The Darkness and Light of Author Courtney Summers

This week is a special show. I interview Courtney Summers, the author of the New York Times best-selling novel "Sadie," and learn what it was like to work on a book that also had a podcast component and what inspires Courtney to write such dark novels.

Mignon Fogarty
8-minute read
Episode #645
The book Sadie by Courtney Summers

MF: And I noticed it as I was flipping through the book there’s a lot of italics. You depict her thoughts to herself and there are italics scattered throughout to show that.

CS: I love this. I don't even think about these things. I guess I did do that. And now I've got to answer for it! Why did I do that? It just came out that way. I feel like I'm just going to reveal there's less intent behind my novels than I think there is, and I did this, this, and this, and I got what I did.

MF: Well, it could be subconscious, but I was an English major, and I often felt like that's what we were doing in class—finding his deeper meanings and symbolism in novels—and I was wondering if the author meant that.

CS: A friend told me something about unconscious competence, or something like that. There's some whole thing where you’re unconsciously competent at something after a certain point, so you get to a point where you don't know what you're doing but you know how to do it. And I’m like, “Let me know when I get there.”

MF: Well, I think you’re there. You’re already there. 

CS: Until I write my next book. It only lasts one book, I think, and then I have to relearn it.

MF: Right. It’s always the next one, the next challenge. Writers are always moving on.

CS: But I'm sure whatever it will be next will be sad and devastating for a reader, hopefully. That’s what I like to do.

MF: “Sadie” was really dark!

CS: I like to bring down the mood of people who pick up my books. If they want something warm and cuddly, they're not going to find it in a Courtney Summers novel. I don't know why I'm like that. I don't want to think too hard about it.

MF: I was just going to ask you why, but that's okay. You don't have to have an answer.

Before this interview, we exchanged emails and you mentioned semicolons, that you like them, so I was wondering if you wanted to talk about semicolons as your anti-pet-peeve.

CS: I just like the way they can extend and continue a thought on a page. I was just like, “Wow.” It keeps the fluidity of the of the prose without the firm pause of a period. Does that sound nonsensical? I just really like them, and I know some people really don't like them, and I don't understand those people.

MF: I know, I don't either. I guess the way you described it, maybe it plays into that stream-of-consciousness that you're trying to go for with your...

CS: I  think you’re right!

MF: A period is so final. So stopping...

CS: It’s definitive. It’s a little firm sometimes. I’m not ready to end yet, but I need a tiny little break.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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