Welcome to the Spotlight: Sara Zarr and The Lucy Variations!


I’m thrilled to welcome back to the Spotlight, author Sara Zarr to talk about her brand new YA novel, The Lucy Variations!  This amazing novel is on sale starting today – but stay tuned to see how you can win a free copy!

9780316205016_p0_v2_s260x420The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Sixteen year old Lucy Beck-Moreau had it all and threw it away, at least that’s what her grandfather and parents think. A well-known and loved concert pianist, Lucy quit. Her gifted 10-year-old brother is now the focus, following her former path. His new piano teacher, Will, somehow sparks Lucy into thinking about her former love, and she wonders what it might be like to play again, without living under the heavy expectations and demands of her grandfather. Can Lucy find her own way, rediscover the joy, without being bogged down again by others’ expectations? And can she do it without hurting the ones she cares about the most?

A story about finding joy on one’s own terms, Sara Zarr delves into the emotions of a character searching for herself and making mistakes along the way.

Spotlight on Sara Zarr:

I’m a huge fan of your work and am so happy to read a new novel by you! How did The Lucy Variations come about? What was the initial spark for the story and for Lucy?

This book has been with me a long time, and it’s hard now to go back and identify that first spark. I know that I wanted a character in a family that was strongly identified by one thing, and see this character reject in some way the family’s identifying characteristic. I also knew I wanted to write about a teen girl in a life-changing relationship with an adult male mentor figure. Eventually these different interests came together (through some really different permutations along the way) into Lucy’s story.

Lucy is a gifted pianist who loves music. How much research did you have to do for this novel? Do you play the piano or any other instruments?

I didn’t play piano. I played clarinet, though nowhere near the level of Lucy’s skill or dedication. But music was a huge presence in my childhood, particularly classical music. My parents met in music school and both played and sang and led choirs and groups. So I already had a lot of familiarity with that kind of music and how passionate a person or a family could be about it. I did a little bit of research into the technical details, and at one point observed a master class–talented young pianists getting critiqued by a prestigious performer and conductor. That helped give the story some more texture.

Lucy talks about her loves – particularly music. What are your Loves?

It’s probably not surprising that a lot of Lucy’s loves are my loves. Her love list of music is basically straight from my own tastes. I love music. I love making meaningful connections with people. I try to love the world the best I can.

For more about Sara and her books, you can check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook. For a previous Spotlight interview on Sara: click here.

Win a copy of The Lucy Variations! Just follow these rules to enter the drawing:

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me if you play any musical instruments! I don’t really play any, anymore, but I used to play the piano, clarinet, guitar, and accordion (yes, true). My husband recently bought me a keyboard and I’ve been slowly picking my way through my old piano music. Thank goodness it has headphones!

2. Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Saturday, May 11th. The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, May 14th.

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by! Good luck and happy reading!


39 responses »

  1. Always exciting when Sara has a new book out! Especially excited to read this one because the piano is the only instrument I can play. Impressed that you used to play the clarinet and the accordion and the guitar too? Pretty versatile! Thanks for the interview and have fun with your new keyboard :).

    • Not very versatile – I can no longer play the clarinet or the accordion. I suppose I could pick up the guitar again, but Bob’s so dang good there’s no sense. 😉 YAY for piano players!

  2. This looks like a great book for both my daughter and me. She plays piano and violin and I used to play a variety of instruments – piano, flute, trumpet and french horn.

  3. This book sounds amazing!! It’s going to be my first Sarah Zarr book, but I’ve heard many good things about her novels. I really love music and I play the piano myself so I hope it will help me relate to the story.
    Awesome blog!!!

    Sapir @ Diary of a Wimpy Teen Girl

  4. Lovely interview! I played piano when I was a kid–my grandpa was convinced I would be a concert pianist by the time I hit adolescence, but alas. Now I stick to shower-singing and keyboard–the computer kind. 🙂

  5. I love Sara’s writing! Thanks for the interview. I am completely hopeless musically, but someone has to be the audience! I was a dancer for years, ballet and modern dance. My husband is from a musical family, though they played gospel, country, and bluegrass and my husband is a red hot flat picker. I had never thought of using them, and their music as part of a story but now this interview has opened a door… huuummmm. One of my critique partners has a novel where two siblings are being raised in a classical music pressure cooker too, though the focus is quite different from Sara’s. Thanks for this, Debbie.

  6. Oh, I’m trying to hard to think of some way I could bribe Trixie into picking my name when the time comes! Okay, music…I played violin for a year. Yuck. I played flute for two years in junior high. Was good enough, in that band, to have band instructor give me the music to try out for honor band. SO beyond my capabilities and SO outside my interest/commitment level. But I was too afraid to tell him I wasn’t going to try out. Ditto a good friend who also played flute. So both of us showed up at every practice and basically danced around the practice room (where the teacher WASN’T) while the one flute player who was serious about trying out practiced around our nonsense. That was it for me and music. My son, on the other hand, seems to have inherited direct genes from my great-grandfather (a professional musician in the Ukraine and here in the US) and is planning to study jazz performance & composition in college. So I have become immersed in a music world, all without my doing a thing! I think I need this book. 🙂

  7. So great to get some of the background for this wonderful story. I was lucky enough to be able to choose The Lucy Variations to review for the Mid-June issue of BookBrowse and have been really enjoying reading it! It’s a great story, but I’m also personally enjoying the fact that it’s set just blocks from my house!

  8. Am very excited about this latest book of Sara’s. I used to play piano, a long long time ago. I can still play out “Lightly Row,” if I give myself a few practice tries. I had three piano teachers. One moved, one retired, and the last one was my mom, who stopped when we first adopted my sister and second she realized she was pregnant. That was the end of my music education outside of the occasional class in school. Oh, and I sang. If the voice qualifies as an instrument, which I’m pretty sure it does.


  9. Thanks for the synopsis and the interview. The book sounds very interesting and I’d love to win a copy. I used to play the guitar but at a certain point I just plateaued and wasn’t getting any better. After a while I lost interest. It was fun while it lasted though. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. I’m so excited this book is out finally! Big fan of Zarr’s and of books with Lucy in the title, lol 🙂 Also, I played the flute for about 12 years so I think I’ll really relate to this book.
    Thanks for the interview and awesome giveaway 🙂

  11. I’m so excited for this book! I especially loved the part of the interview where she talked about music! 🙂 I’ve never really learned to play an instrument, but I take voice lessons, so I’ve slowly been learning to play the piano. Great post!

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

  12. I love Sarah’s books! Can’t wait to read this one.

    I played the piano and the french horn – which was exactly the right size to hit every single seat going up and down the school bus aisle. I was never very accomplished at either one, but they definitely gave me joy and angst!

  13. Can’t wait to read this – LOVE Sara Zarr! I played the flute for a few years in elementary school and still remember a bit, but I don’t play at all now. I am going to learn to play the mandolin, though – we have a beautiful one all packed up in storage awaiting our return from Berlin!

  14. I play piano and I tried playing flute in junior high. My teacher suggested to my mother that I try another instrument.

    I’m a big fan of all of Sara’s books. I love The Lucy Variations!

  15. This book sounds wonderful! I used to play the piano but not any more. I’m thinking guitar might be in my future!

  16. Thanks for the interview. This book sounds very interesting. I played the piano–got my Grade VIII practical and Grade II theory and then dropped it (my big rebellion!)–and the flute in high school band.

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