Please welcome author Sarah Pekkanen to Writer Unboxed today. Sarah is the internationally-bestselling author of four novels. Her latest novel, The Best of Us, releases on April 9th. Following in the heels of her former novels, which have won rave reviews in O the Oprah magazine, People and Entertainment Weekly, The Best of Us has earned a starred review via Publishers Weekly and has become Marie Claire’s book pick of the month.
Because of ongoing negotiations between Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster, The Best of Us isn’t on display in Barnes and Noble stores–a loss of visibility that can hurt a book’s sales potential. WU offered to do a giveaway for Sarah, and she suggested something even better: Sarah will send signed copies of her entire back list to one randomly chosen commenter (U.S. or Canada only, please)!
We’ll be in touch with the winner on Wednesday. Even if you don’t win, we hope you’ll support Sarah by buying a copy of The Best of Us yourself and/or helping to spread the word about this book and giveaway. Thank you!
What’s Sarah’s book about?
An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.
Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.
Five things I wish I’d known before publishing a book
1) Every single writer faces amazing highs and crushing lows – if you hate roller coasters, this isn’t the career for you. I was out with a group of authors at dinner a while ago, and one woman – a New York Times bestseller who writes luminous, gorgeous novels that accomplish the rare feat of being critically acclaimed and commercially successful – confided that years ago, she got such a vicious, heartbreaking review that she literally didn’t leave her apartment for a week. Other authors weighed in with their confessions: We’ve all felt horrible at times. We’ve all looked down at sentences we’ve typed and felt as if slugs on the sidewalk held more appeal. And we’ve all had transcendent moments, when the words flow and we fall into the zone and we emerge hours later, dazed and hungry, a little in awe of what has turned up on the page. Sometimes these things happen on the very same day. I constantly remind myself that I’m going to be writing for the rest of my life, and now I’m trying to take a more steady emotional approach to my job.
2) Aim to beat your deadlines. This year I was on track to turn in my novel well before my April 1 deadline. Then we got hit with a cluster of mini-crises: My husband had surgery and was told he couldn’t drive for 4 weeks…. which stretched to 8 weeks when recovery proved to be more complicated than expected. This was especially problematic because our three kids go to three different schools and need to be dropped off and picked up. Did I mentioned we moved a week after my husband’s surgery and needed to get our old house ready for sale? Then the Norovirus wiped out the entire family…. If I hadn’t gotten a good chunk of my book done before our personal hurricane, I would’ve missed my deadline – and that isn’t something that endears an author to a publisher. From now on I’m setting a deadline of my own that will hit before the one in my contract, so that if the unexpected happens, my book won’t suffer.
3) Exercise enhances creativity. Some of my athletic pals swear they work out plot twists while jogging, but I’ve always been skeptical. Chocolate and caffeine have always done a perfectly fine job of fueling my imagination. Recently I tried a hard-core spinning class – the kind where the instructor yells and acts a little bit like she wants to beat you up- and I came home sweaty and exhausted, and immediately wrote a chapter. I think it’s because the angst we writers feel gets worked out along with our sweat and toxins, so we can do the actual job of writing – rather than worrying about writing, which sometimes feels like a more pressing occupation – when our bodies are spent. My old writing routine was to drop my son at preschool, then race to a coffeeshop and write until it was time to pick him up. Now, three mornings a week, I’m dashing to the spin class a few blocks away and then firing up my laptop in my car outside his school, in order to save time. I bet I get every bit as much writing done – if not more.
4) Don’t wait for the right time to write. You know that book about the fox who talks about all the place he won’t eat green eggs and ham? Turn that around and come up with a list of all the places where you can write. Some of my personal favorites: the orthodontist’s waiting room, my backyard, the school pick-up line (helpful safety tip: you’ve gotta put the car in park for this one), soccer practice…. Carry your laptop or a pad of paper and a pen everywhere (and make sure it’s a working pen, not the defective kinds I seem to stockpile). Whenever you have a snatch of time, write, write, write. Those moments really add up, and sometimes, you’ll get stuck somewhere and be able to knock out a good-sized chunk of writing.
[pullquote]”The perfect book to cozy up with on a rainy day” – Marie Claire magazine [/pullquote]
5) The Freedom App is a writer’s best friend! Social media and the Internet are to writing books what chocolate and fresh-baked breads are to diets: Pure kryptonite. I’ve noticed that I tend to spend more time on Facebook when the writing is not coming easily. It’s so easy to giggle at photos of angry-looking cats, rather than face the drudgery of massaging the kinks out of a knotty paragraph. The Freedom App has saved me. You can lock out on-line temptation and write for a set period of time – and you’ll actually get writing done! I was actually shocked by how often my itchy fingers tried to hit the connect button before remembering that I couldn’t go on-line.