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Fall 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Sarah Beth Durst

Publishers' PreviewsThis interview originally appeared in the September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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A girl named Sophie and a monster named Monster star in Sarah Beth Durst’s comic middle-grade fantasy The Girl Who Could Not Dream.

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Photo: Adam Durst.

1. Some people want nightmares?? Are you one of them?

SBD: I want magical dreams. If this means I have to dream about being eaten by a slobbering dragon while vicious flying hedgehogs demolish my home, then so be it. Just as long as I’m not dreaming about traffic jams.

2. Do you think dreams are ever more than dreams?

SBD: Absolutely. Sometimes they’re messages from the flying hedgehogs. Or, more likely, they’re messages from yourself, such as “You’re stressed,” “You’re unhappy,” or “You really, really shouldn’t have eaten that burrito.” I think dreams are unleashed bits of your subconscious, which, for a writer, can mean new ideas and insights…or no more burritos.

girlwhocouldnotdream_200x3003. There’s a lively blend of snark and sincerity in the dialogue here. How do you maintain the balance?

SBD: I try to write what feels true. I believe that humor is a basic and essential coping mechanism and that most people (or at least the kind of people I like to write about) face the world with a mix of heart and humor. For me, finding the voices of the characters — that heart/humor balance — and staying true to them is the key to telling their story.

4. Sexy stuff aside, what’s the biggest difference between writing YA and writing for middle-graders?

SBD: The most obvious difference is that in middle-grade you’re seeing the world through younger eyes, so more is new, and the protagonist’s worldview hasn’t calcified. A less obvious difference is a side effect of that innocence: you can be simultaneously silly and sincere. You can have pink ninja bunnies and rainbow-pooping unicorns and then have a moment that makes you cry. In YA, those same bunnies would be ironic.

5. Things aren’t quite wrapped up at the end of The Girl Who Could Not Dream. Is there another book in store for Sophie and Monster?

SBD: At the moment, I’m working on a new book about two sisters, seven magical islands, and the power of stories, which I’m very excited about! But who knows what the future will bring…

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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