Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Writing Process Blog Hop Take Two! Friends, that totally means two times the awesome in case you were wondering.


Thanks to Craig Boyack for tagging me in this Writing Process Blog Hop!

So this is my second Writing Process Blog Hop, but it’s fitting because I’ve started a new project. So exciting! Hooligans in Shining Armour, what I focused on last time, has been at a development editor in Belfast for the past three weeks. It’s so close to done I can almost smell the impending agent rejection letters.

ImageAnyway, I got bored. So what did I do? See below.

What Am I Working On?

My “high concept” logline for Hooligans is: Romeo and Juliet in Belfast. I’m HOPING this may be my last round of edits (provided the editor didn’t think it was utter rubbish) and then I’ll start sending querying agents. I’ve got my query letter and synopsis ready. I’ve also done my agent research and created a spreadsheet of agents I will submit to. My plan is to query US agents.

Since I couldn’t work on that, I decided to write a prequel, not trying to copy Star Wars or anything. As I wrote Hooligans, I found out this secondary character, Patrick (older brother to one of the protagonists), was a fascinating guy. My readers loved him. I decided that he had a story to be told, too. Very beginnings of a logline: All Patrick has ever wanted to do was join the IRA like his Da. When Patrick’s mother, long exiled from Northern Ireland, reaches out to him, he must make a choice…steal his brother and join their traitor mother in America or stay loyal to the cause. I have no title yet, but I’m playing around with something related to Soldiers of Destiny (an English translation of Fianna Fáil).

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

I write Young Adult. Obviously, the market is flooded with YA. What makes mine unique? For my current novels, I think it’s the setting. Post-Troubles Belfast is not something very many Americans think of; I’d wager most Americans don’t even know that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. They have no clue about the sectarianism and tribalism that still divides, that peace walls still separate Catholic working class estates from Protestant fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that ended The Troubles. These are just a few tiny examples about an incredibly complex situation.

Also, I like to focus on characters from backgrounds of which many people hold negative stereotypes.In the case of Hooligans and the prequel, that would being teenage boys coming from working class backgrounds in Belfast who have paramilitary involvement. Spides, steeks, chavs, white trash, gangbangers, whatever you want to call them. I like to show that, regardless of what we see of them in the world, they are people who love and think and question and have goals and yes, hate.

ImageProfessionally, I am a school psychologist. I have training and experience in working with kids and teens that have been traumatized by things such as community violence, domestic violence, and substance-abusing parents. I have also worked with gang-involved youths.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

I have written since I was in elementary school. I still have my first “published” work in a box in my parents’ attic from a 4th grade writing contest. I’ve actually written five manuscripts. The first three will never see the light of day. One is a 250,000 word monstrosity! I’ve learned so much from these first attempts.

Why YA? There’s just something fascinating and magical about the threshold between childhood and adulthood; an almost infinite number of paths lie ahead of you. You start making choices for yourself and those choices close off paths while opening others. You experiment with the world and the people around you to figure out who you are and where you fit. There’s this beauty and innocence and intensity and emotionality that exists during this ephemeral period of life, lost as we morph into adults. Plus, I love working with kids and teens; it’s what I do. I hope my characters will inspire the kids I work with to persevere, make good choices, resist peer pressure, and think for themselves.

So why did some crazy American write a book set in Belfast? I traveled there in July of 2011 over the Twelfth, which is an especially contentious time of year. I won’t go into detail here; visit my Hooligans In Shining Armour page for links to my YouTube channel and my photo album of the trip. Let’s just say I was completely blown away by what I experienced and needed to understand. Out of my research came the inspiration for Hooligans. You can read an excerpt here.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

The prequel to Hooligans was very different, and much easier, to write. I’d already done the months of research on setting, dialect, history, culture, etc. I knew Patrick well and I also knew how his story had to end. I had new things to research: historical events happening at the time it was set (2005), schooling in Northern Ireland (UK schooling is so different than the US. Still a bit confused!), and Catholicism, as this character is more of a practicing Catholic. SECRET: I was raised Protestant. Well, guess not so much of a secret anymore. Catholicism has quite a lot of differences.

I got a rough plot together on an excel spreadsheet based on on the Hero’s Journey from The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. Then I went a bit mental. I wrote a rough, rough draft in about a week!!!! (sidenote: I’m a full-time, unpaid writer while in Singapore. I have a job but only work like 5 hours a week, soooo I’m lucky).

ImageI’m about two thirds of the way though a second draft and it’s sitting at 65,000 words. My guess, it’ll probably end up around 70,000 words. I’ve been writing every second I can, even on Singapore’s lovely public transportation system. I absolutely love this character and he’s just itching to get on the page.

My first Writing Process Blog Hop in case you’re curious.

Tag People!

Jennifer Austin She’s a mother of five and currently writing a YA post-apocalyptic novel. Amazing!

Annabel Watkinson Fellow expat living in Southeast Asia and fellow author who’s got a finished novel and another on the way.

Check them out, friends!

16 thoughts on “Writing Process Blog Hop Take Two! Friends, that totally means two times the awesome in case you were wondering.

  1. Mariam Tsaturyan

    I have read the sample of your book, and I was blown away with it. If the agent doesn’t like it, then its his loss. Just self-publish worst comes to worst. Although I have my fingers crossed for you. Good luck!!!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      I hope so haha! I have to say, the history and politics of Northern Ireland, both historically and currently, just fascinate me. If you go over to my Novels page, you can read an excerpt from the original, Hooligans in Shining Armour. Thanks for the comment 🙂


  2. authorleighmichaels

    Love this! I know the market is flooded with YA, but I just love meeting fellow YA authors – especially those you write something different for YA, since so much in the genre is cliche. Hope the rest of the process goes smoothly for you!


  3. Pingback: Writing Process Blog Hop: Hey, they let me on the bus! | Jennifer Austin – Author

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: