{Interview} with Sarah J. Schmitt, author of It’s a Wonderful Death

It's a Wonderful Death Sarah Schmitt

You know that the YA Debut Authors Bash is one of our favorite events ever. This is our third year participating, and we’re lucky enough to participate twice this year! We’re pretty pumped about the author we’re presenting today because she’s totally new to us, too. That’s one of our favorite things about the YA Debut Authors Bash–getting to know brand new authors and checking out the amazing new reads to fill our shelves with. Without further ado, let’s get to know author Sarah J. Schmitt, who stopped by to chat with us about her debut, It’s a Wonderful Death!


Thanks for stopping by Swoony Boys Podcast to chat with us today, Sarah. Describe It’s a Wonderful Death in one Tweet. 140 characters or less–no cheating

#IAWD is Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carol with an It’s A Wonderful Life twist.

Love it! What was your favorite part to write?

“THE END”? Okay, seriously, I think it would be the very beginning, when we first meet RJ. She’s a very unlikable character who has gotten slapped with a raw deal, which hopefully makes the reader a little empathic to her. What I like most about the scene is RJ shows off her funny, albeit very snarky personality and does so without apology.

So fun! What is the most interesting thing you have Googled in the name of research?

For an early novel I spent about two days researching survivalist stock up sites and how to deliver a targeted biological weapon that would go unnoticed but spread quickly for maximum effectiveness. If I don’t have an FBI file by now, I think someone should question exactly who is monitoring the internet.

How do you build your characters? Do you know every single detail of their lives?

Most of the time my stories start with an very basic plot, enough for me to know what kind of character I need. And then I begin to interview them. Interview might be a bit of a mild phrase. It’s essentially a character interrogation. In this “chat” we have, the character responds in her (or his) voice and style. I ask everything from which family do they love the most (and hate) to the time they were most disappointed to even more personal stuff about sex and fears. By digging into the character’s psyche, I figure out what things I can pull out to add layers to the plot. I don’t know everything about them, but I do not the things that make them tick and the things that can shut them down.

We love that. How would you introduce RJ to readers?

She’s the stereotypical mean girl that everyone loves to hate but wouldn’t dare tell that to her face. But when you look a little below the surface, hopefully you will see that she’s a person controlled by fear.

Why will our readers swoon over Gideon? We want to know all the things!

Believe it or not but RJ does not have a romantic connection in IAWD. She does have some chemistry with Gideon, the grim reaper who collected her soul and started this whole mess, Gideon is a character that is completely swoon-worthy. Not just because he has his whole chiseled look going for him but because he can hold his own with RJ. And just when you think he could care less about her, he shows his sensitive side. However, I resisted letting them actually get together. I really wanted to keep RJ’s life uncomplicated by romance. I wanted her decisions to be made purely for herself. But, if there is someday a companion piece to this book, RJ and Gideon just might have a shot at afterlife love. On a side note, there is a very sweet “first love” relationship between two important characters that has been known to tempt some readers enough to demand these two get a book of their own. So readers, let me know what you think about the relationship between Madeline and Daniel. They are uber-adorable.

If you could introduce one of your characters to another character from any other book, who would it be and why?

Wow. I think this is my favorite question of all time. And possibly the hardest. I think I would want to introduce RJ to Adina from Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. First of all, it’s one of my favorite books of all time and second, I would love to be a fly on the wall as the two of them got to know each other. With all the witty banter and self-importance, I’m pretty sure they could come up with a plan for world peace by lunch time. (After more than a few jabs below the belt to establish mutual respect.)

We love that book, too. Do you have more plans for RJ?

For the most part, RJ’s story has been told. But there has been discussion about a companion book that would feature many of the awesome characters but the POV would be from someone else. I don’t want to say who just in case it never comes to be, but if it happens, I promise, RJ will be smack in the middle of the story. How could she not be? She’s RJ.

Well, we can’t wait for that book if you write it! Got a playlist you want to share?

I do have a playlist and it can be found here:

There is a song for every chapter.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

A good RJ.

What is the one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

Back in the day, before I came to my senses, I wanted to be an educational lobbyist in Washington. I even worked as the student lobbyist when I was in college. But, after running a statewide political campaign, I realized the world of politics would be better off without me. Now I advise from the comfort of my living room. Oddly enough, no one listens.

What’s your most anticipated upcoming book-to-screen adaptation?

I am so ready for the final two films in the Divergent series. Now that Hunger Games is over, it’s the last unfinished series that I’m waiting for. I’m not good at waiting. (Although I am very interested to see how the TV adaptation of Vampire Academy goes. I love that series so much!)

Us, too! What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

Read. Read. Read. I think a lot of times writers can get caught up in writing and they forget to read. And not just reading to figure out who you are as a writer, but for fun. Don’t think you have time to read? One word:AUDIOBOOK. It’s still reading.

What great advice! Which character makes you swoon the most (yours or someone else’s)?

Mark Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. What can I say? I’m an old fashioned girl at heart.

*swoon* We him, too. Is there ever anything that you always wish someone would ask you, but they never do?

Yes. I have read a few reviews where the readers didn’t like that they didn’t get to know RJ before she died and I have been waiting for the chance to explain my reason for that. The answer: I didn’t think people would want to read about her if they saw what a horrible person unless they had a reason to pity her.

Great question (and answer). Thanks again for coming by, Sarah. We can’t wait to get our ::grabbyhands:: on It’s a Wonderful Death!

Aww! Thank you so much for having me! This has been a lot of fun!

***About Sarah J. Schmitt***

Author Sarah J SchmittSarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.

Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, It’s a Wonderful Death, comes out Fall, 2015 from Strange Chemistry.

Find Sarah Here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***About the Book***

{Interview} with Sarah J. Schmitt, author of It’s a Wonderful DeathIt's a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt
Published by Sky Pony Press on October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 320
Goodreads Buy the Book

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

What do you think, Pretties? Are you as excited as we are to check out this book? Don’t forget to check out all of the featured Debut Authors over at YAReads.

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