Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Chat With Sarah Nicole Smetana, Author of THE MIDNIGHTS

We have with us today Sarah Nicole Smetana, whose debut novel The Midnights hits shelves on March 6. Keep reading to learn what inspired her to write her story, what instrument she plays, and more.

Sarah Nicole Smetana grew up in Orange, California, where she wrote songs, played in a few bands, and successfully pilfered all of her parents’ best vinyl records. She received her BFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and her MFA in Fiction from The New School. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three-legged cat. (photo and text taken from Smetana's Goodreads profile) 

What sparked the idea for The Midnights

When I first started writing the book (so many years ago!), it was a totally different story about a band in Orange County. Sure there was drama, and betrayal, and heartbreak. And yet… I just wasn’t connecting with the characters. Something was missing.

So about 200 pages in, I stopped the draft and went back to the beginning, began trying to figure out who the protagonist was, what her family was like, where she came from. I took the new pages to my first MFA workshop, certain that I was on the right track. But people in the workshop kept asking me about the protagonist’s dad. He wasn’t on the page, wasn’t in her life, didn’t even exist in the story. Where was he, everyone wanted to know. What happened to him? And then I thought, Oh.

If you could pick one song that best fits the book, what would it be? 

Wow, what a tough question! So many different songs represent different moments in the story. But if I had to pick one, I’d say “When My Time Comes” by Dawes. Maybe it’s just because I first heard this song at a very emotional time in my life, but I always connected it to this book—the end in particular. It has such a sad undertone, and yet it feels so hopeful, too.

In your opinion, which is more challenging: starting to write a new novel or finishing the final draft?

Right now, 100% starting—but maybe that’s because I’m working on a new project, and building a book out of nothing feels like the hardest thing in the world.

What instruments can you play, and what's your favorite?

I only play the guitar, though I suppose I’d probably be able to pick up the basics of some other string instruments (like bass, or mandolin) pretty quickly if I had the time to do so. I hope I can find the time someday. I’d also love to learn how to play the piano. And the drums. Okay everything ughhh why do I have no time!

If you had to pick an actress to play Susannah Hayes in a live adaption of the novel, who would you pick? 

Strangely enough, I never really cast Susannah in my head while I was writing. I worked on The Midnights for so long, and so any actress I imagined playing Susannah in the beginning pretty quickly aged out of the role. For that reason, I’ve always thought that she’d be played by a newcomer, if the movie ever got made. But, at this particular moment in time, I could also see Susannah being played by Mackenzie Foy.

What is one underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?

I’m not really sure if this is underrated, but I’m surprised I didn’t see a lot more hype for THE Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, which came out last October. I think this book would be powerful and important anyway, but in our current political climate, it hits home twice as hard. I also highly recommend Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon and You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche, both of which are phenomenal, and were definitely not recognized enough. (Sorry, couldn’t pick just one!)

Release Date: March 6, 2018
Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly her dreams—and her reality—shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.
(taken from