Write It Sideways

Interview with “The Opposite of Me” Author, Sarah Pekkanen

Please welcome the lovely Sarah Pekkanen, author of “The Opposite of Me.” Thank you, Sarah, for answering some of our burning questions about your writing!

Can you tell us a bit about “The Opposite of Me”?

The Opposite of Me is a big, juicy, commercial novel about 29-year-old twin sisters who don’t have a thing in common – or so they think.

It’s similar to books by Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin (in fact, I have the same editor as Jennifer). My main character, Lindsey Rose, is a smart, driven workaholic – and the thorn in her side is her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin Alex.

Where did you find the inspiration for this particular story?

I’ve always been intrigued by the complex relationships my friends have with their sisters – and I always wanted a sister of my own. Since my parents didn’t cooperate and gave me two brothers instead, I imagined what it would be like to be a sister – a twin, no less – and I tried to make the relationship of Lindsey and Alex as juicy and competitive and loving and tangled as possible.

I’ve heard about twins who are so close that they create their own language, and can feel each other’s pain from miles away – but I wondered what would happen to twins who were completely different. What if two sisters had nothing in common, but were constantly being compared? How would that shape their relationship?

When did you know you were meant to be an author?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a kid, I used to write books and send them off to publishers and anticipate the day when I would see masterpieces like Miscellaneous Tales and Poems in bookstores (hey, all the poems rhymed!)

What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a little bit of both. I start with a broad outline and let my imagination run wild as I write.

In terms of my process, I get insanely jealous when I read about authors who say things like, “When I’m starting a book, I like to escape to a secluded beach cottage and take long walks in the sand while watching the sun rise before I sit down to write the day’s chapter.”I mean, I’m lucky if I get to stare at a YouTube clip of the ocean for a few seconds before I start work! I’ve got three little boys, which means I bring my laptop everywhere. I wrote some of my novel at Chuck E. Cheese (I used to work in loud newsrooms so I find background noise oddly comforting).

I write in little snatches of time, like for 15 minutes if I happen to be the first one in the house awake, as well as bigger spaces when I can score a babysitter. I’m lucky to have very supportive parents who live nearby and are always willing to lend a hand.

What book/books have had a profound effect on your writing?

There are several books I go back to again and again: On Writing by Stephen King, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. They helped me learn how to put a book together.

How much time do you spend on social media and promotion?

A fair bit. I love chatting with new and old friends on Facebook, and I’m slowly learning how Twitter works. One of the best things about entering the publishing world is discovering blogs like this one, which support writers and promote a sense of camaraderie. The industry is tough, and we writers need to help one another.

How did you find your agent?

I used to think there must be some secret portal into the world of publishing – kind of like the magic wall leads to the Hogwarts train in the Harry Potter books – but I found my literary agent the boring, old-fashioned way: through the slush pile.

I just wrote a letter describing myself and my book (though trust me, I agonized over that letter!) and sent it off to agents whose names I found by reading the acknowledgment sections of books I liked. Most writers publicly thank their agents (and if they don’t, you probably don’t want that agent to represent you).

The hardest part was actually writing The Opposite of Me first. It’s scary to take such a huge leap of faith, and to spend months and months working on a manuscript that might never see the light of day. I worked hard, but I also believe I got lucky.

If this book were made into a movie, who would you want to play your characters?

Ooh, I love this question! How about Reese Witherspoon for Lindsey -the smart, serious twin – and Kate Hudson for Alex, the sexy, slightly self-centered one?

Visit Sarah’s site, or pre-order The Opposite of Me now.  It will be on sale from Amazon and bookstores March 9, 2010.