July 18, 2016


A little while ago I had the privilege of reading Sarah Beth Durst's latest fantasy novel for middle grade readers, The Girl Who Could Not Dream--the tale of a girl whose parents distill, bottle, and sell dreams out of a secret room in their secondhand bookstore. In my review, I wrote:
Durst's books always charm me with their imaginativeness, and this one is no exception. How wonderful, to bring all sorts of dream monsters and fears and mythical beasts to life, from frighteningly surreal Dali-esque creatures to good old flying unicorns. But, hands down, Monster is the best monster. I'll leave it to you to read the book and find out why.
It's got such a fun premise, set in a world very like our own, and I was thrilled to get to ask the author some of my burning questions about the book. She always comes up with such quirky, unique, highly individual fantasy stories, whether writing for MG, YA, or even adult fiction, and here at Finding Wonderland we've been lucky to host multiple interviews to find out more about the story behind the story.

With no further ado, here it is! Thank you to Sarah Beth Durst for agreeing to stop by again and share this with us.

FW: The Girl Who Could Not Dream is so imaginative, set in a world where dreams can be distilled, bottled and sold. Where did the idea for this story start? With a character, a phrase, an idea?

It started with a wish, actually. "I wish I could remember my dreams."

Sometimes I have these dreams filled with dragons and aliens and telepathic dolphins, and in them I'm heroic and wise and witty and a lot more athletic... then I wake, and the dream slips away like a cloud dispersing in the wind. I often wish I could bottle up my best dreams and save them for later, to replace all the boring missed-the-train dreams.

So that's where this book started: with the wish to bottle dreams. That led to the idea of the dream shop -- a secret store where you can buy, bottle, and sell dreams. And to Sophie, whose parents own the shop and whose best friend is a cupcake-loving monster who came out of one of those bottled dreams.

FW: What were some of the challenges to writing this story? Was it difficult to strike a balance between fun/charming and scary? Did you worry at all about making it too scary or not scary enough?

One of the things I like best about writing for kids is that you can be silly and serious in the same story, even in the same moment. You can have a moment that makes you cry, and you can have a unicorn that poops rainbows.

Balancing those moments was very important to me, and it was something that I paid a lot of attention to as I was writing this book -- I wanted this book to have both, because I think life can often be funny and scary and silly and sad, all at the same time.

FW: With so many books out there that focus on dysfunctional families, it was refreshing to read a story with strong, loving family bonds, in which Sophie and her parents are a team. Was this a conscious choice?

Yes, it was. You see a lot of stories out there about characters who are strong because of pain in their past -- and I do think that's a very valid and powerful narrative structure -- but in The Girl Who Could Not Dream, I wanted to play with a character who came from a safe place... and see what would happen when she took her first step outside that familiar safe haven. I wanted to see what she'd do if everything she valued was threatened.

FW: Sophie and her friends (dream-world and real-world) seem to have a lot of potential for further adventures. Are you planning to write any other books set in this world, or with the same characters?

I don't have any immediate plans for sequels, but I have to admit that I miss Sophie and Monster and the others, so who knows what the future will bring...

Monster in particular was so much fun to write. Usually, for me, characters develop during the course of writing the story -- it takes me numerous pages to discover their voice and learn more about them -- but Monster appeared fully formed from chapter one. It felt like he plopped down on my desk and said, "Tell my story! And give me a cupcake."

FW: What are you working on right now—what's coming up next?

Right now, I'm working on an epic fantasy series for adults (and teens) entitled THE QUEENS OF RENTHIA, about bloodthirsty nature spirits and the women who can control them. They will be published by Harper Voyager, starting with THE QUEEN OF BLOOD on September 20th. I'm very, very excited about them!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

You can read more about Sarah Beth Durst and her work on her website--including a sneak peek at The Queen of Blood!

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