Young Entertainment chatted with author Sarah Alexander about her highly anticipated new book, The Art of Not Breathing.
Young Entertainment: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Sarah Alexander: I clearly remember the day I decided to be a writer. I was seven year’s old and realized after watching MY GIRL that I was already too old to become a famous child actor – I needed to have gone to stage school from the age of four. So instead of being in the movies, I thought I could write them. And also, my parents wouldn’t pay for stage school. But, of course, it’s never too late to follow your dreams! Maybe one day I WILL be in a movie. And I still need to write one.
YE: What makes YA so great? How were you first introduced to it?
SA: YA is great because it is so relatable – we’ve all been teenagers. YA books are about figuring things out and finding your place in the world and this isn’t something that stops when you become an adult. I’ve always been drawn to books with teen protagonists – probably because of an urge to understand my teen self, but I didn’t start writing it until I took a YA literature class at university – then everything clicked into place.
YE: Where did the motivation to write this book come from? And what elements of your own life were taken to make this novel?
SA: The story is a combination of many things that interest me. Grief and the way we cope has always fascinated me. I wanted to explore the fragile relationship between the dark days and those glimpses of light and hope, the days of denial and the days of trying to figure it all out. The main aspect of the novel taken from my own life is Elsie’s discovery of the undersea world. I love the ocean – hearing it, seeing it, being in it. It’s the best kind of de-stresser.
YE: Who is Elsie? What motivates her?
SA: Elsie is a little bit badass but mostly lovely. At the beginning of the novel, she bumbles along, without much of an interest in the outside world, kind of limbo following the loss of her brother. She likes being alone with her own thoughts but she wants to look after her family. When she discovers freediving, she finds a passion for something outside family life. But she’s pulled along by the very thing she was trying to escape – the pain of losing her brother and the mystery of what happened to him.
YE: What was your favorite scene to write and why?
SA: I loved writing all the underwater scenes – although I’d have to remind myself to breathe sometimes. Taking ‘method writing’ a bit too far. I also loved writing the scenes with Eddie – he was so much fun to be around.
YE: What would you like the reader to take away from the story?
- Your past shapes you but doesn’t define you.
- It’s OK to be different – you will still be liked and loved.
- Talking about stuff is good. No, really, it is.
YE: What would your ideal cast be if turned into a film?
SA: Ooh, good question! Well, I’d have to cast Scottish actors, and I’d also love to cast people who haven’t been in movies before – so if you see anyone suitable let me know. They’d have to be happy to wear unflattering wetsuits and hang about in freezing water for hours. This film is not for the faint-hearted. I’ll tell you a secret, though, in my head, Tay looks like a bit like Dylan O’Brien.
YE: What’s next for you?
SA: I’m working on another YA Contemporary but I can’t say too much about it yet. Actually, I’m sort of working on another three books, so watch this space!
YE: What’s your favorite YA Book and why?
SA: There are so many! Here are my top three:
[av_one_full first]The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is probably my favorite because I read it when I was fourteen and feeling fragile, and I was totally absorbed in Sylvia’s world.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros because of the beautiful way the story is told – through poignant vignettes.
My favorite book of 2015 was The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson.
Sarah Alexander’s favorite scene:
OK, this is Elsie describing her relationship with her older brother Dillon: