Author Interview: Sara Benincasa

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Here at Reads By Amanda, we love authors. How could you not? From our favorite series, books, moments, scenes and characters, there's a writer who created all those moments and decided it had to be written down and shared with the world. 

Click on to read my interview with Sara Benincasa!

I found that doing a modern retelling on The Great Gatsby, a novel that is less than one hundred years old, amazingly bold. Did you consider any other classic works before choosing The Great Gatsby?

Well, I thought of Lord of the Flies. And as it turns out, a novel inspired by LOTF is my next project! I'm revising it right now. But Gatsby seemed timely for a variety of reasons -- exploring the nouveau riche, Internet fame, etc. And I know Gatsby better than I know LOTF. So Gatsby seemed a good place to start.

You're an award winning comedian, radio talk show host, writer and covered the 2008 United States presidential election as a citizen journalist for MTV. What made you want to get into fiction? Is that just another step to world domination?

You know, writing fiction was my dream when I was a little kid. As I grew up, I turned more to nonfiction creative pursuits, but I always retained the idea that it would be a lovely thing to write a novel. It felt like a natural progression for me, although it looks a bit funny from the outside for a stand-up comedian to write a YA novel.

What's your writing process like?

I waste a lot of time doing silly things on the Internet and then I buckle down in order to make my deadline! So there's some panic and anxiety associated with the process. When I actually get into a flow, I love it. It's so much fun. I've found that when a story is taking awhile to get into my brain, I have to let go of the word count and just create. Iced coffee and using the treadmill helps me.

Your first book, Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom was a memoir on mental disorders. Is the writing process different when it's nonfiction, especially something more personal?

Writing an entire book about my experience with mental illness - man, was that hard. Emotionally hard. The stories were all in my head, so it's not like I had to build a world out of nothing. But memoirists do live twice, and it was difficult dredging up those old stories and emotions. However, I think the book turned out well and I'm quite glad I went through the effort to make it happen.

What scenes from The Great Gatsby were you excited to write about in Great?

I was psyched to do my own version of the scene with the multicolored shirts. There are Gatsby references hidden throughout Great like little Easter eggs. But I think Great really stands on its own as a novel about privilege and fame and the blurry line between love and obsession.

The idea of the American dream is seen in Jacinta where through the internet, she reinvents herself. Do you think the internet has changed what The American Dream is all about or simply enhanced it?

Oh, I think The American Dream is more complex and nuanced now. There are several versions of it, many of which involve fame. It's not just about the house with a white picket fence in the suburbs and the 2.5 kids anymore. Everyone is famous on the Internet. Everyone can live out a dream.

Do you think the themes of The Great Gatsby still hold true today?

Absolutely. The lust for wealth and for the approval of one's peers -- that never changes.

Who's your favorite character in Great?

I love Skags, a badass butch chick who is largely a peripheral character. I'm going to give her a story of her own on the site (Young Adult Review Network) and I'm super-psyched.

There's an LGBT element to this. As we keep pushing forward for equality, do you think that LGBT representation in the media will change and evolve for the better?

Oh, I think eventually LGBTQ representation will be as normal and unremarkable as anything status quo. We've got a long way to go, but we're doing pretty well for ourselves, considering where we're coming from.

Your next novel "Believers," inspired by "Lord of the Flies," is about a group of evangelical Christian teen girls from Texas who crash-land on a deserted island. Can you tell us more about it and how you came up with it?

Oh, I just wanted to see what would happen when these ostensibly good girls end up going very, very bad. I think human nature is human nature, and whether you're dealing with boys, girls, or people who don't accept the gender binary, you're dealing with humans. And humans crave power. These girls certainly do.

Thank you so much for coming here and answering my questions!

Thank you for asking! I really appreciate it!

Great is available now! It's awesome and I totally recommend it. Check out my book review of Great here.

Follow Sara on Twitter and check out her website

Thanks for reading! 

Amanda Leon
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