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Interview: Sarah Dessen

April 4th, 2006 (09:52 am)

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


Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 25th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Sarah Dessen Just Listen

Wow I really like Sarah Dessen books.As a matter of fact I am reading Just Listen right now for independent reading. I am more than half way through it. I really love teen or young reader type books. I like these type of books because I feel (this might be a tid bit crazy)that teen characters in books or teens period are more exciting then my own not to bring myself down but what ever. Any ways thanks for interviewing her it very informative cant wait for more interviews!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 25th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

Thanks for dropping by! I'm so glad to hear that you are enjoying her books. You aren't crazy. It's cool to have empathy and sympathy for characters in books. :)

Readergirlz will be featuring JUST LISTEN in March, with Sarah Dessen stopping by to talk to readers at the forum. I hope that you will take part in the chat and in the book discussions! This month's book club pick is HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson.
readergirlz website
readergirlz discussion forum

As far as interviews are concerned, you can check out my list of author interviews here:

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 26th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

Thanks for not calling me crazy its just really weird how all the books I read I actually feel are real and sound real because it is realistic. Anyways thanks for the links and websites they were really useful.Oh and before I forget I was wondering have you ever heard of the author Rachel Simmons? She is a really good author she wrote a book called odd girl out it is also a movie with the actress Alexa Vega and Leah Pipes. They are both actresses from disney channel. Oh and I also made a scrapblog on the movie on Scrapblog.com please check out my scrapblog on that website or all of my scrapblogs if you ever have the time. Oh and please leave comments on my scrapblogs if you can. Thank you very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 26th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

You are welcome. Enjoy!

I am familiar with the books of Rachel Simmons, but I have not read them.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

I just finished Just Listen!!!!! This book was incredible! I really want a sequel! I want to see Owen, Annabel, Sophie, Emily, Clarke,Rolly in more books and the other characters if I missed any! I am just starting Some one Like You Iam going in order from oldest to newest except for just listen because that was recent. I cant wait to read all of her books. Oh and did you hear about Simone Elkeles that is in publishing now called Zero Tolerance. I cant wait to read that one to!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

All of Sarah's books have connections, so even though they aren't sequels, you will see some characters pop up in other books. :)

Congrats to Simone!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

really Sarah Dessens books have connections? So does that mean that any character from different books by her can be in another one of her books even if the book is not a sequel. So Annabel for example can appear in the book some one like you. Can you please tell if you read just listen and if anyone from just listen will appear in the book some one like you.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

Yes, they do. As I posted here:

All of Dessen's books are set in the same town, a fictional town called Lakeview. No book is a sequel/prequel to another book, but the books do have connections. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll put it this way: Keep your eyes open and you will see some familiar faces make cameos.

I will tell you that someone from Just Listen has a cameo in Sarah's next book, Lock and Key.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

ok thanks then I cant wait to read lock and key and see which one appears in the book! Yeah I cant wait thanks for the info! Can you tell me if you are planning to interview some one soon.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 27th, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah Dessen Just Listen

You are welcome!

Yes, I have new interviews in the works.

Here is my archive of interviews.

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