was sort of the goofy girl who loved to knit and travel. I can relate to how Spencer throws herself into every club imaginable—I had friends in high school who did that—and how Hanna is joined-at-the-hip with her best friend, Mona.
Why should we read “Pretty Little Liars”?
Well, I think there’s something for everyone: fun drama, mystery, suspense, and as the series goes forward, I think there are lessons to learn, too! And Rosewood (where the book is set) is glamorous in a very rustic, suburban way. It’s like Desperate Housewives—innocent-enough looking suburb, but once you probe deeper, there are huge secrets.
I heard there will be a “Pretty Little Liars” show on TV, soon. Truth or Hoax?
All I know is that the rights have been optioned and are in development. Who knows if it will actually be on TV or not—I think there are a lot of steps to take before that. Let’s hope, though!
How do you usually work (where, when…)? How do you react in front of the writer’s block?
I usually try and work 9 to 5. sometimes I work at night. I work in my office in my house—which is nice, but also kind of distracting, because my husband works at home, too. (He hand-builds guitars.) As for writer’s block, the best thing for me is to get up and leave the computer. If I just stare at the screen, nothing will happen. I don’t usually have writer’s block, per se—as in, I stare at the screen and can’t write a thing—more, I write a scene and sort of know it’s bad. If I walk away, though, I usually have an idea on how to make it better. I go running a lot, too…and a lot of ideas come to me then.
Wow! I see you got many different jobs (including 1) bagel sandwich maker 2) knife seller 3) cash register stealer 4) sitting around, doing nothing while making $17 and hour-er 5) a repeat of #4, except now for $25 an hour 6) pseudo editor 7) psedonym 8) paper mache pelican maker 9) cat sitter 10) professional whiner/ worrywart. I got my MFA at Brooklyn College, where I wrote a lot of stories about 1) girls that hide under tables 2) elvis impersonators 3) houses flooding 4) people who are obsessed with running 5) doppelgangers 6) kids who lose their shoes while waiting for the L train and 7) sniper attacks)(you say it yourself 🙂 How did you start writing?
I started writing when I was in about fourth grade and never stopped. I kept journals and wrote stories and plays…not that any of them were any good! I also wrote and drew comics for a while…but they were all really out there. For instance, I wrote one about a man who was really into saving money and found a coupon in the paper for getting a lobotomy, so he decided that since it was such a bargain, he’d do it. Weirdly enough, I sent it in with my application to the University of Pennsylvania—I didn’t really want to go there anyway, and I thought, “what the heck?” They ended up accepting me. I always wondered if the lobotomy cartoon had something to do with it.I took a couple creative writing classes in college, and then, after 9/11—I was living in NYC—I decided that I would go back to grad school and get an MFA in creative writing. I started really writing a lot then.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read a lot. And not just stuff in your genre. Read everything. I’m a better writer the more I read. You’ll see how good writers come up with great endings, beginnings, how they switch from voice to voice, how they deal with time lapses and flashbacks…everything. The other thing is: don’t be afraid to let people see your stuff. How will you know what to work on if you’re too afraid to let anyone read it?
What do you prefer when writing a novel? What do you really hate to do?
I pretty much like all of it…although I find line-edits really tedious. Line edits are when the publisher sends me back a manuscript that’s marked up with little words to change, etc., and nothing more.
How did you get published?
Well, I knew the editors who helped sell the project. They got me hooked up with a great agent, and it kind of went from there. I was completely surprised, to tell you the truth. The project sold really fast…I think in maybe only four or so days!
How do you picture your reader? You know, when you think “there is somebody reading my book right now…”. Who do you imagine?
I sort of picture me in high school, except someone cooler. Honestly, I could see anyone reading it. That’s probably because I’ve sent it to such a wide variety of people—guys, girls, young, old—and they’ve all really liked it! So I don’t exactly know.
Do you already have other projects after Pretty Little Liars (when the four books will be out)?
I’m working on another novel—it’s about a teenager, but I don’t think it would be marketed as YA. But I hope I can put together another YA series! They’re so much fun to write!
Would you like to add something, Sara?
Nope! This has been great!
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, what will you do with it?
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Going out.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Beach!
Country or City ? I sort of need both.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Quirky drama. (Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the Royal Tennenbaums, etc.)
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? Funny
Traveler or not ? Yes, although not lately!
Sporty or not ? Sporty
The leader or not ? Usually not. But sometimes.
TV show: Arrested Development, the Simpsons, the Sopranos, Big Love, The Comeback (HBO series)
Movie : Rushmore, and I recently thought Shopgirl was very cute
Book : So many! My favorite authors this very moment: Margaret Atwood, Ann Beattie, Jennifer Belle, Susan Choi, Judy Blume, Haruki Murkami, Paul Auster, Katherine Noel, Scott Spencer, Sophie Kinsella, Nicole Krauss, Don DeLillo, Daniel Handler, and Cecily von Ziegesar, who wrote Gossip Girl. So as you can see, my interests are all over the place!
Music : indie rock. radiohead, belle and Sebastian, sufjan stevens, arcade fire, etc. etc. etc.
Food : Chocolate!
City : New York City
Favourite place to write: weirdly, I can write anywhere. But the best place is at home. I also spent 2 weeks in a cabin in VT on writing fellowship 2 years ago…that was very peaceful and quiet. I got a lot of work done.
Quote or motto : This is the only one I’m not sure of. I’ll have to get back to you!!!
Thank you, Sara!
You can visit Sara here: http://www.myspace.com/sara_shepard