Tuesday, August 11, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview – Sarah Bannan – Weightless

Please welcome Sarah Bannan whose debut Weightless, a timely tale is getting some terrific press. Its out right now but Sarah's publisher St. Martin's Press is sponsoring a giveaway for one print copy US ONLY, details below. So enjoy the chat then enter for a chance to win a copy for yourself!

ISBN-13: 9781250078988
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: 06/30/2015
Length: 336pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school's cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn's bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign.

Giveaway is for one print copy US ONLY
of Weightless by Sarah Bannan
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks St. Martin's Press
Good Luck!

Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:


They came out in groups of three, wearing matching shorts and T-shirts, their hair tied back with orange and black ribbons. Their eyes were wide and they yelled and clapped and turned, precisely, rehearsed. They smiled and their lipstick was pink and smooth, their teeth white and perfect. They sparkled.
We sat in the bleachers, towels underneath our legs, trying not to burn our skin on the metal. We wore our Nicole Richie sunglasses and our Auburn and Alabama baseball caps and our Abercrombie tank tops and shorts. The scoreboard on the left of the field displayed the temperature—97 degrees—and the Adamsville morning news said that the heat index made it closer to 105. This is something we had learned to get used to, to air so hot and sticky that you felt like you were moving through liquid, to summers so hot you moved as little as humanly possible, and even then, only to get into air-conditioned air. The temperature flashed away and the time appeared—5.24 P.M. The sun would set in two, maybe three hours, but the sky was already turning a deeper orange; some clouds gave a little shelter, softening the glare. We sat and we let the heat do what it had to; sweat collected underneath our knees, between our legs, on the backs of our necks.
Three more moved to the field, all spirit fingers and toe touches and back handsprings. Thin, tanned and golden: they were smiling and they did not sweat. They looked fresh and impossibly clean and their mascara didn’t run and their foundation didn’t melt and their hair didn’t frizz. We clapped and we cheered and we watched and we waited. The marching band played in the bleachers across from us: brass, drums, Adams High’s fight song. We sang along to the parts we knew, we screamed during the parts we didn’t. And it always ended the same way:
The pep rally would have been indoors, would have taken place in the gym on the basketball court, like always, like we were used to, only a bunch of seniors had vandalized the walls the day after graduation, and they hadn’t turned up to do their punishment, to remove their spray paint with paint thinner and methyl chloride: the administration couldn’t do a fucking thing now, until the day before the school year began. But Mr. Overton refused to give in, refused to have the janitors paint over it. So, here we were, a week before that, a gym full of expletives or some kind of soft core porno crap or something. Our parents had been told that the whole school was being fumigated for asbestos, but we knew better. We knew the real story. We’d heard it from Taylor Lyon, and she’d told everybody, and eventually, it was something that everybody knew. Or everybody who was anybody.
We watched the girls run to the side of the track, but Taylor Lyon stayed in the center and we watched her cheer. All on her own. The faculty sponsors sat in the front row—Miss Simpson, Mr. Ferris, Coach Cox—and we watched them watch her, watch her as she jumped and clapped and touched her toes and yelled. She yelled so much louder than you could imagine, a deep voice from an almost invisible body:
“Jam with us! You’ve got to, got to, got to jam with us! Go AHS!”
Taylor had hair that was just a little red—mostly brown, but with fiery glints—and when the sun hit it, the little glints looked supershiny, like something out of a Crayola box. When we were in kindergarten, Mrs. Cornish picked her for everything: to be Snow White in our end-of-year production, to be the line leader, to be the Pilgrim who said grace at Thanksgiving. Mrs. Cornish loved Taylor, and said her red hair was her “crowning glory.” And when she said that, or when she picked Taylor for another honor, for another role, Taylor’s face would burn deep, a red that looked like it stung her cheeks, like it ran through her whole body. It was strange to watch her now, and we wondered if she thought it was strange too, how much she had changed.
The heat was still unbearable, and we took out bottles of Gatorade and tried to focus on Taylor as she did her back handsprings, as she tumbled across the track. She came back to the center again, gave us spirit fingers and a smile, picked up her pom-poms, and she ran to the side. Her solo was over.
