Between The Lines with Sara Biren

Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.


About Sara Biren

Sara Biren lives just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and their two children. A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies with her family, and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She works as a copywriter for a Minneapolis marketing firm and as a freelance editor with SP Critique and Editing Services.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Every story I’ve ever written has started with a character, and Cold Day In The Sun is no exception. I first pictured Holland Delviss as a snarky high school junior with striped hair and a suitcase covered with heavy metal bumper stickers. In that scene, she steps off an airplane in Orlando for a much-needed vacation only to unexpectedly find her best worst enemy, Wes Millard, waiting for her at baggage claim.

Cold Day In The Sun still features a snarky high school junior with striped hair named Holland Delviss – and her best worst enemy, Wes Millard – but the first story I wrote about them and their spring break shenanigans no longer exists. What you’ll find instead is a story about a girl determined to not only find her place in the world, but to own that place despite the pressures and expectations of society.

Holland has played hockey with her brothers and on boys’ teams since she could skate. While that’s not unusual in Minnesota, she sticks with the boys and makes the boys’ varsity team, even though she could play for the girls’ team. Most people around her are supportive, but many aren’t.

Like Holland, hockey has been a part of my life since I was very young. Growing up, I spent many hours on the outdoor rink at my hometown’s Triangle Park, both figure skating and playing hockey (in figure skates). Back then, there were no girls’ hockey teams. Even though skating was one of my favorite activities, I’m not exactly athletically gifted, so participating in any organized sports was not going to happen.

But I loved hockey more than any other sport. I loved watching my nephews play and going to Minnesota North Stars and U of M Golden Gophers games. Sophomore and junior years of high school, I volunteered to be the student manager for the (boys’) junior varsity team. Let me tell you, that was one of the highlights of my high school career. I made some lifelong friends (see Cold Day acknowledgments), learned new, colorful profanities, and even got a black eye from a stick to the face during a fight in front of the bench.

So, when the time came to write a book about a Minnesota girl in winter, the choice was obvious: Holland would play hockey. And she would be good at it, better than her brothers.

And that was going to cause problems for her.

Put a woman in a “man’s role,” and people are going to get pissy.

When I was a little girl, I had a T-shirt with a cartoon Annie Oakley on it that said, “Anything boys can do girls can do better,” and I had the attitude and grit to go along with it. Tell me I can’t climb that tree because I’m a girl? Let’s see how high I can go. I can’t play hockey because I don’t have the right skates? Pass me the puck.

Holland’s got grit, too. She gets a lot of attention because she’s the girl on the boys’ hockey team, but she’d rather be known for being a kickass player, period. She’s confident and strong, yes, but at the same time, she’s vulnerable – and worried that she could lose her hard-earned spot on the team. Especially if she acts on her feelings for Wes, the team captain. She’s successful, but her insecurities and anxiety cast a shadow on her accomplishments, and she for sure doesn’t want to be accused of “sleeping her way to the top.”

While Holland was a fun character to write (witty banter, glam-metal song battles, Foo Fighters obsession), telling her story wasn’t always easy. While most of the sexism she encounters is your typical, day-to-day misogyny (which shouldn’t be a thing in 2019), other incidents are more extreme. I was inspired (and infuriated) by the story of Kaitlyn Byers, the only woman on a Canadian minor league hockey team, who in 2016 was threatened with rape during a game and experienced many other instances of harassment that included physical injury.

Kaitlyn’s story and the those of other female athletes and – let’s be honest – my wonderful editor’s encouragement and urging to “do better” (like Wes tells Holland) motivated me to dig deeper and tell the difficult, raw story. A story that, unfortunately, will hit close to home for a lot of readers.

I’ve brought a lot of characters to life over the years, but Holland will always hold a special place in my heart. Like me, she’s snarky and stubborn and determined. Like me, she deals with anxiety and self-doubt and pressure to succeed – self-imposed or otherwise. I even gave Holland the motto I adopted for myself years ago – keep moving forward. No matter what the game of life throws your way, you just gotta keep moving and checking and you’ll get clear.

Title Cold Day In The Sun
Author Sara Biren
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date March 12th 2019 by Amulet Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

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