Here to promote her recent release Palace Beautiful is Sarah DeFord Williams, the author behind this book where the past and present collide.
AGA: Describe Palace Beautiful in five words.
SDW: After sadness, joy always reappears.
AGA: What was the initial scene or idea that sparked the rest of this book?
SDW: I think there were several scenes and ideas that sort of floated into consciousness that started this book. I suppose the main one was a question--what happens after the worst thing of all happens? I was going through a hard time and there was a chance that I might loose the things that meant the most to me through no choices of my own. I made a character in a similar situation. I wanted to know what happens down the line after the worst thing happens. Through writing this book I found out. When the worst thing of all happens and things are never going to be okay again, eventually, there is a new kind of okay. I learned that we are more resilient than we think, and that time is also a healer. Life moves on and eventually, there is a new okay. It was a beautiful discovery.
AGA: How much research was involved to write this book, particularly Helen's story?
SDW: LOTS! I had never heard of the 1918 flu four years ago when I started this book. My husband mentioned it and told me about it and I wondered why in the world we don't ever hear about it. I started researching. It was so fascinating, I had to put it in a book. To research it, I went to the library and went though microfilm of every single Deseret News for the year and a half duration of the flu here in Salt Lake City. It was exhausting, sometimes depressing, but utterly fascinating work. I also did a lot of documentary watching and article reading on the subject.
AGA: What was the hardest part of your to write? The most rewarding?
SDW: The hardest part was also the most fascinating part--the flu research. The parts I didn't like about the research were when I had to learn just exactly how people died of it, and how the experience impacted communities, families and individuals. It was gruesome and depressing. I was very glad to be done with parts of that research.
The most rewarding was the last few drafts I did. When I write books, I want to make a book that I would have loved as a little girl. I love a bit of mystery, prose, suspense, interesting characters and a strong sense of place. When I am writing, I generally just see my book with critical eyes. The last few drafts, though, I was able to see what I actually accomplished. I remember sitting at my computer reading though it one day and thinking, this is EXACTLY what I would have loved as a little girl! I did it! Yes!
AGA: Is there anything autobiographical in this book or is it purely fictional for you?
SDW: I use myself as a base for a lot of the characters I write because I can't go into other people's heads, but I can go into my own. Sadie and Bella both have autobiographical elements for me. On the literal side, I lived in Texas and moved to Utah like they did and there are other details like that, that were based on my personal experience, but on the psychological level, I am a lot like parts of both characters.
AGA: If you could pair Sadie and Zuzu with any character from any other book, what would be your pick for each of them?
SDW: Do you mean are they like any other literary characters? Or do you mean what literary characters would they go well with? If it's the first, then probably Cassie from Sarah Plain and Tall, and maybe Margaret Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. If it's the second, possibly Fredrich from Little Women and maybe Laurie also from Little Women.
AGA: Are there any authors who have influenced your writing?
SDW: Yes, I love classics and I think I have a rather old fashioned voice in some sense because I spend so much time with the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and the like. But I think I really started to understand voice from the S. E. Hinton books. I was obsessed with them when I was in middle school and I still LOVE them. I think those books taught me the most about how to write.
AGA: What is the latest YA you've read?
SDW: Magic Under Glass by my friend Jackie Dolamore. She and I are both huge Bronte fans and her book is a kind of steampunk fantasy book based loosely on Jane Eyre. Sigh, I love Jane Eyre!
AGA: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
SDW: Thanks for having me! I hope you enjoy the book! :)
Thank you Sarah for stopping by and don't forget everyone, Palace Beautiful is in stores now so check it out!