Gemma Davies moved to the center, and a cloud started to drift over the sun, putting half of Gemma into the shade. Gemma’s hair was blond, almost peroxide, but we knew it wasn’t, that was her natural color, it had been since preschool. We watched as her ponytail rose and fell with each toe touch. Gemma’s gymnastics were the best—she could jump higher than any of the others, and she was the captain and probably always would be. Gemma smiled at everybody, or that’s what everybody said, and she had been voted “Best Personality” our freshman and sophomore year. Now she was going to be a junior, just like us, and her boyfriend, Andrew Wright, was going to be a senior. You’d think things like this were lame, that only in Hilary Duff movies did crap like this make a difference, but it was weird how much it meant to us, even if we didn’t say it out loud.
We’d heard that Gemma’s dad was freaked about Andrew at first—Reverend Davies was our preacher—and everybody knew that he used to come with her and Andrew to the movies and to Olive Garden for their Saturday night date. Whether he sat with them, or a few rows or tables back, we weren’t sure. We imagined he drove his own car, and that Andrew at least got to be alone with Gemma for the drive, but even that wasn’t entirely clear. Gemma’s life was a series of rules, this much we knew, and she wasn’t some preacher’s daughter who went against things, who flouted authority, like Ashlee and Jessica Simpson. Gemma did as she was told, or at least for the most part, and for that and maybe because of how she looked, she was popular. Popular and good.
We thought that Reverend Davies should have been happy about Andrew. He was good too, probably a lot nicer than Gemma. Andrew Wright was tall and thin and gangly and kind. He opened doors for girls and said “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” and he never laughed during prayers or when somebody dropped their tray in the cafeteria. He had sandy-brown hair and freckles and our mothers used to tell us he was “darling,” whatever that meant. He wore khakis and New Balance sneakers and his face was as smooth as a little boy’s, he probably didn’t even have to shave. He was so tall compared to Gemma we said it was actually gross to watch them kiss, her on her tippy toes, him hunching over. He had a thing for tiny girls, we said later. The tinier, the better. Gemma could have fit in his pocket, he could take her home and nobody would know.
Gemma Davies wasn’t allowed to wear a bathing suit—a religious thing—and when we were in fourth grade, and we took a field trip to the water park in Moulton, she had to wear her giant culottes and an old T-shirt in the water. Nobody laughed at her—not that any of us remember—but when we went again a year later, Gemma was sick, and she didn’t come at all.
We looked at her uniform now—the top like a corset, the skirt no bigger than a postage stamp. Her navel popped out every time she raised her arms. She was toned and her body was tanned and she must have waxed her legs and everything ’cause when she did her arabesque, everything was all perfect and clean. She was so pretty. So pretty and light.
We were always surprised that Reverend Davies allowed her to cheer. We guessed he didn’t mind ’cause there were so many rules for cheerleading in Alabama, so many things they couldn’t do, most of them involving the hips and the ass. You could do stuff above the waist, but none of the hip-hop stuff that you’d see inBring It On. But the cheerleaders still danced, they still moved more than you’d think girls who couldn’t wear bathing suits would be allowed to. We wondered what the difference was between the uniform and a bathing suit—from where we were sitting we couldn’t tell—but there must have been something, ’cause Reverend Davies was there in the bleachers, with Mrs. Davies, near the front, right behind the teachers. Gemma’s mother had been a cheerleader at Adams back when she was in school, and Gemma had the old yearbooks to prove it. Mrs. Davies still kinda looked like a cheerleader, we thought, or like a Desperate Housewife, and the guys in our class called her a MILF. We wondered if they really meant it, and even though it was disgusting that guys said shit like that, we were still kinda jealous of Gemma and her mom: you’d see them walking through the mall together any time you were there, bags like accordions, from Banana Republic and Abercrombie and Parisians, and the next day in school Gemma would be wearing something new.
We watched Gemma’s miniature frame as she tumbled across the track—she was no more than five foot two. Her makeup sparkled—Benefit or Stila, we guessed—and her eyes were so blue you wanted to dive into them. Her eyes were wide and big, bigger than a Disney character’s, and new teachers, teachers who hadn’t grown up in Adamsville and didn’t know that Mrs. Davies used to be captain of the cheerleading squad and Reverend Davies used to be captain of the football team, they thought that Gemma might be a little bit slow, her eyes seemed so empty. In sixth grade, when a new social studies teacher started, Gemma had been asked who the current president of the United States was and she hadn’t answered. At first, Mr. Abbot thought she was being fresh and, as the seconds and minutes passed and she continued to sit still and silent, he thought she might suffer from a form of retardation. He sent Gemma to the principal’s office and, later, we found out Mr. Abbot had suggested she be given a basic aptitude and IQ test. She didn’t even get to the principal—the secretary, Mrs. Bullen, she knew the Davies and knew this was a misunderstanding. She sent Gemma home sick.
