Sara, how did you first know you wanted to become a writer?
Keeping a diary since I was eight years old has a lot to do with my becoming a writer. I realized that I didn’t just have to write “what I ate today” or “what I did today”, but could draw in my diary, or describe what a stranger looked like, or what the kettle sounds like, or write down whole conversations I overheard, or the lyrics of my favourite song. I started to write little poems in my journal and little stories. I don’t think I ever really decided to be a writer – I just started writing and haven’t stopped yet.
What’s your daily writing routine?
I am at my desk every morning after I’ve cleared up the breakfast dishes. I have a hot cup of milky tea at my elbow. Before I fall asleep each night, I have a good long think about the book or story that I’m writing and decide what to write about tomorrow.
What makes you unable to put a book down?
Surprises that are equal to real life’s strange and wonderful and sometimes awful surprises, and characters that have rich inner lives, meaning they are thoughtful. Humour is always a wonderful thing, too.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Iceland. My grandmother’s family came from Iceland when their farmland was wiped out by volcanic action early in the 1900’s. I dream of packing two suitcases with books and spending a month in a turf house on the land. When I tire of reading, I’ll take long hikes. My children would mostly roam free, and not once complain of being bored.
Have you had an unusual job in the past? What was it?
One of my strangest jobs was being a fake patient for medical students to practice on. I’d be given a script to memorize with a new name and age and bunch of aches and pains to report. The students would interview, poke and prod me. Once, they drew outlines of my liver and bladder. The ink lasted a long time – it still showed when I went swimming about a week later. That job paid very well.
Where do you get your story ideas from?
More and more, I like to write about people and places that I don’t know at all – to imagine life elsewhere. But for my first four books with Orca, my three kids and our cat and goldfish provided lots of stories to write about.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer/author?
Read good books. Play close attention to what you feel, hear, smell, touch, see. Listen to how different people talk, how they tell stories – eavesdrop as much as you can!
Sara Cassidy has worked as a youth hostel manager, a newspaper reporter, and a tree planter in five Canadian provinces. Her poetry, fiction and articles have been widely published, and she has won a Gold National Magazine Award. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her three children. For more information, visit www.saracassidywriter.com.