About the author:
You can haunt Karen Harrington at-
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1. I really love the title of Sure Signs of Crazy, its' like a little tease of what is to come. Could you tell us a little bit about Sure Signs of Crazy and why you think readers will enjoy it?
Sure Signs Of Crazy follows twelve-year old Sarah Nelson as she writes letters to her hero, To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch, for help understanding her mentally ill mother, her first real crush and life in her small Texas town, all in the course of one momentous summer. Despite the difficulties in Sarah’s life, she really has a sense of humor and a developing sense of the way the world should be if only she had a mother around. And like so many people I’ve known in my life, she seeks solace in books and words. You root for her. You have the same questions she has. You find yourself wanting the same answers. I hope that journey will be enjoyable for readers.
2. I'm really liking the premise of Sure Signs of Crazy and how it looks to have both a serious undertone, yet still be somewhat light. I'm a little curious as to why you chose to write a book were the MC, Sarah, is dealing with the effects of having a parent suffering from mental illness? Was it difficult to get that aspect of the book to come across right while writing?
It was absolutely challenging to think of balancing the serious tone of the book and the issues within it. The origins of this story stem from my first novel for adults, JANEOLOGY, which tells the story of Sarah’s father as he struggles to cope with the aftermath of his wife’s breakdown.
After writing that book, I always wondered “What happened to their daughter? Was she okay? What would it be like for her to grow up under that shadow?” These questions sent me to the keyboard. And I discovered, happily, that a very resilient girl was there and that she was much, much more than what had happened to her. So I was so excited to write Sarah’s story. I wish I’d known someone like her when I was growing up.
3. I think it’s cool how Sarah writes letters to Atticus Finch in Sure Signs of Crazy. While he is definitely an excellent character for this, what made you choose him to be the recipient of Sarah's letters?
Thank you. In various drafts of the novel, Sarah wrote letters to Scout and Boo in addition to Atticus. But I realized what she wanted most in life were the qualities that Atticus Finch embodies: consistency, wisdom and integrity. And like so many people I’ve talked to in my life, Atticus Finch is the ideal father. Sarah longs to have a father like him, too. So Atticus became the natural sounding board for her.
4. What was the most difficult aspect to write of Sure Signs of Crazy? Easiest?
For me, novel writing is the most difficult when you have that gap between what you imagine the story can be and what you have on the page. Revising is all about closing that gap. Early on, I knew I had something with Sarah’s character but couldn’t find the right balance of story. I kept approaching it in different ways and tossing out drafts. It got so frustrating that I thought about pitching the whole idea in the trash. But my husband kept encouraging me and telling me that this was going to be my next published novel. How he knew that, I don’t know, but I’m so glad he kept pushing me. The easiest part of writing this novel was being in Sarah’s company. She kept showing up in tender ways as I changed the story and played with her life. I loved opening up the Word file and listening to Sarah. I think I could have continued writing about her for a long time. She is still whispering her opinions about life in my ear and even though the book is done, I’m still writing them down.
5. In the spirit of the book, which fictional character would you choose to write your letters to? Why?
I would absolutely write to Atticus Finch. It would be fascinating to get his perspectives on our modern world.
6. Having recently returned to the great state of Texas and noticing that you are from the Lone Star State, I cannot resist asking: What do you like most about TX? Any indie bookstores that you would recommend?
What’s not to love about the Lone Star State? I’m a die-hard Texas fan. I think what I like most is the sense of possibility in our state. It’s so diverse in every way a state can be diverse. Yet there is still a common can-do spirit and optimistic attitude. My current favorite indie bookstore is A Real Bookstore in Fairview, TX. It’s an oasis of books and the architecture of the store is so inviting. I would love to get accidentally locked in that store for one night!
7. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose?
I have my daughter to thank for my answer to this question because she’s recently discovered Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and The Olympians books. So I would choose Percy Jackson because he would be able to perform some feat with water that would cause all of the robots to rust.
8. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?
We bought our current house, in part, for the room that is our family office. It has a great window looking out onto our pool. The pool has three fountains and that sound is the music I write to. As far as my actual writing surface, it’s just your garden variety desk. At any given time, there are manuscript pages, coloring books, bills and fourth grade math problems spread out all over the place. I have my children’s artwork and a list of Writer’s Rules tacked up on the bulletin board in front of me. My favorite rule is “There Are No Rules”.
9. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently working on another book for middle-grade readers that features a young girl who pretends she’s a character in a book to escape the challenges of having an agoraphobic mother.
Karen, thank you so much for stopping by and answering a few questions. Definitely excited to jump into Sure Signs of Crazy...and anything else you have planned.
Not every person responds to words the same way. Some words are trouble words. A trouble word will change the face of the person you say it to. Love can be a trouble word for some people. Crazy is also a trouble word.I should know.
You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her classmates geek out over Harry Potter, she writes letters to Atticus Finch. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who has lived in a mental institution since Sarah was two.
Sarah and her dad have spent the past decade moving from one Texas town to another, and she's never felt truly at home....until now. This is the story of one extraordinary summer in which Sarah gets her first real crush, new friends, and the answers about her family she's always been looking for.