Advice from IR Approved Author Sarah Mendivel: “Passion and creativity are admirable, but they won’t be enough to sit at the big kid’s table.”

Sam’s Theory received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Sarah Mendivel.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Sam’s Theory was published on January 8, 2018.

What’s the book’s first line? 

“Run! Faster, Sam, faster!”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”. 

Sam’s Theory is a YA empowerment novel about a teen healing from trauma. It holds its own as a magical realism story, but is unique in that it has built-in therapeutic advice for readers that have dealt with adversity.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event? 

I worked on a pediatric psychiatric unit for years and was constantly astonished at the resiliency children displayed after scary things had happened to them. Experiences like depression, anxiety, and abuse are common, but we aren’t speaking about them in a solution-oriented manner often enough. I needed to reach more kids and made it my mission to create a world that they could escape to while also offering reliable therapeutic advice. The characters in Sam’s Theory are a blend of kiddos I’ve worked with, as well as influential mentors that contributed to my own healing.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book? 

If someone has ever felt marginalized or isolated by scary experiences and hard feelings, this book can offer respite and new ideas about how to move forward. Sam’s Theory is a visceral journey and isn’t meant to be used as a casual read. The book intentionally creates a safe space for readers to look deeper within themselves and challenge the unhelpful messages they’ve received in the past about what healing and survivorship looks like. Anyone who has experienced sadness or confusion in their lives can find allies in Sam’s characters and a renewed hope in its narrative.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

I’ve been told that the most attractive part of Sam, the main character, is that she’s highly relatable. Readers constantly comment on her gorgeous blend of grit, humor, and kindness, despite her trauma status. The core of Sam reminds me a bit of “Jonas” from The Giver, while the latter end of her journey concludes with the bite and empowerment of “Katniss” from The Hunger Games. She is a modest, strong, and likeable young person.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Not that I’ve spent a thousand hours daydreaming about this already, but I could very easily see Millie Bobby Brown fitting into the role of Sam. Sam wears a hoodie for the duration of the book and has a silent ferocity to her that I think Millie has mastered quite well in her other roles. Vanessa Redgrave would be a dream come true as Theory. It would be effortless for her to pull off the compassionate warrior of wisdom that Theory is.

Is this the first book you’ve written?

It is! I swore while writing it that it’d be my last because of the endurance it demands. I used to have these breaking points in which I’d dramatically slam my laptop shut after five straight hours of sitting and yell, “I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!” or sit and stare into space all afternoon while my friends would very cautiously tap me on the shoulder to make sure I was still alive. But now that I’ve published my book I’ve slowly started missing those binges, the relationship I had with the characters, and getting lost in my own reality. There is something addictive about the process. It seems my first will not be my last, after all!

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I work at a Children’s Hospital doing research and therapeutic interventions with kiddos. I love writing, but it could never replace the high that real kids bring to my life. I will spend the rest of my career working with kids in a clinical setting and can imagine no greater purpose than serving them.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

Enough to have lost some friends in the process, but then quickly gained them back once I was published! My average writing day lasted between 5-12 hours, several times a week. I usually wrote in a library, coffee shop, or in a cabin…the way my hero authors once did.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?  

I’ve never quite fit into the traditional mold in general, so am not surprised I ended up Indie. I’d say the best part of it all is having full control over the creative process and the opportunity to network with new people you normally wouldn’t have access to. All the wins and losses are directly related to your efforts, which I appreciate. The tricky part is having the cognitive, emotional, and financial endurance to keep up with the marketing. It’s like sitting in the teacup ride at Disneyland in that you work super hard to get the cup spinning, bask in the entertaining glory of it swirling in place for 30 seconds, then lean over again to huff and puff over the next spin. It’s an uphill climb most days, but when you finally summit, you know you’ve truly earned it.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

Passion and creativity are admirable, but they won’t be enough to sit at the big kid’s table. Slow down and perfect your title before it’s printed. Every piece of the publishing and marketing puzzle sits on a timeline. Research who needs what when, then be diligent about keeping track of it. You only get one shot at a first impression, so shine your shoes.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why? 

When I learned how long the typical traditional route takes, I immediately opted to self-publish. I intentionally did so because it was important to me to get this book into the hands of the readers that needed it most. Far too many kids and young people are hurting unnecessarily and I couldn’t adjust to the idea of sitting on a resource for another couple of years that I knew would, for a fact, be helpful. Now that I have donated to enough foster care and residential treatment centers, I feel accomplished in my goal. Also, I am hearing that more readers without trauma backgrounds are loving the book, so there is a budding market that I’m excited about. If a traditional publisher came calling now, would I answer? Yes, in a heartbeat. Being indie is fun, but knowing that more kids would have access to the book is far more meaningful. Also, Millie Bobby Brown and Vanessa Redgrave are waiting for their Sam’s Theory movie roles!

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

Legacy. I have always had a profound sense of contribution and purpose, both personally and professionally. Knowing that I contributed to a safer world for the next generation of kids is all I need to go quietly when my time comes. Sam’s Theory is a part of that legacy now.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

So many.  But, most recently, I’ve had my head in the clouds about The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wilds by Pete Fromm. The book is a reflection of his youth, his tremendous adventures in nature, and his development as a person as age creeps up on him. It is gorgeously written from a cabin in the middle of the woods surrounded by bears, elk, and the possibility of life. You can feel the mountain air and the pulse of the universe as you read it. It isn’t flashy at all, just honest and pure. I don’t mind envying that type of writing publicly.


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