Sarah Beth Durst is the author of Ice, as well as Into the Wild, an Andre Norton Award Finalist for Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy, and its sequel, Out of the Wild. She has been writing fantasy stories since she was ten years old and holds an English degree from Princeton University. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children, for whom she would happily journey east of the sun and west of the moon. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.
Your upcoming novel ICE, a modern retelling of the Nordic legend "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is about a polar bear, true love and one girl's impossible journey across the frozen Arctic. Can you share with us any teasers or give us a sneak peek as to what we can expect to read about in ICE?
Here's one of my favorite moments from ICE:
Cassie had never seen such a beautiful mirage. Spires soared above her. They shimmered in the bending light. At the tips of the spires, the ice curled into the semblance of banners, frozen midwave. She waited for it to shrink to its normal proportions: an ordinary ridge or an outcrop of ice that had been stretched by a trick of the light.
But it did not shrink or stretch. It shone like a jewel in the sunlight.
"Welcome to my castle," the bear said.
ICE is an adventure and a love story. It's about Cassie, the daughter of an Arctic research scientist, and what happens when she walks outside her father's research station and meets an impossibility, a polar bear who talks to her.
What was your inspiration for ICE -- can you give us any insight into that first spark that helped form the idea for the novel? In addition, can you tell us about how ICE has changed since your initial rough draft?
I knew I wanted to write about a girl who kicks butt, and I knew I wanted to write about real love (not the love-at-first-sight, if-Cinderella-and-the-prince-are-so-perfect-together-then-why-don't-they-tell-each-other-their-NAMES love). I found both things in the Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," specifically a version of the tale illustrated by P. J. Lynch, in which you can see the girl's fierceness and the depth of her love on every page.
The novel changed immensely from that initial idea, though. ICE is not a strict retelling. I changed major plot elements, switched the setting from Norway to North America, moved it up to modern day, and added my own major plot points and magic system. For example, my "lassie" isn't a peasant's daughter; instead, she's a snow-mobile-riding scientist. And my polar bear is not an enchanted prince; instead, he's the Angel of Death for polar bears. Kind of a big change. :)
Do you have anything in common with Cassie's character in your novel? Do you ever base your characters on people you know?
Nope. Cassie is way braver than I could ever be. She's a look-before-she-leaps kind of girl. (Literally. She's always leaping off cliffs and into oceans and such.) I'm more a make-a-lot-of-lists and think-of-a-comeback-two-weeks-later kind of girl. But I loved living vicariously through her.
Looking at the beautiful, shimmering cover art of ICE, one can just imagine Cassie and her polar bear being swept away through a wintery realm. Did you have any input in the book cover and what did you think about it the first time you saw it?
I had zero input in the book cover, except to hope with crossed-fingers and crossed-toes that they'd put a polar bear on the cover. When I first saw the art, I said, "Oh, oh, oh, look! Yay!" (or something equally incoherent), and then jumped out of my chair and danced. I LOVE my cover! The artist captured the feel of the book and look of the characters as perfectly as if he'd swooped into my brain and scooped out the image.
You’re an avid researcher of fairy tales and have posted many of the enchanting, obscure ones on your website for readers to enjoy. Of all the fairy tales you’ve ever come across, which one is your favorite, and conversely, which one is your least favorite?
I love Beauty and the Beast because it's about real love -- the kind of love that develops over time and is based on friendship, not on admiration of one's pretty dress, pretty voice, or inexplicably fragile shoes. My least favorite is the Juniper Tree, which involves murder, cannibalism, and a freaky bird.
If you could dive into any fairy tale and magically become one of the characters for just one day, which one would you want to become?
Hmm... Most of the heroines are miserable for most of their tales. And the villains might have fun in the middle of the story, but they typically die in horrific ways. So I'd have to vote for the fairy godmother from Cinderella. Nothing bad happens to her, and she gets a magic wand!
You were a multiple award nominee and award finalist for your debut novel Into the Wild. Since then, you’ve also published a follow up book, Out of the Wild, and contributed multiple essays to popular books such as Mind Rain: Your Favorite Authors on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Series. In all your experience, what would you say are the best and worst things about becoming a published author? In addition, has there been anything that completely took you by surprise once you became published?
Best thing is knowing that dreams can come true. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and I love thinking about how ecstatic my ten-year-old self would be if she knew I'd really be doing this! Worst thing about being published is worrying about whether or not people will like your story. A week before my first book came out, I had a recurring dream that our house was being attacked by zombies. I both can't wait for people to read my books and am petrified about it.
Do you have any writing quirks to share with us, such as a special place you like to tuck yourself away in or certain coffee/food you have to have, music to listen to, etc? What is your writing schedule – do you write at nighttime, daytime, etc?
I like to eat chocolate while I write. Especially Raisinets. But I don't have a particular schedule. My one rule is that I need to write every day. I like to start by writing emails or blog comments or just noting the events of the day -- anything to get my fingers warmed up with stringing sentences together. I find it helps to kind of sneak up on the day's writing. Otherwise, if you sit down and say, "Now I shall work on my novel, the dearest dream of my heart," you might freeze up.
Do you often hear from readers and what sort of things do they say about your books?
I love email from readers! And blog comments! And tweets! I think it's rather amazing that with 26 letters, you can put images from your head into the head of a stranger, and I love hearing that my words have made someone -- someone who I'll never meet -- smile.
You have a pet cat named Perni – do you get inspiration from her for the animals in your novels?
My cat likes to participate in my writing process. Entire house with lots of soft surfaces, yet she only wants to lay on the manuscript page that I'm attempting to edit. She has been known to chew on scenes that she dislikes.
Your next novel after ICE is a magical story set at Princeton University, where you attended college. Can you tell us anything more about that novel or any other projects you are working on?
My next novel is called TIGERLILY. It's about magic at Princeton, and it will be coming from Simon & Schuster in fall 2010. I’m really, really excited about it!
Is there anything else you would like to add today?
Thanks so much for all the great questions!
TO ENTER- Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite fairy tale is.
+1 BONUS- Link/Post this contest to any social network of your choice!
CONTEST ENDS 10/20
OPEN TO US & INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTS!
For another chance to win, check out Squeaky Books for the contest they are running!