by Sarah Nicole Smetana
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Coming of Age
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository | Books-A-Million
Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her.
But when he dies unexpectedly, her dreams—and her reality—shatter.
While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.
Set against the scintillating landscape of Southern California, The Midnights is an evocative coming-of-age debut about loss, creativity, and finding your voice while you’re still finding yourself.
Hi everyone! Today’s special guest for the author spotlight, a segment I’m calling Behind The Pages, is Sarah Nicole Smetana!
Her debut YA novel, The Midnights is actually one of my most anticipated read to be released this year. After seeing her book when I came across her tweet last year, I knew this book will be a major must read. And to my surprise, when I contacted her last month if she was available for an interview, I didn’t expect her name to land on my inbox and get a response. She’s so sweet and I’m super excited to share to you guys Sarah Nicole Smetana’s story behind The Midnights, her inspiration and her journey on writing this fantastic coming of age debut.
So let’s get behind the book and don’t forget to check The Midnights book playlist on Spotify.
Have you always wanted to write? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My answer to this question is always: yes! I’ve always been writing. But I didn’t truly start writing fiction until I was in college. Before that, I wrote predominately poetry and song lyrics. I didn’t really know I wanted to be a novelist until about halfway through college.
What was your inspiration for writing The Midnights? Was there any story behind how it all started?
It started because I wanted to write about a band in the Southern California music scene. And I got about 150 pages into that first draft before I decided to start over. Turns out writing about a band in and of itself wasn’t very interesting. I realized that I really needed to hone in on my main character, and figure out her personal journey outside of the band—which mean figuring out her family, her background, and her own personal dreams. Who was she? What did she really want? (It took a long time to figure out!)
Was The Midnights the first story you ever wrote? How long did it take you to write it?
It wasn’t the first book I started, but it was the first book I finished. Before THE MIDNIGHTS, I was working on another novel that was sort of a literary ghost story. It’s funny to look back on that now, though, because it was really so similar to THE MIDNIGHTS in terms of theme and character, despite the content and plot being so different. There was a dead parent, and bourgeoning love, and a process of self-discovery through family discovery. So… I guess there was a story I really wanted to write, and I just hadn’t found the way to tell it. As for THE MIDNIGHTS itself, seven years have passed between now and when I first started writing the book in earnest.
You may hit road blocks, or moments where your story isn’t working, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it.
What was your least favorite part of writing The Midnights? Were there times that you felt you wouldn’t finish it?
Starting. I hate starting. It’s so hard to build a book out of nothing. And I started THE MIDNIGHTS over four or five times before I really figures out my story. I never wanted to give up, but it was definitely a rough process, and every time I worried I’d never get it right.
Did you ever experienced Writer’s Block? How did you overcome it?
Definitely! When I feel blocked or like nothing good is coming out, I want so badly to keep working, keep pushing through that wall. But I’ve learned that when I get to those places, what I really need to do is step away. Come back the next day, with a fresh mindset. Also, when I’m blocked, I read. Immersing myself in other stories always helps my work become better.
How do you think readers can relate to Susannah in terms of experience and character?
Throughout THE MIDNIGHTS, Susannah is really trying to figure out the type of person she wants to be. She makes a lot of mistakes, and does some things she’s not proud of—something I think we can all relate to—but ultimately, she takes responsibility, and thus control of her destiny. I hope this inspires readers to trust in themselves and pursue their passions unapologetically, even when it feels like your world is crashing down.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors/writers who want to be like you?
Keep going. Honestly, that’s the only thing that matters. You may hit road blocks, or moments where your story isn’t working, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it. However, you might have to reexamine how you’re telling it—which is scary but often so necessary
Now that you know more about this amazing debut, I manage to tear Sarah Nicole Smetana away for a rapid round of questions, a segment of this author spotlight I’m calling, Quickfire.
What’s the last album you bought?
A vinyl copy of The Get Up Kids’ SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT, which was one of my favorite albums as a teen.
Are you a morning person or a nyctophile?
Neither? But definitely more of a morning person.
Cats or Dogs?
Both. But right now I only have a cat, and she’d be pretty upset if I didn’t say cats. So: cats.
How do you travel?
By subway, for better or worse.
High Heels or Roller Blades?
Roller blades (I happen to really love roller blading!)
Who is your fashion inspiration?
My grandmother. She was so glamorous.
Polaroid or Mirrorless?
Pinball or Surfboard?
What is your favorite vintage color?
Olive green, or maybe mustard yellow.
Your electric guitar or coffee?
Coffee. I love playing guitar, but there are also a whole bunch of instruments I wouldn’t mind trying out.
About The Author:
Sarah Nicole Smetana grew up in Orange, California, where she wrote songs, played in a few bands, and successfully pilfered all of her parents’ best vinyl records. She received her BFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and her MFA in Fiction from The New School. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three-legged cat. The Midnights is her first novel.