Published by Skyscape on June 23rd, 2015
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When a killer storm unexpectedly hits Manhattan, seventeen-year-old Lilah Stellow’s dad insists that she and her younger sister, Flori, take refuge at their cabin in the mountains. But instead of joining them with the experimental drug that keeps Lilah alive, he disappears just as news reports name him as a prime suspect in an act of ecoterrorism.
As days pass without her medicine, Lilah finds herself teetering on the edge, caring for her sister, and growing increasingly certain they’re being watched. In her search for answers, Lilah is thrown into the center of a mystery involving an off-the-grid research facility and finds herself drawn in by Daniel, an intriguing boy who is the son of the lead scientist. As she dares to seek answers, Lilah slowly realizes that even the best intentions can go horribly wrong.
Interview with Shari
Ali: Hey Shari! Thank you for joining us today for a quick interview. I look forward to getting to know you better. To start things off, what is your favorite book of 2015 so far?
Shari: I’m embarrassed to say that I’m still catching up on 2014 books. Am I allowed to choose one of those? If I can, I’d have to say that I loved Jandy Nelsen’s“I’ll Give You the Sun.” The voice in that book is just mind-blowing. From 2015, I really enjoyed “I’ll Meet You There,” by Heather Demetrios. I think Josh is one of the most beautifully written, real, flawed male YA characters I’ve read in a long time. I’m dying to read “Bone Gap,” by Laura Ruby, which is a 2015-er, too.
A: Did you always want to be a writer?
S: Yes, for as long as I can remember. I started writing stories when I was in elementary school. My mother still has all these colored notebooks with my pencil scratch stories and crayon drawings in them. I actually tried to write and sell a picture book, which I illustrated when I was – I think – in fifth grade. My mother still has that, too. I love that she doesn’t throw anything away. Somewhere in my childhood bedroom there is also a YA romance I tried to pitch to Seventeen magazine when I was in high school. It didn’t get published, I’m afraid.
A: What inspires your writing?
S: I think my inspirations are generated from the way I look at the world. I see the world around me as a big diagram with these lines connecting ideas and images that seem totally unrelated and random. The news is a great source of ideas for me. I’ll read something and hang on to a tiny bit of information that intrigues me. I’m fascinated by the dynamics between people. Generally I start with one scene -it plays in my head like a movie. I’ll start working with it, building on it, adding dialogue. I’ll toss it around in my head – let it percolate for a few weeks before I actually write anything down. It doesn’t always work. I have a 100 pages of a book that I shelved last year because the first scene that came to me was awesome, but then I couldn’t take it anywhere.
A: What was the hardest part of writing “THE STELLOW PROJECT “?
S: From an emotional standpoint, the hardest part was getting to the dark place where I could imagine the horrors of the lab scene or getting into the mind of a misguided parent willing to put their own children’s lives at risk. These are not values I share, thank goodness, but I knew they were important to the book, and they made for some tough writing days.
From a practical perspective, there were just days when I was stumped. Where I was pacing up and down my hallway trying to tie the loose ends or figure out why parts weren’t working. One of my biggest challenges is that I’m a night owl, but I have to wake up at 6:15 to get my kids off to school. When I don’t get enough sleep, I just can’t be creative, so I had a number of tough writing days that required a lot of caffeine and snacking.
A: What is your favorite thing about writing “THE STELLOW PROJECT “?
S: I loved creating this mystery. It was like putting together a puzzle for other people, trying to find all the ways to hide the clues. It was so much fun to plot out the good guys and the bad guys, and then mix them all up so it’s not clear who is who. I also just love writing dialogue – especially, the banter. I fell in love with Lilah and Daniel’s relationship, but then I fell even more in love with Flori and Lilah’s relationship. I was pushed to make different decisions than I might have originally made, and one of my favorite parts of this experience is that I learned to let my characters and their motivations direct where the story went.
A: Do you have any habits while writing? For example: a specific snack food you have to have or maybe music palying in the background.
S: I tend to be an in-and-out of focus writer. I snack. I play with my dog. Take her for a walk. Check my email. Write a little more. Have another snack. Check Twitter or Facebook. Write some more. I usually forget to eat lunch. I make a lot of smoothies at 2:30 in the afternoon. Chocolate is my weakness. I’m trying to kick my sugar addiction, but I somehow always manage to sneak chocolate into my day once or twice … or three or four times.
A lot of times I’ll start writing in the morning when the sun is bright, and I won’t turn on the lights. Then, at some point, every afternoon I take a break and realize that I’m starving … and in the dark.
And as I type, I talk and read aloud. I like to listen to how the words sound.
A: What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
S: Honestly, one of my favorite things to do – in the entire world – is go to a Farmer’s Market. I try to find one wherever I am. I just love the sights, smells and sounds. I go every week. I know the vendors by their first names. Right now I’m totally obsessed with this baker who makes grain-free almond butter, chocolate chip cookies. In August, I will travel to spend a week with my family at their cottage on Lake Huron. I adore living on the lake for the month. I try to take a walk on the beach at least twice a day. Sunset is one of best times. My dog can run off leash and swim, which she can’t do in the city. It’s one of my favorite places to be. I look forward to it all year.
A: Last but not least, do you know the muffin man?
S: You mean the one who lives on Drury Lane? Yeah, I know that guy, but I stay away. I’m gluten free. I can’t be wooed by his wares.