Alright! Are you ready for our latest Author Spotlight? Today I get to introduce Sarahbeth Caplin! We have become friends through Facebook and every time I chat with her, I find her to be incredibly sweet. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of her upcoming novel, Where There’s Smoke. It isn’t often that I read a book that makes me stop and look at myself, and that’s exactly what this book did. SHAMELESS PPLUG HERE: It releases on June 10 and you MUST read!!!
Ok, let’s move on. ❤
Synopsis of Where There’s Smoke:
Pastor Henry Collins is hailed as a hero after rescuing a teenage girl from a burning church. But the real reason he was at the right place at the right time is known only to him and Hannah Mercer, the teenage girl he rescued: a girl whose faith has more to do with keeping up appearances than anything to do with God.
Lia Anders is a classmate of Hannah’s: a girl whose coming out as a lesbian resulted in immediate expulsion from the church. As an unlikely friendship develops between the two, Hannah begins to realize the error of her hypocritical ways, and encourages Henry to make a decision that will forever alter the course of their lives. But for Henry, the price of living a lie is easier than owning up to the truth.
Where There’s Smoke is a story that asks: who are we really? Are we the sum of all our actions? And is the note we finish our lives on the most defining of them all?
Let’s get to know
TK: Hi Sarahbeth! I’m really excited about this interview. In stalking…I mean, checking out your webpage, I learned a little more about you. Granted, I’ve gotten to know you through our chats, but it’s always cool what you discover. Okay, so let’s start this off right! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little something about you.
SB: That’s a big question but I’ll try to keep it short: I moved to Colorado from Ohio with the intent to study counseling in grad school, but a year later I realized I was meant to become a full-time writer and dropped out. I love writing fiction, but I think creative non-fiction is my favorite, whether it’s a memoir or an opinionated blog post. I have a BA in English Literature and because I love books so much, I plan on naming my next cat either Great Catsby or Catniss. My fiancé jokes that I’m a 60-year-old woman (with a slight tattoo addiction) trapped in a 25-year-old’s body, because I wear big glasses, cat sweaters, and prefer staying in on Saturday nights with my books and my wine. I guess I’m a little introverted, too.
TK: I have to say, I look forward to your blog posts – and if you aren’t following, you should. They are insightful and heartfelt and I find myself sharing them, for that reason. Now, you have a book, Where There’s Smoke, coming out next week. I really enjoyed this because I found myself stopping to think over so many different points. I loved the open-endedness of it, because, in my opinion, the reader was left to make decisions. Where did you come up with the idea for this story?
SB: Thank you! Half the time I feel like one more cranky voice yelling in a crowd, so I’m glad you enjoy my blogs! Where There’s Smoke is a very different kind of book for me. The themes are more complex and none of the characters are meant to be likeable; but I hope they are relatable. The idea came from one of my counseling classes, so it’s somewhat based on a true story. We were discussing “survivor’s guilt,” and the professor told the class about a pastor she counseled who was the sole survivor of a terrible car accident. His church kept saying God spared him for a reason, because he was so “righteous,” but no one knew he was having an affair. The guilt ate him up so much he said he wished he died in that accident; he didn’t think he deserved to live. I was intrigued, and thought it would make a good premise for a novel.
TK: I know that you are Christian and, Where There’s Smoke, is based in a Christian church setting. One of the things that we discussed is that I’m Catholic and how I related to the book. There was so much judgment and hypocrisy from different characters, yet none seemed to take an inward look and see how they were living their life until forced. What do you hope your reader is able to take away by the end of this book?
SB: I want the readers, both Christian and non, to re-evaluate how they define “good” people vs. “bad.” Imagine if you knew all the deep, dark secrets of the people you consider to be “good.” Would your opinion of them change? If you knew the background of every person you consider “bad,” and learned the experiences that shaped them, would they become more sympathetic? I want this book to help people understand that until we are honest and admit our own flaws, we can’t get away with condemning anyone else for their life choices or putting them up on pedestals.
TK: As I mentioned, I did a little stalking in preparation for this interview and I know that this is not your first rodeo. You have a book of poetry and a memoir out there as well. That’s incredibly brave, to expose yourself in that way. Was this hard for you?
SB: I consider it a necessary evil. My favorite authors right now are people who exposed themselves in memoirs. I love stories that make me identify with the writer as a kindred spirit. The ability to say, “I’m so glad I’m not alone” is powerful, and I want readers to have similar reactions to my own work. Also, there are just some topics – like rape culture – that aren’t discussed enough in a healthy way, and I want to be a catalyst for necessary change.
TK: I have not yet read your other fiction novels, but the more I learn about you and reading your synopses, I really want to take the time to read them. From what I can tell, your stories seem to have a moral, or some way of making your readers consider the way they, themselves, look at the world. Is this something that you set out to do, or does it happen naturally as you write?
SB: Yes and no. My first attempt at a novel, Someone You Already Know, had a very specific (dare I say it) agenda: expose rape culture as a real problem, not something made up by women who have sex and later regret it. It was integral to my own healing and it’s definitely a story with a strong message. Other books, like Public Displays of Convention, unfolded on their own.
