Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guest Blog with Sarah Darer Littman

Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman will be out July 1st.

Sarah Darer Littman is the author Purge, Confessions of a Closet Catholic, and her upcoming novel, Life, After. She is with us today to share about her own "Life, After" working with the manuscript of the her newest book.

Visit Sarah's site here.

LIFE, AFTER, my upcoming novel from Scholastic Press which releases on July 1st, holds a special place in my heart because it’s a book that came from rejection. I think of it as my “Phoenix from the Ashes” novel.

It started out six years ago as synopsis and three sample chapters for a book about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who was obsessed with the Civil War, which was rejected by my then editor. She suggested I rewrite it from the perspective of the boy’s sibling, but I’d just read an advanced reader’s copy of Cynthia Lord’s RULES (which subsequently won a Newbery Honor) so I knew that had already been done, brilliantly. However, one thing I’d observed with my son, who has Aspergers, is that in both elementary and middle school, he tended to make friends from foreign countries, primarily South America, and I wondered that was due to a shared feeling of “otherness.” For example, it’s common for kids with Aspergers to have problems with idioms and they’re expressions that non-native speakers also find puzzling, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. Try explaining: “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “She wears her heart on her sleeve” to someone who takes language very literally!

Meanwhile, I’d felt extremely frustrated by the perception of some of my fellow Americans that terrorism suddenly sprang to life on September 11th, 2001. Even as an eight year-old girl taking the Tube to school in London during the IRA bombing campaigns of the early 1970’s, I was aware of that risk and the need to be vigilant for unattended parcels or bags. I wanted to try, in some small way, to put terrorism into a global context; to shake that notion that it doesn’t become a major concern until it affects American lives.

That’s why I chose Argentina as the home country for my main character, Daniela. The 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center (A.M.I.A.) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds more, looms large in her life before she and her family emigrate to the United States as a result of the Argentinean economic crisis in 2002.

When I first started writing the book back in 2004, however, I couldn’t get the voice right. I ended up putting it in a drawer and writing what became my second novel, PURGE.

This book might well have never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for Claudette Greene, to whom it is dedicated. I met with a Mother/Daughter book group that had read my first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, and afterwards, Claudette sent me an e-mail in which she thanked me for being so normal (my first thought: “Clearly, she doesn’t know me very well yet!”) and explained that her daughter became interested in writing after she’d lost her father on 9/11. Claudette said that there weren’t many books for teens on the subject and had I ever considered tackling it. I sent her the synopsis that had been gathering dust in my drawer and she encouraged me to write the book. Fortunately my editors at Scholastic agreed, and I found that after meeting Claudette and hearing her story, I returned to the project with greater passion and was able to connect with my characters in a deeper way.

And so, many years later, from the rejected idea for a different project, comes LIFE, AFTER, which has gone through umpteen revisions, two titles and two covers before making it to the shelves.

The rejection of the original idea came at a terribly low point in my life, when I was going through a lengthy divorce, second book blues, and wondering if the publication of my first novel was just a fluke. Now, all these years later, the book arose like the phoenix from the ashes of that awful period and is about to hit the shelves. It will be my third published book, I’ve got a fourth on the way next year and I’m working on my fifth. Like the characters in my story, I’ve found the way to my own, Life, After.

I hope you'll think it's worth both the work and the wait.


  1. This book sounds great! I always think that it's interesting to know all of the changes a book goes through before it's published. Great guest blog!

  2. 量力而為,別勉強了,Cut your coat according to your cloth. ....................................................


Comment, comment, comment! We love your words, so type, type, type, Readers!

We love to hear from authors, fellow reviewers, YA readers, and random members of the general public. Have your say, and let us know what you think!