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Debut Novel: Strong Women Do What it Takes to Survive

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 The Shore by Sara Taylor

An exclusive Authorlink interview with Sara Taylor, Author of The Shore.

By Diane Slocum

September 2015


The Shore
by Sara Taylor
Buy this Book
at Amazon.com

The Shore follows The Lumsden/Day family and other inhabitants of the islands off the coast of Virginia for over a century from the 1800s and into the future. From the very rich to the barely scraping by, they all encounter hardships of survival, whether from a spouse, parent or the supernatural world.

“I wanted to capture a sense of the place as I saw it . . .”
—TAYLOR

AUTHORLINK: What drew you to The Shore as a setting for your novel?

TAYLOR: As a small child, I read Misty of Chincoteague and was captivated by the descriptions of the place; when I moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia as a teenager I was captivated by the place itself. It is geographically so close to D.C. and culturally so distant, both charming in the small-town way described in Mistyand completely uncanny. I wanted to capture a sense of the place as I saw it, and preserve the memory of it for when I moved on.

AUTHORLINK: How did you decide on the arrangement of the stories since they aren’t chronological?

TAYLOR: Gradually, and with much agony. I did try the chronological order at first, because it made sense, but the whole lacked the sort of narrative shape that I needed it to have. Then, I tried arranging them based on the order in which I wanted the reader to encounter the characters’ secrets, but that didn’t quite work either. The ultimate order is because of some advice I was given about sending work to agents: ‘put the best bit first. If the best bit doesn’t come until page 50, you didn’t need the first 49 pages.’ So I put what I thought was the best bit first and the other bits mostly fell into place.

AUTHORLINK: Did you have more expanded versions of some of the stories in earlier drafts or did you use family members who wound up being cut?

TAYLOR: There were five chapters that were cut completely, and two others that didn’t get beyond the outline and note stage, mostly because they focused on characters that were peripheral. I’m more than a little tempted to go back to those and see what I can do with them, but I’ve recently gotten into trouble for working on two projects at once. The stories that made it to the finished book were actually quite a bit shorter in the earliest drafts, and a few gained so much weight in the editing stage that they had to be split in half; I don’t know how it happens, but no matter how much I cut out every draft winds up being longer than its predecessor. 

AUTHORLINK: Your story concerns more than eight generations of the Day/Lumsden family, but some of the chapters are from the point of view of non-family members such as Izzy and Jake. Why Is that?

TAYLOR: There were certain events that I felt necessary to include in the book but that didn’t have the right impact when they were told from the point of view of what the reader would consider to be the main character. The stories that Izzy and Jake narrate are about Ellie, but the focus in both cases is on the narrator’s experiences; the stories explore the community and its attitudes more widely without being completely separated from the main characters. And it was important to me to have Ellie continually show up in the background but never get a voice of her own.

“The deciding factor was usually whether gaining an internal monologue was worth the loss of the omniscient view, or vice versa – some of the stories that I wanted to tell simply demanded to be told in a character’s voice . . .”
—TAYLOR

AUTHORLINK: The majority of your chapters are in the third person, but many are in first and one is in second. What determined which person you used?

TAYLOR: The deciding factor was usually whether gaining an internal monologue was worth the loss of the omniscient view, or vice versa – some of the stories that I wanted to tell simply demanded to be told in a character’s voice, especially ‘Target Practice.’ ‘Boys’ wound up in second person because it didn’t work in third and it didn’t work in first, and I’d almost decided to cut it entirely before I tried second, and that happened to work. 

AUTHORLINK: While most of the book tells stories of relationships, a few contain elements of the supernatural. How did those fit in as you were working on the story?

TAYLOR: I grew up in a tradition where the existence of the supernatural and its regular interaction with the day-to-day world was all but taken for granted, so it was almost reflexive to include an element of that from the beginning. The setting suggested the specific supernatural elements that do crop up.

AUTHORLINK: How did the process of finding an agent and a publisher go for you? Is this the first book you’ve tried to sell?

TAYLOR: I’ve written other novels, but The Shore is the first one that I’ve tried to do anything with, mostly because I had the impression that I’d get one chance and I needed to make sure it was a good chance. I chose to do a Masters in creative writing after I finished college to get another year to work on the book, and because the course at the University of East Anglia, where I wound up, wrapped up the degree with a formal introduction to agents and publishers, which I figured I would need. There were quite a few rejections along the way, but that introduction did make finding an agent easier, and the book itself convinced my preferred agent to take me on, and then the agent took care of finding the publisher.

“I’m trying my luck with a traditional, generally linear, single-narrator novel, which doesn’t have a title yet because I am absolutely awful with titles.”
—TAYLOR

AUTHORLINK: What are you working on next?

TAYLOR: I’m trying my luck with a traditional, generally linear, single-narrator novel, which doesn’t have a title yet because I am absolutely awful with titles. It begins with a woman’s decision to leave her husband to go wandering across the United States taking care of things that she left unfinished when she was younger. It’s written from the point of view of her teenager, who gets dragged along, grows up on the road, and ultimately has to decide whether or not to keep being dragged along or to try and find the father they left behind.

About the Author:

Sara Taylor grew up in rural Virginia and painted houses, demonstrated open-hearth cooking and opened a café before attending college. She won the Stony Brook Southampton Short Fiction Prize and is working on her PhD.

Diane Slocum
About
Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum

Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.