Today, we’re talking to Sarah Combs, author of BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME. One author, four questions. Here we go!
Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)
My story was conceived in the waning hours of November 30, 2010, during what my husband and I refer to as “Adult Swim,” i.e. the golden part of the evening when our two young boys are safely asleep and we haven’t yet collapsed ourselves. We were musing about the upcoming year and my husband wondered aloud: Are you gonna write that book, or what?
I remembered an announcement that had lately arrived in my Inbox—something about a YA Novel Discovery Contest, the requirements for which were still, in that moment, within the realm of possibility: Before midnight on November 30, submit only the title and first 250 words of a YA novel or novel-in-progress. With maybe an hour to spare, I parked myself in front of my laptop and entered exactly 250 newborn words into this online submission box. Then I went to bed and promptly forgot about the whole business until the following February, when I was shocked (and horrified and ashamed, truth be told, because I didn’t have a novel! I had 250 words that were lost to the ether because Smart Girl hadn’t even bothered to make a copy!) to learn that BSA had won the contest.
The contest win fueled me to finally commit to paper the story that had been occupying my heart and imagination for so long. I wrote during my boys’ naps, and it took me almost a year to complete the manuscript. Just to see if my accidental success was in fact the fluke I suspected it was, I submitted the first 10 pages to another YA Novel contest, this one sponsored by She Writes. When BSA was selected as one of five winners, it earned a glance from several editors and agents including Elizabeth Kaplan, who became my agent when I sent out a round of formal queries shortly thereafter. The book sold to Candlewick’s Nicole Raymond, who happened to be one of the final judges of the first contest I entered. It was kismet all around, and proof positive that truth is waaaaaay stranger than fiction. There’s no way I could make this stuff up, and I’m still not sure I believe any of it.
What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?
Breakfast Served Anytime follows 17 year-old Gloria to Geek Camp, where she and her misfit classmates follow a series of scavenger hunt-esque clues left by a professor called X. It’s a coming-of-age book; a summer-that-changed-it-all book; a book about butterflies, the literal and the figurative kind. Mostly, though, it’s a story about Finding Your Tribe. It’s also a love song to my native Kentucky, and, because I’m of the opinion that there’s not a book or a life that can’t be enhanced by the presence of a dog, there’s a dog in it: a raggedy-eared Boxer puppy named Holyfield.
What are you most excited about in the debut process?
I’m inordinately excited about writing my Acknowledgments Page. I cannot wait to start Acknowledging people all over the place. If I’ve learned anything in this process, it’s that bringing a book into the world is not unlike bringing a child into the world in that it takes a village, and my Village rocks. The high school English teacher who made us memorize Strunk & White’s Elements of Style; my teenage students and the writers whose lucky student I’ve been; the girlfriends whose voices ring through my ears as I write; my modern-day-Atticus-Finch of a husband, whose acquaintance I first made at a Geek Camp not unlike Gloria’s almost two decades ago…there are so many Villagers, and this story belongs to them as much as to me.
Also? I’m inordinately excited to see if Interpol (the band, not the international police organization) will grant us permission to use a handful of their lyrics in the all-important Makeout Scene.
What are your desert island books?
Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Donna Tartt’s Secret History, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, and J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. As proof of my devotion to that last one—and as a reminder that a good writer is one who can write about the contents of a medicine cabinet and make it entirely fascinating—I keep a marble in my medicine cabinet. The marble would need to accompany me to the island, too, of course.
|Sarah Combs is an erstwhile high school Latin teacher and former librarian, but she still loves dead languages and books as much as ever. These days she leads writing workshops at a nonprofit literacy center in Lexington, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. Her debut YA novel, BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME, is coming from Candlewick Press in Spring 2014.|