Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Sarah Beth Durst, author of one of my favorite novels of this year (easily), Vessel! I'll be sharing my thoughts on Vessel tomorrow (they amount to GetItGetItGetItNOW), but until then, Sarah Beth is here to chat with us about building the gorgeous desert world, staying true to yourself as a writer, and what we can expect from her next!
I love research! Before I had any idea what the story was or who the characters were, I knew I wanted to write about a desert. So I researched the Gobi, the Sahara, and various other deserts around the world. I like to build my fantasy on a foundation of truth.
What was the most difficult aspect of crafting Vessel? (World-building, characters, the mentality of a "vessel," etc?)
The most difficult was also the most wonderful: worldbuilding. Writing VESSEL was such an immersive experience. Every time I sat down at my computer, I felt like I was stepping through a portal. And I wanted to be sure that what was on the other side of that portal felt rich and real so I spent a lot of time crafting details, creating the mythology, and imagining Liyana's harsh desert home.
Vessel is made up of various nomadic desert clans - which clan would you most like to be a part of, and which clan would you least like to be a part of?
I'd love to be a part of Liyana's clan. Her family truly loves one another... even if they did leave her behind to die.
Err...that's a big "even if"... *blinks*
Moving on! Each of your books has been completely different from one another - is this intentional on your part? Do you actively seek to try something different each time, or do you just go with whatever grabs you at the moment?
All of my books are fantasy, but I do leap around the subgenres. INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD are fractured fairy tales (about fairy-tale characters in the real world... but the fairy tale wants them back), ICE is a modern retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon wrapped up in an Arctic adventure story, ENCHANTED IVY is about getting into college (with talking gargoyles and were-tigers), DRINK SLAY LOVE is my snarky paranormal about a vampire girl who's stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn, and now there's VESSEL, a sweeping epic adventure about a girl who is destined to sacrifice herself so her goddess can inhabit her body, but her goddess doesn't come.
I try to write books that I want to read. Have you ever heard the cliched advice "write what you know"? I firmly believe that advice should be changed to "write what you love."
Follow-up: do you ever run into problems because of that, either from publishers or from readers who like to be able to pin people down, and want "another book like ________"?
Short answer is: no, it's never been a problem. Longer answer is: as different as my books are on the surface, they’re all me on the inside. So they all have certain things in common. All of them are fantasy. All of them are adventures. All of them have a sense of humor (though the amount varies). All of them have romance (again, the amount varies). And all of them have an overriding feeling of optimism and empowerment.
I think fantasy is (or can be) a literature of hope and empowerment. When I close a really good fantasy book, I feel like the world is a little more magical, a little more wonderful, and a little larger than it was before. And I think that feeling can happen regardless of whether the magic comes from vampires, desert deities, or talking gargoyles.
One of the things I absolutely love is that for both Drink, Slay, Love and Vessel, before the full synopsis was released, a little teaser synopsis for each was posted. Both were very short and very catchy - do you have any say in these teaser synopses, or even in using them to lead up to the full synopsis.
(Seriously, whoever writes them is genius. They are utterly compelling.)
Thanks! Some of them I wrote, some my agent did, some my editor, and some the marketing department at the publisher.
With the exception of Into the Wild/Out of the Wild, all of your books have been stand-alones. Do you ever want to revisit any of your other books and write a sequel or a spin-off?
I loved writing a sequel to INTO THE WILD. It was like visiting old friends... and then turning their lives upside down. While I don't have any immediate plans to write sequels to my other books, I'm not closing the door to doing it someday. Whenever I finish a novel, I do miss the characters, so who knows what the future will bring... :)
I am actually in the process of writing my very first trilogy, called THE LOST, THE MISSING, and THE FOUND. It's about a woman who runs from her empty life and is trapped in a town full of only lost things and lost people.
And another follow up, similar to the first - do you ever feel a push from publishers/readers to go the series route?
I love when readers want more! That means I did something right.
What should we be expecting from you next?
Next year, I have two books coming out: THE LOST (the first in the trilogy that I mentioned above) from Harlequin/Luna and SWEET NOTHINGS (title may change) from Bloomsbury/Walker. SWEET NOTHINGS is about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program who, haunted by dreams of carnival tents and tarot cards, must remember her past and why she has strange abilities before a magic-wielding serial killer hunts her down. I'm really excited about both of them!
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Thanks for stopping by! And ooh, I think everyone here knows about my obsession with anything remotely circus-related, right? Carnival tents? Tarot cards? SWEET NOTHINGS is definitely going straight on the wishlist!!
Make sure to stop back by for my review of Vessel tomorrow, and leave Sarah Beth some love in the comments! And if you haven't picked up Vessel yet, seriously, do.