Gemma was the nicest girl in our class, that was what everybody said. But when you thought about it, when you really tried to remember the nice stuff she did, it was kinda hard. Looking back, we wondered if it was because she was so dumb, if that was the reason we let the label stick. Or maybe because she was so pretty, her hair so blond and smooth and her skin so perfect and tanned. Being honest, it was probably just because we said it so many times. Sometimes you will something to be true.
Gemma did her chant and while she clapped and turned and pivoted and jumped, some of the senior guys in the back started shouting.
“I want Davies to have my babies!”
“One more handspring, Gemma!”
“Take it off!”
We turned and watched the guys throw their arms around, hit one another on the back, cover their mouths as they spoke to muffle the sound. We turned back to watch Reverend Davies—he didn’t move his head. But he lifted his arm around his wife’s shoulder and held her next to him. She pushed him off. It was too hot.
Gemma ran to the end of the track and gave Taylor a hug. We watched as Brooke Moore moved to the center, now fully in the shade.
Brooke’s eyes were so brown they were nearly black, and she wore white eyeliner that made them pop—we could see that even from where we were sitting, even with her covered in shadow. She had freckles, thousands of them, but she smothered them with liquid foundation. When she started to cheer, you could hear the murmuring start, the speculation from the guys and the girls, and maybe even from some of the parents, the alumni scattered around us.
“Baby got back.”
“That’s at least ten pounds.”
“Fifteen, easy.”
“She went on the Pill.”
“I think she looks better.”
“You’re such a liar.”
“Y’all be nice.”
“Just saying.”
“Summer of Twinkies.”
“Summer of sex.”
“Shut up.”
The uniform was two sizes too small, that much was for sure, and we heard later that her mother had bought it as a kind of motivation for her to drop the weight. Brooke was tall, her legs were longer than Gemma’s whole body, we guessed, and “when you’re five foot eight, and you put on a few pounds, a cheerleading uniform isn’t kind,” we overheard Miss Simpson saying later. Whatever, we thought.
Her routine was faultless, really. Arms tight and rigid, clapping in straight lines, just below her chin. She did Candlesticks and Raise the Roof and an arabesque, but her size was distracting.
Brooke was still beautiful, this much we knew. She’d even done some modeling for our local department store, Parisians, and a couple of years ago, in the Galleria in Birmingham, she was scouted by an actual agency who wanted her to come to New York for some interviews. Why she didn’t go, we weren’t sure. Some people said this proved that the scouting never happened, and other people said it wasn’t a modeling agency at all, and that she hadn’t been scouted, but that she’d gone to Birmingham to audition for “Survivor” or “Big Brother” or “Paris Hilton’s BFF” or some other reality show, and that she had gotten a call back, but that they couldn’t afford the airline ticket to New York. But that didn’t seem likely either, we thought. Brooke Moore wasn’t that poor. It was just something people said.
Whatever the truth, Brooke’s features were flawless, her skin had never seen a zit, not even a whitehead. She was a Neutrogena ad, we said. She hadn’t always been tall—in elementary school, she’d been one of the smallest in the class, and she looked even smaller because her hair was always long, almost down to her waist, and she wore it in braids sometimes, and you could be hypnotized by the cords of brown, some parts glimmering like pennies, other parts smooth like a Hershey bar, weaving in and out of each other and tied with a perfect purple bauble.
Brooke always wanted to have it cut—she begged her mother to let her get a bob, something short she could tuck behind her ears. But her mother refused, insisted that girls were meant to have long hair, that Brooke’s prominent chin, her slightly crooked nose, all of this would be exposed with the wrong haircut. “A bob would be unforgiving,” she was overheard saying in Winn-Dixie, in church, at the country club, to whomever had just complimented her on her daughter’s beautiful hair.
When she was ten, Brooke rode her bike to a hair salon—to Cutting Edge or Just Cuts or maybe it was even Sam’s—her allowance for the past six months stashed in her pocket. She brought a photograph of Jennifer Aniston’s bob and one of Tiffani Thiessen’s shag. Her mother had arrived before the scissors came out and the cut had been aborted. Her braids stayed for years.
We watched Brooke now, her hair just shoulder length—a battle had obviously been won, somewhere in the last five years. And her chin didn’t jut, we didn’t think, her nose looked perfect to us, but we’d heard that Mrs. Moore had been exploring plastic surgery options for Brooke over the summer, had even been to the bank to see about a loan. Something about a deviated septum. And we wondered now if liposuction had been added to the list. She was the fattest of all the cheerleaders, that was obvious. She’d probably go back to her pseudo-bulimia, we said to each other. Not enough self-control to be rexy.
