Author Study

Doing a Book Report or an Author Study?


Sarah’s Homework Policy: I love to hear from readers, but please don’t ask me to do your homework.  You’d be cheating yourself out of the opportunity to practice your research skills, and those are very important skills to have, both for school and for life — not to mention for being an informed citizen in a democracy.

If your question is NOT answered below, email Sarah


Writing Questions

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A: I seem to remember wanting to be flight attendant when I was a little girl, which is funny considering I really don’t enjoy flying all that much. But I do enjoy traveling to different countries and learning more about cultures that aren’t my own, so maybe that explains it.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school, but for various reasons I ended up being a) financial analyst and b) a dairy farmer’s wife before I finally got up the courage to try doing what I really wanted to do all along. It took being hospitalized in my late 30’s for me to give myself that permission. I write about that here.


Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: I get a lot of my YA novel ideas from reading the news, and from perusing technology magazines like the MIT Technology Review and Wired. Other book ideas come from my life experiences.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and you never know when a glimmer of an idea will strike.

It helps to read widely, to observe and listen, and to write ideas down before you forget them.


Q: Are your main characters based on you?

A: There’s a bit of me in some of my characters, but what happens to them didn’t necessarily happen to me. That’s why my books are called novels rather than memoirs. I might write a memoir eventually, but I feel like I need to live a bit longer first.


Q: Do you have any tips for becoming a better writer?

A:  Check out the Writing Tips Section under the “For Writers” tab on this website. I’ve also written a lot of blog posts both on my blog and on various other blogs, so it’s time to learn how to use your research skills. Knowing how to research effectively is important for your future career – not to mention for your life as a citizen in a democracy.


Q: Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

A: That’s like asking me which is my favorite child. I spend so much time and love on each of my books I get very attached to them.


Q: Do you have a favorite book by another author?

A:  I can’t possibly answer that because I love so many books. I love to write surrounded by shelves of books that I’ve loved, because it’s like being in the embrace of old friends.


Q: Have you ever considered making a movie out of one of your books? You could make a LOT OF MONEY doing that! Also, can I star in the movie?

A: If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question  and “I have a great idea for a book, will you write it for me and we’ll split the profits 50-50?”)  I could retire to a nice beachfront property and sit around drinking umbrella drinks all day—and I love those little umbrellas!

Here’s the thing: It’s not up to me. It’s up to movie producers.  If they’re interested in adapting a book into a film, they’ll option the book and get a someone to write a script.

Usually that someone isn’t the author of the book.

But even then, there’s no guarantee that the movie will happen. It must get “green lit” by a studio.  In other words, someone has to come up with the MONEY to make the movie.

I would love to walk the red carpet of a movie based on one of my books some day, but in the meantime, I’m plan to keep on writing the best books I can.

Feel free to tell me who you’d like to see cast in the imaginary movie of any of my books!

Questions About Specific Books


Q: Why does it say G-d in CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC and LIFE, AFTER instead of spelling out the whole name?

A: Observant Jews don’t spell out the name of G-d on paper in case the paper is disrespected or destroyed.

Q: Were you brought up Jewish or Catholic?

A: I grew up in a more reform Jewish household. CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC was written as an answer to my teenage self on a question that really puzzled me growing up: “How do you be Jewish without being ‘too Jewish’?” That was a message that I picked up on from my family, and I found it incredibly confusing. I also was fascinated by the rituals of Catholicism; I had many Catholic friends growing up.


Q: What inspired you to write PURGE?

A: I talk about that here. But here’s a bit more: one of the reasons I wrote PURGE, and that I am so open in speaking about my own struggles with depression and bulimia, is that I want people – especially young people who might be struggling as I did as a teen –  to know that there is hope and possibility.

Purge isn’t a memoir, but is based on my own experiences in a psychiatric hospital trying to recover from bulimia and a suicide attempt I also spent time in an Intensive Outpatient Program (mine was five days a week). This was in 2001, and I’ll tell you what I’ve told my own children so many times – that it was the worst time in my life, but it was also the best thing that ever happened to me, because the work I did to recover helped me become the stronger, healthier, happier woman I am today.



Q: What was the inspiration for Want to Go Private?

A: I talk about that in this video:



Q: What made you think of the plot and Lara herself? Did you actually experience these things when you were younger, or know someone who did?

A: Lara’s story was inspired by several real life incidents. But none of them happened to me personally, because I’m so old that when I was growing up we didn’t have the Internet! When I went to college I took a computer class and we were just starting to get personal computers to program on. My classmates started out learning on punch cards on mainframe computers. We didn’t have cell phones and certainly not smart phones. We had to type our papers on old fashioned typewriters and look things up in a card catalogue at the library when we were doing research instead of using a search engine.

I think there are pros and cons of growing up each way. That’s why I find it so interesting to explore these issues in my books – because I get to think about what is easier and more difficult about growing up in today’s world.

Q: I am doing a book report on your book “Backlash” for my 8th Grade language arts class. For my book report I need to have a map of where the book is set and even after reading the book I couldn’t find the exact setting of it. Could you please tell me where the book is set? 

A: There’s a good reason you can’t find the exact setting. It’s because Backlash is set in a non-existent midwestern town called Lake Hills. I wanted it to be “Everytown”, or even  “Anytown” –  the point being that situations like this can and does happen all around the country.

Q:  I have one question, do you have any future plans about writing a sequel, maybe about Lara and Bree becoming friends? Or about Liam and Syd? 

A: At this point I don’t have a plan to write a sequel to Backlash, but one thing I’ve learned is to “never say never.”

Personal Stuff

Q: Where and when were you born?

A: I was born in New York City, the same year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.


Q: Do you have any kids?

A: Yes, I have two, a boy and a girl. My late mother promised me that one day they would realize that I had become incredibly wise again, after becoming very stupid and embarrassing when they were teenagers.  I’m pleased to report that seems to have happened


Q: Do you have pets?

A: Yes, I have two dogs, a Havanese and an Italian Greyhound. You can see pictures of them on my Instagram, @sarahdarerlitt.


Q: Do you have brothers and sisters?

A: I have an older brother and a younger sister. And yes, that makes me the Tormented Middle Child, just like Jussy in CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC. I also have three nephews and three nieces whom I adore to bits.


Q: What’s your favorite food? 

A: Dark chocolate, the higher octane the better. I’m also obsessed with Ted Lasso’s “Biscuits with the Boss.”


Q: Do you have any hobbies? 

A: Well, I love to READ – that goes without saying! But I also love go-carting, watching movies, swimming, Pilates, cooking, travel, museums, going to hear live music and dancing. I am a history and politics junkie and spent a serving on my town’s legislative body.  At the moment I’m trying to learn three languages at the same time on Duolingo.