Hockessin author releases debut novel
● By Steven Hoffman
Ivy Emerson, the main character in Sharon Huss Roat’s debut novel, “Between the Notes,” has her life turned upside down when financial problems force her family to move out of their large house in an affluent neighborhood. The family must also give up Ivy’s beloved piano. They move to Lakeside, to a neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks, and Ivy hides the truth about her life from her friends.
This Young Adult novel, which takes an honest look at what it’s like when a teen’s life is suddenly turned upside down, has earned acclaim in advance of its June 16 release. Hilary T. Smith, the author of “Wild Awake” and “A Sense of the Infinite,” wrote that “Between the Notes” is “a tender, funny, and heartfelt tale about what happens when privileged Ivy Emerson loses her house and her grand piano—and discovers that sometimes, the most beautiful music comes from the most unexpected places.”
Rebecca Dowling, the owner of the Hockessin Bookshelf, the site of the June 16 book launch party, also praised Roat's novel.
“The book is so good,” Dowling said. “There is a real weight and beauty to it. It is a perfect read for 13-year-olds and up.”
Roat, who lives in Hockessin with her husband, Rich, and their two children, Sebastian and Anna, said that she has been thrilled by how “Between the Notes” has been received. She has worked tirelessly through several rounds of revisions on the book, which was sold to a publisher early in 2013.
The 400-page Young Adult novel grew out of the idea that author had for a protagonist—a teenage girl named Ivy who was growing up with an affluent lifestyle and then suddenly had to adjust to a completely different situation.
“I started writing this story before I knew where it was going,” Roat said. “I just kept answering a series of ‘what if’ questions. What if they lose the house? What if she tries to keep it a secret? And how would her perceptions and misperceptions change based on where she lives?”
In “Between the Notes,” Ivy learns that everyone is not who he or she appears to be, including herself. She makes some unlikely new friends as the story unfolds, and learns some valuable lessons from her disabled little brother, who has a very trusting heart. While Roat hopes that readers feel a connection with Ivy as she experiences moments of self-discovery, the author did not fill the book with messages. Her overriding purpose was to tell a good story.
While some people grow up aspiring to be a writer, Roat said that she always put book authors on a pedestal and thought that she would never be able to write a novel. She recalled a time when she met Mary Kennedy, a prolific author from Wilmington. “I told her that I would love to do what you do. She said, ‘why don’t you?’”
That moment has stayed with Roat, who grew up in Lancaster County and went to college at the University of Delaware. Her first career was in public relations.
“I worked in public relations for more than 20 years,” she explained. “I was doing consulting work with the Delaware Division of the Libraries. I was inspired by some of the authors that I was working with.”
When she started to work on her first manuscript in 2009, she read a lot of fiction and books about writing. She eventually completed her first manuscript and landed an agent on the strength of that work. They didn’t sell the first manuscript, but Roat completed her second manuscript—“Between the Notes”—and that one drew the interest of HarperCollins, one of the largest companies in the book-publishing industry.
“It was an exciting moment to get that call,” Roat explained. “I couldn’t ask for a better home.”
The process of writing “Between the Notes” and then finding a publisher for it has been a tremendous learning experience for her.
“I was still learning to write novels when I started to work on this manuscript, and I think I will always be learning,” Roat explained. “The writing and publishing process involves a lot of rewriting and revisions. I am a slow writer because I edit as I go, but I do work faster—and better—on deadline.”
Dowling, a longtime supporter of the local writing community, said that Roat has been a regular customer at the Hockessin Bookshelf for years, and it has been a treat to watch the Hockessin author’s writing talents blossom.
“It has been so amazing to see Sharon’s evolution from customer to contracted author, through drafts and edits, to nationally published author,” explained Dowling. “It’s all so wonderful!”
Roat, in turn, said that it’s great to have an independent bookshop in the neighborhood.
“They are just lovely, lovely people at the Hockessin Bookshelf,” Roat explained. “I go in often. I feel fortunate to have them there. They are supportive of local authors.”
Roat said that her family has been tremendously supportive as she has dedicated time to her writing. She also has a number of other authors who serve as critique partners.
“We share what we’re writing and critique each other's work,” she said. “It’s very helpful.”
She also has a group of friends who will read her work and give her honest feedback.
Roat has a two-book deal with HarperCollins and is working on a new manuscript. She also has a draft of an historical Young Adult novel that is completed.
With each project that she finishes, Roat grows as a writer. The release of “Between the Notes” will bring many new experiences.
She has numerous author appearances scheduled throughout the year. Following the June 16 launch party at the Hockessin Bookshelf, Roat is taking part in the Teen Debut Spotlight: Fearless Fifteeners,” a panel featuring a group of novelists whose work is debuting in 2015. The event takes place on June 20 at Books of Wonder in New York City. On June 27, Roat will be signing books at the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pa. She has a meet-and-greet and book-signing slated for Bethany Beach Books on Tuesday, July 7. She will be featured with authors Stephanie Oakes and Hilary T. Smith on the “Not Your Typical Summer Reads YA Author Tour” in Washington and Oregon from Aug. 5 to 9. She also has several events already lined up for the fall. Information about these events can be found on sharonwrote.blogspot.com or on her Facebook page.
‘Between the Notes’ launch party on June 16
The launch party for “Between the Notes” will take place at the Hockessin Bookshelf on Tuesday, June 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will include brief comments from the author, perhaps a short reading, a book-signing, wine and cheese, and lemonade and cupcakes. Call 302-235-7665 to RSVP or order a copy of “Between the Notes.” The Hockessin Bookshelf is located at 7179 Lancaster Pike in Hockessin.