Thursday, June 6, 2013

Author Interview: Sarah Dessen

I was so honored when I was asked to interview Sarah Dessen at her recent event in DC. I’ve met her before, and she is such a sweetheart, so I was very excited to get this one-on-one time. Sarah’s answers are paraphrased, not direct quotes unless it’s within quotes.

Aine: What was the inspiration for your latest novel, The Moon and More?

Sarah: I was at my favorite spot in North Carolina, Emerald Isle. I had finished What Happened to Goodbye and had no idea what to write next. A hot shirtless guy, who was rather chatty, spoke with me. He was from Emerald Isle and told me all about growing up there. A lot of my books are set in Colby, which is based on Emerald Isle, but I had never written about anyone from there. After speaking with him, I thought “There’s my book.”

Aine: If I recall correctly, it was announced under a different title. Why the name change?

Sarah: The Moon and More was my original title. But we were worried that people would think that with the word “moon” in the title, readers would think it was a sequel to Keeping the Moon even though that was published a long time ago. So it was announced under The Best After Ever, but it was a bit confusing as “after” and “ever” were often switched. The next title had the word “summer” in it, and we were worried that it would not stay on bookshelves once summer passed. So, we went back to my original title, The Moon and More.

Aine: I know you have a young daughter. Has she inspired anything in your books?

Sarah: Absolutely. It made me focus more on the mother/daughter relationship. It made me want to flesh out the teen characters’ mothers. I understand the mother’s more. There will likely be more children in the new novels.

Aine: Which character do you have the most in common with? Which would’ve been your BFF in high school.

Sarah: Halley from Someone Like You is the most like you. In high school, I often trailed after my friends, being more of a follower. Remy from This Lullaby and Emaline from The Moon and More would’ve been my best friends. They’re also the two characters I’m the least like.

Aine: What can you tell me about what you’re working on now?

Sarah: I don’t talk about what I’m working on, but there is something I’m writing. It’s secret.

Aine: Do you have any critique partners?

Sarah: No. I’m very secretive about my work. My agent reads it once a very polished draft is done. And then my editor. My husband, family, and friends, don’t even read it until it’s in ARC form.

Aine: What books would you recommend to your fans that are comparable to your work?

Sarah: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Jenny Hahn’s Summer series, and anything by Sara Zarr.

Aine: What’s on your tbr pile?

Sarah: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I just finished Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight which is like Gone Girl for teens.

Aine: I’ve heard your books referred to as YA light? Is that intentional?

Sarah: I think it’s just the way I write. I don’t write anything too dark or shocking. If I did, it probably wouldn’t feel genuine.

Aine: All of your books are written in first person. Is there a reason for that?

Sarah: It’s easier. I’ve always written in first person. It allows me to explore her in more depth. It gives the readers more insight. I tried writing The Moon and More in present tense, but I had to go back and change that.

Aine: This is your eleventh books. Is putting it out into the world just as exciting and/or nerve-wracking as the first one?

Sarah: It’s more so. There are more readers picking it up. Every release is scarier.

Aine: How do you feel about the new covers? Do you like them more than the old ones?

Sarah: I like all of my covers. I like the change. A fresh look is always good as it might draw in more readers. I think it makes them more timeless.

I asked twitter what questions they would like me to ask. Here is what I got from those.

Aine/Maggie: When your daughter is old enough, which if your books would you give her to read first?

Sarah: That Summer. It’s my first book, and I would want her to read them in the order they were written to see my evolution as an author.

Aine/Sandy: Have you considered writing a male protagonist?

Sarah: I get asked this all the time… not really. I don’t know what guys are thinking. I’d be worried he would be too much like the girls.

Aine/Maggie: How has your writing changed since becoming a mom?

Sarah: I’m more focused. I had to be. I’m also more relaxed and less obsessive about what I’m about to write or have just written. I’ve become more efficient, and I feel so much more sympathy for the mothers in my books.

Thank you so much to Sarah Dessen for the interview and Penguin for this opportunity.


Sandy said...

Great interview! I loved reading all of the answers.

BookChic said...

Wonderful interview! So glad I was able to pass the opportunity on to you. :)

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