Go Away With … Sara Shepard

Sara Shepard credit Austin Hodges

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
May 27, 2014

Bestselling author Sara Shepard is best known for her “Pretty Little Liars” books. The series has been so popular that it spawned a television show of the same name. Shepard has penned “Pretty Little Liars #15: Toxic” (HarperTeen, $10.90), which hits stores on June 3. It’s the penultimate book in the series. Shepard, 37, resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and says her love of travel often makes it into her books. “If my characters travel somewhere, I generally write about a place I know to give the scenes more authenticity,” she says. Fans may follow her on Twitter.

Q. What are some of the places you’ve traveled to that have made it into your books?

A. My sister and I visited Iceland in 2001, and I incorporated it into “Pretty Little Liars.” Aria lives there with her family while her father is on sabbatical. I figured Iceland was an unusual, quirky place that not too many readers knew much about, but it’s also close enough to continental Europe for Aria to have done some traveling during her time there. The girls in “Pretty Little Liars” also visit Jamaica later on in the series. I’ve been there as well. And in the book, Aria and Noel go to Amsterdam, which I visited in college.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I’ve had a lot of memorable vacation experiences, but my favorite one lately was a surf trip to Barbados.

Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. Definitely eat with the locals. Go to a fish fry in Oistins. It’s laid-back, very inexpensive and delicious. Check out Bathsheba. The beaches are beautiful. And if you do like water activities, go for it! I’ve surfed all my life, but never really had great balance. I wasn’t that great of a surfer when I went there, but by the end of the week I was paddling strong and catching some big waves. Plus, we met some great friends.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. This probably isn’t that off the beaten path, but I lived in Tucson, Arizona, for a while and the southern part of town is really beautiful and kind of undeveloped. The area around the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has great walking trails and scenery, and the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa is mellow and has great guacamole and a sunset tequila toast.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. I think it was to Disney World, and who couldn’t love Disney World? I remember that the must-see 3-D movie had Michael Jackson in it.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. When they say don’t drink the water, don’t drink it. I learned that the hard way.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Pittsburgh, unfortunately, isn’t near a beach, which was my favorite weekend getaway when I lived in New York, but I like Deep Creek, Maryland. It has year-round activities, renting a house on the water is affordable and it’s only a two-hour drive.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?

A. My family often travels to New York City during the holidays and that’s always a good time. We also go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina and rent a big house on the water. It’s much better than in the summer, when the beaches are overrun with tourists and all the restaurants are crowded. The water is usually freezing, but my sister and I often put on wetsuits and go in anyway.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York, Los Angeles, Reykjavik, New Orleans and Dublin.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. I really loved the Terranea Resort outside Los Angeles. The Sanctuary in Scottsdale and L’Auberge in Sedona are awesome, too. I also loved The Caves in Negril, Jamaica– comfy and quiet and perfect for relaxation.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. Australia and New Zealand sound awesome, though I’m a terrible sleeper on planes so I fear the flight. I’ve always wanted to try Thailand, too, and one of these days I hope to get to Italy.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Running shoes. I like to run in a new place to help me find my way around. A sound machine of some sort, though now those are accessible on phones. Other than that, I’m pretty simple.

Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?

A. I like fitness-based trips, like the surf camp I went to in Barbados. One in Thailand would be awesome or maybe Costa Rica. There are also cycling/wine-tasting trips through France I’d love to try.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. Not a whole lot, actually. I like to get advice from the locals once I’m there. I don’t really do the tour bus thing or make any other excursion reservations in advance, if I can help it.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?

A. Two things that probably sound random and inconsequential. Visiting the local hot springs/community pool in Iceland. It was so much fun — though also kind of crazy — to just hang out with the locals and watch kids go down the waterslides in 30-degree weather. And when we joined an anti-war march in Dublin in March of 2002. Though they were going on in the States as well, there was something different about participating in Europe. Both were spur-of-the-moment decisions and experiences I’ll never forget.


© 2014 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (3)

  1. Jae-Ha Kim says:

    I think she looks like Holly Hunter in this photo!

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