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Disney Hyperion’s Sam Saves The Night: Interview with Shari Simpson

The different high school tribes set the scene for some of the story’s quirky happenings. We meet the Numbs (who play video games and eat junk food all night long), the Achieves (who constantly work on learning new things), the Mean Dreams (basically the bullies, but there’s more to them than that!), the Pranks, the Juvenolds and my personal favorite – those jazz-handed, toe-tapping Broadways! Bursting into song at often inopportune times. How much input did your two teenagers have in brainstorming each clique and their role in Sam’s story? 

Shari:  Well, my son is somewhere between a Numb and a Prank and my daughter is probably an Achieve/Juvenold, so there’s that. My kids are into theater and performing, so the Broadways are a tribute to their singin’ and dancin’ natures, and they are both totally hilarious, so I probably stole more dialogue from them than I’d care to admit.

We love the characters; from the eccentric Dr. Baptiste Fletcher to Sam’s comforting little comrade, her pug Weezy. Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Shari:  Weezy is my absolute favorite, of course. I am a pug fanatic and try to slip at least one flat-faced character into every story or movie that I write. But I’m also ridiculously fond of Sam’s sidekick, Emmy, and her Extreme adventures. I laugh every time I read the part where she takes a bite out of Sam’s bedroom window and chews the glass, just because she’s so rough and tough.

What character and his or her experiences resonates most with you and your experiences?

Shari:  Sam is so me in so many ways. I am definitely a Helper in my spirit and I never felt like I fit in anywhere, so I had to make my own tribe.

The book features Hippocrates’ philosophies on sleepwalking and Sam’s own rough n’ ready reflections (“Being a sleepwalker sucks”). What research did you undertake to write Sam’s story?

Shari:  The Hippocrates quote that sleepwalking was due to “forgotten duties” was one of the inspirations for the idea that the characters were trying to live out something in their sleep that they couldn’t accomplish in their waking hours. Obviously, his science was suspect, but it makes some kind of emotional sense, doesn’t it, that there are forces in our spirit that we don’t completely understand? As far as research, I have pages and pages of notes on parasomnias and they are beyond fascinating. There’s one parasomnia that plays a big part in Book 2 that’s pretty crazy—it’s called Exploding Head Syndrome: someone is about to fall asleep and then they hear a bomb go off in their head. It’s not real, of course, it’s an auditory hallucination, but how unbelievably scary is that?

That is terrifying. To a lesser extent, it reminds me of those moments when you are about to fall asleep and you “trip” or “fall”, or otherwise jolt awake. Unsettling!

So, you just mentioned Book 2 – Sam Saves The Night is book 1 of the SleepWakers series. What else can you tell us about the series beyond this book? 

Shari:   We get deeper into the world of the night and it gets pretty freaky. This is not a spoiler, but after a very strange incident, Sam and Byron ponder if they’ve somehow ripped a hole in the veil of reality and wonder what they’re going to find next—Banshees? Angels? Demons? It gets pretty shivery.

Ooo, that sounds awesome. Before we get to dive into Book 2 and beyond, what do you ultimately hope readers get out of Sam Saves The Night?

Shari:  Two things: whenever I inscribe one of my books for a reader, I write “Find your tribe”. It’s so important that kids find the community where they feel safe and loved and understood. And the MLK quote above? That. A million times over.

In addition to Sam saving the night, you have many other accolades and projects up your sleeve. Playwrighting, screenwriting, blogging… what is next on the agenda for Shari Simpson?

Shari:   I’ve started doing author visits to schools and I love that more than words can say. My writing partner and I are shopping a film script and a TV pilot, and I’m working on a new middle grade book series. And I spend a lot of my time and energy trying to convince my husband that we need more pugs in our house. We have Mila Kunis (the pug version), but I think we need a real live Weezy, as well, and then I can write a Weezy book series, and on and on and, oh, the possibilities are endless! 

Keep an eye on Shari’s website for updates on the Sleepwakers series, her upcoming projects and more (we’re hopeful the “more” includes a Weezy series)! Sam Saves The Night is currently available for purchase on Amazon. Your purchase via an Amazon link helps support The Disney Blog via a small portion of the purchase price as an affiliate fee.

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