I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the “Little Apple”), where I sang in choir, wrote for the MHS “Mentor,” and had a couple of leads in the high school musical. I majored in voice performance at the University of Kansas before deciding I had no business trying to make a career as an opera singer. I then transferred to journalism school, where nobody cares if you can hit a high C or convincingly portray a Valkyrie.
I now live in Cincinnati with my husband, daughters, and more cats than any family reasonably needs. When not writing novels, I write ad copy, live presentations and articles for newspapers and magazines. I’ve even helped design theme parks! And when my schedule allows, I still like to sing—most recently you may have heard me in the May Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
And for those of you who haven't read Rival yet (where the hell have you been?), here's something else I stole.
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
Okay, so most our followers probably know I’ve been practically rolling in dystopias currently. What can I say? There haven’t been many contemporary novels for me to read. So, in this market filled with anything-but-contemporary, why do you think RIVAL has been so popular as a contemporary?
I think it's catching peoples' interest because it deals with music/the arts, which is a topic you don't see all that often--although that's changing! There are some wonderful arts-related YAs coming out this year, and some more-recent favorites have dealt with the arts, though perhaps not as overtly as RIVAL. I'm also hearing from readers that they like how my characters are focused on activities, school, succeeding and, of course, each other, as opposed to being heavily focused on boys. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good romance, and RIVAL definitely has a little, but this is really a story about friendship
I love a good romance too, but Rival being mainly centered on friendships certainly was refreshing. Speaking of friendships and rivals, do you have a "Brooke" in real life?
I guess the easy answer would be yes, and I have been a Brooke, too. Rather than base my characters on real people, I more based my characters' relationships on what I remembered from being active in the arts in high school. I had a few rivals, and I remember how complicated some of those friendships became. I was never as fixated on another person as Brooke and Kathryn are on each other, but I have strong memories of wishing I could connect better with someone but not knowing how, especially when that other person was a competitor.
|Sara in the Pops Choir--her school's version of Glee|
I really, really hope so! One of them I know will never be published because it was my "learning" novel (and it sucks!). One of them may find a home if my agent and I can figure out how to fix some of its flaws and market it. The third one, which I actually finished as I was waiting for RIVAL to come out, is a book I really like and believe in. It's about sorority rush, and it's still getting looked at. I have my fingers crossed!
My fingers are crossed too! And wow, sounds like you’ve been writing a lot. How did you feel when you—finally!—got published after so many years of writing?
Relieved and validated. It feels wonderful to achieve a goal knowing you worked your butt off for it. Trying to get published can be grueling and heartbreaking, so you have to appreciate what a big deal it is to finally see your book in print. Then you move onto your next goal, which is seeing another book in print. Lather, rinse, repeat!
I’ll definitely take your “Lather, rinse, repeat” advice for my hair after I swim. We all want to see our books in print, so for those of us unpublished, do you have any advice for that too?
Work on your novel every day, even if it's just 500 words a night. Learn to finish a book. And then, be willing (and eager) to listen to critique, rip things up and revise so your book is the best it can be. When you're ready to look for an agent/publisher, don't give up. If one book doesn't sell, write another.
Great advice, if a book doesn’t sell, write another. Even though Rival sold (really well, may I add), are you writing another book currently? Are there any WIPs that we can look forward to?
I have a short piece in the DEAR BULLY anthology that's coming out in September with HarperCollins. And then I'm working on a project I'm really excited about. I don't want to reveal the concept, but it has contemporary, supernatural and dystopian elements.
Ooh! Dystopian! I swear, I’m addicted to the genre. I can’t wait!
Just to round things off, some quick-fire questions (also known as random questions off the top of my head):
Coffee or tea? I love coffee but am trying to drink more green tea, so, reluctantly, my answer is tea.
Laptop or netbook? Laptop at home, netbook when I travel.
RIVAL playlist? Right here: http://www.sarabennettwealer.com/rival_playlist.shtml
Thanks so much for the interview, Sara! Is there anything else you want us to know?
Just that I'm so grateful to the bloggers and readers who've loved RIVAL and helped spread the word about it. It means everything to know that my story is connecting with people. Thank you!
Bloggers and readers who’ve loved Rival… hmm… I think that’ll be me. Sorry, that was my ego speaking.
Don't forget to check out my review of Rival and the mega-awesome giveaway Sara's so kindly offered! (It's a copy of Rival. Signed! I'm almost tempted to enter and win it for myself!)