Happy Tuesday fellow ramblers! Today’s post is very exciting because I have a very special guest over on the blog, Sierra Elmore! Sierra is the author of Death by Society, a contemporary book focusing on mental health. More on that ahead!
Before getting into the interview, here’s a little bit about the book:
Author: Sierra Elmore
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Release Date: November 8th, 2022
click to view content warnings
Suicidal ideation, depression, self-harm, bullying, domestic violence, racism, anxiety (social and generalized), and rape trauma syndrome (no rape depiction)
MEAN GIRLS meets IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY when two teenage girls’ worlds collide when one attempts suicide to avoid toxic popularity. Carter Harper may have created an award-winning app and have a 3.93 GPA, but her successes are overshadowed by brutal bullying, depression, and loneliness. Tired of being treated as the popular girls’ plaything, Carter thinks her only choice is to die by suicide. Abby Wallace is one of the most popular girls in school, subordinate only to Kelsey, her best friend with benefits. The ambitious poet destroys reputations without care to prove how cool, cruel, and strong she is, all while pushing down her past trauma and secret guilt. Carter and Abby’s tumultuous relationship comes to a boiling point when Abby stops Carter from attempting suicide. But what happens when they have to protect one another from Kelsey’s harmful antics? If Carter and Abby can stand each other for more than three minutes, they can stop Kelsey from hurting more girls—and maybe become friends in the process. In the tradition of Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson, DEATH BY SOCIETY questions how far we’ll go to gain power over our lives—and what happens when we use our voices for both good and to harm others.
Hi Sierra! Thank you so much for taking the time to be here! To start off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your upcoming book?
Thank you for having me! I’m Sierra, a young adult contemporary and thriller author writing about girls wreaking havoc and fighting trauma. My debut novel, Death by Society, is about Carter and Abby, two girls caught on two different sides of a cycle of toxic popularity. The book centers on mental health, as Abby saves Carter’s life after a suicide attempt: think MEAN GIRLS meets Laurie Halse Anderson.
When did you get the original idea for DEATH BY SOCIETY?
The creation of Death by Society began with a “simple” question: what would have happened if I attempted suicide? As an eighth-grade student, despondent and hopeless after a series of personal tragedies, I wanted to explore death through fiction. This began with a short story about a teenage girl saved after a suicide attempt and blossomed into where Death by Society is today.
What was your favourite thing about working on your book?
I really love revision! I enjoy ripping my work apart and creating something new in the process.
How different is the final draft of DEATH BY SOCIETY from the first draft (if at all)?
VERY, VERY DIFFERENT. The biggest difference is that everybody was white and there were two other main, POV characters (Lilly and Sloane). Lilly’s entire purpose was to save Carter’s life, so giving Abby that purpose instead really gave strength to her character arc. Sloane was just another reminder of teenage trauma and, honestly, there was enough of that in the novel.
As for everybody being white, unfortunately, those were the books that I grew up with. I forget what draft it was where the characters naturally became diverse. Carter, the main character, was the first to change—she became Black without a second thought. I think it was the advent of more unapologetically Black books such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton & Sona Charaipotra that made me realize, “oh, diversity is allowed. I can do this.” Which should’ve been obvious from the start, because I live in a very diverse community, first in Central PA, where I grew up, and now in New York City.
Which character was your favourite to create and write about?
I think Abby was, because she’s easily the most complex. She undergoes this huge transformation from mean girl to…well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s good. On the surface, she’s just another Regina George or Heather Chandler. When you get to know her, though, you see that she has anxiety, and a dark secret she’s hidden that impacts everything around her. She’s a poet. She’s a baker. She has a fractured relationship with her mother. She’s pansexual and has had some bad experiences with dating (haven’t we all?). I worked really hard to humanize her so she has a lot of depth to her, despite being the bully. Even so, her cruel actions are never condoned, however, not even by herself.
If you had to choose one song to describe your book, which one would you choose?
Oh, this is a good one! I’ll go with “brutal” by Olivia Rodrigo, which is pretty self-explanatory. Another selection is “Gravel to Tempo” by Hayley Kiyoko. A friend sent me the music video a while back and said it encapsulated Death by Society, and I have to agree!
As we know, you are self-publishing DEATH BY SOCIETY. How different is the experience from what one would have in traditional publishing?
It’s definitely a more hands-on experience! Self-publishing has been a fun and challenging process so far. I’ve been able to select my editor and cover designer (Hannah Capin and Sophia Designs Things, respectively) who are both AMAZING. I’m also in complete control of marketing and publicity, which is thrilling and terrifying! Blogger outreach, press outreach, and social media are typically handled by a publishing house, but now it all falls on me. However, I want this book to reach a wide audience, so I’m doing everything I can to ensure this book gets in the right hands, like hosting giveaways and beginning to post on my blog again.
The other large difference is having to pay for so much upfront. For example, if indie authors want a Kirkus review, it costs around $400, while traditional authors do not have to pay. I ended up starting a Kickstarter to fund some upfront costs like editing and cover design so I could both give early and loyal readers exclusive rewards and not have to completely eat that cost myself. I love Kickstarter – it felt like a win-win situation.
Finally, what advice would you like to give to aspiring authors about writing and the publishing industry as a whole?
Do what’s best for you. For so, so long I was convinced that traditional publishing was the only route possible for my books. Though I absolutely plan on pursuing traditional publishing for my other books, I didn’t feel like traditional was the right path for this book. Being a hybrid author means forging a new path for myself, a path I hadn’t imagined. Sometimes you have to do that in order to get the best results.
Publishing can be a tricky industry, so no matter what route you choose, take care of yourself. I don’t just mean standard self-care like bubble baths and face masks (though those are good!) I mean deeply take care of yourself through therapy (if accessible), journaling about the ugly things in life, and eating a warm meal when it’s the last thing in the world you want to do. You are the person who needs to care about yourself most. At the end of the day, publishing is an industry, and you are a person.
Once again, thank you Sierra for taking the time to be here and sharing your experience! I can’t wait to dive into Death by Society!
Sierra Elmore writes YA contemporary and thriller novels about girls wreaking havoc while fighting trauma. Her work has won the YoungArts merit award and was selected for the Author Mentor Match program.
Elmore earned a BA in Sociology from Arcadia University. She’s conducted research on the representation of mentally ill women in media, as well as relational aggression amongst adolescent girls.
Elmore lives in New York City, where she explores independent bookstores, volunteers for the Crisis Text Line, and goes to as many concerts as possible.
And that’s all for today’s post! Is Death by Society on your TBR yet? What are you reading currently? Let me know in the comments!