The uniform was too tight all over but it looked the worst in her chest—she was huge, had gotten even bigger over the summer. We’d heard before that she had to special-order her bras from the Web, nobody carried a 32 triple F or whatever freaky size she was. We wondered what she was doing for underwear now. Somebody behind us said, “Her boobs are like something out of National Geographic,” and we laughed a little, because we knew what they meant. When we were twelve or thirteen, when everybody was just getting training bras, Brooke was already stocked in Victoria’s Secret and she’d come into school wearing a white shirt with a red bra you could see underneath.
Brooke finished her chant and people yelled and clapped and called her name—fat or not, she was still popular, people loved her. We looked around and we could see Mrs. Moore—not sitting in the bleachers, but standing on the side of the parking lot, a cigarette in her left hand, a Diet Coke in her right, platinum hair catching the sun, and even from a distance you could see it was perfectly set. She wore huge sunglasses that obscured half her face—we couldn’t tell if she was even looking at the field. She didn’t clap. Her hands were full.
*   *   *
We shifted on the bleachers. Wiped the sweat from the backs of our necks, let out breath that lifted our bangs from our faces. We tried to cool down however we could.
We looked out at the field in front of us. We sat in front of the fifty-yard line, straight down the middle, and we said we had never seen the field looking so green, so polished, the white lines sharper than anything in HD. In the center, the letters “AHS” and a bear, our mascot, our hero. We looked across the field, to the other set of bleachers, to the band playing away, in a sea of black and orange. And then, beyond the bleachers, you could see a couple of telephone poles, the parking lot, half a dozen pine trees. And empty pink sky. It looked like our football field had been dropped in the middle of a wasteland, that’s how little you could see beyond it, the bleachers, the parking lot.
Lauren Brink turned to us. “I may actually die from this heat. This might actually be how I, like, go.”
We laughed and Nicole pulled her T-shirt up to her face, wiping the sweat. “I am literally sweating buckets. Literally.”
Lauren rolled her eyes. “Really? Like literally, literally?” Nicole’s lip might have trembled, we couldn’t tell.
Jessica Grady put her hand on Nicole’s arm. “Brooke in training,” she whispered. And Nicole laughed, even though we thought this might be true and that probably wasn’t something to laugh about. Another Brooke.
We looked over at Brooke’s mother, smoking another cigarette, drinking yet another Diet Coke. “I don’t even think that woman has sweat glands,” Lauren said. “Or tear ducts.” We smiled, and wondered what it would be like to have Mrs. Moore as your mother, your actual mother—not your leader in Girl Scouts or your parent rep at a youth group field trip. Your actual mother. We imagined we wouldn’t like it. At all.
The only thing that Mrs. Moore liked about Brooke, from what we could see—and from what she told our mothers at PTA meetings or in the Winn-Dixie—was Shane Duggan. Shane was popular, beautiful, a good student—not smart, but not dumb—his dad a former quarterback, a star, had molded Shane into his image. And Shane had been into Brooke for years before she agreed to go out with him. That’s what we heard, or that’s what people said. He was going to be a senior, and over summer vacation, Shane and Brooke had been seen at the movies together—at Salt, Iron Man 2, Prince of Persia—and they’d been seen at Wendy’s, sitting in the same side of the booth, sharing a Frosty or something like that. And Shane had been seen picking up Brooke from the country club, where she lifeguarded.
Nobody could say for sure that they were a couple—they never went to parties together—but people were pretty sure they were having sex, and that was why she’d gone on the Pill, and that was why she’d piled on the weight. Brooke and Gemma had taken the virginity pledge at church the previous year, wore rings on their wedding fingers just to prove it, but once she started hanging out with Shane, everybody was sure that was over. When we were freshmen, a thing had gone around on text about Brooke being a prick tease, and some people said that Shane was only into her to get her to give it up. Whatever, we thought. Pledge or no pledge, Shane Duggan was hot.
We watched as the eight girls performed together, the varsity cheerleading squad: we had watched them, along with twenty others, the last week of our sophomore year, and we had voted, voted for the most talented, yes, but also for the prettiest, for the most popular, for the ones that we knew the very best. And now here they were, representing the best of us, who we wished we could be.
We clapped and we yelled and the band played the fight song again and the football team took to the field, behind the cheerleaders. We watched Coach Cox come to the center, with his orange hair, orange cap, ears so big we could see light shining through them. What a dork.
