I had the honor to interview the author of “The Bad Kid”, Sarah Lariviere. Before I write about this interview, I want to mention why I started this project of interviewing entrepreneurs and artists.
Why do I interview people?
A few months ago, I was visiting my family and friends in Japan. Now that I have entered my mid 30’s, some of my friends already have loads of kids, some just started a family, some working and living their single life. Everyone was at a different stage of life but I sensed a feeling of desperation. After a few days, I realized it wasn’t coming from them, from my friends, but that I felt desperate looking into their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, Japan is a very well functioning country. If a train is 2 minutes late, the conductor will apologize. Yes, APOLOGIZE. I am used to public transportation being on strike almost every month and only 1 out of 3 buses running. Once I was waiting for a bus. 15 minutes later I see a bus that says “OUT OF SERVICE”, then I realized the driver put on the sign because he didn’t want to pick up anyone (there was a strike). I was standing with my 5 year old daughter and no, he did not stop for us and we had to walk to our destination.
Services are great in Japan. I was up at 2 am with jet-lag, and I managed to find a 24 hour convenience store where I read magazines and comic books for an hour, went and got breakfast, and went for a hot-spring sauna for another 2 hours until my family was awake.
I am not talking about the the environment in Japan. That’s not why I got upset. Compared to Europe, everything functions so well and it is great.
I was upset to see the way a company will treat their employees. I was disgusted how bad the working conditions are. It is modern day slavery, to be honest.
My friend said she would be in the office at 9am, and could not leave before 11pm. She had to lie to her boss and punch out her time-card earlier because she was not allowed to stay more than certain hours a month, but she had to stay to finish what she was asked to deliver. Another friend’s husband would come back after midnight every day, and he works Saturday as well. He has 2 children he can never see, his wife also works because… believe it or not he is not making enough.
The reason I started interviewing people was so I can see with my own eyes that people can do what they want, in their controlled time, and still make money. I wanted to show those experiences and share them with others. It might encourage a few of us to say “Maybe I can try something else rather than getting beaten up by this company”
Apparently today we have more knowledge through the Internet than president Bill Clinton had access to in the Oval Office 20 years ago. Knowledge is accessible. It is up to us to use it wisely or not.
The structure of the interview is very simple. I ask 6-7 questions per interview, on What do they do, Why did they start, What do they think they do better than other competitors… and so on and so forth.
Sarah is currently living in San Francisco. Her debut novel, The Bad Kid, was shortlisted for the 2017 Edgar Award, the most prestigious English-language prize for mystery fiction. Her novel was in the young adult category. I was curious to see how she writes and what made her start her career as an author.
Interview with Sarah
1-What do you do?
I write novels for children.
2-Why did you start?
Although I’ve always kept a journal, I started writing fiction by accident. In 2005, when I was twenty-nine, I was burned out from my job as a child and family social worker. I worked with high-risk kids in challenging life circumstances, and it was exhausting. To relax, I thought I would enjoy creating visual art for a children’s picture book. But I didn’t know how to write a story, so I took a continuing education class on writing for children at New York University.
I think our first assignment was to write a few paragraphs about an early childhood memory. I wrote those paragraphs and kept writing. A month later, I had written a novel. I’d never written fiction before, so I was surprised to discover this interest, and talent. I revised the first novel, but didn’t try to sell it. Instead I wrote a second one, which I couldn’t figure out how to revise. Finally, I wrote and sold my third novel, The Bad Kid.
3-What do you think differentiates your books to the others?
My background as a clinical social worker gave me the opportunity to know hundreds of families very well. I learned about their strengths, their challenges, their goals and dreams. I have been lucky to share the lives and homes of kids from a wide variety of economic, cultural and social circumstances. And I absolutely loved working with all of those families.
So I hope that my books reflect the immense respect I have for all people who are struggling to figure out how to get through each day. In particular, I admire children, who don’t have any choice about where they begin life, but manage to adapt and thrive in all sorts of environments. And I love childrens’ natural empathy.
4-What is the difference being an employee and being an employer (or your own boss)
I set my own schedule. I choose my own projects. I have full creative control, until I’m ready to sell a novel–at that point, my agent, editor and publisher have suggestions, which are often helpful. I like those conversations, collaborating on making the best book.
The drawback is that I assume all the risk. I must devote countless unpaid hours to developing my craft, and I must know myself well enough to know the best ways of doing this. Whether by working on a current project, writing in a different genre (such as poetry or adult fiction, to stay flexible and gain skills), doing visual art (to break out of a rut and relax), exercising (to stay alert, and solve problems by letting them incubate). And by reading, of course!
Also, I spend much more time alone than people who work in close collaboration with colleagues. It’s lonely. To combat this, I try to stay in close touch with other writers, and friends who like long phone conversations, long dinners, Skype, walking with me, etc..
5-What was the best advise you’ve ever received (or if you can advise your younger self )?
I would advise my younger self to be less fearful of how I am perceived. I am still often too afraid of what others will think of my work. However, exposing my work to new readers, even when the work is not very good, has been the best way of improving my writing. Especially trusted friends who will be honest. I would also advise myself to be more confident, and take more risks in exposing the themes that interest me. I still need to listen to that advice!
6- What are your hobbies, passtime? What would be an ideal weekend for you?
I have ten billion hobbies. I’m passionate about gardening. I love drawing, painting, sewing, and carving wooden spoons. I’m fascinated with permaculture. I can be obsessive about cooking. Throwing dinner parties makes me very happy. I love going to restaurants, and drinking good wine. I love to take long weekends with friends, and grill out, and play with my kids, and laugh. My ideal weekend includes friends with whom I can argue and laugh, a huge meal, and maybe a dance party with the kids. I also love to travel to new countries, and discover new cities by walking. Buying a new dress makes me happy. Writing letters is one of my favorite solitary activities. On paper, by hand. I don’t get to do that much anymore!
Thank you very much Sarah for your time!
You can find her book on Amazon!