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Interview with Sarah McCoy, Author of The Baker’s Daughter

If you haven’t seen reviews for The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy yet, you must have been living in a cave.  I reviewed this phenomenal historical fiction novel told from the perspectives of two equally strong, but scarred women. 

From my review:  “The recipe for a successful novel is two parts dynamic characters, one part intriguing plot and story lines, and one part clever writing style, and The Baker’s Daughter provides all the nourishment you’ll need.”

I’m particularly confident that this will make this year’s best of list for 2012.

And after meeting Sarah in person, I can honestly say she’s a writer I’ll be adding to that coveted list, whose books I read simply because of who wrote them.  Her personality infuses her stories and her writing, and even in dark tales, her positive attitude and joy for life shine through.

Today, I have a treat for my readers; Sarah agreed to answer a few questions even after traveling the country, attending a book festival, battling the flu, and conducting an online book tour.  I applaud her dedication and want you to give her a warm welcome.

Q: How much does your own life influence your writing? Like are there elements of family and friends in your characters?

A: As an author, you are the conduit through which the story is filtered so, of course, elements of your life (fragments of people, events, places, etc.) are incorporated but never replicated. I gave the analogy of a honeybee in this article on Beyond The Margins and I stand by it. I’m just a story bee buzzing from stem to stem collecting as much as I can to make into honey. Each season is different from the next depending on what’s in bloom along the roadside of my journey.

Q: In The Baker’s Daughter there are some chapters that are from male perspectives. When writing from male and female perspectives, which do you find harder to write and what are some of the main differences between them?

A: This was my first time writing from the male POV and I LOVED it! So much, in fact, that half of the novel I’m currently working on (my third)is from a male protagonist’s perspective. Gender doesn’t factor into the difficulty of writing so much as the character’s inner conflicts and moral complications. For instance, in THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, one of the male perspectives is Josef, a Nazi officer. It took some work to separate my personal author judgements from my writing. In order to be genuine to Josef’s story line, I had to turn off present-day Sarah McCoy and fully embody what it might’ve been like for a German officer: what moral conflicts did he face; what emotional battles waged within; what governing pressures did he withstand; what cultural forces were at play? I had to do similarly for Elsie and the Schmidts. It’s the human spirit that often flummoxes me most–male and female!

Q: Was The Baker’s Daughter the original title of the book? What other titles were considered and how did you ultimately end up with the current title?

A: In my journal entries for the story, I called it the “Lebkuchen Tale”and the “Garmisch Story” as reference guides, but from the time the first word was typed, THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER has been its title. I was fortunate that my Crown editors and marketing team loved it too.

Q: What are some of your writing habits/obsessions that readers may be surprised to learn about (other than your love of history and tea)?

A: I have so many hidden quirks. I could probably fill ten pages with crazy-writer-lady idiosyncrasies. So for the sake of time, I’ll name one: I sit at my same writing desk without any sound during my writing days. No TV or radio. The phone ringer is turned off. Windows are closed, etc. I’m sealed up in a vacuum. That’s how I write best–in a kind of reality black hole where my imagination fills in all the senses: sound, sight, smell, taste, touch. Some people find this absolutely bizarre. Family members, included. But by the time I sit down to write the story on my laptop, I’ve dreamed on it for months. I’ve journaled. I’ve plotted. I’ve filled up my reservoirs with the pollinated story. I need the silent solitude so my characters can speak clearly, so I can feel the fictional landscape through their senses. Again, as I mentioned in the earlier, I consider myself (Sarah McCoy the author) merely the channel through which the story is processed.

Q: Since Savvy Verse & Wit has a focus on poetry a lot of the time, I like to ask authors about their poetry reading habits. If you read poetry, do you prefer contemporary or classic poetry? Form or free verse? And who are some of your favorite poets or poetry collections? (As a side note, have you checked out the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove?) Or why don’t you read poetry?

A: I hate to admit it, but I don’t read hardly enough poetry. I enjoy it, but I’m much more of a narrative reader. I need big, fat paragraphs of description and plot. However, some of my dearest friends are poets. When they read their work aloud, I am mesmerized. It’s as if they’ve cast a spell and I hang on every breath and syllable. If I had to pick my favorite, it’d be Maya Angelou. She is more than a poet. She’s a force of nature.

 

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your thoughts with us about writing, your novel, and poetry.

About the Author:

SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

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