Sara Bennett Wealer grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the “Little Apple”), where she sang with the choir and wrote for her high school newspaper. She majored in vocal performance at the University of Kansas before deciding she had no business trying to make a career as an opera singer. She transferred to journalism school, where nobody cares if you can hit a high C or convincingly portray a Valkyrie.
Sara now lives in Cincinnati with her husband and daughters, and she still sings when her schedule allows—most recently with the May Festival Chorus, the official choir of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
Kirkus calls RIVAL "Glee, only with chamber music."
Have you ever been in a fierce musical rivalry?
Sure! I feel like I've been in a few over the years. The arts can be competitive, even at a school or amateur level, so you're always looking sideways at someone. Even if you don't have an all-out "enemy" rival, you're keeping tabs on how everybody else is doing and hoping they don't show you up. It's not *always* like that, but it took me years of singing actively before I could just relax and appreciate someone else's gifts without comparing to my own By that point I was just singing for fun.
What excites you?
Right now, it's having time to myself - time to write, time to sleep, time to shop and read. I'm a working mom with a busy husband, so time away is precious. At the moment, peace and quiet really excite me!
What turns you off?
Unnecessary drama. I figure life will create enough crazy business without people dragging me into theirs. I'm a big fan of "saving the drama for your mama."
What is an average writing day like for you?
Do day job, take care of family, put children in bed, sit down at computer and write or edit until midnight. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?
Nope. My muse only visits when she knows I'm doing the gruntwork. She doesn't like rituals or incantations or scented candles, she just wants to see sweat on my brow.
If you could invite anyone you wanted - living or dead - to hang out with you at a weekend retreat, who would you invite and why?
I have a list of favorite people I'd like to hang out with. They include Steve Martin, Dolly Parton, Edith Wharton, Tori Amos and Julie Andrews. Wouldn't that be an interesting retreat?
What songs would make the playlist for RIVAL?
I've got a playlist for RIVAL right here! http://www.sarabennettwealer.com/rival_playlist.shtml
If RIVAL were made into a movie, who would you like to see in the role of Brooke? Catherine? Chloe?
That's hard, because I would want to see actresses who could really sing. I don't like when movies cast a superstar then get a double to do the singing/dancing/etc. I don't know any big names right now who sing opera, so maybe they could do a talent search for Brooke and Kathryn. As for Chloe, there's a Disney Channel actress named Bridgit Mendler who I find kind of interesting. I'd love to see what she'd do with the part.
What are you working on now?
My new project is a blend of contemporary and supernatural - hard to describe in just a few words, but if you saw it, you'd get it. Unfortunately, it's way too early to share! :-(
To be entered to win a signed copy of RIVAL, leave a comment below, telling us about your greatest rivalry. This drawing will remain open until Wednesday, February 23.