|Sharon Dogar||Interview with Sharon Dogar, March 2007|
When Hal's family makes the heart-wrenching decision to leave Charley, their comatose daughter, behind in a hospital ward while they spend the summer on the west coast of England, Hal finds it harder than ever to shake his sister's presence. What power is letting him share her memories? And will they reveal the deep, dark truth behind her tragic "accident"? Set at a beach where growing up goes wrong, WAVES is a coming-of-age story about first love and first loss; about a family drowning in sorrow, and the remarkable son who is struggling against the tide to save them.
--The Chicken House 2007
ETC: What inspired you to write Waves?
Dogar: It's always hard to know how or why a book is born. For me, a book usually starts with a picture. One day I saw Hal, he just leapt into my mind, just the way he is in the prologue. He had his back to me, and I knew there was something he both did and didn't want to look at (Charley's picture). The minute I had that vision, I knew I would write a book about him. I had so many questions in my head, and in a way I think that's what a book is, an answer to a question you don't always even know you're asking. Once I've finished a book I can see more clearly what it is I was trying to work out. In the case of Waves, I think I was asking questions about loss and grief (as well as love) and how human beings can survive.
ETC: How do you write your books, do you plan them first?
Dogar: No! I never plan them. I just follow the thoughts and pictures in my head. In one sense this is great, as it hopefully keeps the story feeling alive. In another sense, it's awful, because it means I have an enormous amount of editing to do once the story's finished. The plot of the story almost always only becomes clear after the characters and setting have had their say!
ETC: What do you hope for from your first novel?
Dogar: First of all, I just want to fulfill the childhood dream of seeing a book with my name on it actually on the bookshelves! I'm looking forward to finding out what the experience of being read by others is really all about. I hope that the story of Hal and Charley touches those who read it. I hope it operates successfully on several levels: that one can simply escape into the story, and find out "whodunit," that others may be moved by the loss in it, as well as the love, and in my wildest dreams, I sometimes imagine that it might help someone make more sense of their own experience. But most of all, I just hope it's a good read, and that it satisfies the unspoken, unwritten contract you make with a reader when they pick up your book-to have told your story as clearly and as well as you can.
ETC: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Dogar: Read, read, and then read some more. If you read then you have an incredible resource-bank in your head; reading gives you the tools with which to write your own stories. And never worry too much about originality-most stories have been told before-it's bringing your own particular slant to a story that makes it original.
Write about what interests you, not what you think might be "marketable." Also, try to write consistently, every day if possible. Like Philip Pullman says, "if you want your muse to find you, make sure you're at your desk." I think he's right, I think stories find it very hard to grow without regular attention.
ETC: What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer. A forensic scientist. A spacewoman. A gamekeeper in Africa. An actor. Someone else-anyone else.
ETC: Why did you begin writing?
Dogar: I never stopped, so I didn't have to start. I've just always written things down, sometimes to remember and sometimes to forget.
ETC: Where do your ideas come from?
Dogar: Some come from real life, like Hal's eyes, and his insults (courtesy of my two sons) or Sarz catching a flatfish (courtesy of my daughter). Others just appear, and it feels like they arrive out of thin air, but of course, they don't, they come from all the experiences a person has ever had or heard about. Personally, I think they come from the unconscious.
Philip Pullman once said his daemon would be a magpie, because they steal bright shiny things, and he's right, of course, writers pick up ideas anywhere and everywhere-and I suppose they don't really believe in ownership.
ETC: What is your ideal place and time for writing/illustrating?
Dogar: It's not so much the where, although I love my kitchen table, as well as the Bodleian Library in Oxford (especially for editing), but mostly, for me, it's the feeling the urge to write, and once I'm in that mode I can write upside down in a bog whilst balancing a sprig of holly on my elbow. But to save my family the embarrassment, we're building a shed at the bottom of the garden to put me in.
ETC: Which book would you most like to have written?
Dogar: There are so many. Here are a few: To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, Skellig, The Passion, Northern Lights, The Blood Stone, Lucas, The Grapes of Wrath, A Hundred Years of Solitude, Stand By Me, The Constant Nymph, Rapture (poems by Carol Ann Duffy) The Da Vinci Code (for the money) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, I am David, Across the Nightingale Floor, Fingersmith, Alias Grace, Where the Wild Things Are, Ferdinand the Bull. Perhaps I'd like to have written the very one you're in the process of writing, who knows.