TK: Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
SB: Personal experiences, mostly. The truth can be stranger than fiction, and my journals are proof! And eavesdropping in coffee shops. If you’re speaking loud enough for people across the room to hear you, I’m going to assume you won’t mind if I put your conversation in a book.
TK: What is your favorite part of writing a story?
SB: I enjoy dialogue. Once I get a conversation between two characters going, it flows naturally.
TK: What, in your opinion, is the hardest part of writing a story?
SB: Knowing when to end it, or if the ending is satisfactory. It can make or break a book for a lot of people.
TK: You published your first book in 2012. Did you self-publish or were you traditionally published?
SB: I self-published because I didn’t know what else to do. I was quite clueless and didn’t do much research. I just knew I had a story to tell. I might traditionally publish someday, but I don’t know how I’d handle the rejection letters and possibly losing some creative freedoms. I might try it someday, but for now I enjoy my freedom as an indie.
TK: How do you feel the publishing industry has changed since you first published?
SB: I only started publishing two years ago, so I don’t know how much it’s changed. I only started becoming knowledgeable within the last year, but it did shock me to find out how many ebooks are self-published every year: well over ten thousand. That puts a lot of pressure on me to try and stand out.
TK: Are you working on something else right now? If so, can you tell us something about it?
SB: I’m contemplating another memoir, which may be self-indulgent considering I’m only in my twenties. The only reason I’m considering it is because I have a life story other people don’t seem to have: I want to read a memoir about a Christian who grew up Jewish and later realized she might have dismissed Judaism too quickly. But to my knowledge, such a book doesn’t exist, so I may have to write it.
TK: Did you always want to be a writer?
SB: My mom can certainly attest to this. My first “books” were written on construction paper in crayon, not long after I learned to read and write. I’d make up reviews to scribble on the back sometimes.
TK: What is your biggest accomplishment professionally and personally?
SB: I might be a little young to answer this…but I think just finishing a book and publishing it, let alone five, is something I don’t give myself enough credit for. I’m my own worst critic, so I tend to downplay it as not a big deal, but I know plenty of people who say they’d like to write a book and just never do it. And due to the personal nature of most of my books, I’d say that counts as a personal accomplishment as well.
TK: If someone asked for your advice when it comes to writing and publishing, what would you say?
SB: Oh boy…that’s another book in and of itself! For simplicity’s sake, here’s the advice I’m taking to heart from more experienced authors: writing a book is one ordeal, but selling it is another. Establishing an audience is crucial and requires patience, a virtue I definitely wasn’t born with. Don’t expect to make it big overnight, and definitely don’t expect to make a ton of money! This is something you have to do for love of the craft, not love of fame, status, and fortune.
Networking has been a huge blessing: it’s how I found my editor and my cover artist. Take advantage of Facebook groups and other online forums where writers congregate, but don’t go into them expecting to use writers for their information and leave. Establish real relationships with other authors, and they will help you out. That’s the best thing about the indie community: we all know what it’s like to start out small and unnoticed. Try not to be too jealous of other people’s success, because chances are they worked their asses off for years to get where they are. Also, rank is just a number.
As for the publishing industry, it’s pretty cutthroat at times no matter how you’re published. Reviewers, especially, can be brutal and their critiques can easily be taken personally. Don’t let that happen. Remind yourself of why you wrote the book in the first place and focus on the good reviews. But don’t discount all negative reviews, either, because sometimes there are helpful suggestions to improve for the next book. They just need to be read with a grain of salt, because no book is universally adored. Even Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has pages and pages of 1-star Amazon reviews.
TK: Now comes the fun part – LIGHTNING ROUND!!! Ready?!
TK: Who is your favorite character in WTS: Kaylee, because she’s an evangelical mean girl and misunderstood in her own way.
TK: Last Book You Read: I went out and bought I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when I heard of Maya Angelou’s death, and I finished it in two days.
TK: Favorite Author: Can’t answer that without breaking it down by genre, because there’s just too many!
Religion: CS Lewis
Memoir: Lauren Winner
Fiction: Jodi Picoult (her older books, not so much her newer stuff), John Green, Gillian Flynn
Classics: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, LM Montgomery
TK: Personal Hero: Jesus, Joan of Arc, my parents
TK: Favorite Cuss Word: Bullshit
TK: Winter or Summer: Winter definitely! I don’t do heat. I like sweaters and fleece blankets.
TK: Paperback or eReader: I don’t believe in eReaders, despite publishing my books in Kindle format.
TK: Favorite Movie: Beauty and the Beast, because I’m Belle. And Ever After. And Stranger Than Fiction, Dead Poet’s Society, Ladder 49…it’s like trying to decide which limb I can best live without.
TK: Favorite Haircolor: Dark brown, almost black, with just a hint of red.
TK: If you could say one thing to your readers, what would you tell them? Whether you loved it or hated it, always write a review!
Sarahbeth’s book, Where There’s Smoke, releases on June 10th and I can’t wait for people to check it out!
Thank you so much for answering these questions and letting us get to know you better!
Learn more about Sarahbeth Capling by clicking any of the links below: