Described by the New York Times as “a deft and lovely debut,” Sarah Domet’s The Guineveres comes out in paperback on July 11. She will appear at The Book Lady Bookstore the same day, alongside Jonathan Rabb, another Savannah-based author.
I sat down with Sarah over some delicious bourbon mules and homemade tater tots to talk about growing up, the power of words and what tattoos we should get (that part we aren’t telling).
Would you ever write under a pseudonym?
I haven’t yet but I think I would, just for the fun of it. I have a friend and we challenged each other to write romance novels, something that is completely out of our normal genres. It was fun to write so differently.
When did you realize language had power?
I was incredibly shy as a child, so much so I had to go to a speech therapist. I remember traipsing across the parking lot, in full view of all the other students, to the little trailer to explain to a stranger why I didn’t like talking. I was also able to communicate through writing, and I found comfort in reading. Those relationships were easier. They couldn’t walk away. At some point I got impatient. I got older and more confident.
What’s funny story you can share about going to Catholic school?
We had ways we tried to navigate the narrow set of rules, ways to try to self-identify. I remember my [older] sister, who was always more of a rebel, learned that in the Catholic tradition you didn’t have to be a priest to baptise someone, so she baptised her friend in the school’s water fountain. She got in a little trouble but there wasn’t much they could do.
Which Guinevere are you most like? Or do you aspire to be?
In some ways, I am all of the Guineveres, but I’m most like Vere, the observer. She stands back and takes a look before acting. I like to survey the scene and see how I can interact before I do anything.
I want to be more like Gwen, the risk taker. She’s a little edgy and dangerous, but really I’m home reading about people like her. I’m only a badass in my own mind.
Do you have any superstitions related to writing?
I used to have a writing hat that I wore. It was an old baseball hat that I wore in grad school. I took my comprehensive exams in it. I thought it blocked out the distractions like blinders on a horse.
I also used to travel with a group of Buddha statues. I thought I couldn’t function without them. Then I would take just a few, then one. Then I realized I didn’t need to have them with me. They are still on my desk though.
They remind how to be in the moment and observing the details around me.
What is your favorite underrated book?
In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard. It’s full of gorgeous, detailed sentences. She evokes a sense of nostalgia that gave me such an emotional connection. Sometimes you read with your brain, and I did, but I also felt so much for these two girls growing up. It’s funny and tender.
I am the youngest and I was always reading my older sister’s books for school. I was fascinated with the Diary of Anne Frank. Here was this girl, not that much older than me, in such a dire situation and yet she was so full of hope.
As a child, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, really stoked my imagination in all that was magical. Everything else to that point was grounded in realism.
What are you working on now?
A book about two women, separated by 76 years, who are each looking to remake themselves as Halley’s Comet nears. After writing about the Guineveres and the closed nature of a convent, I wanted to open things up and write about something more expansive, although the entire universe might have been a bit too much.
Now for some from the Proust Questionnaire:
What is your most treasured possession?
Now, it’s a ceramic figurine of two angels. My godmother made it. I can see her thumbprints in it. When I was a kid, it was the life-size Michael Jordan poster hanging in my room. I was a tomboy.
What is your greatest fear?
That while giving a reading, I look down to realize I’m not wearing pants.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Fine coffee and booze.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to play guitar.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Florentino in Love In the Time of Cholera. I have incredible patience.
On what occasions do you lie?
To protect my alone time.
What words or phrases do you most overuse?
What are your favorite names?
Old-timey ones like Hazel and George. When I was young I wanted to be Samantha and go by Sam.
What is your motto?
Want to ask Sarah your own questions? Attend a reading and conversation with her and Jonathan Rabb at the Book Lady Bookstore, 6 E. Liberty Street, Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books; 1st edition (October 4, 2016)