“Okay, where do I start? This quick read was not what I expected. When asked to review the book, I had expected some kind of romance novel. One featuring religious themes for sure, but a romance novel nonetheless. But what I got instead was a fascinating young adult novel all about hypocrisy, being human, and the cost of living a lie.”-Amazon Review
“There is something that draws someone to such a taboo matter, but beyond the tense/angst amongst the characters there is a seriousness that can not be ignored. That choices we make, individually or together, can change the lives of many. To write about such matters with religion mixed into the storyline takes guts and walks a fine line that I enjoyed reading about.”-Book Flirts
“I write to entertain, but also to make people think, which is why I turned to self-publishing: certain stigmas and taboos are not always marketable or easy to categorize. So I write the kind of stories I like to read, and wish I could read more of (I guess I just have weird taste?).”-From her website.
SARABETH: I grew up on young adult fiction. It may sound lame, but some of my best friends and role models are found in fiction. I like to think I have the spunk of Anne Shirley, the independence of Jane Eyre, and the bravery of Katniss Everdeen. It’s safe to say that books helped shape my identity and made me feel less alone during the lonely years of middle school.
RW: Why is your most recent novella called Where There’s Smoke?
SARABETH: The story centers around a fire that not only causes physical destruction, but threatens to expose lies and secrets as well. I like the title because it sounds ominous.
RW: Your book touches on some themes that are somewhat timely today. Some of those being Christianity and how certain elements of it can take things a bit to the extreme, such as people being outcasts for their sexuality. What was the inspiration for Where There’s Smoke?
SARABETH: I had a brief stint in seminary a year after undergrad. I saw the worst stereotypes of what Christians could be, and found more encouragement with my atheist friends than I did with many of the students I met there. That angered me.
RW: Who is the main character?
SARABETH: A teenage girl named Hannah who belongs to a very conservative Christian community, where the “Cool Crowd” consists of wannabe missionaries who believe they hold a monopoly on the truth.
RW: Is Hannah the “perfect” Christian?
SARABETH: Hannah isn’t always likeable, and she doesn’t make the best decisions, but she’s real. How many of us survived high school without saying, doing, or believing things we weren’t sure about just to fit in? That’s human nature. Flawed, yet empathic characters are my favorite to write.
RW: I’ve experienced the adult version “Cool Crowds” in churches. What reality does Hannah find out about this “Cool Crowd”?
SARABETH: They use their faith to manipulate and alienate people, which Hannah doesn’t realize until she befriends a lesbian student, Lia, whose coming out made her an outcast. It’s through Lia that Hannah experiences genuine respect and friendship, and is confronted about her own hypocritical tendencies.
RW: What message do you think your book delivers to the reader?
SARABETH: That authenticity is always worth it, despite the personal costs to your popularity or reputation. That people who don’t always agree with you can still teach you valuable lessons.
RW: What did you learn about yourself from writing this book?
Sarabeth: That I am by no means as pure in my motives and as sincere as I’d like to be, since I too am a Christian.
RW: Describe your book in one word.
To get Sarabeth Caplin’s books:
Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter: my memoir about growing up Jewish and becoming a Christian as an adult.
Someone You Already Know: My first YA novel about two teenage rape victims struggling to understand what the other went through, and how societal views and stereotypes about rape affect them both.
Public Displays of Convention: Another YA novel about a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet kind of woman trying to figure out how best to live as a single woman after her college boyfriend unexpectedly dumps her.
Sorting Myself: a short collection of poetry, with mainly religious and feminist themes.
To Connect With Sarabeth:
Facebook: Author Sarabeth Caplin
RW: Tell us about your early journals?
SARABETH: I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, and have always had a habit of narrating my life as it happens. Because my first love was fiction, my journals read like first-person young adult novels.
RW: And how did you come to self-publishing
SARABETH: It wasn’t until 2012, after graduating college, that I figured out self-publishing. But one need not be published to call themselves a writer.
RW: What is your biggest tip for someone to getting published?
SARABETH: Always have beta readers who are willing to be honest with you about what needs improvement in your story. Even if you think you’re ready to publish, it’s always better to wait. The first versions of my first two books were published before they were ready, and it was such a pain to redo them.
RW: Are you opposed to having an agent and doing what is called ‘traditional’ publishing?
SARABETH: I like being my own boss for now, but I’m not ruling out the possibility. It’s important for me to find an agent who is okay with self-publishing on the side.
RW: What are you working on right now?
SARABETH: My first attempt at a New Adult novel about a young woman whose boyfriend is accused of rape by an ex girlfriend, and he challenges her to interview all his previous exes to prove he’s innocent.
RW: What book are you reading at this time?
SARABETH: I’m rereading Mockingjay in preparation for the movie, as well as The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts.
RW: If you could have written any book that exists, other than your own, what would it be and why?
SARABETH: I admire the deviousness of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I wish I were capable of that level of intrigue, suspense, and psychological mind-bending. Also Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God, because it’s basically a far more articulate version of my life story.
Sarabeth writes about real topics and not just what ifs. I’ve personally started a number of what Christian communities can really be like books but never finished them. I think perhaps in part I’m just old. I need some of Sarabeth’s youth and energy. To take this topic head on is admirable, especially being a Christian. I think people might find it surprising that one Christian author finds another Christian author writing about the realities of some communities as being admirable. Don’t be. We know there are the bad communities out there. Connect with Sarabeth and support her through the purchase of her books. Young indie authors, old indie authors, all authors need our support. And as always, remember . . .
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