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Interview: Sarah Dessen

April 4th, 2006 (09:52 am)
accomplished

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: Hymn by Duncan Sheik

For years, I have read, relished, and recommended Sarah Dessen's novels to teenagers and adults alike. From the sweet and light (That Summer, Keeping the Moon) to the heavy-hitting and tragic (Dreamland, Someone Like You) to my personal favorites (This Lullaby, The Truth About Forever), I have enjoyed them all. On Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, Sarah's novel Just Listen hit the shelves. You can just imagine how pleased I was to have the opportunity to interview Sarah. Without any further ado, here's a quick Q&A with the bestselling author.

You've said that Just Listen was inspired by a photograph of three sisters in a private school yearbook. Can you tell us more about that?

I was waiting to do a speaking engagement, flipping through a yearbook, when I saw a picture of these three beautiful girls, obviously sisters, and my first thought was how their lives must be so perfect. My next was how ridiculous it was to assume something like that, because nobody's life is perfect. But it just goes to show how easily we draw conclusions, and that got me thinking about what goes on beneath the surface, and how all families have secrets. The story kind of took off from there.

How was your own high school experience? Did you belong to any clubs, academic societies, or sports teams? Was there a quote under your yearbook photo?

I was not much of a joiner, to be honest. I had a tight group of girlfriends, who got me through everything, and while I was an average student, I did love English class, especially when we were allowed to write whatever we wanted. On the whole, I think I spent a lot of high school just trying to stay under the radar: I don't think I was all that memorable. As for my yearbook quote, it was Pink Floyd, and kind of sums up my experience: "The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say." As it turns out, I did.

That Summer, the first novel you sold, wasn't intended to be a YA book. Now, ten years later, you've sold seven full-length YA novels! Are there any other genres you'd like to try, or will you continue to write YA novels?

I love YA, and it's been a really good fit for me. But at some point, I would like to try something else: a collection of short stories, or writing about something other than high school. A lot has happened to me since I was eighteen. As long as I keep having fresh ideas that interest me, though---and that I hope will interest readers---I think I'll always keep writing for teens, even if I do other stuff as well.

What are your favorite books of all time? Favorite authors?

Oh, this is such a hard question! If I had to pick, I'd say my favorite book is A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving. Owen is such an incredible character, and it's a novel that's just stuck with me, that I find myself thinking about often. (Owen Armstrong, in my new book Just Listen, was named after Irving's Owen, as well as Lance Armstrong, another man I adore.) I also love Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies, and Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. Anything by Anne Tyler, for that matter. She's just incredible. I also really love Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon, which I just read recently and jumped right to the top of my list. I could go on and on, as I have a lot of favorites. I really just love to read, period, whether it be books or magazines or the back of the cereal box. It's the one thing I can always count on to calm me down, take me away and inspire me, all at once. You can't say that about much else.

---

Thanks to Sarah Dessen, Courtney Wood, Penguin Putnam, and Flamingnet for making this interview happen.

My post entitled Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen contains my reviews of all of Sarah's novels. Additional posts related to Sarah Dessen's works include:

Interview: Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Sarah Dessen Novels
Playlist: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
They Tried to Ban This Book Today, or, There's a Sticker on the Cover of This Book: Reacting to the Challenge of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Comments

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Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 30th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
Sarah Dessen Books

Hi again I have a question which book is Sarah Dessens first book that she wrote what was it called? I know her second book is Someone like you but what is the first? Please respond to this thank you.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 30th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books

That Summer.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 31st, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 31st, 2008 12:15 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 3rd, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
Sarah Dessen Books in order

Hi again I was just wondering can you please list if you can all of Sarah Dessens books in order? Or if you cant do that can you please tell me what the books afer Some one like you are? please respond thanks!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Here are the books in order:
That Summer
Someone Like You
Keeping the Moon
Dreamland
This Lullaby
The Truth About Forever
Just Listen
Lock and Key

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 12:56 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 4th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Books in order

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 5th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
recommendations young adult

Hi I was wondering do you know any good authors for young adults? I am just wondering if you know anymore good authors for young adults. If so please tell me tell me anyone except for Simone Elkeles and Sarah Dessen. Thanks!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 5th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)
Re: recommendations young adult

There are many great authors for teens! My favorites include Christopher Golden (horror, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery) and Maureen Johnson (realistic dramas with wit). If you go to the main page of my blog, you'll see lots of book reviews and booklists!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 6th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Re: recommendations young adult

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 29th, 2008 02:44 am (UTC)
Re: recommendations young adult

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 1st, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Sarah Dessen The Truth About Forever

I just finished reading Sarah Dessen's book This Lullaby and I am now reading The Truth About Forever. I was wondering is there any cameo appearences by any of Sarah Dessen's characters from her other books? Please comment back thanks!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 1st, 2008 01:10 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen The Truth About Forever

Yes, there are cameos throughout all of her books.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 4th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen The Truth About Forever

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 13th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
write a sequel!

I loved the book someone like you please write a sequel!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 13th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: write a sequel!

While Sarah Dessen hasn't written a direct sequel to Someone Like You just yet, she has mentioned some of the characters from Someone Like You in other books!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 13th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
I love sarah dessens books!

I red someone like you and am going to read how to deal is how to deal a mix between that sumer and someone like you?

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 13th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Re: I love sarah dessens books!

Yes, That Summer and Someone Like You were combined to make the film How to Deal, so if you have the book that says How to Deal with Mandy Moore on the cover, it's simply those two books printed together, not a book version of the movie. :)

Here are my summaries and reviews of all of Sarah Dessen's books:
http://slayground.livejournal.com/315150.html

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 14th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
luv your site!

I'm glad you have this site because people who love Sarah Dessen books can talk!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 14th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: luv your site!

Thank you!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 20th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
OMG acknowledgements

I know I am commenting on the wrong interview but this comment is supposed to be for the simone elkeles one. I just wanted to say I got an email from Simone because I sent her an email and she emailed me back saying she had a surprise for me which was that you know her new book that is coming out in early 2009? Well she said that she is going to put my name in the acknowledgements!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 20th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Re: OMG acknowledgements

How sweet!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 20th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: OMG acknowledgements

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 31st, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
interview

wow! I love Sarah Dessen's novels. It's cool to see how she gets her inspiration. She is one of my favorite authors and has inspired me to pursue creative writing and reading on my own.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 31st, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Re: interview

That's wonderful! Good luck.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: September 16th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that in a comment you wrote when I asked you a question that a character from another book of Sarah Dessen was going to be in the book Who was the character because I read the book over the summer and did not find anyone from the previouse books please respond quickly and help thanks!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: September 17th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
Re: THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER

Here are connections between the books:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Dessen#Trivia

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