Q&A with Sarah Epstein

Sarah Epstein’s Small Spaces is one of the #LoveOzYA debuts coming out next year that we can’t wait to get our hands on, so we couldn’t resist asking her a few questions for our #LoveOzYA Month to learn more about it! This is an interview you don’t want to miss – and you’ll be adding a ton of awesome #LoveOzYA novels to your TBR as well!

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We’re so excited that your debut YA novel, Small Spaces, is being released next year! What was your path to publication like?

Thank you! I’m so excited too! I’d like to say my path to publication was relatively straightforward, but the truth is it took several years of submitting three different manuscripts to agents and editors before Small Spaces found a home. I started writing YA around a decade ago and it took me a few years to finish my first manuscript because I was bringing up babies and running a small business at the same time. I ended up shelving that manuscript after its first round of submissions because I realised it had a couple of major plot issues. But my second manuscript snagged me a US agent and was shopped around to US publishers for the best part of a year, resulting in a disappointingly close call at acquisitions and loads of rejections. I’d started writing Small Spaces by that stage, but ended up parting ways with my agent. It was a really challenging time because I felt like I’d tumbled to the bottom of the heap again, and I really had to pick myself up and keep going. Nicola, my editor from Walker Books, stumbled across my website after I’d just started querying Small Spaces, and after reading a short synopsis on my site, she requested my manuscript the same day. From there it took another nine months of back and forth with Walker, including another revision of the manuscript, before I was offered a contract.That’s so interesting! So many aspiring authors get caught up in the idea that the road to publication is smooth and feel disillusioned when there are hurdles in the process. And everyone’s journey is so different! We’re just so pleased we’ll be able to read your book next year. Eek!

We absolutely love psychological thrillers, so we can’t wait to pick up a copy of your book! What else can you tell us about it?

Small Spaces is a story about Tash, who had a gruesome imaginary friend called Sparrow when she was a child. She watched Sparrow lure a young girl away from a carnival but no one believed her, and she came to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. But now seventeen-year-old Tash is starting to see her imaginary friend again, and it has her questioning whether Sparrow actually does exist, or whether she’s more dangerous to others than she thinks. The seed of the story was my fascination with children’s imaginary friends and where they come from, and how it might affect relationships with family and friends if a childhood imaginary friend reappeared many years later. I wanted to explore a story about a character who is desperate to win the trust of others when she isn’t even sure she trusts herself. I’m hoping fans of creepy suspense and unreliable narrators will enjoy it!

That sounds phenomenal! We honestly don’t know how we’re going to wait until NEXT YEAR to get this. Please make time go faster so we can get this amazing novel in our hands.

What are some of your favourite #LoveOzYA thrillers? Were there any books that were influential in writing Small Spaces?

When I read Rebecca James’s Sweet Damage and Beautiful Malice, I fell in love with the idea of writing a thriller. I couldn’t put them down and hoped I’d be able to write something like that one day myself. I love all of Fleur Ferris’s books for their fast pace and gripping plots, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sinister undertone of My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier. That sense of growing dread that something bad was coming is something I really wanted to emulate in my own story.

Those are all such excellent choices! Those are our favourite #LoveOzYA thrillers too.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you started pursuing publication, what would it be?

Listen to your gut, because it’s usually right. Whether it’s a story that’s not quite working, feedback that doesn’t sit right, or industry people you’re dealing with, let your instincts guide you about what’s right for you and your writing. It will hopefully get you where you need to be a heck of a lot faster and you’ll avoid a tonne of stress.

What have been your favourite #LoveOzYA novels of 2017?

I really enjoyed Fleur Ferris’s Wreck, told in dual narrative with both storylines as engaging as each other – it’s my favourite novel of Fleur’s to date and I’m always hungry for whatever she writes next. I also loved Cally Black’s In the Dark Spaces which is just so different to any sci-fi I’ve read; I was so riveted that I read it in a couple of sittings. I’ve just started reading Gap Year in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor because the combo of ghost-hunting in a Melbourne setting has me completely hooked. And next on my TBR pile is Kate O’Donnell’s Untidy Towns because I adore YA contemporaries – even better when they are set in small Aussie towns!

Thank you so much, Sarah!


SONY DSCSarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together picture books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband, two sons, and a pooch called Luna. Small Spaces is her first novel and will be released by Walker Books on 1 April 2018. You can now add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36242050-small-spaces

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Graphics sourced from Winged Graphics, GraphicsDish, Dainty Doll ArtCarousellerie Creative, OpiaDesigns, and ArtCreationsDesign.

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