Monday, September 7, 2020

Sarah Warburton

Sarah Warburton is the oldest of four sisters, raised in Virginia, and an avid reader and knitter. She has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in classics from the University of Georgia and another from Brown. Warburton has worked at independent bookstores--Page One Books in Albuquerque and Books on the Square in Providence--and spent ten years as a writer, which led her to become lead editor for UpClose Magazine. Her short story "Margaret's Magnolia" appeared in Southern Arts Journal, and her Pushcart prize nominated story "Survival English" appeared in Oyster River Page. Now she lives with her family--husband, son, daughter, and hound dog--in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Warburton's new novel is Once Two Sisters.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I chose Once Two Sisters because it felt like the beginning of a fairy tale. Right away you know that these two sisters are different, and that is the seed of the story. The older sister, Ava, used to tell stories to her younger sister Ava, and as an adult and best-selling novelist, she mined Zoe’s life for her plots. Ava is controlled, successful, and cerebral. Zoe is bold, reckless, and passionate. Each sister measures herself against the other. Also Once Two Sisters is only a half step away from Once Upon a Time, and throughout the novel Ava continues to use the storytelling technique as a coping mechanism. I hope that in addition to setting up the conflict, Once Two Sisters also hints at the promise of a happily-ever-after.

What's in a name?

I think Zoe answers this one best: “Two are always in opposition—good and bad, oldest and youngest, smart and dumb, black and white—and with names like Ava and Zoe, it was obvious we were the alpha and omega, the only two our parents intended to have.”

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be surprised it took so long! Seriously, even as a teenager I read crime novels and thrillers, graduating from Lois Duncan and Agatha Christie to Barbara Michaels, Daphne DuMaurier, Stephen King and Ed McBain. I spent hours in the library, running my hands over the stacks, pulling out whatever caught my interest. I hope that my teenage self would open up Once Two Sisters, glance at the first page, and be hooked.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The beginning of this book was so clear to me, like I could hear Zoe whispering in my ear. But when I submitted the first chapter to Embark Literary Journal (which only publishes first chapters) I didn’t even have the ending completely written. I knew where the story was going, but it took a long weekend with my writing group and a lot of queso and chips for me to write all the way to “The End.” And even after that I did plenty of revisions to get it where I wanted it.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

My sisters would laugh at this, but they are definitely a huge source of inspiration. As the oldest of four, I really think our families are the people we know the best, and yet because we think we know them so well, we can mischaracterize or just plan misunderstand huge parts of their lives. And I also find music hugely inspirational. While I was writing Once Two Sisters, I listened to First Aid Kit, a Swedish folk duo made up of two sisters, music from the television show Good Girls to pump myself up, and a playlist I created called “Creepy” with songs by Rasputina, Freedy Johnson, and Neko Case to get in the right frame of mind for the missile silo scenes.
Visit Sarah Warburton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Once Two Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue