Conversations with author Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar

Hi friends!

I only just graduated from college a few years ago, and I'm currently in graduate school (only one more paper to go and I'm done for the year! But that's neither here nor there...), so it hasn't been that long since I lived through the post-graduation humiliation of trying to assimilate into "adulthood". I read a quote once that summed up the journey so well I remember feeling relieved that I wasn't the only person in the world who felt totally lost:

"You think, six months ago I had a great on-campus job and social life. Now, I'm living at home, I have two friends and no academic stimulation for the first time in 20 years -- sitting in the basement, surfing the Internet, looking for work. It's like, wow, I was just studying the cultural history of aborigines and now I'm looking at jobs where the main duties are answering the phone and typing."


How very true! And this struggle is threaded throughout Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar's novel Little Miss Teacher, the perfect novel for anyone who has ever stumbled into the adult world and wondered "How did I get here and what the H do I do now?"


Read on to find out more about what Cassandra has to say on life, writing, and looking for answers :).


My Writing Identity
I have always been a writer and known I would write books, but one concept with which I continue to struggle is that of my writing identity.  What kind of writer am I, and where do I fit?  What type(s) of books am I best at writing?
  As a child and preteen, I stuck with picture books.  I wrote and illustrated story after story, actually writing some pretty good ones, although I’m afraid my artistic talent peaked in about third grade.  “The Pig Who Hated Being Pink” was one of my better youthful attempts; my hand-made book was checked out so frequently from my elementary school library that it literally fell apart.  Another strong effort was a rhyming Halloween book called “Williebelle Witch.”  I still remember the first sentence:  “Williebelle Witch had to make the punch for the annual Halloween witches’ brunch.”  (It’s quite a different first line than that of Little Miss Teacher!)   
As I entered my teenage years, my main characters shifted from pigs and cartoonish witches to teenage girls.  I can’t begin to imagine how many novels I started and abandoned during this time; I remember a murder mystery that reached several chapters in length only to fall flat.  It’s a shame I didn’t attempt more short stories during this time; I had tons of ideas, but I lacked the discipline and stamina to complete a novel. 
 In college, I dabbled in literary fiction.  I wrote a short story of which I remember being particularly proud; I even won a writing contest for it.  However, as much as I love reading these types of books, I only managed a few decent pieces.  Now that I’m older (and wiser?), maybe I’ll try this genre again.
 Near the end of college, I tackled my first major writing project:  a young adult (today, it would be called middle-grade for the age range) mystery with a slight supernatural element.  I finished a draft in a month and picked it up again every summer for the next few years to revise it.  In The Hidden Diary, Alyssa Morgan is a 12-year-old girl recovering from her parents’ divorce; she moves into an old house with her mom and little brother and uncovers a crime from decades earlier.  I think it’s interesting to contrast her with Candace from Little Miss Teacher; though Candace is an adult and Alyssa is a child, Candace is very much concerned about her own struggles with love and work, while Alyssa is more focused on the lives of others.     
 After The Hidden Diary, I wrote a novella about a group of twenty-somethings traveling to Amsterdam.  This project was different from anything I had written before or have written since.  For one thing, my main character was- gasp- male.  Derek never fully developed for me, which is probably why that ship sank.  I didn’t get to know him the way I have my other main characters; he never became someone I really cared about.  For one, my heart didn’tbreak when his did.  As much as I believe that there’s a strong story buried somewhere in that mess, it just failed to materialize into anything substantial.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again someday.
 Four years ago, I finally decided to follow the old advice:  Write what you know.  That’s when I “met” Candace, a high school English teacher fresh from college.  Candace has hopes, dreams, and plenty of complexes to keep her both human and interesting.  She was a fictional character whose triumphs and disappointments made me feel something.  Even though I created her, and she was entirely at my mercy, I couldn’t help but be proud of her when she did well and feel sad when she was upset.  As I wrote Candace’s story, I became a writer of what I love:  chick lit.  This role felt as comfortable as those very famous traveling pants.
 So, what have I determined about myself as a writer?  I have written in several different genres, accomplishing whole novels in middle-grade fiction and chick lit.  Am I allowed to be both?  Am I allowed to be all?  I plan on starting a writing project soon and need to know:  Should I stick with chick lit or go back to adolescence?  Should Little Miss Teacher get a second year in the classroom, or should Candace just give up?  I sit here at my faithful laptop searching for an answer. 
Thanks, Cassandra, for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts! 
If you want to know more about this fabulous author's novel Little Miss Teacher, read on...
Little Miss Teacher: My 100 Word Summary
Candace Turner is a brand-new high school teacher, fresh out of college and eager to take on the world. Her students are a mixed breed of apathetic and obnoxious, and her playboy co-worker is a whole separate issue altogether. Trying to balance her job with her personal life, Candace stumbles more than once as she learns how to find her identity in a post-college world that's more awkward than adolescence.
Little Miss Teacher: What I Think
I'm not sure about word count here, but at a brief 199 pages I would estimate Little Miss Teacher is somewhere between 40,000-50,000 words, which makes it read more like a novella than a fully-developed novel. I understand the difficulty in creating a story that can captivate the reader, as I got stuck on my own novel around 42,000 words and spent the next month deleting everything I wrote. But, ultimately, I latched on to Candace because I spent my first year out of college bouncing around with no direction, but lots of hope for the future. It was the most uncertain time of my life, and Cassandra captures the essence of that strange middle place very well. 
Another great BIG thanks to Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar for taking the time to stop by and say hello! If you'd like to learn more about her, or purchase your own copy of Little Miss Teacher (and you SHOULD!), please visit Cassandra on Facebook or click here to head on over to Amazon and make your purchase.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Until next time,
Wendi

1 comment

Samantha said...

Thanks so much for participating Wendi!