Interview with Sandi Ward, author of The Astonishing Thing

Today, we’re talking with Sandi Ward about her delightful debut novel, The Astonishing Thing.

Please describe what the book is about.

The Astonishing Thing is the story of a troubled family and a broken marriage, seen through the eyes of a cat named Boo. Boo’s human mother disappears one day, and Boo is determined to figure out where she went.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“I thought I was past this. I thought her leaving wouldn’t hurt me anymore. The heartache is tremendous, and I wasn’t expecting it.”

What do you want people to know about your book? 

While I think cat lovers will enjoy Boo’s point of view, the novel isn’t just for cat people! It’s a story about how families learn to cope (or fail to cope) when a loved one suffers from mental illness.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

It can be hard for families to stay together when they are under a lot of stress. Writing this book reinforced for me that families are worth saving, in whatever form or shape they take in the end.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I wrote The Astonishing Thing in 2014, and it took me just a couple of months to complete. But the first draft was only 50,000 words, too short to be a novel. I kept writing, and queried in 2015.

On December 25th, 2015, I received an unexpected Christmas gift—an offer of representation from Stacy Testa at Writers House. It has taken 2 years of editing and other behind-the-scenes work to get ready for publication on 10/31/17.

What is your favorite part of writing and why?

I enjoy it when my characters surprise me! Because then I know they will surprise my readers. I don’t plot or outline. So there’s always room for the story to take an unexpected turn, which it inevitably does.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I wanted to try writing a story using an unconventional narrator. I was inspired by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I enjoy stories with unique voices.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Early in the morning, when my head is clear and the coffee is hot.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have a cat, of course. Winnie is a big black rescue cat. I would definitely say I’m a cat person. But I also have a dog, a maltese named Jasper. And yes, he’s pretty darn cute.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

A friend once told me: “Go where the muse takes you.” In other words, work on what you’re inspired to write about in the moment. I never force myself to write something I’m not totally committed to. If I don’t want to write a scene, then it doesn’t belong in the book.

What’s next?

My second novel for Kensington is titled Something Worth Saving. It’s a completely new story, but also told from the point of view of a cat. The cover is fantastic and I can’t wait until the cover reveal, which will happen in early 2018. The publication date is November 2018.

THE ASTONISHING THING

In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love.

“A unique and poignant tale of a family’s struggle as witnessed by someone who sees everything…a triumphant debut for Sandi Ward.”
— Helen Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Cleo

THE ASTONISHING THING will be available October 31, 2017 through Kensington Books.

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