Name: Sarah Wathen
I’ve always been a storyteller, but I only began writing books about three years ago. I started off telling stories with paint. I was born in Oklahoma, and deep roots spread there. My grandfather was an editorial cartoonist for The Daily Oklahoman for more than half a century, and most of his family displays some form of artistic talent. I began my career as a visual artist, and that’s what I received my Master’s degree in, from Parsons School of Design in New York City. I’d say my home is without a doubt Florida, though. I always come back here. That’s where Mom is. Where all my friends hover at some time or another. Artists and writers are always on the move.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just released a new YA romance novel called Catchpenny. Well…I’ve been releasing it gradually since July of 2015. It’s a serial novel which I’m finally compiling as one complete book. Doing it that way has been a revelation, because I was able to get so much feedback as I was still writing. Did you know that The Count of Monte Cristo was first released as a serial? It’s a wonderful tradition that’s beginning to resurface.
How did you come up with the title?
The term “catchpenny” means something cheap, bought for pennies. That’s the way main character Meg Shannon thinks about herself, though she really doesn’t understand that in the beginning of the story. Each serial title (now book part) is about the way Meg’s understanding is shifting: Wicked Lover, Battle Ax, Cactus Heart, Gold Mine.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely. Reviewers using the phrases “slut shame” and “erotic teen fiction” really get to the heart of the matter. Meg is bullied for her sexual behavior in her small town high school. She’s maybe been more promiscuous than most girls her age, probably made a few mistakes. But the funny thing is, a male who acted in exactly the same way would’ve never been shamed for it. He probably would’ve been praised for it. And I wonder…if I had written about a boy who had the exact same experiences as Meg, would my book have ever been thought of as erotic at all? I doubt it. Catchpenny is a love story, plain and simple.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
It was my explicit aim, as soon as I wrote the first few sentences, to make Catchpenny as realistic as possible. I wanted the characters to speak as real teenagers speak, and do what real teenagers do. No sugar coating. This is the way I remember being a teenager, with all the ugly and the beautiful. But of course, I’m not a teenager anymore, so I hope I have remained even a tiny bit faithful.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
That’s a funny thing to answer! Technically, the front matter states, “This book is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people, places or events is entirely coincidental.” But how can any author write a story—especially a love story—without borrowing from what she knows? Most is fiction, but the kernel of the story usually has some place in the real world.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’m influenced by everything I read in equal measure, from To Kill A Mockingbird to 50 Shades of Grey to Macbeth. It all goes in the brain, then in the journal, then in the paintings or the books.
I think mentors can be dangerous. When I was doing my undergrad in painting, I found a mentor that meant the world to me. She taught me so much and I will always be grateful for that, but I was too dependent upon her. She dropped me like a sack of rotten potatoes at the worst time and I was lost for years. I will never do that again, and I’d advise others against it.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working on a graphic novel, the story coming from a flash fiction project I did last year. It was an A to Z challenge, the object to write one piece every day in April. That was my first shot at flash fiction and it was the best thing I ever did in sharpening my chops as an author. I stuck to a strict 300 word count, and I had to slash about half of what I originally wrote every morning. The result was clean language. I feel like cutting out every other word whenever I read now! Those 300-word segments are making for perfect graphic novel chapters.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see art making as a career, in whatever form it takes for expression. I’m not sure which form—writing, painting, music, video, or a combination of all these—will be the vehicle, but the ultimate goal is to find a way to deliver a message that matters.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not one word. Except typos missed. I’d change those, if I could find them before anyone else did!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’m just about to enter the travel stage and I’m delighted. I’m going to the Tucson Festival of Books with my writer group, YAAR (Young Adult Author Rendezvous) in March. Then, the Awesome Con in Washington D.C. is in June, with the band Her Last Boyfriend. They write the musical accompaniments—my first book had an original soundtrack. Time to meet lots of people face to face, and I am so glad I’ll have an entourage because I’m very shy.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I design my covers, and I paint or draw the artwork that they are based on. I actually started as a Graphic Designer, before I found painting, and I teach design at the college level.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Music is such a huge part of my books, because my husband Bill is a musician and we make music and write simultaneously in our house. The first part of Catchpenny is called Wicked Lover, and that title came from my favorite song that Her Last Boyfriend wrote when I first met Bill. It’s the soundtrack to the trailer I made, please check it out. I challenge you not to love it:
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Anything. Why did I do this? No really, I think I would’ve been a caterer. There is nothing I love more than throwing parties and making scrumptious canapé and poisonous cocktails.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I certainly do have a blog, and it’s all about books and art. Follow it, do. And my contact page tells you how to stalk me! www.sarahwathen.com
Amazon author page:
An Amazon link to my book: