Sarah Guillory grew up in the small town of Booneville, Arkansas. While in high school, she met and fell in love with a man from Louisiana,
sparking her to apply to colleges in her southern-neighboring state, eventually choosing to accept scholarship offers to attend Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
Sarah married Josh Guillory while she was still in college and received her desired job as a high school English teacher within the same month of her college graduation.
“I don’t know what drew me to Brusly. I think it was one of those flukes. A full-time English position in December is hard to come by,” recalled Sarah. “I’m not even sure why I called Brusly. I just happened to call and they had a position open immediately for an English teacher. So I took it.”
Like something from a storybook, she had everything she longed for – a good job, a good husband, a good life.
But the real story, the story she would, herself, pen, hadn’t yet begun.
An English teacher and aspiring novelist, one night Sarah woke up out of a dream with an idea for what would become her first book - a sort-of love story between a young woman and a set of twins with many twists and turns.
“The first dream that I had, the line echoed in my head, ‘I’m with the wrong brother.’ That made me want to do a story about the brothers and the relationship,” Sarah said. “The plot really came first.”
Sarah Guillory’s debut novel, RECLAIMED, hit bookstores last month with much anticipation from students at Brusly High as well as many residents throughout the West Baton Rouge community.
During her launch party, which took place at Books-A-Million bookstore in Baton Rouge, supporters came in droves, buying out the store’s supply of RECLAIMED before the event began.
“I had over 60, maybe even 100, people there from Brusly. Most of my students and people from West Baton Rouge came to Baton Rouge to my party,” Sarah said. “The bookstore said they had never had a turnout that big for any event. So that was pretty big, especially for a debut, my first book.”
Walt Lemoine, Brusly High School Principal, said that he has enjoyed seeing the success of Guillory’s book, as well as the excitement it has created.
“At her book signing, they’d sold out of the book before the book signing had even started,” he said. “To see all those kids there and the people from the store saying they’ve had famous authors there that haven’t had that kind of turnout for their signings, is fun to watch.”
Lemoine said it has been fun watching the infamous hard-nosed English teacher become somewhat famous around the community.
Sarah admitted that the attention she is receiving has been overwhelming, but she said she is extremely appreciative.
“Just the fact that people are reading it – that’s amazing to me. When you’re stopped at Wal-Mart and someone says they’ve been reading your book, I don’t even know what to say! It’s been really awesome.
“I am from a small town where everybody knew everybody. And leaving that was hard because… when you live in a small town your family is not just your family; the whole town is your family,” she said. “But everybody here has just kind of taken me in and made me feel really at home. I consider Brusly to be my home now.”
Sarah, who has lived in Brusly about 10 years, said that her small town experiences throughout her life helped her to create much of the imagery of her novel.
“It’s just sort of what I know about small towns, because I know small towns very well,” she said, adding that the characters in the novel were not based on any actual persons. And though many who know the author associate her with the book’s main character, Jenna, she said that not even Jenna was based on anyone in particular, despite the correlations.
“My main character (Jenna) is a runner. But she’s not a runner because I’m a runner. She’s a runner because it’s in her character. She wants to escape her small town,” Sarah, an avid runner who has participated in six marathons, explained. “Making her a runner made that a tangible thing. She runs from everything – when she gets stressed, she runs away. That’s why she’s a runner, not because I’m a runner.”
Sarah said that from start to finish, it took about three years to complete the novel, and the characters in the story developed as she wrote.
“Trying to have three distinct voices was really difficult,” she said, explaining that RECLAIMED is written in a first-person narrative from three separate (Jenna, Ian and Luke) points of view. “Ian and Jenna were harder to write. I had to work on their voices more. When I came up with the story, Luke spoke to me the most.”
Sarah’s debut novel has received acclaim from reviewers and bloggers throughout the country, and GoodReads.com gives it an average of 4.2 stars out of 5 based on individuals members’ reviews.
“I was totally sucked in, mesmerized by the story that I lost track of time until I read the last word. Without a doubt, RECLAIMED has claimed a spot on my top reads list of 2013! Bravo, Sarah Guillory!” wrote Liza Wiemer of WhoRuBlog.
Sarah said that she has gotten a lot of great feedback about her book from England to Wisconsin and all over the U.S.
“Several teachers have told me they bought several copies of the book and they have a waiting list in their classroom,” Sarah said. “I’ve been getting really good feedback from all over.”
Lemoine said that he is proud to have Guillory on the teaching staff at Brusly High.
“It’s so neat for students to be able to have that person who walks the walk,” he said. “She teaches about following your passion, and has done it.”
But according to Sarah, her passion to write is only matched by her passion to teach.
In 2003, After teaching at BHS her first two years, Sarah accepted a position coordinating academic youth camps at LSU while she was earning her Master’s degree. After earning her degree, she returned to Brusly High, realizing how much she missed the classroom and her students.
“I left teaching before, and I know how much I missed it,” she said. “Teaching - that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
She said that she doesn’t expect to leave the teaching profession any time soon.
“Writing and teaching - that’s pretty much what I do,” she said. “I come home, I write for a couple of hours, I cook dinner, I go to bed.
“Today, I would never leave teaching, because I love my students.”
She said that she has found joy as she continues to discover the right balance of her three personas as a writer, an author and a teacher.
“I’ll continue to teach during the day and write at night for as long as they’ll let me,” said Sarah.