What you Write: Currently, I’m writing novels about funny teenagers with special needs. These are the first novels I’ve written where I’m laughing as I type, and my critique partners are marking “lol” in the margins more often than “!”
I’m so excited to work with Sarahlynn and her amazing contemporary YA stories. Her characters grab you in a giant hug and make you feel wonderful, and are never afraid to talk about the tough stuff! – Naomi Davis
I’ve followed BookEnds online since the days of Google Reader—years before I was ready to query agents. Through the blog, website, and Twitter, the agents at BookEnds have taught me so much about the profession and the industry. (And I say this as someone who has worked in publishing.) When Naomi called with an offer of representation, we really clicked. I especially appreciated her suggestions for how I could make the manuscript stronger. I respect Naomi, the other agents, and the agency. I’m looking forward to working with them!
What genres do you write? Read?
I write novels about adults and teens. Regardless of their ages, my main characters tend to be a bit wry and self-deprecating. Like most authors, I’m a voracious reader and devour novels about people of all ages. I love suspense, romance, fantasy, mystery, science fiction (Murderbot!), contemporary YA, upmarket and literary fiction—nearly everything. I even enjoy narrative nonfiction and historical fiction when my book club “makes” me read great novels in those genres. I love the magic of falling in love with a book I never would have picked up on my own.
Plotter or pantster?
I’m a little of both! My first completed novel was a mystery. I solved the case in 16,000 words. (That’s not a novel. It’s barely a novella!) For the next draft, I used an outline to help pace myself. And that’s still what I do. I write a very high-level outline—only a sentence or sentence fragment per chapter. Like, “Taylor and Matt argue,” or “The whole class goes somewhere fun as a field trip.”
That way, I’m hitting the right structural arc to make the novel flow the way I want it to, but I’m still surprised along the way. I love sitting down to write, knowing I’ve got to churn out 1500 words in the next few hours, and have no idea what’s going to happen except “tense and exciting scene here! End with a kiss.”
Synopses, love them or hate ‘em?
Does anyone love synopses? Mine might be terrible, I don’t know, but I don’t mind creating them. What I do is take my high-level outline and run it all together as paragraphs. Then I smooth it out, so it reads like it was written intentionally. I pull out unnecessary details, add a little more character info, and highlight the conflict and stakes. That gives me a two-page synopsis with only a couple hours of relatively painless work. I think it’s easier to start with something smaller (the outline) and build upon it than try to trim 80,000 words into 500.
Do you have a writing playlist or a vision board? If so, what’s on them?
Oh, I do! Every book has its own playlist. Taylor from Opposite of Down loves k-pop. I’d never listened to k-pop before I wrote that book. Taylor’s best friend, Kate, is more into dark, angsty pop. As I write Kate’s story, I’m listening to a lot of Billie Eilish and Lauv. Poor Kate.
The next book I’m plotting is an adult suspense novel set in competing physics labs, and I’m experimenting with a Pinterest board for that one. It’s got song lyrics, terrible science puns, and inspirational researchers (including photos).
Drink of choice when writing? When not writing?
While writing? Decaf coffee or tea. (I get cold.) Afterwards, G&T while watching The Expanse with my husband.
Day or Night writer?
I’m an opportunistic writer. As a mom of three with a partner who works long hours and travels, I sneak writing moments when the kids are at school or asleep. My favorite way to write is during the morning in the bustling student union at my old university. But the pandemic changed everything! Now, I write from my “home office” (read: my bedroom) after the kids and I are done homeschooling.
Twitter or Instagram? Or Facebook? Where can we find you?
I am on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’m most active on Twitter.
Twitter and Instagram: @SarahlynnLester
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you want to meet and why?
This is the question that had me procrastinating finishing this Q&A for six months. Six months! I never know how to answer questions like this. Pick one: so much pressure! My most truthful answer is that I’d like to line up several authors to do a speaker series every year. I’d like to attend, listen to them talk, then discuss with my friends later over coffee. I once got to go with a group of writers for after-signing drinks with Alison Bechdel. I was such a fangirl; I don’t think I put more than handful of words together the whole time. I watched. I listened. And then, I went home and wrote about the experience. That’s who I am!