“We have a real exciting year ahead of us, y’all.” The microphone squealed, we covered our ears, the senior guys booed, the parents grimaced. Coach Cox stepped back and waited and leaned forward again, speaking more softly now. “We’ve got here a real talented bunch of boys, boys I believe in, boys that I’ve known since they were in diapers, boys I saw the first day they threw a football, the first day they caught one too.” He paused, looked down at his hands—he wrote on his body always, had done this for years, and tonight it looked like he’d written stuff all the way up his forearms, probably reaching up to his shoulders. “I’d like to thank these boys for their dedication this summer. They’ve played through some mighty hot weather and they haven’t complained. But they need your support over the next few months to keep them strong, to keep them focused. I’d ask all y’all to come to all the games—home and away—and cheer on a team I think can go unbeaten. We only lost two games last year—and I know—Iknow—we can do it. If we trust in ourselves, if we trust in the Lord, if we stay focused, stay strong. Praise the Lord.”
Coach Cox stepped back. We clapped, the band beat the drums, and we watched as Reverend Davies came to the microphone.
He put his hand up and we got quiet. An ambulance siren could be heard a few streets away, the sound of cars just barely audible. “Let us pray.”
And then it began. The prayer, the prayer for the year. In Adamsville, we didn’t pray that we’d graduate, that we’d get along, that we’d get good jobs or get into Ivy League schools. We didn’t pray that some of us would manage to get out of here, that some of us might have a life outside of this town. We prayed for our football team, that they’d go undefeated, that we would get to State. That we would win.
We were meant to keep our heads bowed as we prayed. And we did, mostly, only it was so hot and the prayer was so long, we couldn’t help but look around, and something drew our eyes to the parking lot, just to the left of the field. We could see somebody emerge from a red car—a Honda?—and begin to walk toward the bleachers. As Reverend Davies spoke, we watched this figure, this girl, move closer and closer to us. Even from a distance, we knew we had never seen her before.
The prayer finished and people clapped again. The sun was beginning to set. The air was five degrees cooler, maybe more. We picked up our towels, and we headed down to the field—we would say hello to Taylor, if she saw us, and then we would hang around to see where people were going.
We searched the crowd for that girl—it should be easy to notice something new, we thought, when everything in our town was always the same—but we couldn’t see her. We thought she had disappeared. And then, as we got closer to the field, as we filed down the bleachers, we saw her again: tiny, beautiful. She had brown hair, long and shiny and curled just at the ends. She was wearing jeans—how could she stand the heat?—and a white tank top that was so white it nearly blinded you. Perfect.
It’s important to remember how weird this was—a new girl coming to our town—how unused to it we all were. And not just us—our parents, the teachers, the coaches—them too. Adamsville wasn’t a place that people came to. It was a place you were from, where you were born, where you were raised, where you stayed. And in spite of this, or because of this, everybody tried really hard to make things work with Carolyn, with her mom, and that’s something that nobody seems to remember or realize or know. We wanted to make things work and we wanted to know her. But it’s a two-way street, you know. It wasn’t just up to us. We couldn’t be the only ones responsible, the only ones to blame.
The girl looked uncertain, unsteady, staring at her feet, and then she took out a phone and started to type, real fast, like we would. And then Reverend Davies yelled, “Lynn.” She looked up and then she was steady. He walked over to her and she walked toward him and he called out again and this time we heard it right: “Carolyn.” He put his arm around her, and led her down the track.
We stood still and didn’t talk and we watched her walk, her hair swishing back and forth, her hands in her back pockets. Reverend Davies got a little bit ahead of her—they were dodging the band—and she stumbled a little, on what we didn’t know. She disappeared behind Michael Morrison and his tuba and then she reappeared, flip-flop in one of her hands, putting it back onto her foot. Even from where we were, we knew that everything about her was perfect, manicured, groomed. The reverend looked back and gestured to her again—and he pointed her toward the girls’ locker room. He waited outside. She walked toward the door, running into Ken Phillips, the school’s janitor—we called him Janitor Ken—on her way in. His mop, his broom, his pail of soapy water: we watched all of it tip over to one side as this tiny girl disappeared through the large double doors.
We’d think about this moment later: the first time we saw her, her flip-flop in one hand, her silky smooth hair, her perfectly small body. Later, when they showed the pictures of her on TV, we thought she looked older, and not in a good way. And her eyes: we especially noticed her eyes. They looked tired. Tired and sad and bored and fed up. And tired.
But all of that was later, after everything had been said and done. That day, the day on the football field, along the track, we saw Carolyn Lessing for the first time, with a flip-flop in one hand, nervous but smiling. We saw her the way she really was: perfect.

