Saturday, July 27, 2013

I HEART YA: Author Interview: Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface)

Author Kimberly Sabatini chats with us about how she came to create the concept behind her debut novel Touching the Surface, what the best part of writing in the Young Adult genre is, what was the most surprising thing she discovered about being published author and advice she has for aspiring authors.

TeamNerd Reviews: Please tell us a little about yourself!

Kimberly Sabatini: The official answer is… Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three and four year olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. TOUCHING THE SURFACE is her debut novel. (Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster, October 30, 2012)  But unofficially, I’m a choc-a-holic with a particular weakness for chocolate ice cream. I haven’t been finished doing laundry in over a decade and once my kids wore my socks to school. The cherry on my sundae is that I have a fabulous singing voice, but only in the shower, if no one’s listening.

TeamNerd Reviews: When was the "AHH-HA!" moment when you knew you wanted to write Touching the Surface?

Kimberly Sabatini: I started writing after my Dad passed away 8 ½ years ago. I was compelled to return to writing in order to make sense of my world and the loss of my father. I had an infant, a toddler and a preschooler at the time, so I wrote small, manageable things like poetry and picture book manuscripts. About two and a half years later, I joined the SCBWI (the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and I attended my first conference. By some stroke of divine intervention, Laurie Halse Anderson and K.L. Going were the guest speakers. It is an understatement to say I was blown away by both of them. That moment changed me. While there, K.L. Going was advertising a local workshop she was hosting in a few weeks and the opportunity offered a 10-page critique. I decided that I was going to attend and have her evaluate my writing. I went home and wrote the first 27 pages of TOUCHING THE SURFACE. I’ll always call her my Writing Mama because she continued to mentor me through the whole journey. Laurie Halse Anderson also kept tabs on my progress and supported me as a fledgling writer. At that conference I had an AHH-HA moment about my own writing life, but I also had one about what it means to be a real part of this amazing community. I continue to roll model myself after these amazing authors in a million different ways.

TeamNerd Reviews: What was the process like for you in creating Touching the Surface?

Kimberly Sabatini: It was a true work-in-progress. I recently attend a school visit where a student asked me how many novels I’d written. I told them that TOUCHING THE SURFACE was my first one. The student nodded, acknowledging that TTS was my debut, but then he asked how many novels (practice novels) I wrote in order to write one that could be published. My response was the same. This is the only novel I’ve ever written. Prior to that I’d capped out on a high school term paper. I am thrilled to say that my very first attempt at writing a book came to fruition, but it was a slow and laborious process. I was learning so much on the fly. I was reading books on the side, attending conferences, scouring the inter net and using my peers to help me grow. I hit lots of speed bumps along the way. I can definitely say that my work on Book 2 (THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY) has it’s own challenges, but I came to it with a lot more skill and knowledge than I had before.

TeamNerd Reviews: Team Oliver or Team Trevor?

Kimberly Sabatini: * SPOILER ALERT *I don’t see Elliot’s relationship with Oliver and Trevor as a traditional love triangle. I’ve always thought of it more as a love knot, where people who care about each other get tangled in each other’s lives and mistakes. The truth is, Oliver was only four years old in the version of TTS that I sold to Simon & Schuster. And while I LOVE the changes that were made by aging him up, I’ve always viewed him through that filter. But that also means that neither boy has ever had to compete for my attention. I’ve loved them both. I believe one of the perks of TOUCHING THE SURFACE is that it’s perfectly acceptable to be Team Oliver AND Team Trevor.

TeamNerd Reviews: What is the best part about writing for Young Adults?

Kimberly Sabatini: It’s the opportunity to add my voice to the group of writers who talk up to their readers. It is my personal belief that young adults are continuously under valued and under estimated. Writing for this audience is magical. Teens have a passion and drive to become something more and I consider it a privilege to have my thoughts and words woven into their limitless potential. I take the responsibility of bringing them my best writing, very seriously.

TeamNerd Reviews: Who are your writing inspirations?

Kimberly Sabatini: I LOVE listing my inspirations. In no particular order…Lois Lowry, Laurie Halse Anderson, K.L. Going, John Green, Sara Zarr, A.S. King, Ruta Sepetys, J.K. Rowling, Chris Crutcher, Gary Schmidt, Judy Blume, Katherine Patterson, Anne Frank, Barbra Park, Richard Peck, Ellen Hopkins, Sharon Creech, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary, Gary Paulsen, Lee Harper, Rick Riordan, Wendy Mass, Jacqueline Woodson, Bill Bryson, Suzanne Collins and Laura Hillenbrand. I should probably stop now, right?

TeamNerd Reviews: What was the most surprising thing about becoming a published author?

Kimberly Sabatini: There are new surprises every day--some are good and some are bad. The key words I focus on are flexibility and resilience. Ultimately, the biggest surprise for me is how much I want this. I’ve always struggled with taking criticism and this is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to bend instead of break under its weight. I think that shows just how invested I am in this process. I don’t just want to be a good writer—I want to be a great one. I know it will take lots of time and effort, but I feel determined to continue growing.

TeamNerd Reviews: Do you have any projects currently in the works?

Kimberly Sabatini: I do! I’m revising my second novel, THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY. I’m hoping you’ll be hearing more about it soon. I’m also working on my 3rd book called CHASING ADAPTATION.

TeamNerd Reviews: Name three things that are on your desk right now!

Kimberly Sabatini: I have two cats, my trusty laptop (that I love like a 4th child) and a stack of books for research and inspiration in my writing--plus 82,000 other things, in untidy piles, because that’s how I roll.

TeamNerd Reviews: If you could give just one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

Kimberly Sabatini: Know the ins and outs of the publishing business and the craft of writing, but do not let that knowledge sit with you while you’re drafting a novel. Write your truth and then bring out your internal editor and marketing team once it’s down on paper. I believe the only chance you have at being the next big thing, is to be yourself. It is what makes you unique in a sea of trends. Do not under estimate your worth and your truth. When you strip all of the nose away—you should always be writing for the love of it.

Thank you so much for asking such thoughtful questions and inviting me to participate in I HEART YA! Many, many ((((hugs))))

Enter to win a SIGNED copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE on the I HEART YA page!

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