Author interview: Sarah McCoy
I met Sarah McCoy on Twitter a while ago and, as soon as I found out she’s a Hokie, I knew I liked her! I actually liked her before that, but when I found out she’s a Hokie, I knew why. (Sarah’s such a good sport, she sent me this photo of her in her Virginia Tech snuggie when I asked for a picture of her in maroon and orange.) Sarah’s newest book, The Baker’s Daughter, came out last week and I’m really excited about it. I was thrilled when I had the chance to ask Sarah a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:
Your newest book, The Baker’s Daughter, weaves a story from the past with a present day story. How much research did you have to do to get the details right?
A great deal! But I’m such a history nerd. I very much enjoy digging into the past and unearthing interesting facts and firsthand accounts. When I was in college and graduate school, I’d get butterflies in my stomach when I went into the big, grand university libraries to pull historical texts for research papers. There was something magical about those rows of old books; true-life stories that hadn’t been read in years, sometimes decades or longer. I used to sequester myself in the farthest back table and spread the books out in a big arc. It was like meeting new, old friends. So the research, while time consuming, is part of the fun for me. I don’t pop out a novel every year for that exact reason. I need time to dig into the facts, collect, dream on all of the details left unsaid, then allow those stories to grow and bloom on the page. I began research for The Baker’s Daughter in August 2007 and the story is finally hitting the shelves in 2012. There’s the math.
Family relationships play an important role in both of your books. Do you get inspiration from your own family when you write?
Absolutely. I see myself and most writers as story channelers. Every experience we have in our memory banks informs the characters and story. So naturally, the most essential members of our lives–our parents, siblings, friends, spouses, pets, grandparents, etc.– inspire us. I’m incredibly close with my family. For my first book, The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico, my mother’s Puerto Rican side was the fertile ground for my imagination. For The Baker’s Daughter, I wouldn’t have been nearly as captivated by the subject of Germans in WWII Germany if my family hadn’t have been stationed there during my childhood. I wouldn’t understand how love, sacrifice, duty, and honor can get all mixed up if I wasn’t the daughter of an Army officer. I wouldn’t understand the secret pains and bonds between mothers and daughters if I weren’t so close with my mother and grandmother. And so on.
Describe your ideal writing day.
On good writing days, it goes something like this: I get up, feed my dog Gilly and take him outside; I make a cup of tea; then I sit at my writing desk and work. Some days I take an hour to make a warm stovetop lunch while other days, I eat at my desk. I write until my husband comes home from work between 7-8 p.m. Then it’s time to make dinner and have QT with him. Let my brain detox from the page. I get on Twitter while he watches TV at night and chat with my book friends. That’s always fun! Every other day, I try to carve out an hour to do something with
momentum– i.e. exercise. Otherwise, I get a serious case of ants-in-the-pants and can be mighty persnickety to my husband. Truthfully, my days hardly ever go as I plan or the same as the one before. There’s always something– phone conferences, research outside the house, a run to the grocery store, making cookies for a friend, my momma calls, take the pup to the Groomer, emails, emails, emails… you know, life. This is a very roundabout way to come to the conclusion that I don’t have an ideal day. Maybe that’s a good thing because I’m never disappointed!
Since your mother is from Puerto Rico and you’ve lived in Germany, I’m wondering how many languages you speak.
English. Yeah, I know, it’s shameful. But I can’t claim to speak either Spanish or German fluently. If I were dropped down in the middle of Germany or Puerto Rico, I could get along, but by no means would I say I sprechen Sie los lenguajes. Luckily, I have loved ones who do: my husband is fluent in German and my mother’s side of the family speak more Spanish than English. But I have gotten some wrong! In The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico, I had a couple words that were incorrectly conjugated. My wonderful readers pointed them out so my editor and I could make corrections in future printings. I learned fast and had my husband tripe-quadruple check my German in The Baker’s Daughter.
What’s been your biggest surprise on your road to publication?
How lovely, supportive, and far-reaching the virtual reading community is! Being a writer, I spend much of my time alone, crafting characters in my mind and methodically grooming the prose. So to discover a thriving literary community online has been such a blessing. It is how I met you, my blogging friend, and I’m dearly grateful. Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads are such vital resources for bringing together readers and authors. I can’t sing their praises enough. They’ve allowed me, little writer lady, Sarah McCoy, out in the sand dunes of El Paso, to connect with thousands of cherished book-loving friends across the globe.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing or reading?
I like to jog and do some form of calisthenics (yoga, ballet, Pilates, etc.). As I mentioned, when I’m sitting still for hours on end, it helps to have a physical outlet for my pent up energy. As well, I love traveling with my husband and am a dog aficionado. Anything that relates to my pup, sign me up. I also enjoy cooking and gift-giving. That last one sounds odd, but I get such a kick out of packaging things. The paper, wrappings, bows and cards. It’s such a meticulous, Type-A thing to enjoy. I only do it on special occasions so it always feels magical. Everything is so
virtual these days that sometimes it’s just nice to feel thick, decorative paper between your fingers and see handwritten notes.
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