Parajunkee’s View asked author Kimberly Sabatini: Mastering the afterlife, how do you brainstorm death? This is what she had to say…

When the first ARC of TOUCHING THE SURFACE arrived at my house, I began reading it to my three boys, one chapter a night. About halfway through the story, my oldest son interrupted and asked me about the afterlife. I’ve always been a pretty open and talkative mom, so I took a deep breath and started to tell him about all the things I believed. He then proceeded to look at me and roll his eyes…

SON: “I actually have the author IN my bedroom and I still can’t get a straight answer!”

ME: “Oh, you meant in the book? You want to know what happens in TOUCHING THE SURFACE? I thought you were asking about real life. I can tell you what happens in the book.”

SON: * more eye rolling with some foot tapping *

As I started to answer all of his “book-related” questions I realized something interesting. My real-life thoughts on the afterlife weren’t that much different than what I’d created with my novel. It appears my writing is simply a manifestation of my thought process.

I started writing TOUCHING THE SURFACE after my father died. There really isn’t a bigger motivator for brainstorming death. But believe it or not, I didn’t consciously plan that or even recognize it at the time. It seems like it would be obvious that I was working through the loss of my father during the writing process, but it wasn’t until I was revising that I made that connection. I’d deluded myself because I was writing about teens. Looking back at my words, I can now see what I was doing. My Dad wasn’t physically here anymore, but I didn’t consider him “gone.” I was using my words to build the infrastructure for what I considered the next phase of our relationship. I was making sense of my world through Elliot’s, while still giving myself enough distance so that I was “safe” to explore.

Recognizing this unconscious creation was a powerful revelation for me as a writer and a person. I truly began to understand that my mind was working on levels that I wasn’t always aware of. It helped me to realize that part of the brainstorming process involves day dreaming, being in touch with my deepest feelings and accepting who I am.

There are only so many different story tropes in the world. The only thing that separates one book from another is how the author tells it. Every time we write, we are not reinventing the wheel; we’re just changing the size, and the material it’s made from or the decoration. I’ll never tell someone else’s story better than they will. I can only tell mine. That’s a little scary, but it’s also really liberating.

Once I settled into writing about death and worked through the deeper issues, I had a whole lot of fun. It was like being a kid locked in a candy store overnight. The options I could explore were endless. I chose to create my afterlife with a deliberate mix of the fantastical and the mundane. My characters have the power to create and alter their own environments, but they still eat pizza and get bit by mosquitos. Why did I write it that way? It was to honor the magnificence of the unknown, yet bridge the gap between a place that’s no longer as far away as I’d always believed.

The hardest part about creating my afterlife was the consistency of the world building. I’d never tackled that challenge before and it was a steep learning curve. I hope I’ve done it justice. But, as ornery as it got sometimes, I grew to love what was possible while working in the paranormal world. As I’m revising my second novel, THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY, which is a contemporary, I’ve found myself enjoying the structure of a world I already know very well, but missing the fun and creative potential of my imagination. You can’t give a magical T-shirt to anyone in the “real world.” * grin *

I started writing about death after THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold but before, IF I STAY by Gayle Forman and BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, hit the shelves. Since then, many books about death have been written and I can’t stop reading them. Seeing what my peers have done during their own brainstorming captivates me. I find each one fascinating and I hope that the desire to write about this topic never slows down—just reinvents itself as needed.

Thank you so much for having me over to your blog and I’d like to thank everyone for stopping by the TOUCHING THE SURFACE Book Tour. I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you and talking about death.

About the Author:

Kimberly Sabatini

Photo credit: *Author photo by Dawn Sela Photography –


Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three and four year olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys.

Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. TOUCHING THE SURFACE is her debut novel. (Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster, October 30, 2012)



The Giveaway


  • A SIGNED hardcover copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini to FOUR (4) winners – US ONLY.
  • A SIGNED hardcover copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini to ONE (1) winner – International ONLY.
  • Must be 13 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway ends July 22 at 12:00 a.m. Pacific.
  • Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter and contacted by email.

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