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When I teach picture books, I tell my students that a picture book text is a poem. It’s a poem not because it rhymes, because not all of them need rhyme, but because each word is chosen carefully, and cherished. This is most definitely true in the case of The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey. It’s a book about a girl on a reluctant beach vacation who slowly, slowly falls in love with the sea.
Leave it to Jay McInerney’s Bright, Precious Days, to breathe wonderful life back into the grand, New York novel. One scene takes place in a secret restaurant where shirako is on the menu (go on, Google it). They drink a Rudyard Kipling; an East meets West combination of ingredients (mischievously named for the writer who wrote that East and West would never meet). I modified the recipe, replacing the bourbon with gin, and renamed it for the author’s wife.
2 oz. gin
.5 oz Umeshu
2 dashes blood orange bitters
Ume (Asian Plum) peel for garnish
Stir the gin and Umeshu with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dash with the bitters.
Garnish with the ume peel.
Last month we brought you debut author Stephanie Garber, this month we have another wonderful debut author to introduce you to! Meet Tara Sim, author of Timekeeper. Just like Stephanie, I met Tara a little over a month ago at Stacey Lee's book launch, but we actually knew of each other before that! Tara and I have a very special person in common, her literary agent Laura Crockett, who told me almost a year ago that I would love her new client and that she couldn't wait to tell me more about her and her new book. It was all very hush hush at the time and I wasn't allowed to know who Laura was representing or what she was writing, but I'm so glad they found each other. Now we will all have the chance to know a bit about Tara Sim and her debut YA novel, Timekeeper!
1. Did you have an elevator pitch for Timekeepers, what was it?
I think my elevator pitch is more of a never-ending-escalator pitch, but it essentially boils down to: In an alternate Victorian era where clock towers literally control time, a young clock mechanic must rescue his father from a town where time has stopped completely—and try not to fall for his new apprentice, who turns out to be a clock spirit.
2. What was the hardest part of getting published for you?
All the waiting. I’m an impatient person (although I think it’s safe to say most authors are), and the publishing world tends to move rather slowly. Writing the book, revising, getting an agent, going on submission, getting the book deal, and releasing book one has taken a little over three years. I’ve been deeply conditioned to constantly check my inbox!
3. Who has been your biggest supporter?
I want to say my parents, although my mom tends to say things like “what, you’re still writing that thing?” or “we never see you, get away from your computer.” Truly, though, they’ve always been very supportive of my goals and dreams, which has meant the world to me.
4. What was your inspiration for Timekeepers? Was it the plot or a character that came to you first?
Actually, the thing that came first to me was an image. I studied abroad in London when I was in college, and I was somewhat obsessed with Big Ben. I even bought a keychain. One day I was driving and wondering what sort of story I should write next when I looked down at the keychain. An image popped into my head of a boy standing in a clock tower—very atmospheric, golden light everywhere, a huge clock face with ticking hands behind him throwing him into shadow. I wondered what would happen if the clock tower could literally control time, and what, or who, would be able to fix it if it broke. It all spiraled out from there.
5. How many versions did you write?
*laughs until the end of time*
I have no actual clue, since the story has been molded and remolded so many times, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the double digits somewhere.
6. Are any of your characters based off of friends or old acquaintances? You don’t’ have to say who…
I actually don’t like to base characters off of people I know. Rather, if someone I know has an interesting trait, I like to file those away and give them to a character here or there. Like a certain hand gesture, or a way of smiling, or a type of humor.
7. How many publishers did you go to before it was picked up?
The whole submission process is a blur to me now. I couldn’t tell you how many looked at the book, but I was so glad it ended up in my editor’s hands.
8. Who was your favorite character to write? Did you have one that was hard to pin down, with the voice or their back story?
As much as I love being in Danny’s moody little head, my favorite character to write was Colton. He was a very new type of character for me in many ways, and although it took a few drafts to get him just right, I always had fun with his personality, abilities, etc. Someone who was hard to pin down is Daphne, one of Danny’s peers/rivals in the book. She’s a complex character, and it took me a very, very long time to fill her out completely and understand her backstory, her motivation, and her goals.
9. What are some of your favorite books or authors?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
The Song of the Lioness series – Tamora Pierce
A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy/This Savage Song/anything, really – Victoria Schwab
The Grisha Trilogy/Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
10. Favorite/ preferred place to write? Do you listen to music?
I prefer to write in my bedroom. Super boring, I know. I listen to music all the time, but for Timekeeper specifically I listened to a lot of Lindsey Stirling, Ellie Goulding, and the Hunger Games soundtracks.
11. Coffee or tea?
TEA. Although a latte now and then doesn’t hurt!
12. Did you write in a linear fashion or do you jump around?
Linear, for sure. Although sometimes a scene will come to me early and start shaping itself in my head, and if I don’t want to lose the clarity of it I’ll go ahead and jot it down to insert later.
13. If you hosted an author dinner, who would you invite?
I’d love to host Victoria Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Sarah J. Maas, and Maggie Stiefvater. And of course, my awesome fellow 2016 debuts, especially Emily Skrutskie, Traci Chee, and Jessica Cluess.
14. Are you a part of any “fandoms”?
Oh yes! Many. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, obviously. Avatar: the Last Airbender. Pirates of the Caribbean. The Raven Cycle. Just…so, so many…
15. Did you ever want to give up?
I’ve wanted to, certainly, but more in the vein of “I wish I could quit you.” As painful and as difficult writing can be, I think the only way you’d get me to stop is if you cut off my hands. And even then I’d just buy one of those voice transcriber programs.
Tara Sim is the author of Timekeeper (Sky Pony Press, Nov. 1, 2016) and can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, and check out her website at tarasim.com.