Dreams, the first volume in Daniela Sacerdoti's Sarah Midnight trilogy, was an enjoyable read with one of the first love triangles for ages that I've actually liked, so I was really pleased to get the chance to interview her.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
At the moment, I see people in Brazil! The rights of both Watch Over Me, my first book, and Dreams have been sold there, and I find it terribly exciting, to think that Sarah’s story will be read in far away, beautiful places like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo! But really, when I think of my readers I think of all kind of people. I suppose the traditional target audience would be teenage girls, but I’ve had so much great feedback from boys as well, I would hate to think of Dreams being labelled as a “story for girls”, because that’s not true at all. Also, I think you don’t need to be a teenager to enjoy Dreams – it’s very much a cross over.
2. The Sarah Midnight trilogy are your first YA novels, but you had a successful adult debut last year with Watch Over Me. What's the main difference between writing for adults and writing for teens?
Absolutely none. I write from the heart, and at the best of my ability whether I write for adults or teens. I have decided long ago that nothing I write would ever contain gratuitous violence or anything I wouldn’t have my children reading in a few years time, so I think that Watch Over Me would be suitable for older teens as well. Writing for children as such, like my next book Weird Removals.com – suitable from 7 years onwards - that was entirely different, because the writing has to be simpler and not all themes can be touched upon. As a parent, if in doubt, I would read it first myself to make doubly sure it’s suitable for my child/teen. Whoever I write for, though, it’s the same amount of emotional involvement, hard work and care that come into it. I would never patronise my readers or write too simply, as I believe that it’s always best to stretch young readers a little, though not too much as to alienate them.
I’ve seen so many delicate themes being touched in Young Adult nowadays – death, homosexuality, self-harm, mental illness – and I’m a firm believer that it’s up to the writer to explore these themes in a soulful, truthful way as to make them thought-provoking for young readers. In particular, I think that more YA should have lesbian and gay characters, to reflect the diversity of the reading community. I’m keen on doing so – but I’m waiting for the right character!
I think that's a really great point you make. I love reading about LGBT characters, but they have to be the right ones - you can tell if an author's just shoehorned them in there! Glad to hear you're waiting for the right characters - and the children's book sounds interesting, will be keeping an eye out for that!
3. I was surprised by the way the main body of Dreams was interrupted by so many different characters narrating short chapters - and stunned by how well you pulled it off! Did you always plan on having this sort of structure, or did it start off as a more linear narrative just focused on Sarah?
It wasn’t planned, really – the story came out this way. To write in the first person from different POVs is so much fun, it allows you to sink deep into the minds of the characters and truly listen to their voices. In the second volume of the trilogy, Tide, there are more characters and more POVs, which was incredible to write – a real emotional journey into their hearts and souls.
4. Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what was the soundtrack to Dreams?
Oh, yes! All the time! At the moment, as I’m writing this interview, it’s Runrig, a celtic rock band from the eighties-nineties – geeky, I know, but I love it! Sarah’s main soundtrack is Julie Fowlis, a lovely Scottish singer who’s ideal to write to, gentle, light, fresh. And various Irish musicians, Maire Brennan, Paul Brady, Damien Rice, the Corrs – I love Irish music, having lived in Dublin for over two years.
Some fab musicians there! I love Irish music as well, and Runrig are great. Although you can't beat the Saw Doctors for me personally...
5. Some of Sarah's dreams are terrifying! What's the worst dream you can remember having? How about the best?
The worst dream was so bad I can’t even talk about it! And the best one, I dreamt of my dad, who passed away 6 years ago – we were talking, and I was so happy to see him. I asked him “where are you?” and he replied “I can’t say.” He also said to me that everything was going to be ok, and that he was happy. This dream actually inspired Sarah’s dream of her mother, where Anne says to her she can’t say where they are.
6. In addition to Sarah's more unusual talents, she also plays the cello. Do you play an instrument at all?
Unfortunately not, but I love singing. When I was at University, I got into a prestigious singing school attached to the Teatro Regio in Turin (Royal Theatre). After a three years course the school would allow you to apply for a job in the theatre Opera Choir. But the next year I was offered a scholarship to write my Mediaeval History dissertation in Dublin, so I considered my options and I decided singing wasn’t the way to go.
7. What's the best thing about being an author?
Oh, the writing itself is the best. And then reading books, or simply just staring out of the window, and calling it “work”!
8. And the worst thing?
The emotional ups and downs. I get so drained with the writing sometimes, I have no energy for anything else – and when bad things happen to my characters, or when there’s a particularly emotional bit to write, it takes me days to recover. It’s not a very efficient way to write, but it’s the only one I know.
9. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
I’d love to speak to Emily Bronte and unravel what’s behind Wuthering Heights!
10. What's next for Daniela Sacerdoti?
I’m the process of finishing Tide, the second volume in the Sarah Midnight Trilogy. I have a children’s book out in August, Weird Removals.Com, out with Floris Books. Also, I’m writing a supernatural thriller called Faith. It’s all going! On the horizon, Spirit, the third and (maybe) last volume of Sarah’s story.
Thank you for this lovely interview, Jim! You certainly asked all the right questions!
Can't wait to read volume two and find out how the cliffhanger gets resolved! Definitely looking forward to Weird Removals.Com as well, and Faith sounds interesting - you're definitely very busy. Best of luck for all these exciting things.