Today we’re delighted to introduce you to Sarah J. Schmitt and her YA Paranormal It’s a Wonderful Death which is slated to release October 2015!
- Why did you choose the setting for your book? Did you draw from any real places to create your world?
Since the book is (sorta) about what could happen to someone after they die, the most logical choice was the Afterlife. I did, however, take a bit of liberty with the setting. There is a portion of the book that takes place in a small town east of Indianapolis as well as Indy itself.
- What was your inspiration for IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH?
Prior to It’s A Wonderful Death, I had written the first book in two series. They were your conventional save the world paranormal books and while the agents liked the writing, the stories were too similar to other books that were already out. I had obviously missed the wave. In late September I was talking to my mother and in frustration I said, “Ugh. I’m so tired of trying to save the world. I just want to save the cheerleader.” (Shout out to the Heroes universe!) It was like lightning striking. I spent October plotting and on November 1st, began my most successful NANOWRIMO attempt to date.
- What was your favorite part about writing IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH?
I think the thing I loved about writing IAWD is that I knew it was going to be a stand-alone and I could lose myself in the story without having to worry about overarching plots and building in secondary stories to resurrect later. I could take RJ on any adventure I wanted because when the book ends, it ends. (Although I did leave a little teaser at the end during one of my last major revisions.)
- What was the hardest part about writing IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH?
Editing. I wrote the original manuscript, all 67,000 words in 23 days. So, as you can imagine, when I went back to edit, it sucked. And, an embarrassing fact about me: I am horrible at editing grammar for myself. I can edit for other people, but when it comes to that editing process… whew… it’s not pretty. With that said, there is a big difference (in my mind) between editing and revision. Editing is getting all the commas where they should be, making sure word choices are correct, etc. But revision is all about the plot. I love revision. I love taking that frame of a story and building it out, reinforcing what you know about the character, throwing in twists the reader (hopefully) won’t see coming and then sitting back and taking in the magic that is creating.
- Who is your favorite rogue character from a book, TV show, or movie?
Great question! And it’s a tie. Though since they are both offsprings of Josh Weadon’s mind, I think the answer should be allowed. First, is Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love how she started out as this girl afraid of doing anything that broke the rules to being the woman who rewrote the rules. And then second would be the entire crew of the Firefly class ship Serenity. I means Wild West meets Star Wars with a weird and quirky cast that bust the archetypes wide open. YES, PLEASE!!!
- Your protagonist RJ is described as being “almost unredeemable.” Did you find it difficult to balance the almost unredeemable aspect of her personality with something positive?
Not at all. Because of the way the story plays out, the reader gets to see what happened in her life to make her “almost unredeemable.” And the great part is RJ is seeing it in the same time that the reader is. I think that’s what makes an otherwise superficial, brat a character people can not only relate to but cheer for. By the end of the book she’s not perfect. She’s still RJ, but she’s… well… people will have to read the book to find out.
- You have some really fascinating (and hilarious) characters, including a cute Grim Reaper, “Hawaiian shirt-wearing Death Himself,” Saint Peter and Al, “the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell.” How did you come up with such an eclectic cast and decide who to include?
The cast of characters are so important to the tone of the book. I could have had one “mentor” take RJ on her journey but I think, by doing that, it would have become dark and ominous. But I am a huge fan of the secondary character that steals the scene. I wanted to write that. There were a lot of discussions about cutting several of these characters but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew that they were the key to the comic relief in the storyline. When we sent it out to get blurbs, almost everyone commented about how those were some of their favorite scenes. I’m so glad I took a stand and refused to kill them off. Plus, the cornhole scene outside the gates of heaven… hilarious.
- What sources did you get inspiration from while writing IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH?
When I was querying agents, I started the pitch off as Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carol. (It has since been rebranded as Mean Girls meets Defending Your Life.) Having that framework in my mind from the beginning definitely helped keep me focused on what I was trying to accomplish with RJ and her story. For every book I write, I start every single writing /editing/revision session off by playing the same song. It tells my brain and the muses that it’s time to get to work. For this book, the song that resonated was “Extraordinary” by Mandy Moore.
- What’s one thing you want readers to know about IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH?
IAWD is not your typical paranormal. It’s a contemporary that just happens to be set in a paranormal world. In the end, it’s about becoming the best person you can be and learning to accept things you can change and what you can’t. And, it’s really funny. (Though I would recommend picking up one of the travel packs of tissues when you read it… hmmm… a promotional idea!)
- Describe the type of reader you hope picks up this book when it’s on the shelves.
Okay, actually, I wrote this book with two reader groups in mind. Obviously, teens would be the first one. And not just teen girls. I think IAWD has appeal to guys as well. There are several interesting male characters, in addition to the awesome female ones! We were really conscious of designing a cover that wouldn’t lean to far toward a “guy” or a “girl” book for this very reason. This is a book about being a teen and figuring out who you are. In that respect, it’s a universal issue all teens struggle with.
I also wrote the book with me in mind. I’m a mom who loves to read YA. I wanted to write a book that was fresh and intelligent and also had short chapters with cliff-hanger endings. I wanted them to think, “Hmm. I have to feed my children, but I really want to know what happens next. Well, I guess I’ll order in pizza. Again.”
Thanks so much for these great questions!
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent.