Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan Interview & Giveaway

A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan
Publication Date: October 2, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.


Sara Jade Alan wrote her first comedy sketch during second grade recess, then cast it, directed it, and made costumes out of garbage bags. Since then, she has performed in over a thousand improvised and scripted shows all over the country. When she lived in New York City with her college improv group, she worked as an assistant to a best-selling author of young adult novels featuring strong female heroes and was completely inspired by her books and the awesomeness of her teen fans. Spending a year on crutches, Sara turned to writing her own young adult stories and was hooked. Currently, she is one-half of the comedy duo, The Novelistas, who perform about writing and teach performance to writers. Hailing from a suburb of Chicago, Sara now lives in Colorado with her husband—who she met in that college improv group—and daughter, who they waited a bunch of years to make. She is a member of and guest instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.


1.   When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written and created stories stories since I was a kid, but through my teens and college it was mostly sketch comedy and standup.I didn’t think of myself as a writer back then. My sister was the writer in the family (she’s a best-selling author with many published books and always knew she wanted to be a writer), and I was the performer. In my mid-twenties I got a job in NYC working for a best-selling author of YA fantasy books, Tamora Pierce. That changed my perspective. I started reading a ton of YA novels and witnessed the kind of mindset and dedication it took to be a novelist. I began writing longer pieces and realized how much I loved writing, not just as a means for performing.
2.   How long does it take you to write a book?
A Messy, Beautiful Life took me…um…eleven years. My second YA manuscript took me a year-and-a-half. Hooray for progress!
3.   What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I work full-time and have a six-year-old daughter, so I get up at 5:30am, and write until my daughter wakes up. If I can fit in a writing session after her bedtime, I will, but I don’t count on that time. An hour a day works well for me for the first-draft process, but when it’s time to edit, I try to get away for a weekend or take a day or two off so I can fully immerse myself in the project.
4.   What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have one. But I feel like I definitely should have one, so I’m open to suggestions.
5.   How do books get published?
6.   Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My first book was inspired a lot by an experience in my life (cancer) and my obsessions (improv and comedy). My second book also focuses on comedy, but—except for the seed of an idea (winning a contest)—it’s not based on my real life. I’ve started other stories that were based on a news article I read or other interests, like activism, but so far those stories haven’t stuck. I’m sure someday I’ll finish a book that doesn’t have to do with teens who love improv and standup!
7.   When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first attempt at a book was a collectionof humorous essays I started when I was about 26. (I finished it, but never figured out how to make it better…and I’m not sure I will.)
8.   What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to perform and teach improv. I also love hiking, biking, and playing games with my family.
9.   What does your family think of your writing?
They are extremely supportive. They give me all the space and time I need, and I’m so grateful for them.
10.       What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I rewrote A Messy, Beautiful Life so many times over the course of many years before it found a home. It went through two critique groups, beta readers, several workshops, and a professional editor before my editor at Entangled picked it up. In the meantime, I had written a second book, which had been so much easier to write than my first that I thought I was finally getting the hang of this book-writing thing. But going through the edits with my editor on A Messy, Beautiful Life was mind blowing. I rewrote almost the whole manuscript once again and felt like I learned more about how to write a book this year than ever before.
11.       How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A Messy, Beautiful Life is my first published book. I have two other completed manuscripts. One is a book of humorous essays I probably won’t ever go back to. The second is my next YA contemporary manuscript, LOVE AND OTHER PUNCHLINES. Both of my YA books are about teens who do improv and standup comedy, yet they are so different, and Ilove them for different reasons. But right now A Messy, Beautiful Life is definitely my favorite because it’s finished, it’s here, and I get to hold it in my hands!
12.       Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Until about three years ago, writing wasn’t my main focus. First it was performing, then being a new mom. When I got serious about writing I did four things that made all the difference for me: 1. I got into a consistent critique group. 2. I created a habit of getting up early to write first thing every day.3. I took Victoria Hanley’s Plot Workout class, which made writing my second book so much easier. 4. I got into the practice of leaving off my writing session in the middle of a scene so that I would keep thinking about it and feel excited to get back to it the next day.
I don’t know if those will help you, but I hope they do—they helped me!
13.       Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Since this is my first book, I’m only just starting to hear from readers through their reviews. This was terrifying at first, but some of the responses have been so amazing and heartfelt that they’ve made me cry with joy. My hope with this book was that it would connect with people and be an ultimately uplifting story. That seems to be coming across, so that’s hugely rewarding.
14.       Do you like to create books for adults?
The book of essays I wrote was for adults, and even though I probably won’t go back to it, it was fun to write.But I do love YA because firsts are so interesting to me.

15.       As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was really young, but around middle school and high school I wanted to be an ER doctor or go into a field of science, like wildlife biology. Even though I was obsessed with theater in high school and did every possible thing from speech team, to being in plays, to writing for the sketch group, to designing and building sets and being part of stage crew, I was very practical. My freshman year of college I started off as a biology major, but I quickly learned that even though science was interesting to me, I wasn’t very good at it.

Link to Goodreads:

Purchase Links:

Link to Tour Schedule:

Giveaway Details:

·         A Messy, Beautiful Life Prize Pack, which includes A Messy, Beautiful Life tote bag, DVD of the anime rom-com Ranma 1/2, Disco ball keychain, Bag of Marshmallow Mateys cereal

1 comment:

  1. I would love to do standup...I've been working on my routine!