Sarah Beth Durst shares my love for fairy tales, (nice) dragons, and cats. Two of these three things are big factors in her debut novel for kids, INTO THE WILD. Is it any wonder that I jumped on the chance to read the book and interview the author?
What made you select Rapunzel as the mother of the protagonist? (Did the story start with Rapunzel or with Julie?)
I have kind of always had hair issues. (I even wrote my college admission essay about the horrors of having curly hair. Shockingly, they let me in.) So I can't help but identify with Rapunzel, who definitely has some hair issues of her own.
Seriously, though, INTO THE WILD began as two separate ideas: (1) if Rapunzel lived in my hometown, she'd own a hair salon. (2) What if a girl had a monster under her bed and her mother knew about it? Once I decided that the girl's mother was Rapunzel and the monster was the essence of fairy tales, INTO THE WILD was born.
Puss-in-Boots is effectively Julie's adopted brother. If your cat Perni could speak English and go on adventures like Boots, what would she say and where would she go?
My cat would most likely go to the beach, lie in the sunlight, and say to passersby, "Don't pet me. Don't touch me. Don't look at me. I'm going to bite you."
She is a bit maladjusted.
When I was in sixth grade, we had to write an essay about our favorite place. I wrote about a tree in our backyard. I said I loved to climb it. Anyone who has met me knows that I am not nearly coordinated enough to climb trees. I just worried that people would think my real favorite place was boring.
My real favorite place was my room. It was filled with a zillion stuffed animals (all of them with really creative names like "Bear" and "Cat"), mementos (I'm a total packrat), and books (alphabetical by author with a selection of my favorite on the shelf closest to my bed). I had this fabulous skylight over my bed with a view of the top branches of a beautiful catalpa tree. I spent hours curled up on my bed reading and writing. It still makes me happy just to think about that room.
You are a graduate of Princeton University. What college do you think Julie would attend, and what career might she pursue?
Right now, Julie just wants to survive middle school. (It's not so easy when your mother is Rapunzel, the essence of fairy tales lives under your bed, and you have to keep it all a secret.) But I can see her going to a liberal arts college in New England, close enough to home to visit regularly but not so close that she’d have to live at home. Afterwards… she might become a writer or a librarian or a bookseller because she knows how important stories are. Or she might decide to travel the world and have adventures. Can "adventurer" be a career goal?
Tell me more about the play that was your senior thesis. Has it ever been performed? Do you still write for the stage?
For my senior thesis, I wrote a play called "To Ride a Dragon." The cast of characters included Morgana le Fay, Mrs. Bennet from Price and Prejudice, and the Cheshire Cat (visible only as a grin). And a dragon named Smaug. It was never performed.
Junior year, though, I wrote a play called "The Last Train to Alpha Centauri," which was performed, and that was an incredible experience.
I do miss the theatre sometimes. But novel-writing was always my first love. And also, you can put dragons in novels without causing your Technical Director to have heart failure.
What are you working on now?
Just last week, I handed in the revised manuscript for my next book. I'm really, really excited about it. The plot is still a bit of a secret, but I can tell you that it will be coming out from Razorbill / Penguin Young Readers in summer 2008.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
I think I've read each of these 20 times. Re-reading them is like visiting old friends. Just thinking about them makes me want to go read them again.
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Jack the Giant-Killer by Charles de Lint
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Monsters of Morley Manor by Bruce Coville
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Price and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Thanks so much for interviewing me and for asking such fabulous questions!
INTO THE WILD is available in stores this month.
Review to come. Watch this space. I have to scurry off to work right now.