November 29, 2012

Interview With Author, Sara Latta

What do these books all have in common? Yes, they are all Enslow books. But besides that, they were all written by author, Sara Latta. We thought it would fun to share our interview with Sara, a girl who was raised on a dairy farm in Kansas and grew up to become an author. Enjoy!

Enslow: Has anything in your upbringing influenced your interest in writing nonfiction?
Sara: I'm a science writer, so my interest in nonfiction grows out of my love of science. I was raised on a farm, and I was captivated by the world around me. I studied the behavior of red ants and discovered that they will bite when provoked. That was a painful lesson! My mother was understanding of dead birds in the freezer and the experiments with baby teeth and sugar. I thought I'd be a scientist when I was in college; I had a double major in Microbiology and English. It was only when I was in grad school that I realized that I'd rather write about science than DO science. 

Sara Latta at a school visit.

Enslow: If you could give a beginning writer advice, what would it be?
Sara:  Read, read, read, especially in the genre that interests you. And I mean read with a really critical eye. How does the author use everyday language to express complex issues? What is the role of narrative--everyone likes a good story! Familiarize yourself with your subject. Since I am a science writer, this often requires reading a lot of technical articles, but when you interview a scientist about his or her work, you want to show that you've done your homework in advance.
Enslow: Can you recall a specific challenge you had writing any of these books?
Sara:  You know, the three forensic science books (Bones: Dead People DO Tell Tales; Cybercrime: Data Trails DO Tell Tales; and DNA & Blood: Dead People DO Tell Tales) posed a real psychological challenge to me. I spent a good amount of time immersed in and writing about really horrible people and their horrific deeds. I wanted to tell the stories of how investigators used forensic science to solve real crimes, but I had to make sure the stories were appropriate for middle grade readers. It wasn't always easy.

Enslow: How did you overcome it?
Sara:  I finished the books.
Enslow: What is your main concern when writing nonfiction for children or young adults?
Sara: Well, good writing is good writing, so that's the main thing. But writing for children and young adults also requires putting yourself into the mind of the reader. I try to think about the metaphors that they would understand, and which concepts can they handle, especially those that might be disturbing or too abstract. But I think the key is to not underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of kids, and I don't talk down to them. I assume that they haven't bought into the idea that physics or chemistry or biology is hard. I'm hoping that my readers are the kind of kids who found out the hard way that red ants bite when provoked.
Enslow: Do you write only nonfiction?
Sara: I wrote a picture book about dark matter (Stella Brite and the Dark Matter Mystery, Charlesbridge, 2006), which is fiction but about science--something my friend Jacqueline Houtman calls sciencey fiction. And I have a couple of unfinished young adult fiction manuscripts that I hope will someday appear on bookshelves.
Enslow: Where is your favorite writing space?
Sara: My office. I'm fortunate that I have a room of my own, as Virginia Woolf put it. My husband bought me a comfortable writing chair, and I also have a sofa for reading and/or napping as the need arises. 

Sara's writing space.
Enslow: What types of books do you enjoy reading?
Sara: I classify my books into two categories. I am a huge fan of audio books; I listen to them while walking, exercising, driving, doing dishes and laundry, etc. I tend to listen to mysteries, thrillers, and science fiction. I listened to all of the books in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The books I sit down and actually read are all over the map--fiction and nonfiction. I write a YA book review column for our local newspaper, so I read a lot of books for young adults. One of my favorites this year was Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity.

Enslow: Who would you trade places with for a day?
Sara: I'd love to be an explorer, to go where no one has gone before. The last great unexplored frontier today is the deep ocean, so I guess I'd like to trade places with an oceanographer and explorer like Sylvia Earle. I'm afraid she would find my life a bit dull, however. 


  1. Uh-oh, now the whole world can see my messy workspace! Thanks for the interview, Enslow.

  2. Terrific interview. I like the photo of your office. Would not want anyone to see my office. I have a place for naps too, but it's always littered with books, maps and files filled with research notes.

  3. Thanks Sara, for sharing your love of writing nonfiction. I share that passion and love introducing interesting facts to young readers.

    Jo S. Kittinger

  4. Thanks for this great interview, Sara - it's fun to learn about what and how you write. And...I love your writing space!

  5. Enjoyed the lovely interview. Thanks. Inspires me to share mine.

  6. Great interview! I write mostly fiction and admire those who write nonfiction. It was fun reading about some of the problems and choices you've had to make when writing about difficult subjects for young readers.

    Sheila Welch

  7. Fun to read your interview, Sara. And your workspace looks neat compared to mine.

  8. Great interview! I'm glad to know more about your NF process (and your office).
    Congrats on all your books.

  9. Great interview and great author. And I agree with Sara: never underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of kids.

  10. Great interview and great author. And I agree with Sara: never underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of kids.

  11. Interesting inside look at interesting books!

  12. I liked seeing your "messy" office--I'm jealous as I currently have the dining room table (until we sell that house. . .) :) ANyway, great interview--I am in awe of Sara and her science books--this is so beyond me. Keep up the good work, Sara!

  13. Hi Sara, Great to meet you via this interview. Your crime books sound fascinating. And yes, your office is incredibly neat compared to mine.

  14. We are busy making Ferris Wheels! Thanks for your wonderful books for young students.