Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Fantasy author Sarah Beth Durst. Sarah is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She grew up in Northborough, Massachusetts, and now lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.
Thanks for being here with us, Sarah Beth. Our first question for you is, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
You can find my books wherever books are sold.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
My website (www.sarahbethdurst.com) has info on all my books, including excerpts if you’d like to get a taste of what my books are like. I’m also on Twitter (@sarahbethdurst), Facebook (www.facebook.com/sarahbethdurst), and Instagram (www.instagram.com/sarahbethdurst).
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I write fantasy for two reasons:
- Dragons are awesome.
- I believe fantasy is (or can be) a literature of hope and empowerment. By engaging with classic themes such as the survival of the human spirit in the face of impossible odds and the triumph of good over evil*, fantasy can act as both an escape from darkness and as a light to guide you through darkness.
I love that feeling when you close a fantasy book and the world seems a little more magical than it was before — and you feel a little stronger than you were before.
* At first, I accidentally wrote “the triumph of good over email” — which may also be true.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Deepest Blue?
Lots of sea monsters! And lots of dragons!
I write fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids.
My newest book for adults is The Deepest Blue, an epic fantasy about an oyster diver who is about to marry the love of her life when an unnatural storm hits her island. To save her family, she has to reveal that she has the power to control the bloodthirsty nature spirits that plague her home. After the storm ends, she’s arrested by the queen’s soldiers and brought, with other women of power, to an island of spirits and left without food, water, shelter, or weapons. Whoever survives will become heirs to the queen.
And my next book for kids is SPARK (coming May 14), about a girl and her storm beast (a.k.a. lightning dragon) — and how even the quietest voice can change the world. When a shy girl and her lightning beast discover that their country’s idyllic weather comes at a steep cost, they must defy authority to spread the truth.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
Right now, my cat is sitting on top of me, and I’m reaching around her to type — and that’s how I write most of my books.
I sometimes wish I could write in cafes or coffeeshops like so many other writers. Or outside, on a beach or by a lake. But the truth is that I eavesdrop too much in cafes, and outside, there’s too much glare on my computer screen. Also, outside has mosquitoes. I write best at home, at my desk, with a bag of Raisinets nearby.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I love listening to music while I write. I find it helps keep me focused — I think it distracts the hypercritical part of my brain, which is especially key when I’m working on the raw first draft and need to be in creative mode. Sometimes I even set up book-specific playlists. For instance, when I was writing THE DEEPEST BLUE, I listened to the soundtracks from Wonder Woman, How to Train Your Dragon, and Moana.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
My debut novel for kids, INTO THE WILD, was set in my childhood hometown. In that book, fairy tale characters are living in secret in our world, specifically in Northborough, Massachusetts. The Agway rooster comes to life. And Bancroft Tower in Worcester transforms into Rapunzel’s tower. I even have a scene set in Spag’s…
My two most recent books aren’t set in this world at all. THE DEEPEST BLUE takes place in a land full of bloodthirsty nature spirits, and SPARK features a world where dragon-like storm beasts and their guardians control the weather. But New England did shape who I am as a writer and as a person. I grew up in Northborough (which we spelled without the “ugh” at the time), and I wrote my very first story in Mr. Bostock’s fifth grade class at Lincoln Street Elementary School. I kept writing through middle school and high school at Bancroft School in Worcester, encouraged by wonderful teachers such as Ms. Tsang (Elizabeth Johnson).
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favorite part of being a writer is the writing itself. I love the act of stringing words together to bring characters and a world to life. That’s not to say it always goes smoothly. But whether it’s going well or not, I am happiest when writing is a part of my day.
I think that’s actually the greatest lesson I’ve learned: You have to love the journey.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Ignore writing advice that doesn’t work for you.
Every writer has a different process. Some outline; some don’t. Some write a little every day; some write a ton over a short stretch of time then recover. Some write slowly and meticulously; some write quickly and then revise multiple times
The key is to find what works for you.
Also, be kind to yourself. You wouldn’t pull up a carrot to see how well it’s growing, so don’t critique your own story before it’s done developing… unless that method works for you, in which case ignore this advice too.
But you should still be kind to yourself! And if you ever get stuck, just add a dragon.
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Thank YOU very much for taking the time to answer our questions, Sarah Beth!