Sarah Addison Allen on writing, her childhood “dream” career & a FIRST FROST giveaway!

firstfrostlgI was first charmed by Sarah Addison Allen’s writing and how effortlessly she weaves magic through her stories when I picked up her 2007 debut, GARDEN SPELLS. It’s the story of the Waverley sisters — Claire and Sydney — two women with a curious family history, peculiar mystical ‘gifts,’ and a magical apple tree in the backyard with a personality all of its own. I quickly devoured the rest of her books, always hoping we’d hear more from the Waverleys one day…

So now I’d like to say, “Thank you, Sarah!”

FIRST FROST, her latest novel (out January 20th!), picks up where GARDEN SPELLS left off. We’re back in the Waverley home, and though some time has passed and life has changed for everyone, being reunited with the characters and their stories was oh-so satisfying for this fan.

Okay, enough of my gushing. Here’s more about Sarah, including the career she dreamed of as a child, her advice for writers, and a secret about Claire Waverley…

The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.

Despite a lifelong love of writing, I didn’t always want to be a writer. When I was a kid, my most fervent hope was to become a trash man when I grew up. I would daydream about it.

But I gave up on my dream of waste management and decided to pursue writing as a career when I graduated from college. I wrote for about 12 years, sold a few small things, but then I went through a very long dry spell during which I wrote like a fiend, trying to follow what was hot in the market, and couldn’t sell a thing. That’s when I decided to write the story I wanted to write, not the story I thought would mostly likely get published. I followed my voice, not the market. I wrote Garden Spells. And that’s when my big break occurred

Occasionally, though, I still daydream about how fun it would be to ride on the back of a garbage truck.

Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel.

One of the main characters in First Frost, Claire Waverley, is associated with a couple of hidden “easter eggs” in the book.  Although a standalone book, First Frost is a continuation of my 2007 book Garden Spells, and there are a few metafictional nods to that first book die-hard fans of Garden Spells might recognize.  One hint: Claire actually describes the cover of Garden Spells when referring to something else in First Frost.

If you were a drink (preferably alcoholic), what would you be and why?

I love this question.

A Scarlett O’Hara (Southern Comfort, cranberry juice, lime juice)— because, like Scarlett, I sometimes look at curtains and think they would make awesome dresses.

But occasionally I’m a Rhett Butler (Southern Comfort, lime juice, lemon juice, Triple Sec, powdered sugar) and not give a damn.

Now I want a sit down with a drink and watch Gone with the Wind.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Trying to get published is sometimes a disheartening process because writing isn’t just what we do, it’s who we are.  Rejection feels so personal.  The best advice I can give is to just keep writing, no matter what.  Don’t give up because of the dark days. Succeed in spite of them.  The dark days will make the bright days seem even brighter.  So bright you can hardly stand it.

Talk about one book that made an impact on you.

Maybe not one book, but one genre.  I am a big fan of magical realism. And my favorites continue to be the first I ever read, in college. I think the newness, the way this literary device opened a whole new world for me when I discovered it, made these titles unforgettable, like first loves: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chapppell, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel, A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters by Julian Barnes.

Thank you, Sarah, for stopping by!

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, January 23rd to enter to win a copy of FIRST FROST (U.S. only). Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

About Sarah:

Allen, Sarah Addison (c) Amber S. Wallace
Photo by Amber S. Wallace.

SARAH ADDISON ALLEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper, and Lost Lake. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. Visit her at Follow Sarah on Facebook and Twitter.


Author: Karma Brown

Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

27 Replies to “Sarah Addison Allen on writing, her childhood “dream” career & a FIRST FROST giveaway!”

  1. Hallo, Hallo! 🙂

    I’m thrilled to bits I caught this being tweeted about because I’ve meant to return to the Deb Ball since the new Debs took over! 🙂 It’s been a bit crazy busy, but I look forward getting to know each of you & your lovely stories! Today, it is awesome being able to celebrate the *First Frost!* by an author I’ve been intrigued to read and finally had a chance to soak inside a novel of courtesy of Book Browse’s First Impressions programme! I’m going to be expanding my thoughts on the novel close to the Pub date, but ooh! I personally loved the story inside this novel for the way in which the writing inside the book enchanted your imagination as you read it! Little elements of joy were sprinkled throughout the narrative, but it is the voice of the novel itself that held my interest the most! I love discovering a novel’s heart and this one had a captivating one!

