Thursday, October 3, 2013

Interview + Giveaway with Sarah Beth Durst, author of Conjured

Today I have the enormous pleasure of welcoming author Sarah Beth Durst to the blog as part of our Spook-tastic Halloween event! Sarah is here to talk about her recently released YA fantasy, Conjured, and share with us her favorite Halloween-y reads and spooky stories!

I absolutely LOVED Conjured. It's one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading this year, and one I'll definitely be picking up again. It's beautiful, gorgeously imagined and meaningful, but also very spooky and creepy - a perfect Halloween-y read! :) Click here to read my review!!!

I also have the pleasure of hosting a giveaway of her fantastic book (it's a signed copy, guys!), so be sure to scroll all the way down and enter! :) Trust me, you want it!!!

Hi Sarah! It's a great honor to have you stopping by Bookish again! Thanks for taking part in our Halloween Event. Congrats on your most recent release, Conjured! *throws confetti in the air* How would you describe it to those who haven't heard of it yet?

Thanks so much! *dances under confetti*
CONJURED is about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program, who, haunted by visions of carnival tents and tarot cards, must remember her past and why she has strange abilities before a magic wielding serial killer hunts her down.

Conjured is a beautifully imagined and meaningful story about identity, belonging, destiny and love. I absolutely loved every minute of it! Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it? 

I wanted to write a story about two federal marshals who worked for a paranormal witness protection program. It was supposed to be a gritty, snarky, noir urban fantasy. But as I started developing their case, the witness -- Eve, a girl with zero memories and tons of bizarre powers -- started whispering in my ear.

Not literally. Because that would be weird.

Contrary to popular opinion, writers don't simply dictate stories based on the voices in their heads. We're in complete control of the narrative and the characters... except when we're not, which is often. Embarrassingly often.

Sometimes, a character seems to beg for his or her tale to be told. You wake up thinking about her. You fall asleep thinking about her. You wonder about her as you wait in line at the supermarket... or worse, as you try to write a different story. It was like that with Eve. And so, I tossed out everything I'd written and started a completely different kind of story, more of a psychological thriller, written entirely through Eve's eyes.

This book succeeds on so many levels - I loved the carnival imagery, the symbolism, and Eve's spooky visions. What were the challenges in bringing this story to life? Did you have to do any research for your book?

Writing this story felt a bit like jumping out of an airplane (minus the risk of broken bones!). I broke a lot of writing rules and took a lot of risks. It was an exhilarating writing experience.

The primary challenge was keeping to such a tight point-of-view. I really wanted the reader to feel what Eve feels – disorientation, claustrophobic chaos, powerlessness... until the moment she claims control of her own destiny. And so I had to be very aware of who-knows-what-when and what is happening offstage and in the moments that Eve has forgotten, yet not allow that to seep into Eve's consciousness, beyond what she witnesses in the behavior of others. In other words, I kept a lot of notes, made a lot of lists, and did a lot of drafts. :)

What was the most fun part of writing your book? 

This is, by far, the creepiest and wildest book I've ever written. And the most fun parts to write were the creepiest ones, specifically the visions. I loved scooping out bits of my nightmares and shaping them into words.

Can you share with us a few of your favorite quotes from Conjured?

My favorites are mostly spoilers. But I can tell you that this was the moment that I knew the story had to belong to Eve:

Eve raised her hand toward the birds on the wall. "Fly," she whispered.

The birds detached from the wallpaper.

The air filled with rustling and crinkling as the paper birds fluttered their delicate wings. At first they trembled, but then they gained strength. Circling the room, they rose higher toward the ceiling. They spiraled up and around Eve's head. She reached her arms up, and the birds brushed past her fingers. She felt their paper feathers, and she smiled.

Then she heard a rushing like a flood of water, and a familiar blackness filled her eyes.

I am alone in a carnival tent of tattered red. Music, tinny and warped, swirls around me. Fog teases my feet as if it wishes to taste me. A trapeze swings empty above me, and then it’s not empty. A broken doll dangles from it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

On a theoretical level, I think that reading is a personal experience, and you get out of it what you want/need to. But practically speaking... I did deliberately play with a lot of themes in this novel. For me, the most important one is: be the true you. You choose who you are. You define yourself. No one else has that right. And you can be more than what others think or say you are.

Halloween is almost upon us. To me that means horror movie nights with popcorn, tricks and (hopefully) stacks of yummy treats, and, perhaps most of all, the chance to scare someone and experience the thrill of being scared myself. What does Halloween mean to you? 

Candy. Lots and lots of candy. Especially Three Musketeers.

I used to think Halloween was the most stressful holiday of all. Endless angsting about what to be. (My best costume: Wonder Woman. Worst: a robot made of a giant cardboard box. You can't walk through the woods between houses wearing a giant cardboard box. Trust me on this.) These days, I have a pair of Tinker Bell-esque wings that I can don when necessary, so now Halloween is purely all about the chocolate.

Do you have any real-life spooky stories to share with us? Any supernatural experiences or bloodchilling encounters? 

Never met a ghost or had a creepy vision or anything like that. But I've always had a rather overactive imagination and am still capable of totally freaking myself out if I'm alone at night, even if absolutely nothing blood-chilling is going on whatsoever.

What are some of your favorite scary stories? Any favorite horror or thriller books/authors? 

I love A RED HEART OF DREAMNG and its sequel PAST THE SIZE OF DREAMING by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. They’re both beautiful and haunting. And THE STAND by Stephen King was full of awesomeness. But the story that scared me the most was DEERSKIN by Robin McKinley. It's not a horror or a thriller. In fact, most of it is a love story, and there are even many charming scenes with puppies. But the scenes that lead the heroine to run away have given me more nightmares than I can count.

What's the scariest / most memorable horror movie you ever saw?

Scariest movie I ever saw was one I didn't see. In high school, I was at a sleepover party, and my friend had rented a horror movie called April Fool's Day. I knew I had an overactive imagination -- as a little kid, I'd had years of nightmares after a babysitter had once described the clown in Stephen King's It -- so I knew better than to watch the movie. So I stood in the kitchen, chatted with a friend, and tried not to listen to it.

Unfortunately, my imagination provided so many terrifying visuals to the snippets of sound effects that I'm certain the imagined movie that I saw was a hundred times scarier than the ones my friends watched. I did not sleep a wink.

Fill in the blanks:

1) If I was magically transported back in time to the Dark Ages, I'd... really miss Chapstick. And then probably die of the plague.

2) I'm a pro at... um........ not much, really. I can't even whistle. Guess I'm pretty fast at typing.

3) I'm addicted to... Chapstick.

4) I'm scared of... Frisbees. And skunks. Also death. Especially death by Frisbee or skunks.

5) The last book I faked reading was... Moby Dick. (I've read Billy Budd. Close enough, right?)

Last question: I'm super curious and I'm sure your fans are all wondering about it too: are you working on a new book now? If so, when can we expect it? Can you share some juicy details to keep our appetites going?

Yes! I'm working on two new projects: THE LOST and MIND OVER MAGIC.

THE LOST is coming out from Harlequin/Mira in June 2014, and it's about a woman who is trapped in a town full of only lost things and lost people. It's the first in a trilogy. And MIND OVER MAGIC is my next YA novel. It's coming out in fall 2014 from Bloomsbury/Walker. I'll be posting more about it on my website soon... :) 

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | My Review
Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Walker Childrens
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN: Gorgeous signed copy of Conjured (thank you Sarah!)
ENDS: October 31st
OPEN TO: US addresses only!
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