Copyright © 2015 by Sarah Bannan

Sarah, Hi! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell us about Weightless.
Nothing much happens in Adamsville, Alabama. It’s a place where people are born, where they’re raised, where they stay. At Adams High, the students exalt their football team, their cheerleaders, their longstanding rituals.
In the summer of 2010, Carolyn Lessing moves to town. Sophisticated, talented and intelligent, the 15 year-old immediately rattles the high school’s status quo. When she starts dating senior and football star, Shane Duggan - the on-again/off-again boyfriend of Adams High’s queen bee, Brooke Moore - she inadvertently takes on the social order of this conservative school and town.
Told over the course of one year, Weightless is a story of rumor, cliques, hypocrisy, guilt, bullying and memory. It tracks the life of a town and a school, and how a group of teenagers deal with difference, fear and loss.

Weightless has gotten some great press.
Not that any author wants bad press but does great press put undue pressure on an author?
Gosh, no! It’s all terribly affirming and exciting to hear people respond positively to the novel, and to get readers’, bloggers’ and critics’ reactions to the text. I don’t think that very many writers suffer from excessive levels of confidence (I think we’re mostly overloaded with self-doubt and self-loathing), so knowing that people believe in my writing makes it easier for me, makes me feel more confident in my next project. Engagement of any sort with my work makes me feel like it’s not a waste of time, makes me feel less silly about the whole endeavor.
Probably like many first novelists, I never truly believed Weightless would ever be published. The fact that the book is now in shops and libraries and with readers is a thrilling surprise.

