Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Author Spotlight 7SS: Sarah Hina

There's only one person in the world for whom I'd post a picture of Coca-Cola on my blog: Sarah Hina.  I mean, people.  I'm a lifelong Pepsi loyalist.  My allegiance to Pepsi comes before my religion, my political affiliation - heck, even my marriage vows.  Do you perceive how much I love this woman?

Only slightly less do I love her debut novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris (Medallion Press).   Now, you might think I'm biased, since I just posted a picture of The-Drink-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for her.  You'd be wrong.  The horrid truth is that I didn't like Sarah at all when I first encountered her at Jason Evans' "Whispers" Clarity of Night contest (hey, there's another contest going on right now!) 

Let's nevermind the whys and wherefores.  Let's zoom ahead to the point that, feeling comfortable in the writing community of which we're a part, I ordered a copy of Sarah's novel to be supportive.  And then, to be competitive with a slower reader friend and another mutual friend who'd already received hers, I started reading it.  And about three hours later, I'd finished it. 

Plum Blossoms in Paris is the story of Daisy Lockhart, med student and slightly type-A personality, who gets dumped by her boyfriend-almost-fiancee.  Via email.  After crying a while, she does what any self-respecting young twentysomething does: empties her savings and flies to Paris (with her supplemental oxygen).  Where she takes in art, meets a boy, loses her preconceived notions and finds herself.  And all of this is told in luxurious, melting and intelligent prose (Hina's poetry is "the best-kept secret on the internet.")

And Sarah herself?  One of those melting and intelligent dearhearts without whom life would be colorless, tasteless, and void of meaning.  Without further ado, I present novelist Sarah Hina.

Step #1
The Old Spice guy
  • white wine or red? Red
  • Krispy Kreme or crème brûlée? Um. Krispy Kreme. 
  • poetry or prose? poetry
  • favorite Disney movie: Beauty and the Beast
  • celebrity crush: Old Spice Guy
  • a phrase you use often: Geez Louise
  • music you write by: I can’t listen to music and write. Or rub my belly and pat my head at the same time, either. 
Step #2
TELL US about any of your weird writing habits or idiosyncracies. (ie, What’s one “thing” you need to write, the thing without which the creative juices would cease to flow?)

When writing poetry especially, I like to detach myself from the computer and work outside. I carry a small notebook in my back pocket to jot down lines, notes, and ideas that pop into my head. Lately, when I’m working on my laptop, I have to enable my “Mac Freedom” program, which prevents me from hopping onto the internet. Because I am just that pathetically good at distracting myself.
And my favored creative juice is Coke. Liquid, not powder.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite vocabulary words.

Murmur – the root of my blog name, but the word means much more to me now. You know how some words just sound like their meaning? This is one of them. It’s like a soft kiss, slipped between velvety bookends.

That would puke a hound bitch from a gut wagon – alright, so it’s more than a word. My Grandma was born and raised around Parkersburg, West Virginia, and let fly with a range of colorful metaphors she called “Big Tiger expressions.” This was my favorite of hers, and I was determined to incorporate it into my book somehow. I mean, how else should one describe boudin noir?

Step #4
  • The last book I finished reading was The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey.
  • I gave it 4 stars.
  • One word to describe it is funereal.
Step #5
QUESTION: How much of what Daisy experiences in Paris have you actually done yourself?

Jean-Luc P.
Instead of Mathieu, his name was Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc P. He dressed a little funny, his accent sounded suspiciously British, and at key moments, he’d cry, “Make it so!” But he took me to the cusp of new frontiers, and my resistance was futile.

Okay, I’ll stop showing my dork card now. The reality is slightly more prosaic.

Disneyland Paris
I went to Paris on my honeymoon. I know—we were very, very lucky. Like Daisy, I adored the Musée d'Orsay, which has a fantastic Impressionism and Post-Impressionism collection. And like Daisy, I was very intimidated by the people and food. I didn’t learn French in high school or college. I wish I had.

And I will definitely be fluent before going back again. Mais oui.

My husband and I did, in fact, make it to Disneyland Paris, just like Daisy does. And loved every minute of it. It’s the Little America of France.

Step #6
QUESTION: You wrote Plum Blossoms four years ago. If you could change it now, would you? What would you change?

That’s a tough question, because the time period in which I wrote it has assumed a sort of halo in my memory. So no, I don’t think I would change it. Which is not to say that the book is perfect. But I see it as a snapshot of sorts, of who I was at that time and the kinds of important questions I was asking myself. On a selfish level, that’s important to me. To have that touchstone. Especially now that blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. has diffused that purer place of discovery.

That said, the book has some political overtones that don’t feel as present anymore. It’s set in 2004, and at the time, the Iraq War was very much a barbed dividing line between France and the U.S. I wanted to honor that truth in Daisy’s and Mathieu’s perspectives, and in the world at large. Yet I can understand someone reading it today and not feeling the same kind of political urgency that I did.
I signed my contract with Medallion Press while Bush was still in office. I queried agents before Obama had even made the decision that he would run for President.

When they say that the publishing industry is glacially slow, they ain’t kidding.

