Today I’m taking a little breather from talking about A Moment’s Worth and am, instead, providing the next interview of my interview series. Two weeks prior to the release of my book, indie author Sarah Dayan celebrated a similar accomplishment when her debut novel, Greater Than the Still, became available for purchase. Today, we will learn a bit more about the making of the novel, as well as her journey as a writer.
To give a bit of background info about her, Sarah Dayan was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she still resides to this day. She is incredibly well-traveled, and has written about many of the places she’s been to for Toonari Post. Other hobbies of hers include playing the piano and guitar, photography, and giving in to her sweet tooth. You can learn more about her on her website and you can follow her on Twitter. Be sure to also like the Facebook page for Greater Than the Still as well.
LL: Can you briefly explain what Greater Than the Still is about, for those who don’t know?
SD: Greater Than the Still is a novel that blends the powers of daily interactions with a universal human curiosity to understand other peoples’ lives. Set throughout the course of one day in New York City, Juliette Laredo is faced with an opportunity that could change her life. On the brink of deciding to return to a stable career as a mental health counselor or follow her passion as a pastry chef, Juliette’s worries surface as seen through the perspective of the strangers and friends around her.
More than a dozen unique New Yorkers narrate their own perceptions and feelings of Juliette, as her story is told through their eyes. Greater Than the Still portrays the love, fears, and heartbreaks of New Yorkers as strangers and familiar faces peel back layers of Juliette’s life. It is through their crossed paths that change the course of Juliette’s future. In a city of anonymity, curious onlookers paint pieces of a picture that forms Juliette as a whole. But no one knows her story better than she does.
LL: I read that the inspiration came from a quote from the book, The Scenic Route by Binnie Kirshenbaum; and the quote talked of how when one keeps to themselves, people will tend to make assumptions and stories about them. With that in mind, is that why you had each chapter focused on a different character, rather than just Juliette?
SD: Growing up in New York City, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people from all walks of life, each with their own story of how they have made the city their home. Even though so many paths cross each day, for the most part, people tend to keep to themselves. It’s easy for people taking the subway or walking down the street to make assumptions of strangers that pass them, without even knowing them at all. I wanted to play around with the idea that every interpersonal interaction can have an impact on someone else, sometimes without completely realizing it.
It was important for me to illustrate a variety of unique lives in New York City, which is why I made each chapter from the perspective of a different person. I’ve been fascinated with the idea that behind everyone’s exterior, there are so many distinct stories that go untold. I wanted to bring those stories to life.
LL: I also read that you work as a school counselor as your day job and you’ve traveled to over 25 countries. You definitely make both those aspects about yourself evident in your novel when you make Juliette a counselor, and that some of the characters either hail from or travel to different parts of the world. I’m curious as to what motivated you to do that.
SD: I wanted to put as many parts of myself into the novel. There are bits and pieces of my personality and experiences that are scattered throughout the story. Certain names of characters in the novel are representative of loved ones in my life. Countries and cities I mentioned in the book are some of my favorite places I’ve lived or traveled to.
New York City has been a large element in my life and I wanted to showcase parts of the city that I love. Even though the novel is comprised of many different personalities, I tried to treat New York City as one of the main characters on its own.
LL: You made Juliette Hapa, which is a subject addressed near the end of one of the chapters. This was something I found quite interesting, because it’s rare to read about mixed race characters in fiction. Was there a specific reason for doing that?
SD: One part of my identity that I hold close to my heart is being a Hapa woman. My mother is Filipino and my father is Jewish Egyptian. I wanted to incorporate my own mixed race identity into the story because it has been such an important part of my life and it is something I am very proud of. I’ve spent some time in the Philippines and wanted to make that special experience a part of my story because it is a time I will always remember and cherish.
Mixed race characters don’t often show up in novels. I think incorporating it into the story can begin to open up positive conversations about discussions about being mixed race and how people identify themselves within the community. It is something I feel very strongly about and wanted to illustrate it in my story.
LL: You wrote this book a few years ago. Why did you wait to publish it?
SD: Honestly, everyday life got in the way. At the time, I was more focused on getting my Master’s degree and working on moving up in my career. My book had been sitting on the shelf for a while until just a few months ago when I got the motivation to work on it again. It reminded me of how writing is such a big part of who I am, and how it is one thing I am truly passionate about.
LL: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
SD: It’s been a goal of mine since I was very young. I can remember constantly reading books and writing short stories whenever I had the chance. I started writing full length novels when I was a teenager, and also used poetry as a way of expressing my emotions. I worked on newspapers and magazines in high school and college. I spent some time after college doing travel journalism. It was an amazing experience to get to travel and write about different parts of the country. Writing has always been a constant part of my life, it’s the best way I can express the way I see the world.
LL: Did you have a specific reason for choosing the indie publishing route rather than the traditional way?
SD: I like the idea of having full creative control over my project, as compared to publishing the traditional way. I was able to stay true to the story I wanted to write, as well as design the front and back cover of my novel. It has allowed me to push myself creatively and has been an extremely rewarding experience. Of course there are many benefits with going the traditional route, but I have found the indie publishing process completely fulfilling and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
LL: Will there be more books in the future to come?
SD: There definitely will be more books to come. I am planning to make a sequel to Greater Than the Still, and possibly extend it into a trilogy. I didn’t plan on making a sequel to Greater Than the Still, but an idea came to me that seemed too good to pass up. The planning is in the beginning stages but I’m aiming to get started on the next book later on this summer.