Sarah, Weightless is a timely tale. Here in Missouri, a cyber-bullying case that led to the suicide of Megan Meier in the St. Louis metro area, directly resulted in a new US bill being passed known as “Megan Meier Cyber-bullying Prevention Act”.
This is definitely a book that should be read by a multitude of readers.
Is your target audience adult, YA or everyone?
Before I started writing, I had already read so many haunting and tragic stories in the news about bullying and cyber-bullying, in particular. It made me think about my own time in high school, and what that experience would look like now, almost twenty years later.
I moved to a small town in Alabama when I was thirteen. I wasn’t the object of bullying myself - and I had great friends, great teachers, don’t get me wrong - but it sometimes seemed (particularly when I look back as an adult) that so many of the rituals of our lives were almost designed to make kids, especially girls, compete with each other, judge each other. And, sometimes, bully one another. We voted on our cheerleaders, class favorites, best dressed, and on and on…and I thought about these things a lot as I started writing. I was almost surprised that there wasn’t more bullying when I was in school. Maybe I just don’t remember, or wanted to forget.
But then I thought - would it be harder now, with a camera phone at every party, with Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat and Facebook? Or would it just be different?
People talk a lot about how merciless bullying is today - because of social media. It can happen all day, all night, there’s no escape, not like when we were younger. And it can go viral. But there’s one good thing about the online dimension of bullying - and that’s that it provides evidence, and pushes this behavior into our consciousness. And maybe this forces us to think about bullying in a way that we didn’t before. I don’t remember people being particularly concerned about ‘mean girls’ when I was growing up, but we certainly are now. And that’s a good thing, so long as we’re careful in how we apply these labels. 
To answer the actual question (!), I didn’t have a target audience in mind when I was writing - I simply wrote the story I felt I wanted to tell, and wrote the kind of book I’d like to read myself. I probably thought, pre-publication, that the adult audience would be its most natural place, if only because that’s the market that I fall into and because I have always read novels about teenagers, long after I’ve been a teenager myself (think PREP, SKIPPY DIES, CATCHER IN THE RYE). But, once the book was published, I saw that the readership, the audience, was much wider than I could have ever dreamed. I’ve had amazing feedback from readers aged 13 and aged 82…grandparents and parents and non-parents and young people…each with their own distinctive take, their own points of contact.

Youre a born and bred Yank but youve married an Irishman and are now living full time in Dublin.
Is bullying a global problem or is it a US homegrown problem?
I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject - I am a novelist first and foremost - but I did enough research to know that the problem is universal, in both time and place. In Ireland alone, I’ve read so many heartbreaking and haunting stories in recent years about bullying, and those are only the ones that have made the news.

What if anything do you miss about the US?
My family and friends. I have a wonderful, wonderful Irish family and magnificent Irish friends, but I miss my parents and my sisters and my nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins…and all of my friends. People, really. I miss people.
And peanut butter is just not the same in Ireland. So peanut butter, too.

Sarah, some authors have known since childhood that writing was in their blood, some fall into it by accident.
Tell us your authordom tale please.
I’m a reader who turned into a writer, I think. I grew up in a house full of books and reading was always part of our lives - my mother didn’t care if we were reading Jane Austen or Sweet Valley, so long as we were reading, and I think that has stuck with me through my whole life. I read widely and feverishly.
When I went to college, I studied literature and literary history at Georgetown, moved to Ireland and worked with a publisher, and then began work at the Arts Council, where I’ve been Head of Literature since 2007. All of these phases of my life have involved reading, and reading is - aside from my family - the greatest pleasure and gift of my life.
My work in the Arts Council also - on top of the copious reading - involves meeting lots of authors, reading works in progress, going to literary festivals and events…and doing this for so many years helped me learn a great deal about how writers work, what it might take to finish a novel.
I had a vague notion that I wanted to write something about a high school - a high school in Alabama - and with that in mind I applied for an evening writing course back in 2010. I used a pen name to apply because I knew the course tutors from my work, and didn’t want them to feel pressured to take me. They took me, as it happened, under the name of Sarah Dolan (my mother’s maiden name). Once I began the course, my tutors and classmates were so encouraging and engaged, we all pushed each other to do more and get more and more done. The course was absolutely instrumental in pushing me to finish the novel and then get an agent. Now that I’ve written one book, I think I’m kind of hooked and can’t stop!

