Here’s my latest interview, with the wonderful and talented Sarah Beth Durst. I reviewed her book, Into The Wild, a little while ago, and loved it! Thanks so much to Sarah for agreeing to be interviewed. I hope you all enjoy it!
Are you anything like your main character, Julie, or any of your other characters?
I think I’m most like Gillian (the main character’s best friend). No matter how many times that Julie tells her that being in a fairy tale is worse than being in a nightmare, Gillian still thinks it’s all incredibly cool. If my town suddenly transformed into a fairy-tale kingdom, I’d totally be the one pulling on my glass slippers, grabbing the nearest pumpkin, and running into the woods… where I’d most likely be promptly eaten by a wolf or trapped in a Gingerbread House… Mmm, yum, gingerbread…
What are your favorite fairy tales?
I love Beauty and the Beast, as well as all its variants (Cupid and Psyche, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, etc.). It’s one of the only tales where there’s true love. In Cinderella, they go on one date and then marry. In Sleeping Beauty, there’s a single (nonconsensual) kiss and then they marry. In Snow White… well, she’s dead when she “meets” the prince so I can’t imagine they had many stimulating conversations. But with Beauty and the Beast, they spend time together, they talk, they have multiple dinner-dates… I like that version of fairy-tale love much better than the “hey, you defeated a dragon — here, have a princess” kind.
How did the idea for Into The Wild come to you? Can you remember exactly when you thought of it, or did it take awhile to form itself?
I do remember the first idea, though it took a while before it coalesced into an actual novel. In high school, I tried to write a musical about fairy-tale characters who lived in the real world. It was called “Rapunzel’s Hair Salon,” and it was awful. Really, really awful. Picture singing pigs doing a kickline. (Now try to stop picturing singing pigs doing a kickline… Yeah, it’s not pretty.) Anyway, I liked the idea of fairy-tale characters living in secret in an ordinary town. So many years later, I started kicking around that core idea, and I thought: okay, so once upon a time, the fairy-tale characters escaped their fairy tale… what would happen if the fairy tale wants its characters back? And the answer to that question is INTO THE WILD.
How has Into The Wild changed since the first draft?
I did thirty drafts of INTO THE WILD. Yep, 30. I know that sounds crazy, but it works for me. I think of it like I’m building a person from the inside-out. The first draft is the skeleton. It’s not much to look at (in fact, some paragraphs are just “and then something cool happens”), but the first draft, my skeleton draft, lets me see if the story hangs together — and whether it looks like a human or more like a ferret. After I’m satisfied with the skeleton, I start adding layers: muscles, ligaments, internal organs, skin… By the end, there usually isn’t a single word in the final version that’s the same as it was in the first draft, but all the stuff from the prior drafts is in there, making the story walk, talk, and breathe. So in a way, the answer is that everything and nothing has changed since the first draft. The core of the story (the fairy-tale characters wanting to be free, the relationship between Julie and her mom Rapunzel, the adventure in the Wild) was all there in the first draft, but it took a lot of revision to get from those bare ideas to the final story.
What sort of environment do you write in, and at what time of the day do you do your best writing?
I wish I could write in a coffeeshop or on a beach or even just outside in the backyard. Other writers do it all the time and manage to look all artistic and romantic with their hair pinned up in that pseudo-casual style that’s all gorgeously disheveled. But I tend to play with my hair when I write, and I have very, very, very thick, curly hair. At the end of an intense writing day, I look a bit like the bride of Frankenstein. So it’s best for me to just write at home and not frighten the other coffeeshop customers or beach-goers.
Seriously, I do most of my writing at home on my laptop at my desk. I often listen to music. I usually have chocolate (ideally Raisinets) within reach. As far as time of day… I consider any time where I can cobble together more than five minutes uninterrupted to be my best time. Less than five minutes is a bit trickier, but it can be done if that’s the only option. I am completely serious about this. I treasure every second of writing time that I have, whether it’s 10am or 2am. Writing is one of the only things that when I’m doing it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.
If Into The Wild were to be made into a movie, who would you want to play Julie and any of the other main characters? If you can’t think of an actor or actress like them, is there any model or picture or anything that you think looks like them?
I have absolutely no idea. I do have images in my head for all the characters, of course, but they’re mostly mish-mashes of people I’ve known.
What writing had you done before Into The Wild? For how long had you been writing?
I have been writing since I was ten years old. (Prior to age ten, I wanted to be either a ballerina or Wonder Woman. I also would have accepted Unicorn Princess, but I don’t think it’s fair to count that as a career goal.) The first story that I wrote outside of school was a cross between G.I. Joe and the Wizard of Oz. I abandoned it halfway through (shortly after a pride of friendly, talking lions magically and inexplicably transported all of the characters to Africa), but I kept writing all through middle school and high school. In college, I did a lot of playwriting. My senior thesis was a stageplay that included a flying, fire-breathing dragon (but no talking lions). In the years following college, I focused on novel-writing and eventually wrote the story that became INTO THE WILD (which does include a talking cat, if not a lion). INTO THE WILD is truly a lifelong dream come true for me.
What are you writing now?
My next novel is a sequel to INTO THE WILD. It’s called OUT OF THE WILD, and it’s coming out next summer (June 2008). I am really, really excited about it. I just got to see the cover art for it — the cover will be blue with an image of Julie on a flying bath mat. Yes, I said “flying bath mat.” :) If you’re curious, I’ve posted it on my website here: www.sarahbethdurst.com/books.htm. I had so much fun writing it. I loved hanging out with Julie and everyone again, even if it meant turning their world upside down.
Thank you so much for interviewing me!