Friday, May 18, 2012

Feature Friday: Sarah Beth Durst

This week we have the amazingly talented Ms. Sarah Beth Durst!  Sarah was born in Massachusetts as Sarah Angelini and grew up in Northboro, a small town in central Mass that later became the setting for her debut novel.  At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories.
 
She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk.  Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her two children, and her ill-mannered cat. She also has a miniature pet griffin named Alfred. Okay, okay, that’s not quite true. His name is really Montgomery.


Interview:
A.L.:
In Enchanted Ivy, you write about a girl trying to get into the college that you actually attended. Do you think it was harder or easier to write a book set in an area that actually exists while still doing it justice?

Sarah:
I've done both, and I love both.

If it's a real place, then you can be inspired by what exists. On the archway to the Princeton University Chapel, there's a little sculpture of a dragon curled between the stone grapes and leaves. He's looking out on the plaza with the saddest eyes imaginable. You can almost hear him saying, "Tell my story!" He inspired me to create the Chained Dragon in ENCHANTED IVY.

If it's a purely imaginary place, then you're free to fill it with pure imagination. I filled the desert land of VESSEL (coming Sept 2012) with wolves made out of sand and sky serpents of unbreakable glass.

A.L.:
If you could give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

Sarah:
Don't romanticize writing at the expense of actually doing it. You really don't need to be alone on a mountaintop or in a seedy cafe to write. You don't need hours of uninterrupted time or to feel the lightning bolt of inspiration. You just need to string a few words together every day. Make writing a part of your everyday life, as familiar and regular as brushing your teeth.

Honestly, I think the best writing advice comes from a sneaker: just do it.

A.L.:
You decided you wanted to be an author at ten. What was your very first story called and what was it about?

Sarah:
My very first story (at age ten) was a cross between The Wizard of Oz and G.I. Joe. Everyone in it had superpowers and grappling hooks, as well as their very own talking lion.

A.L.:
So, reading the summary for Ice, I get the feeling it’s based off of the White-Bear-King-Valemon myth? If so, how did you learn about the myth and why did you choose this particular myth to use for your novel?

Sarah:
Yes, it's a modern retelling of the Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." I love that tale because it's about a fearless girl who saves her prince, rather than a girl who spends her story either asleep or dead. In my version, my fearless girl is an Arctic research scientist from northernmost Alaska who chases down a talking polar bear.

A.L.:
Drink Slay Love is about a vampire girl who lives in Connecticut. Being from Connecticut I’m quite fond of someone using my oft forgotten state as a setting. Why did you choose CT? And how did you set out to portray it?

Sarah:
I wanted a place where you wouldn’t expect vampires. Or vampire-hunting unicorns. Cities are known for their secret hidden sides, and rural areas have plenty of room for hiding secrets, but a nice Connecticut town… It felt perfect.

A.L.:
Your middle grade books, Into The Wild and Out of the Wild, are about fairy tale characters trying to live in the real world. I have to ask, do you like the television show Once Upon a Time? If you’ve seen it what do/don’t you like about it? What would you have done to make it better?

Sarah:
I'm really loving it. I think the actor who plays Rumplestiltskin is brilliant and is the cornerstone of the entire show. (He was also brilliant in Stargate Universe.) I can't wait to see how it develops.

I love fairy tale retellings and fractured fairy tales. There's just something about playing with universal archetypes that's so much fun.

A.L.:
In your newest novel, Vessel, you made the jump into pure fantasy. Are you going to stay there or do you think you’ll continue to revisit contemporary fantasy?

Sarah:
Actually, my novel after VESSEL will be contemporary fantasy. I love hopping between flavors of fantasy. I can, however, safely say that my books will always be fantasy. For one thing, I adore fantasy books. For another, I see my job as a writer to be to add magic to the world in whatever way I can.

A.L.:
Now that Vessel is well on its way, what’s next on your list of things to do?

Sarah:
I'm preparing for VESSEL's release this fall. I can't wait for people to meet my brave Liyana and the trickster god Korbyn and the young emperor! (VESSEL is about a girl who is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so her clan's goddess can inhabit her body... but her goddess never comes.)

I'm also writing a paranormal thriller called SWEET NOTHINGS (coming fall 2013) about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program.

A.L.:
So, you want to be a faerie princess, huh? Well then, Seelie or Unseelie? And who/what would your most trusted hench-faerie be?

Sarah:
Neither. I'd have my own significantly-less-bloodthirsty court. And all my trusted hench-faeries would be winged ponies. Or maybe were-manatees. You never hear much about were-manatees...

A.L.:
Will you ever write about a were-unicorn living in Connecticut? Cause I’d like to see that…

Sarah:
Maybe... :)

A.L.:
What's your favorite fairy tale? Why?

Sarah:
Beauty and the Beast. It's about true love, not love-at-first-sight. And I also love it because of the beautiful library in both Robin McKinley's Beauty and Disney's movie. I want that library!

A.L.:
Also, what's your favorite fairy tale creature? Why?

Sarah:
I'm rather fond of the bricklebrit donkey from Grimm's "The Wishing-Table, the Gold Donkey, and the Cudgel-in-the-Sack." When you say the word "bricklebrit," gold shoots out of both ends. I think that would be a useful pet to have, plus highly entertaining at parties. Much better than the goose that lays golden eggs -- I read once that if a goose were to lay a solid egg like a gold egg, rather than an ordinary pliable egg that compresses when laid, the egg would shoot out with such force it would puncture a wall. So I think I'll stick with the donkey.

The Giveaway:
Sarah has generously agreed to send a copy of her latest release, Drink, Slay, Love to one lucky winner!

Drink, Slay, LovePearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops.

Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast -- as the entrees.

The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?


How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter.  Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants.

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