Sweet Sixteener Amy Allgeyer recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Sharon Huss Roat about her YA contemporary debut novel, BETWEEN THE NOTES (June 2015 from Harper Teen).
Sharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband and two children. BETWEEN THE NOTES is her debut novel. When she’s not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical.
After Ivy is forced to move to “the wrong side of the tracks” due to economic hard times, she discovers that not everything—or everyone—is what they seem, even herself. Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will love this funny, poignant, and relatable story.
Amy: Music plays such a crucial role in this book, and I love how Ivy’s passion for the music gives her peace in a tumultuous time. It’s a beautiful, intimate detail and I’m wondering if you share Ivy’s love for music yourself? If so, what instruments or types of music do you most enjoy?
Sharon: I’m so glad you enjoyed the role that music plays in Ivy’s story! I played the clarinet when I was her age, and at one point considered being a music major in college. Many of my high school activities centered around music—marching band, concert band, chorus, musicals. I did take piano lessons for a short time, but I’m not very good. I can plunk out enough of a tune to accompany my son when he’s rehearsing a vocal solo for school (he attends a performing arts high school). As far as what music I like, I’ve never had a single favorite band. I can happily listen to rock, punk, indie, classical, choral or broadway music. My son performs with three different groups—a jazz vocal ensemble, a bluegrass band, and his own rock band. My daughter will dance to pop tunes or classical ballet music. I love it all.
Amy: When did you first realize you wanted to write? How long have you been writing?
Sharon: This is where most authors tell how they’ve been writing since age five and always knew they wanted to be a writer. I wish I could say the same, but I didn’t start writing fiction until about six years ago. I won’t say how old I was at the time, but… you could call it a mid-life crisis. I had worked in communications for twenty years, including twelve years with my own PR business. I wanted a change—a new challenge. I spent about a year and a half trying to figure out what that would be. At the time, I was handling publicity for the Delaware Division of Libraries, promoting their Delaware Book Festival. While setting up an interview with one of the participating authors, I casually mentioned that I’d love to write a novel. I don’t think I’d seriously considered it until then… it just came out of my mouth. She said, “Why don’t you?” I confessed that I’d never written a word of fiction before. I’d never even taken a creative writing class. She said, “Neither had I.” I had been reading the HARRY POTTER series at the time, and decided to follow the “write what you like to read” advice. I brought home a huge stack of YA novels and immersed myself in it for many months, read a ton of books on novel writing, and then I got started. BEST. DECISION. EVER!
Amy: Do you create playlists for your characters or do anything specifically musical for a book to help you get in the zone?
Sharon: Considering the musical theme of my novel, you would think so! But, I don’t write to music. I usually write in complete silence. Or, if I’m trying to block out conversations around me, I’ll put on some white noise. I have a favorite thunderstorm soundtrack on YouTube that blocks everything else out, and is also great background for a stormy, emotional moment! (I may have added a thunderstorm to a scene once because of it!)
Amy: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe them?
Sharon: Ah, that’s a tough question! ALL kinds of people read YA, and I don’t like to put any limits on who might enjoy it! BETWEEN THE NOTES might resonate for those experiencing financial hardship in their own lives, or trying to overcome a fear as Ivy is with her stage fright, or people who have a family member with a disability, or have ever felt like they didn’t belong, or simply enjoy stories about real characters with real problems. Let’s just go with: Anyone who likes a good story. And music. Also, kissing. Don’t forget the kissing.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite writing snack?
Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
Assembling giant coloring books for binding.
Music to write by?
A rain or thunderstorm soundtrack
Pantser or Plotter?
A little bit of both.
Favorite Broadway musical?
A band you loved when you were sixteen that you still listen to.
About the Interviewer:
Amy Allgeyer was born in Northern Kentucky, the youngest of seven kids. As an architect, she spends her days remodeling hundred year-old homes in Boise, Idaho, where she lives with her son, a borrowed accordion, and a fake owl named Alan. She enjoys travelling, shopping and cupcakes. Amy is represented by Danielle Chiotti, of Upstart Crow Literary.
In her YA novel, WATER FOR STARFISH (Albert Whitman & Co, March 2016), seventeen year-old Liberty Briscoe is sent to live with her granny in rural Kentucky. When she discovers the coal mine has poisoned the town’s water, she sets out on an Erin Brockovich-type mission to find proof, plunging her into a world of secrets, lies and danger.