So now that you have book number one under your belt will book number two be harder or easier to write do you think?
Since beginning work on my second novel, I’ve heard a lot about “second novel syndrome” or “the difficult second album”. It’s funny, though, and worth remembering, because when I was writing the first novel, everybody told me that first novels all end up in the bottom drawer! I guess it just proves that every novel is hard to write, but I love it, and when it works, it’s the best job in the world. (I’m super curious to know what the adages are around the third novel!)

Speaking of book number two can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s very different territory from WEIGHTLESS- still set in the States, but in the Northeast and not the South - and it’s about an adult couple, and it’s much more of an internal story, much more character driven.
Sarah, your bio states that youre the Head of Literature with the Arts Council.
What exactly does that mean.
Firstly, I should say that I’m currently on a sabbatical from my role at the Arts Council in order to finish my next book…! But, in a nutshell, I manage all aspects of the Arts Council’s literature policy, strategy and budget. It’s a hugely varied job, but much of the work centers around running grant programs for individual writers, publishers, journals, resource organizations and literary festivals. We also run direct initiatives and promotions, and I’m particularly proud to have been at the Arts Council to establish the first children’s laureate - Laureate na nOg - and the first Laureate for Irish Fiction. Probably the most gratifying part of my job is the work that we do with individual writers. Ireland is renowned for its contemporary literature and the atmosphere at the moment is extremely positive. So many new and exciting writers are entering the scene, and supporting emerging talent is always a big part of what the Arts Council does.

(go raibh maith agat) Google tells me this is Thank You in Irish. Good luck with the novel and thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today.
Will you be traveling to the states to do any touring?
I have no immediate plans in this regard, but have just been over in to visit my family and do a few local things….and am always very open to travel and love meeting readers face to face! Mostly, though, I’m trying to buckle down on the next novel.

 Connect with Sarah - Website - Facebook - Twitter  - Pinterest

MEET SARAH:Sarah Bannan was born in 1978 in upstate New York. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2000 and then moved to Ireland, where she has lived ever since. She is the Head of Literature at the Irish Arts Council and lives in Dublin with her husband and daughter.

Today's Gonereading item is:
A collection of items for kids
Click HERE for the buy page

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Oh gosh Debbie, this is so my kind of read! I have a hard time resisting these type of reads for some reason. Wonderful review and thanks so much for putting this on my radar!

    1. You were the first person I thought of Ali when I saw this:

  2. I wonder if the reason why someone is bullied varies? I'm from the Philipppines, and I'm ashamed that one of the main reasons why one is bullied is back in my country is because they're poor or because they didn't grow up in the city or they don't speak a certain way. Sad but true...

    1. That's a great question Braine. I know that here in the States if you happen to be different for any reason you get targeted for bullying, I developed early and was made fun of because of that and also because of being poorish.
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Yes, I did experience bullying when I was young and walking to school alone. I never did tell a soul about it. I never forgot though. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. traveler, I'm so sorry. Bullying is the one thing we really need to wipe out in our world because bullying children grow up into bullying,brutal adults. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  4. Yes, I was bullied in middle school because I spoke English without an accent and I liked to study. The Hispanic girls in my neighborhood and their friends at school would call me awful names.

    1. Oh cpr, I'm sorry. It's such a loss of innocence when we're targeted at a young age. I hope you showed up at your High School reunion and shamed them all!! Okay I am a bit vindictive :-)

  5. Sounds like a fantastic read and I have been hearing a lot about it too. I wasn't the target of any bullying, thank goodness.

  6. Bullying is a hard subject, and they will turn on you in an instant. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for commenting and helping to spread the word Kim!