Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Valentines Winter Formal: Sara B. Larson

Welcome to day three of The Valentines Winter Formal! Today, I have a mini interview with four YA Valentines authors: Lynne Matson, Sara B. Larson Jen McConnel, and Bethany Hagen. I'm exclusively featuring Sara B. Larson, author of Defy! Be sure to read the entire post, for lots of new content, and some exciting things happening soon with Sara and several other lovely authors!

Meet Sara!

Alyssa: Sara, you and I are huge fans of Kristin Cashore. I've seen reviews that have compared your book to Cashore's books. What comparisons do YOU see between your book and Cashore's books, besides the genre? :) 

Sara: Yes, I ADORE Kristin Cashore’s books. I think I’ve mentioned to you before, it completely blows me away to have my book compared to hers. I am just a huge fangirl of hers. One aspect of her writing that I love is how complex her characters are—that they are strong and capable and talented (wouldn’t it be amazing to see Katsa and Alexa spar??), but they are also hurting, and confused, sometimes even broken. Despite their strengths, they are still seeking who they truly are and what they truly want in life. I think that is true of my characters as well. Alexa is a determined, strong character, but she also has a deep internal struggle with all of the loss she’s endured in her life. She also has a difficult time reconciling the girl she’s had to bury to survive, with the person she’s pretending to be—especially when it comes to her feelings for Damian and Rylan. I also love how Kristin creates such a strong mood and setting in her books. I hope that readers will feel the same way about DEFY; that they will feel like they are there in the jungles of Antion with Alexa.  

Alyssa: What alternate title(s) would you choose for Defy

Sara: I originally called it DAUGHTER OF WAR, but Scholastic suggested a one-word title. I wracked my brain for one word that embodied this book. When I thought of DEFY I just knew it was perfect—and the team at Scholastic agreed! 

Alyssa: I like both, but Defy definitely fits! What's one thing you found difficult about writing Defy

Sara: When I was in the very early stages of drafting DEFY, I hit a wall and ended up putting it down to work on a different book. It wasn’t until I realized one of the main characters was keeping a MAJOR secret from me that I was able to figure out the rest of the plot. After I discovered that one secret, the rest of the book flew out of me. 

Alyssa: If you could be a character in Defy, which would you be and why? 

Sara: I’d totally pick Alexa. I’d love to be that awesome with a sword, and who wouldn’t want to be in her shoes with Rylan and Prince Damian around??

Alyssa: Giggles. You're so right. If you had to rewrite Defy, what's one thing you would change?

Sara: Wow, that’s a tough question. Every author I know could continue revising their book until the end of time if given the chance. There’s always something that could be tweaked. When I go back to read through it to find details for the sequel, I still find little things I could change. But I’m so grateful to have had such an awesome editor to work with (Lisa Sandell); she helped me make DEFY the best that it could be, and honestly, any changes I’d make now wouldn’t change the book. It would just be word adjustments that probably wouldn’t really alter it one bit. 

About the Author:

Sara B. Larson wrote her first book in second grade about a woman who had a premature baby, complete with a "to scale" drawing of the baby's size—while her mom was pregnant. To say she was a bit precocious is putting it lightly. Now that she's an adult, she writes books for teens that have magic and romance and kick-butt girls (and very few premature babies). She lives in Utah with her husband, two young sons and baby girl. She writes during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in "the art of multitasking." On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish.

About the Book:

Defy by Sara B. Larson
Book One of the Defy series
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Official Summary:

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?


Summarize your book using lyrics from a well-known song (or songs)!

Lynne Matson: 

Ok, so you know music is my thing right? This may be my favorite question EVER.

Contenders included A Beautiful Lie by Thirty Seconds to Mars (but it's more for Thad), and If I Die Young by the Band Perry (but it's more for Charley).

In the end, I chose Ready to Fall by Rise Against:

Hold on slow down again from the top now and tell me everything
I know I've been gone for what seems like forever
But I'm here now waiting
To convince you that I'm not a ghost or a stranger
But closer than you think
She said, "just go on to what you
Pretend is your life but
Please don't die on me"

Wings won't take me
Heights don't phase me
So take a step
But don't look down
Take a step

Now I'm standing on the rooftop ready to fall
I think I'm at the edge now but I could be wrong
I'm standing on the rooftop ready to fall

*Honorable Mention to The Island (Part 1) Dawn by Pendulum (I would've picked this song but it's not well-known:D). I had to include it because it's from Nil's point of view…and creepy:

You arrive
In the rising sun
The hidden passenger
That I've been taking
Close your eyes
Let's forget again
As you drag me down
I will take you in


Sara B Larson: 

I have to have music playing while I'm writing, so for me, it's choosing which songs to use that is difficult! One song that I really loved while writing Defy was COSMIC LOVE by Florence + the Machine...

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat

I tried to find the sound

But then it stopped, and I was in the darkness,

So darkness I became


I took the stars from my eyes, and then I made a map

And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out

You left me in the dark

No dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight

In the shadow of your heart

I think that can be symbolic of many different things in DEFY and what Alexa deals with, especially with the losses she endures and the love she feels for a certain character in the book. I also listened to Canto Alla Vita by Josh Groban/The Corrs. The translation of part of it is: 

I sing to life and to its tragic beauty

To pain and to strife, but all that dances through me

The rise and the fall; I've lived through it all

Alexa truly has lived through many things, and she absolutely rises through it, staying strong and doing what she must do to survive—to live. I just adore those lyrics. I also just love the powerful, haunting qualities of both of these songs.


Jen McConnel: 

The song I play when I'm working on this series pretty much sums it up: "It's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine."


Bethany Hagen: 

Here's a sample from one of my favorite songs, "The Royal We" by the Silversun Pickups.  Like any SP song, I'm not sure what it's really about, but with the talk of a father's will and looking over your shoulder, it's a perfect fit for Landry Park.

Can it please you still 
Renaming your father's will?
Or does it make you ill
To feel safe again look over your shoulder
Carefully look over your shoulder

You said you believe but believing won't fly 
Right before you hit your prime
That's when we fell in love but not the first time.

Twitter Party Info:

The twitter party will be held on Feb 12 with the hashtag #YAValsFormal and will start from 6:30 PM EST to maybe 7:30—8:00 PM EST. There will be prizes donated by the spotlighted YA Valentines and the four Winter Formal authors will also be attending! Chat about books, embarrassing Valentine moments, and other fun (preferably embarrassing, though not required) things!  We will also be serving virtual snacks. 


Feb. 10th: Lynne Matson @ Fiction Freak
Feb. 11th: Bethany Hagen @ Book Haven Extraordinaire
Feb. 12th: Sara. B Larson @ The Eater of Books!
Feb. 13th: Jen McConnel @ YA Reads


  1. Nice interview, I love the title Daughter of War as well. And I can definitely see how If I Die Young applies to Charley. Florence + the Machine is the bomb dot com, I definitely love the song :D Thanks for sharing, Alyssa!

    1. The title is pretty cool! And I absolutely love Florence :D Thank you for stopping by, Eileen!

  2. Oh pooey, I totally missed out on the party. It couldn't be helped though. Today was a busy day for me. Hope you all had lots and lots of fun.

    Great interview. I haven't had the chance to read Defy yet. I was surprised that it had a different title. I like Defy better.

    1. Today was a busy day for me as well! Don't feel too bad :)

      I hope you read Defy at some point! And Defy does fit the book pretty well. I'm glad you like the standing title.


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