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Author Interview: Sara Zarr

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Today, I'm delighted to be interviewing with Sara Zarr, author of How to Save a Life.


Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

What is the most inspiring thing that has happened to you since you became an author?
There really isn't anything better than hearing from a reader who has made a deep, personal connection with one of my books. Whenever I read a letter or email like that, it's like getting a dose of good medicine. It cures selfishness and negativity and hopelessness and whatever else might be trying to keep me from writing that day.


As a writer, you must come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas. How do you decide which one to write about?
I'm not actually one of those writers who suffers from an overabundance of ideas. I usually get just one good idea at a time, and it makes itself obvious. The one to write about is the one that preoccupies my imagination and "feels like a book." I know that's vague, but it's hard to put it any other way.

Your published stories thus far are contemporary. Have you thought about branching out into new genres?
Yes. I hope to get to try a variety of different things throughout my writing life. We'll see--I would never dismiss anything out of hand because of its genre or category.

What books and authors have influenced you in your childhood and adolescent years?
In high school - anything by Robert Cormier, M.E. Kerr's I Stay Near You, Madeleine L'Engle's series about the Austins and the O'Keefes. A Separate Peace. In younger childhood, Joan Aikin, Marilyn Sachs--especially The Truth about Mary Rose--Zilpha Keatley Snyder, especially The Changeling.

What are your favorite writing snacks?
Toasted almonds and dark chocolate. Coffee. (Does coffee count as a snack? It should.)


If you were to become a side character in one of your stories, which one would you insert yourself into, and what would you do?
I think I'd slip into How to Save a Life and be Dylan's rebound relationship.

Is there anything else you'd like to add for readers?
Thanks for being out there. Without you, this job would be kind of sad.

Sara's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009, Utah Book Award winner, INSPY winner) and How to Save a Life (Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and L.A. Public Library Best Book of 2011). Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain online, and Response. She’s also a regular contributor to Image‘s Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at her website.

Related Posts
My Review of How to Save a Life

1 comment on "Author Interview: Sara Zarr"
  1. I keep seeing this book and I say to myself " Hey that a cool cover" but I never knew what is was about until I came across it on this post. I do have to say it really does sound interesting and I will definitely be adding this to my to read list :)

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