In just a few short days, SIREN SISTERS, a highly-anticipated middle grade debut novel, will hit shelves! This fantasy is receiving tons of great industry buzz – Kirkus reviewed it as, "an exciting fantasy with a heart-stopping ending by an author to watch" – and it's my pleasure to host author Dana Langer on the blog today for a little Q&A about her writing life + debut novel...
In SISTER SISTERS, A soon-to-be siren finds herself responsible for the lives of her sisters--and the fisherman they curse--in this haunting debut novel.
Lolly Salt has three beautiful sisters. When they're not in school or running their small town's diner, they're secretly luring ships to their doom from the cliffs of Starbridge Cove, Maine. With alluring voices that twelve-year-old Lolly has yet to grow into (not that she wants to anyway) the Salt sisters do the work mandated by the Sea Witch, a glamorously frightening figure determined to keep the girls under her control. With their mother dead after a mysterious car accident, and their father drowning in grief, the sisters carry on with their lives and duties until a local sea captain gets suspicious about the shipwrecks.
On the day before her birthday, Lolly watches in helpless horror as her sisters are lured themselves by curse-reversing fishermen--and suddenly it's up to her and her best friend Jason to rescue the sirens of Starbridge Cove.
Hi Dana! I'm so happy to have you on the blog today chatting about SIREN SISTERS and your life as a debut middle grade author! First things first, when and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Hi Jodi! Thank you so much for having me. When I was in third grade, a professional playwright visited our class to help us write and stage an original play. (I went to a great elementary school). Of all the kids in my class, the teacher picked me and one other student to help her write the script. I got to skip gym and recess to work with them, so it was pretty much the best week of my life. I think that was when I first started to see myself as “a writer.”
Some blog readers might not know that we share the same agent, Alexander Slater at Trident Media Group! How did you first meet and query Alex, and what was your publication journey like?
I met Alex at a NJSCBWI event. He was there filling in for an agent who couldn’t attend, so it was very lucky that our paths crossed. I felt early on that we had similar taste in stories and characters, and he impressed me a lot as an editor too. I worked on a revision with him and then signed. Interestingly, I later learned that he and I had both attended the same creative writing conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, but several years apart. I’m waiting for him to write his Coen Brothers-esque YA novel.
How did you come up with the idea for your novel? Have you always enjoyed mythology?
I’m interested in familiar stories retold from an unusual point of view. I’m always curious about that character who isn’t the center of attention and why. I had actually not read The Odyssey growing up; I read it later in life in order to teach it. In the process, I found myself wishing that parts of it were told from sirens’ point of view (I’m also drawn to stories of magic and sisterhood). That was how this book started.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Are you a morning writer? Nighttime? Pantser or outliner? Do you have any strange writing quirks?
I’m very much a desperate “write whenever I can” person. I’m a teacher, so a lot of this book was drafted breathlessly during lunch breaks, school vacations, and in the hours between when I got home and when my husband got home.
How long did it take you to first-draft your book?
Once I knew what it was, about three months. (I was turning it over in my head and making false starts for about a year before that).
SIREN SISTERS has a truly stunning book cover – there's been so much buzz about it! What did you think when you first saw it, and your name in print?!
Thank you! It was surreal. I remember walking from my classroom to the cafeteria building, just staring at the picture on my phone. It was freezing out, and I was literally shaking from the cold and the shock of the whole thing. I went to the lunch table and sat down and couldn’t eat or talk to anyone.
What authors and books inspire you?
Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, Shirley Jackson, and Amy Bloom blew my mind early on with their unflinching, girl-centered voices that were also quite funny. Growing up, my favorite middle grade books were The BFG and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, really for the same reason.
How has being a high school English teacher influenced your writing process?
I find working around teenagers endlessly inspiring. They’re always curious, innovative, and asking questions about the world. They fall in love with their own creative pursuits, and it keeps me eager to do the same.
How should teachers contact you if they wish to schedule a Skype Classroom or in-person visit?
There is a contact form on my website (dana-langer.com) that goes directly to my email.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a re-telling of the Ariadne myth from the point of view of Daedalus that reimagines him as a science-minded twelve year old girl. (Nobody has seen it yet though, so it could be terrible)
Lighting Round Questions!
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
Salesperson at Victoria’s Secret (I won a prize for selling the most fancy bras in a single transaction).
Favorite past time?
Does watching crime dramas on Netflix count?
Book you could read over and over again?
A lot of short stories and collections fall into this category for me: Because They Wanted To; St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
Best spot to get a New York bagel?
Zabar’s at Grand Central Station! The cinnamon raisin bagels are delicious, and the employees are incredibly nice and efficient, even at 6AM.
Writing session must-have?
Other people’s books (when I get stuck, I like to have something else to read)
Middle grade novel at the top of your TBR pile?
Yours certainly will be as soon as it’s available! Also, Karuna Riazi’s The Gauntlet. I’m about to start reading The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, by Megan Shepard.
Thank you Dana for chatting today!
Pre-order SIREN SISTERS and NYC-area friends, come join us (I'll be there too!) at the launch party at Books of Wonder in NYC on Saturday, January 7th, from 1-3pm! Details here.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Aladdin
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Short description: A soon-to-be siren finds herself responsible for the lives of her sisters—and the fisherman they curse—in this haunting debut novel that Kirkus calls "an exciting fantasy with a heart-stopping ending by an author to watch."
Author Website: www.dana-langer.com