September 4th, 2018


Interview: Courtney Summers

I've been reading the works of Courtney Summers since her first novel, Cracked Up to Be, was released. Today marks the release of her latest book, Sadie, a story that offers both a first-person narrative and podcast transcripts as alternating chapters follow Sadie's search for the person she believes is responsible for the death of her little sister and the search for Sadie, who told no one where she was going nor who she suspected.

I read the majority of this book in one sitting (it would have been all in one sitting if I hadn't been interrupted!) and loyally listened to the every week. Now, as part of her blog tour, I got to ask Courtney a few things about Sadie and her story.

Tell us the story behind Sadie's name. Her middle name, Lera, has importance, and I'd love to know if her first and last name do as well!

When I have to settle on a character’s name, I go through a list of them (usually on Nymbler), until I see one and feel a "click." I came across the name "Sadie" and I just knew in my gut it belonged to her. Her last name, Hunter, is a little bit of a nod to what she’s set out to do, and . . . a bit of a nod to Sam and Dean Winchester. :)

Throughout the book, Sadie visits many towns. Do any of them resemble your own hometown?

I think all of the towns in the novel start with aspects from places that are familiar to me, personally, in my life, but through the course of writing the novel those fictitious places are built upon and evolve until they become something that is wholly their own, and maybe - hopefully - a little familiar to everyone.

The following questions and answers are part of the general blog tour.

Did you experience more difficulty writing one or the other, or did you like writing in one form more?

I enjoyed both of them. Writing Sadie’s perspective was very familiar to me because all of my books feature an intensely close first person, female point-of-view. Writing West’s perspective, the podcast format, proved a little more challenging. Not so much because of the way it was written (scripts) but because each episode had to propel Sadie’s narrative forward and give us a different way of looking at the things she went through.

How much of the novel did you write in chronological order, and how much did you jump around?

So far, I’ve only ever been able to write in chronological order!

Was this how you always envisioned the book or did it change as you wrote it?

Regina Spektor said something really interesting about writing songs that I’ve always loved and related to as an author. She said, “[A]s soon as you try and take a song from your mind into piano and voice and into the real world, something gets lost and it’s like a moment where, in that moment you forget how it was and it’s this new way. And then when you make a record, even those ideas that you had, then those get all turned and changed. So in the end, I think, it just becomes its own thing and really I think a song could be recorded a million different ways and so what my records are, it just happened like that, but it’s not like, this is how I planned it from the very beginning because I have no idea, I can’t remember.”

I feel something similar when writing - the heart of my idea remains intact, but the way it takes its ultimate form is always a little different (or even a lot different) than I might have been expecting, which makes it difficult to recall the starting point. But that’s okay as long as the heart is still there and you’re satisfied with and believe in what you’ve created.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why?

When I first started Sadie, I was extremely skeptical of West - he had to prove himself to readers over the course of his narrative and given the nature of his job, I was curious to see where writing him would take me. I really loved the way his arc unfolded. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by it, but more gratified by it than I realized I would be.

I identify with little pieces of all of my characters, but I like to keep those to myself because I don’t want risk readers thinking about me while they read. I like my role as an author to be invisible.

What gave you the idea for the novel?

One of the things that inspired Sadie was the way we consume violence against women and girls as a form of entertainment. When we do that, we reduce its victims to objects, which suggests a level of disposability - that a girl’s pain is only valuable to us if we’re being entertained by it. But it’s not her responsibility to entertain us. What is our responsibility to us? I really wanted to explore that and the way we dismiss missing girls and what the cost of that ultimately is.

Do you have a favorite scene, quote, or moment from Sadie?

My favorite moment is a spoiler, but my favorite quote is this: “I wish this was a love story.”

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I used to have an answer for this kind of question but the older I get, that’s changed. I wouldn’t tell her anything. Her experience as a writer unfolded the way it was supposed to and I like how it’s turning out.

~ ~ ~

A little more about the book:

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray - a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America - overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Read an excerpt of Sadie by Courtney Summers.

Listen to THE GIRLS podcast on or . The Girls podcast is a full cast audio drama that contains much of West McCray's part of the story. Sadie's chapters are not included in the podcast, so you should read the book to get the full story!

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Summers (2015)
Interview: Courtney Summers (2008)
Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Book Review: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
What Makes Courtney Summers Smile
So You Want to Read YA? Booklist by Little Willow at Stacked