Author Feature: Sonya Spreen Bates

Author Feature: Sonya Spreen Bates

Running on Empty: Everyone expected Leon Kline, anchor for the 4×100 sprint relay, to secure Gilburn High’s spot in the record books. But a freak accident on the final stretch changes everything. Suddenly his future is gone. No more running, no scholarship, no college. But then he meets sassy and straight-talking Casey De Vries, and life doesn’t look quite so bleak. She even gets him running again. He can’t sprint anymore, but he can handle longer distances. As he gets to know Casey better, he realizes that something is not quite right. How can he help her if she won’t tell him what’s going on?

How do you usually begin writing your stories?

My stories usually start with a character, or an image. With Running on Empty, it was the image of two teens racing down a slope to escape a wildfire. Then the questions start…who are these characters? How do they know each other and what is their history together? Why were they on the hill? How did the fire get started? The story develops as I discover the answers to these questions.

9781459816534What planning or research did you do for your book?

A lot of research goes into each book. For Running on Empty I was able to use a lot of online resources as there wasn’t a historical aspect to it. Research about orthopedics, the types of injuries that might be sustained from the kind of running accident Leon had, what treatment would be required, and whether he might sustain permanent impairments from the injury. Long distance running and fun runs, arson and the psychological profile of arsonists, research into place—Monterey, New York and the Santa Cruz Half-marathon. I used multiple sites for each area of research, satellite maps, and also personal reports from people who had completed the run, and consultation with a doctor regarding the medical aspects of Leon’s injury.

What are your favorite ways to procrastinate? Why?

Coffee. A cup of coffee always sounds like a good idea when I’m stuck in my writing. This is pure procrastination, and rarely leads to a solution to my writing problem. My other favorite is walking the dog, which is a much more productive and healthy way to procrastinate. I often solve my problem during a walk and come back able to go on with the story.

Do you keep books after you’ve read them, or give them away? Do you borrow books from your local library?

I treasure books and am very reluctant to give them away. I do share them with friends and family, but I almost always re-read books, some 4 or 5 times, so I want to have them there to go back to. I occasionally borrow books from the library, but mostly those I need for a specific purpose, like research for writing or travel.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

I hope this book can encourage conversations about resilience and persistence in the face of adversity or unexpected setbacks, about friendship and supporting your friends through difficult times, and about dementia and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Running on Empty is available now!

Bates, Sonya Spreen 11-13-14

Sonya Spreen Bates is a Canadian writer living in South Australia. She grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, where she obtained a degree in linguistics from the University of Victoria. She then studied speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University and has spent many years working with children with communication disorders, often writing her own stories to use in therapy. Traveling to Australia was always an aspiration, but she never imagined she’d be living there one day. Sonya began writing children’s fiction in 2001, inspired by her two daughters and their love of the stories she told them. She now writes for children and adults, and has been published in Australia and New Zealand as well as Canada. For more information, visit

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