    Ironically, I prefer “First Frost” over “Garden Spells” which I’ll talk about on my blog, but it goes to the ‘voice’ and the ‘style’ of approach of how the two stories are set apart; at least for me.

    I love her explanations behind why sometimes she’s more Scarlett than Rhett & vice versa! What a clever way to celebrate a mixed drink and inject it with a bobble of insight into your own personality! Loved that! 🙂 And, who doesn’t like a bit of Triple Sec? My favourite sinful cocktail is a Cosmo, yet going into it I didn’t think I was a Cosmo kind of gal — who knew my favourite ingredient is Vodka? lol I haven’t had one in years, but I liked that it was a sophisticated drink for a girl. Being that I grew up in a family whose grandfather & father liked martini’s it felt appropriate I’d like my own variation therein!

    I agree with Ms. Allen: as soon as I read “The Golem & the Jinni” by Helene Wecker, the genre Magical Realism had cast a permanent spell over me! We all have one novel of Magical Realism that gives us such a permanence of the genre we never quite want to step outside it! The second time I felt that rush of inertia for Magical Realism was whilst I was curled inside “Lemongrass Hope” by Amy Impellizzeri! I still think of each of these stories time to time, and have an expanding list of ‘next reads’ for Magical Realism on my “tCC” list which is my contribution to “The Classics Club”! I just might need to add-on the books Ms. Allen’s mentioned today! Wow. Love finding ‘new ones!’ to read!! Eek. Wicked joy!

    I wanted to say the best stories are the ones that you write out of your own heart’s intention to tell a story that is singular your own. No one can chase after anyone else’s moon because the ink is always cast against what your own pen will reveal! Own your writings and own your creativity — let it take flight and soar!

    As I have a copy of this novel, you do not have to include me in the bookaway. I will pick up a final copy one day, so it’s okay!

  2. I enjoyed learning about Sarah Addison Allen since I have read her captivating and unforgettable novels which transport me to another time and place. Sarah is talented and creative and this new release sounds memorable and special.

  3. What a fun interview! I write magical realism because of how strongly I connected with SAA’s books. They are gorgeously written with whimsical characters that won’t leave you alone. I am so excited for FIRST FROST and for more from Claire, Sydney, and Bay. Thanks so much for sharing this interview, Karma! ♡

  4. Why I love Sarah Addison Allen’s novels which allow me to dream in vivid color, experience wonderful locales and enjoy stories filled with unique, and larger than life characters. Always a pleasurable and long lasting fulfilling dream come true. Thanks for this great interview.

  5. I look forward to reading this book. I first noticed the book when I saw the gorgeous and magical cover. Then, goodreads had a contest where I learned more about the book. Happy Pub Day!

  6. First Frost sounds like a fantastic read! I love books with a southern twist! I’ve not read any of the books Sarah mentioned in her interview, but will have to check them out!

    I follow on FB and Twitter 😀

  7. I’ve read a couple of Sarah’s books and really enjoyed them. Can’t wait to read this one!

    I follow The Debutante Ball on FB and Twitter.

  8. If there is anyone who hasn’t heard of this book, I am quite amazed! First Frost is all over the place. Thank you for this interview and giveaway.
    I follow on Twitter
    I like on FB.

  9. So excited about this giveaway. I haven’t read garden spells but I’ve bought it to read when I get first frost. Can’t wait to start reading these books!!! I also followed on both Twitter and Facebook.

  10. I just purchased Garden Spells and cannot wait to read it and First Frost. I am following Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter

  11. I’ve not read Sarah Addison Allen and thank you for this introduction. I look forward to reading this book, First Frost. Thank you~

  12. She still daydreams about how fun it would be to ride on the back of a garbage truck? To each their own…but all I can imagine about it is the stench! Especially in the summer!

  13. Garden Spells was my first foray into the magical realism genre and it was so interesting! A tree throwing apples?! I’d love to read the follow-up. And I follow the debutante ball on Twitter.

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