Author Interview: Teri Polen on Sarah

Welcome back, everyone!



This week I’m interviewing Teri Polen, whose book, Sarah, is currently the Biweekly Read for the Indie Eden Book Club. The book is a Young Adult horror novel that features some frightening twists and turns when a teenaged boy comes in contact with a ghost who wants to get revenge on the people who killed her. Let’s see what Teri has to say about the book, and about her writing process.




Hey Teri! Let’s start off with the question you would most like to answer about your book. What is the one question that you wish people would ask you about Sarah? (And what is the answer?)

I’m not sure how you’d phrase the question – I realize horror isn’t everyone’s flavor preference, but Sarah is also filled with humor.  The banter between Cain and his best friend, Finn, was one of my favorite parts about writing this book.  I had an adult come up to me just this week and say she absolutely doesn’t read horror books, but read Sarah without knowing the genre (her sister loaned it to her and she didn’t look at the cover) and totally enjoyed it.  Said she might look into other books in the same genre.

Wow, so you converted her! Nice job! On the flip side, which typical author interview question do you hate the most?

I wouldn’t say I hate this question, but when I’m asked who would play my characters in a movie, it’s hard for me to picture anyone in those roles.  I’m a ‘know it when I see it’ kind of person – it needs to click for me.

That’s understandable. I can never really answer that question either, haha. Can you give us a short description of your book?

Seventeen-year-old horror fanboy Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost track down her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime.  Now, he just hopes to stay alive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?

There are so many!  In September, I’m going to my third writing retreat hosted by author C.J. Redwine.  She’s a wealth of writing/publishing information and has a knack for asking the right questions to get you to see your WIP [work-in-progress] from different angles and make it better.  Stephen King, Victoria Schwab, J.K. Rowling, and Maggie Stiefvater for their books and vivid imaginations – I’d love to spend a day inside their heads.

Great choices! :) Your own book is in the horror genre. What drew you to this genre? Do you also like to read books in this genre?

I’ve been a horror fan since I was around 6-years-old when my dad let me stay up to watch Chiller Theatre with him.  Horror movies/books, haunted houses, ghost stories – all fascinating.  My go-to genres for reading are horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, so when the ideas started coming for a book – those were my natural directions.  Just the way my mind works.

Who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about Sarah?

Sarah is a YA book, so obviously teenagers are the target audience.  That being said, YA books aren’t just for teenagers, and many adults have commented on how much they enjoyed reading it.  I’ve had reviewers describe Sarah as “a twisted take on a classic plot” and “YA horror with a heart” that “maintains an offbeat sense of humor and unexpected morality”.  Sarah isn’t ‘in-your-face’ horror, it also contains some humorous parts.  I’ve had a couple of devout anti-horror friends read my book and they both enjoyed it – no nightmares.

Ah, so it is a book for everybody! To get into your writing process now, when you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?

My first book (that shall never see the light of day) had more of a ‘pantster’ type of development and was just all around cringe-worthy.  With Sarah, I did a bit more outlining, but was still surprised at the directions the characters took the story sometimes.  My current WIP has an outline, but I’ve also ventured from that road map.  I get distracted by shiny things occasionally and have to force myself to focus on the endgame.
[For all the non-writing readers, a “pantster” is someone who “flies by the seat of their pants” and lets the story take them where it will, without planning it out first. ]

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t think so.  A Diet Coke is generally involved, sometimes chocolate, usually music, and I change up where I write.  Different views and surroundings inspire me.

You had me at chocolate! Any writing tips for other writers?

Study your craft, read in your genre, and just keep swimming.  Don’t be that person who wonders what could have happened.

That’s great advice. Moving into marketing now, what would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?

Sarah was on NetGalley for a few months and I was really pleased with the number of reviews that generated.  My own blog has helped and several blogger friends/authors have been very generous in helping to promote Sarah.  I’m just starting to attend book festivals and book signings – so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?

Rejection letters?  What are those?  *snort*  I don’t know of any writers who haven’t been rejected at some point – I went through years of querying and rewrites, but Black Rose Writing actually found me.  Another publisher I’d queried required their submissions to be uploaded to  I had the option to put Sarah into ‘discovery’, which enabled other publishers to read it, and after a few months, received an offer from Black Rose.

Oh, that’s interesting! I might have to check into Okay, now for the last and possibly most important question: Is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?

I was shocked upon realizing I wouldn’t be able to retire early and live off my royalties.  *another snort*  Wait – I need a tissue to wipe away the tears of laughter.  It’s not just sitting down to write and improving your craft.  Promotion takes a considerable amount of time – interviews, scheduling/attending signings, SWAG, giveaways, maintaining a social media presence.  But I wouldn’t change a thing about it – I love every minute.

That’s great, and very inspirational! Thanks for the interview, Teri, we learned a lot!

About the Author:
Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium.  She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat.  Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, is her first novel.  Visit her online at

You also can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

About the Book:
Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

Sarah is on sale now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Rose Writing.

10 Responses

  1. Jessica, thanks so much for hosting me today! I really enjoyed the interview and look forward to discussing Sarah with the Indie Eden Book Club.

    1. Thank you, Teri! You had some great answers and advice! :)

  2. Loved your answer to “Is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be?”, Teri. Too funny but spot on.
    It’s great to see Sarah getting more exposure. It’s a fantastic novel that will appeal to teens and adults. I haven’t been a teen for decades and I loved it :)

    1. Sorry I’m so late replying – didn’t get the notifications! Yep – anyone who gets in this business thinking the rest of their days are champagne and caviar is in for a rude awakening. You really have to love what you do. Thanks, Mae!

  3. A lovely author interview with Teri, Jessica. I must say that diet coke and chocolate sounds like an oxymoron to me [smile]. Sarah sounds really good. I am not a big reader of horror (as I am a scaredy cat) but I do like Stephen King so I should manage this one.

    1. Thank you, Robbie! And don’t worry, if you can handle Stephen King, you can handle Sarah! It has a great balance of humor and horror. :)

    2. Obviously, the diet coke cancels out the calories from the chocolate, Robbie – it’s a scientific fact. I read it somewhere – probably because it’s something I wrote.

  4. I’m a huge YA fan, as you know, and I’m no teenager. I’m so looking forward to reading this book, Teri. I’m almost done with Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. Cool to see her name in your list! Promotion is my absolute worst enemy. ;-) I would give that part up in a heartbeat. You’re fantastic at it, or so you seem from the outside looking in. Great interview, Jessica. Nice to learn a bit more about Teri.

    1. Thanks Sarah! And I agree with you: promotion is the worst! I just want to write, haha.

    2. The Raven Cycle series is completely amazing! I’d love to go back and re-read from the beginning – Stiefvater said there are tons of clues and Easter eggs hidden. I do what I can with promotion, Sarah – and a person could absolutely spend all their time on it and never get around to writing, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

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