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  • The Book Goat

Sarah R. Baughman: The Light in the Lake


September is here! I'm very excited about September (gee I wonder why) but that's not what this post is about. This post is about celebrating my fellow debuts! I know you're going to love all the fresh books coming at you this month!

The Light in the Lake

by Sarah R. Baughman

Twelve-year-old Addie should stay away from Maple Lake. After all, her twin brother, Amos, drowned there only a few months ago. But its crisp, clear water runs in Addie’s veins, and the notebook Amos left behind — filled with clues about a mysterious creature that lives in the lake’s inky-blue depths — keeps calling her back.

So despite her parents’ fears, Addie accepts a Young Scientist position studying the lake for the summer, promising she’ll stick to her job of measuring water pollution levels under adult supervision. Still, Addie can’t resist the secrets of Maple Lake. She enlists the lead researcher’s son, Tai, to help her investigate Amos’s clues. As they collect evidence, they also learn that Maple Lake is in trouble — and the source of the pollution might be close to home. Addie finds herself caught between the science she has always prized and the magic that brings her closer to her brother, and the choice she makes will change everything.


September 3rd, 2019

Introduce yourself and your debut novel!

Hello! I’m Sarah, and my debut novel, The Light in the Lake, tells the story of twelve-year-old Addie who, in the wake of her twin brother’s death, investigates a possible magical creature in nearby Maple Lake while also studying water pollution.

What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many wonderful people I’ve met through the #Novel19s debut group, and how supportive everyone, from fellow writers to teachers and librarians to friends and other readers, has been. On a practical note, I’ve also been quite surprised by the number of book-related tasks I need to work on that aren’t writing!

Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!

How can I pick one fellow debut?! This is an impossible choice, so I’ll give a shout-out to my two wonderful agent sisters debuting in 2019: Nicole Panteleakos, who wrote the gorgeous Planet Earth Is Blue, and Rebecca Balcarcel, who wrote Quijana’s inspiring story in THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY.

What’s a cool thing about your book that isn’t in the blurb?

This book’s setting was inspired by a place I lived in and loved very much! Maple Lake is not an exact rendition of Lake Willoughby in Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom, but they have many similarities.


What inspired you to write this book?

Several issues, places, and concepts I deeply care about--water quality, farming, Vermont, and hints of magic in nature--factor significantly in this book. Some personal background: my grandparents were dairy farmers, and their farm remains one of my favorite places! I also grew up in Michigan--the Great Lakes State, where water is abundant and prized-- and lived in Vermont for six years, where I spent hours hiking and skiing through forests and mountains. So in a way, though I drafted it in under a year, this book was a long time coming, because so many aspects of it have been “simmering” in my brain for a while.


What advice would you give to a new writer?

What I’m about to say will sound trite, but it’s the truest idea I can offer: keep going! I love writing more than just about anything, but that doesn’t mean I always feel inspired when I sit down to write. In fact, words don’t always come easily. The key for me has been to show up anyway. Stephen King said it best: “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” One last thing: read a lot, both in your genre and out of of it!


How do you develop your plot and characters?

The first element that comes to mind when a story’s just beginning is a character within a certain setting, tied to a concept-- typically nature-related. The character is always distinctly shaped by their setting, and the plot grows from that relationship. Plot is usually harder for me, but I’m learning how to be more systematic about it! I recently attended a terrific workshop with the YA/MG author Aimée Carter, who gave very helpful advice on the three-act structure and character development. I often handwrite brainstorms about plot and characters, and look for events and issues that can push the character in some way.


What book or author has most influenced your own writing?

Mary Oliver. Her simple, beautiful descriptions of the natural world, and her ability to hold spiritual truth and mystery side by side, are second to none. Also, reading her poems fills me with the same sense of calm that being in nature does, and that’s saying a lot.


Share an aesthetic!

This novel aesthetic includes a picture of my real-life Maple Lake: Lake Willoughby, in Westmore, VT. The picture on the bottom left is one I took at Long Pond, in the same town. My family and I had just finished a hike and stopped to cool our feet, and I couldn’t help but notice the specks of light dancing in the lake!


Sarah, your book sounds so sweet (and heartbreaking!). I can't wait to read it on 9/3/19!

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#interview #novel19s #september

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