Sara Bennett Wealer is a shinning new author full of soul. A major in voice performance, journalist, longtime choir member, magazine newspaper writer, and most recently a singer in the Cincinnatti Symphony Orchestra. She’s here to discuss her debut Young Adult novel, Rival, and let everyone in on why writers should always keep writing.
1) The million dollar question: How did you become a published author?
By writing, writing, writing, revising, revising, revising, and submitting, submitting, submitting—then refusing to give up when things got discouraging, which they do for a lot of people who are trying to make this particular dream come true.
2) What was the query process like?
My first query process was really easy, since I landed the first agent I queried. She was a good agent and a pretty big name at the time, but after a while I came to the conclusion that we weren’t a good match. My second project took much longer and was like many that you hear about: I’d research a batch of agents who I felt might connect with my work, sent queries, sent samples when requested, and then collected rejections until I got a couple of nibbles. I couldn’t be happier with my current agent!
3) Wow. Now, I’m jealous! It sounds like a fairy tale sans the agent break-up. Did you ever feel like giving up when you were in the thick of it though?
Yes! And the thing about trying to get published is that, in most cases, nobody gives a hoot if you do give up. This is a pretty solitary pursuit, and if you decide to just start watching TV every night instead of working on a book or writing query letters, then who’s going to stop you? There are tons of other writers out there who’ll fill the void with good work. So you really have to motivate yourself and be doing this because you love it. Or because you’ve become obsessive about it, which is sort of how I felt toward the end. I told people it was like banging my head against a brick wall. The next blow could be the one that brought it all down, so the only thing that could stop me was massive brain damage!
4) LOL! I might just put that last quote up on my wall. So how exactly did you find your agent match?
Through all of this I’ve learned how important it is to connect with someone who believes in your work and really *gets* what you’re about as a writer/author, because things don’t always get easier once you land an agent. Then you go on submission to publishing houses, many of whom will say no. And getting a book deal brings its own angst, though that’s a post for another day. You really need someone in your corner who’s going to build you up when you need it, give you hard truths in a way that you can handle, then stick by you when you’re successful and when things get challenging.
5) Very true. Speaking of your corner, who has been your biggest influence when it comes to writing?
I really admire Edith Wharton and the dry, observant, often biting way that she wrote about the society she lived in. As for modern-day influences, I’m lucky to have some great friends and critique partners, including Sara Zarr, Mandy Hubbard, and LK Madigan, who, very tragically, passed away earlier this year.
6) Sara Zarr is one of my favorites too. Now that your a fabulous author, what has been your favorite author experiences so far?
I love signings and good reviews. It’s just such a nice affirmation after all that hard work to know that people are liking and connecting with the book.
7) As a writer, I’m always seeking more advice. What tips do you have?
Would I be dating myself too much if I said I hear my inner RuPaul saying, “You bettah WORK?” For writers who are trying to get a manuscript ready, you really need to be committed, first, to finishing, and second to revising and polishing and making it the best it can be. Make writing a priority, then seek out and follow good critique. For those who are ready to start looking for agents and publishers, my best advice is not to give up. If you feel like you’re close but just haven’t connected with the right person yet, keep trying. If you’re hearing some of the same comments about things that could be fixed in the manuscript, then I’ll take you back to RuPaul: Work it some more, girl, then put it back out there. (Now I’ve got “Sashay, shantay” stuck in my head… ack!)
8 ) Me too! So let’s discuss your debut novel Rival:
It’s the story of two girls, once friends, now enemies, who are getting ready to go up against each other in a major singing competition. It’s all about friendship and envy and realizing that the people we think we hate the most might just be the ones we really want and need on our side.
9) Your novel revolves around the world of music. Why did you choose that in particular?
I’ve been heavily into music for most of my life. I was a singer through school, and only just recently stopped singing in choirs (kids plus dayjob plus novel writing means not much time for other things, so singing had to go for awhile). I know how the arts can spark creative tension, and it just felt right to set a story about rivalry in that world.
10) An a final note, you’ve mentioned on your website you live with more cats than anyone needs…so now that you’ve sparked my curiosity…exactly how many cats do you have?
I have four, and all were strays in need of a home, so how could I say no? They are wonderful pets, and a couple are getting on in years, so we’ve told ourselves we’ll cut down by just not replacing them when they pass. Of course, I also have kids who love kittens, and I love kittens, too, so we’ll see how well we do sticking to that promise.
11) Every one knows how much writers love coffee and coffee shops. Or maybe I just love taking latte a little too much! Either way, I have to ask…what’s your favorite coffee drink?
Sadly, for health reasons I’ve had to cut way back on my coffee consumption. These days I guzzle green tea. But when I do treat myself, I like a good black coffee or a mellow mocha. Over Christmas I got a little addicted to Starbucks’ Caramel Brulee Lattes.
Carmel Brulee Lattes-love! Thank you Sara for sharing!
*To Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Rival:
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*Who is your biggest influence in your life?
For Example: All the authors I see and hear from. My parents for supporting telling me to shoot for the stars. My husband for always urging me to go into writing. Even when many laughed at me for wanting to write, he never did. In fact when I do publish a book, he’ll say, “I told you so.” Without his support, I wouldn’t have taken the plunge this early in life. Thank you sweetie!