Great by Sara Benincasa: Author Interview & Giveaway

April 8, 2014 giveaway, interview 4

Hey guys! So as some of you may remember, I raved about GREAT by Sara Benincasa a few weeks ago. That book is officially out on shelves today! You really must go buy yourself a copy, you won’t be sorry 🙂

In honor of GREAT’s book birthday, I’m having Sara over today for a quick little interview about the book, time travel, and what’s up next for her. Sara is a comedian when not writing and she’s so funny! Her personality shines through these answers, I hope you love reading them like I did!

Great by Sara Benincasa

Great by Sara Benincasa

Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 272
Format read: ebook ARC
Source: publisher

In Sara Benincasa’s contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta’s carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa’s darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.

1. You’re known for your comedy and your memoir, AGORAFABULOUS! What made you want to branch out into the YA book genre?

YA is a fascinating and rich genre that encompasses everything from “The Fault in Our Stars” to “Push” to “The Hunger Games” and so much more. I got tired of talking about myself in my books and decided I wanted to talk about other people, made-up people, fictional people. Thus, YA! Plus, my master’s degree is in secondary school education and I miss talking to adolescents.

2. The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly one of the most famous literary classics out there. What was it about that story that made you want to modernize it into a contemporary YA book? 

I think Gatsby hits on themes that are really relevant to young people in particular: the desire to be seen and known and loved; the pretense of popularity; the shifting loyalties among groups of friends.

3. Was it daunting undertaking this as a project, knowing how well known the original is?

I didn’t think about it until it was already too late and the contracts were signed and the damn thing was written! And I’m glad, too. I just dove right in and had fun with it.

4. Is there any particular character or event in the book that you created based off some of your own personal experiences?

The narrator, Naomi, is someone who wants to think of herself as very progressive and cool and politically aware. However, she’s got her own prejudices, and they emerge in the book. That’s what I was like as a young person, and I’m still like that today – although I like to think I’ve gotten better as the years have gone by!

5. GREAT focuses a good deal on appearances vs. reality. Is there anything you’d like your readers to take away from this story? 

One important thing I want the readers to take away from the story is encapsulated in something Naomi’s father tells her at the very beginning of the tale. He tells her that you can’t be one person in one place and another person in another place. You’re the same you, no matter where you go, no matter who or what surrounds you. I’m still learning that lesson, myself. Working hard on it.

 There are other messages, too, but I’ll leave those a mystery in the hopes someone will be sufficiently intrigued to pick up the book!

6. Naomi’s mom is a Food Network phenom. How would you rate your own cooking skills? What’s your favorite thing to make?

My cooking sucks the bag. I am a 0 out of 10 in the cooking department. That said, I can make decent scrambled eggs and I can usually operate a toaster. Usually.

7. Naomi is staying in the Hamptons for the summer and it sounds gorgeous. Have you ever been? If you had to live there the rest of your life there, would you? If not, where?

I love The Hamptons during the summer, but I wouldn’t want to live there permanently. The traffic is just a monster on warm weekends. Plus, the place empties out when it cools down and I think that’s a bit lonely, perhaps. I don’t know, though – maybe it’s awesome to party with locals and actually become a real part of the community out of the visitor season. I saw a $14 lobster roll for sale on the public beach a couple summers ago and that teaches you a lot about what you need to know about the Hamptons.

 I will say that though it’s beautiful, the ocean in winter always strikes me as a bit melancholy. I prefer lots of color and light and activity around me during the winter. I’m getting more extroverted as I get older, somehow. I suppose that’s a side effect of working alone for a few years – I cherish fun time with others more.

8. Time to think back for a moment, what was your favorite book you had to read in school? 

Oh, I loved Gatsby. I also loved The Chosen, though I don’t know if that was required reading. Lord of the Flies was another one.

9. Given the chance to time travel, what decade in the past or future would you most like to visit?

I think I’d go fifty years into the future just to see who’s who and what’s what. Also, they might have better drugs for depression. That would be exciting. Not that my Prozac isn’t delicious.

10. People always talk about having a spirit animal, what would you say yours is? Why?

My spirit animal is probably a monkey, because my monkey mind is always going, going, going.

11. Is there anything coming up next for you in the YA genre?

Yes! In 2015 HarperTeen will (Lord willing and the crick don’t rise) publish BELIEVERS, my take on Lord of the Flies. The characters are members of an evangelical Christian teen girls show choir from Texas. BELIEVERS is a lot darker than GREAT, I’d say. Dark and twisty and kind of upsetting, but in that good way. Know what I mean?

Thank you so so much for stopping by and answering all of my questions, Sara!

In honor of its release day, I’m giving away an ebook copy of GREAT! This is international as long as you can accept an ebook copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The Rules:

  • One (1) winner will receive an ebook copy of GREAT from either Amazon or B&N
  • Ends April 18 at midnight
  • No cheating
  • Winner will receive an email and must respond within 48 hours

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4 Responses to “Great by Sara Benincasa: Author Interview & Giveaway”

  1. Ashleigh Swerdfeger

    I enjoy interviews 🙂 I was not a huge fan of Gatsby in high school lol, probably because of some of the characters’ attitudes were a huge put off 🙂 I really find it interesting when people do remake of books though.

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