Step #7
GIVE US THE SCOOP. Tell us something about yourself that’s exclusive to In Search of Giants (ie, has never been publicized in print or podcast interviews.)

Like Daisy, I’ve been dumped by email. And it brought me to my knees, too.

Instead of fleeing to Paris, I perfected a diet of Coke and Doritos, gained ten pounds and listened to R.E.M, on repeat, for about three years. Give or take.

“Everybody hurts”—you said it, Michael Stipe. It also happens to be true. And looking back, these knee-bending moments are the ones from which character, growth, and life experience are born.

Not to mention—a good story.

Deepest thanks to Sarah for letting me interview her.  Stay tuned for my review of Plum Blossoms in Paris, coming soon.  I might recommend, however, you not wait for the review.  Just go buy it.  You're gonna love it.  Trust me.

Up next: Watch me brainwash a famous unnamed author into loving Pepsi....

Other stops on Sarah's Meet Me In Paris Blog Tour: Travis Erwin • Aniket's Plum Blossom Flash Fiction contest25 Questions for Author Sarah Hina 

Sarah reading from her novel: press the forward arrow to begin. 

Buy Plum Blossoms in ParisAmazonBarnes & NobleChaptersBordersYour Local Independent BookstorePowell's BooksBooks-A-Million 


  1. @Aerin: You might as well drink sugar syrup instead of Pepsi. Coke rules (not specifying powder or liquid :P) Beer trumps everything though.

    @Sarah: Seems I'm the only one around who liked Kirk over Picard.

    Wow, I've managed to upset both of you. :)

    So Aerin, you didn't like Sarah, han? I mean I hate her too, for she never makes a mistake in writing. Not even a typo or a missed period. Its almost inhuman. But thats all there is to it. But whats the scoop with your story. *brings popcorn* Give me some dirt.

  2. This is a terrific interview. Thank you both.

  3. Add one more vote for Coke.

    Sarah's writing is so good, I'm going to have to tone down my review so it doesn't sound like hyperbole.

  4. If I'd known there were so many heathens (ie, Coke people) who visited this blog, I'd have restricted access ages ago.

    Well, you people are here now, nothing I can do about it.

    Aniket - I will save that story for another popcorn party.

  5. As a true Texan, I'm a Dr. Pepper man myself. Well that, Big Red and Shiner Bock Beer.

    And I didn't like Sarah at first either. Okay I liked her, what's not to like, those eyes done me in, but I will admit to be a pang or two of jealousy.

    I love the way you interview Aerin.

  6. Aniket - it got to a point, with Aerin and me, of hair-pulling and bitch-slapping. You'd have loved it.

    Richard - you and Aerin have spoiled me for the rest of the tour. Truly outstanding questions all around.

    Steve - thanks. I'm already blushing.

    Aerin - I bet Old Spice Guy drinks Coke. Actually, in looking at his pecs in that pic again, I bet he drinks Diet Coke. And I bet he smells real nice while drinking it.

    Thank you for this. It's more than I deserve. Now go kick some ass on that CoN entry, woman.

    Travis - Dr. Pepper?

    I don't even think I know who you are anymore.

  7. @Sarah: See thats what I'm talking about. I want those kinda details. Who gave whom a black eye?

  8. Travis and Dr. Pepper. Go figure.

    It's like finding out that John Wayne liked to wear frilly pink underwear. :-)

  9. Dr. Pepper is the soft drink equivalent of frilly pink underwear?

    Not here in Texas my friend.

    10, 2, and 4 be damned.

    Here in the Lone Star state DP reigns supreme as the only major drink invented withing the borders. And if you ever make it down near Waco stop in at the factory in Dublin and have a real DP with pure cane sugar. They are far superior to the commercial variety in stores that uses corn sweetener

  10. fantastic interview, aerin. why don't talk show hosts ask questions this interesting?

    and great answers, sarah. though i first read "funereal" as "funreal" - like fun+unreal. but - no.

    what is funreal, though, is imagining you exclaiming "geez louise! that would puke a hound bitch from a gut wagon!" i don't even know what that means but find it supremely entertaining.

    and, for the record, when it comes to coke vs. pepsi - if you can tell which one it is, there isn't enough bourbon in it.

  11. I drank some Dr. Pepper in Travis's honor, and now all I can see before me are the whole bunch of you wearing frilly pink underwear.

    Is that normal for a newbie?

  12. Joaquin - Geez Louise, you're funny.

  13. I moseyed on over from Jason's blog to check you out and found a wonderful interview that really engaged me. I fell in love with Sarah from your interview not because of her book (which I haven't read but will) but because she knew what "resistance is futile' is and there was even a picture of Jean-Luc! :::squeals all around:::

    In all seriousness, thank you for commenting on my story (Synesthesia) over at Clarity of Night. I appreciate your insight and really supportive words!

  14. Thank you for a great interview! I'm going to add her book to my to-read list!

  15. Interesting review, especially where she mentions the political landscape, how it maydistract a few readers. I've never written or read "romance" (excluding the Brontes) and from the sounds of it, Sarah's novel is rich in complexties.

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