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January 25, 2011

10 Questions with Jessica Day George, featuring SARAH BETH DURST

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of young adult novels Enchanted Ivy and Ice from Simon & Schuster, as well as middle grade novels Into the Wild and Out of the Wild from Penguin Young Readers. She has twice been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award, for both Ice and Into the Wild.

Interview by Jessica Day George.  

Jessica Day George: Your latest book, ENCHANTED IVY, takes place at Princeton University, which you attended.  Was using Princeton as a setting a recent idea, or something you’ve been mulling over since you were an undergrad?

Sarah Beth Durst:  I used to always daydream about magic at Princeton: a dragon landing outside my dorm, an arch leading to a Tolkienesque Wonderland, or a wizard teaching spells during his office hours.  But that's really just something I do wherever I am.  I always imagine magic around me.  (Um, should I admit that?)  I didn't plan on writing a book about Princeton until one day I started imagining tigers running through campus... and then I started to wonder about where they came from and what they wanted.  From that, my were-tiger Tye from an alternate magical Princeton was born, and I knew there was a story there that I wanted to tell.

JDG: Be honest: Did the gargoyles ever talk to you?

SBD: No.  Just the trees.

JDG: You’ve written two delightful books about Julie, the daughter of Rapunzel and her Prince.  (INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD)  Will there be any more fairy tale adventures for Julie?

SBD: I'm not currently working on any more Wild books.  But I do miss Julie and Boots and Zel, and I think "happily ever after" really means "and then they went on to have lots more awesome adventures."

JDG: Any writing rituals: snacks, no snacks, complete silence, music?  And do you have a regular schedule, or do you just sneak whatever chance you can get?

SBD: I sneak every chance I get.  Often while humming the Mission Impossible theme. 

Seriously, I write every day.  I need to.  If I skip a day, it throws off my whole mood.  Plus I find that the words flow more easily and you need fewer rituals or less warm-up time if writing is as much a daily habit as brushing your teeth.

Chocolate also helps.  Especially Raisinets.

JDG: What is the Princeton Fight Song?

SBD: "Tune every heart and every voice, bid every care withdraw; let all with one accord rejoice, in praise of Old Nassau.  In praise of Old Nassau we sing, hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!  Our hearts will give while we shall live, three cheers for Old Nassau."  It's traditional to sing it off-key.  Or maybe that's just me.

JDG: In addition to the books about Julie and the Wild, you also wrote a retelling of East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon (a story close to my own heart!) called ICE.  Are you planning any more fairy tale retellings?

SBD: I adore fairy tales.  For one thing, they're AWESOME.  For another, they're such a great tool for a writer because they touch on universal themes in an archetypal way.  So I'm sure I'll work with them again at some point...

JDG: How about Lily and her new Princeton friends?  Will there be any more stories about them?

SBD: Finishing a manuscript is always such a bittersweet moment, so I never close the door on returning.  But right now, I'm in love with my newest characters: Pearl and Evan and Matt and Zeke...  My next novel is about a vampire girl who develops a conscience after she is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn's horn.  It's been tremendously fun to write, and I'm so excited about it.  It's called DRINK, SLAY, LOVE, and it will be out in September 2011 from Simon & Schuster.

JDG: Was there a specific moment in your life that inspired you to be a writer?  A book you read?  An idea you had?

SBD: I remember reading and rereading Alanna by Tamora Pierce, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, and Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane, and thinking "I want to do this!"  Half of me meant that I wanted to become a girl-knight and then swim with telepathic whales, but the rest of me knew I wanted to be a writer. 

JDG: Do you have a new book in the works that you’d like to give a sneak preview of?

SBD: Here's the start of DRINK, SLAY, LOVE:

"One hour until dawn," Pearl said.  She leapt off the roof and landed catlike on the pavement.  "Oodles of time, if we steal a car."

Her boyfriend Jadrien stretched out on the roof of Outback Steakhouse.  He was a shadow, a lovely shadow, against the green tin.  "Come back up, Pearl," he said.  "I'll compare your eyes to stars, your lips to rubies, and your breath to industrial-strength air freshener."

"Your charm and sincerity overwhelm me."

JDG: You are to be buried in Egyptian splendor, and must take everything with you that you will need in the Afterlife.  What five books go in your tomb?

SBD: If I'm headed for the ancient Egyptian Afterlife, I'd better take a translation of the Book of the Dead so that I can say the appropriate spells at the Weighing of the Heart to avoid Ammut, the Devourer of Souls.  So that's book one. 

Book two would be a thesaurus because it drives me nuts when I can't quite think of a word.  Book three would be my book Ice because I wrote it as a love letter to my husband and writing it was a real labor of love.  And books four and five would be Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce and Beauty by Robin McKinley because those books make me happy.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Many thanks to Sarah Beth Durst for spending some time with us on Bookshop Talk! If you would like to visit her author website, you can find it here.


Charlie Pulsipher said...

Great interview. I am intrigued by some of her work. I also love the idea of revisiting fairy tales and the landscapes around them. Sarah Beth Durst sounds like someone I would have hung out with in high school, which is the only way to truly judge someone's worth. A whole novel as a love letter to a spouse? That is one amazing heavy duty love letter! My wife deserves as much. Maybe my next novel.
Funny Stuff I Write

Anonymous said...

Yes, but have you read ICE?! It's amazing! And so is ENCHANTED IVY. You should give them a try!

Kim said...

My To Read list is growing longer....What a wonderful thing! Sarah Beth Durst's books sound completely fantastic. And she'd take BEAUTY into the afterlife! We're kindred spirits, for sure.

Thanks for this great interview, Jessica!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, a new author for me to explore! Thanks for the interview-I'm running to the library to pick up some of her books!