I'm delighted to welcome a super dooper special friend to the blog today as she celebrates a super dooper special day! Over to you, Sarah...
Kate, thanks for hosting my cover reveal! Especially since your twitter-pitch-drafting and editorial services helped me land my agent in the first place!
Now, without further ado . . . After five years of work, I’m so excited to officially reveal the cover of my debut novel, ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, to the world!
About All the Walls of Belfast...
The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.
Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.
After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…
ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST will be released by Turner Publishing Company on March 12th, 2019.
Check out my book trailer: https://youtube/K3i5YSUL5Gk
What was your path to publication?
I queried two manuscripts before ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST with absolutely no requests at all. To be fair, when I started querying eight or nine years ago, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. At all. Like my YA sci-fi was 240,000 words. EEK!!!! There were years where I just gave up querying altogether, but I didn’t give up writing because I can’t. I love creating stories and have since I started walking basically. I kept pushing myself to improve. I attended writing conferences, researched effective query letters, learned more about HOW to write a book, wrote new books. Worked with a few writing coaches. Found critique partners. Joined writing groups. Kept pushing myself. Kept writing.
With ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, I was very reluctant to even start querying, but I worked hard on compiling a list of agents. Then in 2014 I discovered the joy of the YA writing Twitter community. The first contest I participated in (and it was with ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST) was Pitch Wars. I was one of those hopeful mentees who read all the signs and was SURE I would be picked. I wasn’t. But my query materials were in much better shape and I’d amassed many new, skilled writing friends I still talk to. Like Kate 😊 Then I participated in a few more Twitter-based writing contests and didn’t get picked.
Just as I was preparing to (finally) traditionally query, Kate told me about a Twitter pitching contest called #Pitchmas, right before Christmas. I was almost like, what’s the point, but she helped me prepare a few 140 word tweets, so I went for it. And . . . my agent Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Hoffman & Associates liked one of my tweets! Kate provided some line editing services, then I sent Claire my materials. I made a point of telling her I’d planned on querying her anyway. I sent the full, and I think THE CALL came in late January 2015. I reached out to other agents who had my query, got a few more full requests, then gave them a week to read them. In the end, I decided Claire’s vision for my novel, and her enthusiasm, was the perfect fit!
I spent three years revising with Claire. There were several seven page, single-spaced developmental edit letters and lots of other feedback that forced me to find the heart of my story. In the end, I completely re-wrote the entire novel one point of view at a time. And then did more revisions to really boil the story down to its essence. ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST went on submission in February 2018 and then was picked up by Turner Publishing Company in mid-March 2018.
How long was your writing journey for All the Walls of Belfast?
It took about five years, largely because of the research that went into it: taking three trips to Belfast and visiting all setting locations and exploring history and different perspectives, recruiting Belfast readers, studying the Troubles and the long history leading up to them, daily tracking of current events in Belfast and Northern Ireland, researching both British English and specifically Northern Irish dialect through mediums such as novels/movies/shows, Google Maps streetviewing everything, among other things. It also took some time (and many re-writes) to find the heart of Fiona’s story, as well as her voice. Which is kind of ironic, since she’s the basically American character. And then there were the many, many re-writes.
Who will All the Walls of Belfast appeal to?
Readers who enjoy being challenged by complex themes like forgiveness for egregious past mistakes, rising above the burden of the past to forge a new future for yourself, and challenging the notion of “other” ingrained in you by adults. And anyone who might enjoy a dash of star-crossed romance.
If All the Walls of Belfast had a theme song, what would it be?
For me, music is essential to my writing process. I create ever-evolving playlists for every novel I write to help me set the mood for setting, character, and scene. If I had to pick one theme song, I think I would pick “Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy.
You can check out my playlist here. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB_UMsWd2O9aC5c5h5Y0AHxWs024H2r3u
And now a few random questions...
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Definitely hiking the Routeburn Track on the south island of New Zealand. It was a three day hike through a mountain pass where we faced both freezing temperatures and flooding. They shut down the trail and started evacuating people after we finished! In addition to the steep hike carrying a thirty pound pack with all my stuff, I had to climb up a water fall and may have almost fallen off a narrow path with a hundred foot drop off. But the whole hike was absolutely beautiful in a way that words and pictures cannot capture, and the feeling of pride and accomplishment when we reached the end was absolutely intoxicating. I felt completely alive.
If you could tell your teenage self one thing, what would it be?
Study Spanish instead of German. Seriously, after studying it five years, I’ve only used German like twice. I could be using Spanish daily. I know you said one, but . . . also, do things that scare you. Force yourself to take risks.
Chocolate or gummy bears?
Gummy bears every time.
Follow me on social media:
YABC Profile Page: http://www.yabookscentral.com/yaindie/22834-all-the-walls-of-belfast
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!