Middle Grade Mania: JOURNEY ACROSS THE HIDDEN ISLANDS by Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst fans, you’re in luck! She has another book coming out called JOURNEY ACROSS THE HIDDEN ISLANDS, and she’s here to talk a bit about being a writer and what people will like about it.


The book/person/thing that inspired me to be a writer is:

 I’ve always loved books. To me, they’ve always been these magical objects: little rectangles that contain entire worlds. Books have the power to scoop you out of your own life and sweep you away on a journey — then bring you back again safely, maybe a little changed.

But until I was ten years old, I didn’t know an ordinary person could become a writer. I think I believed deep down that writers were born fully-formed with magical word powers, like Athena out of Zeus’s head. They had this mythical status in my mind… until I read ALANNA by Tamora Pierce. ALANNA is about a girl who becomes a knight in a land where no female has ever been knighted, and I have this very clear memory of closing that book and thinking, “If Alanna can become a knight, I can become a writer.”9780544464971_lres

The hardest thing about writing for a middle grade audience is:

I write for kids, teens, and adults, and the hardest thing is the same for all of them: saying goodbye when you finish. I know that after I finish a novel, I’m supposed to perform several cartwheels, do a Snoopy dance of joy, and then collapse on the couch overwhelmed with joy and relief, but instead… I feel sad. You spend so long living with your characters and sharing their world that, when it’s done, you feel as if you’ve moved to another country. You’ll always have fond memories of your former home, but you don’t live there anymore.

On the plus side, when you’re done, it also means that soon other people will be able to visit your world and meet your characters, and that’s an absolutely wonderful feeling!

Why do you like writing middle grade books?

The best thing about writing middle grade books is that you can be silly and sincere at the same time, even in the same paragraph. You can write about a unicorn who poops rainbows and do it completely unironically.

Also, when you write about kids, you’re often writing about firsts: first adventure, first friendship, first taste of independence… and there’s a magical sense of wonder that comes with firsts. It causes you to see the world anew again.

What will middle grade readers like about your books?

Monster! Definitely Monster! He’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. (Please don’t tell the others.) I knew his personality from the very beginning. Usually my characters develop through the writing process, but with Monster… It was as if he plopped down on my desk and said, “Write my story! And feed me cupcakes!”

THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM is about a girl whose family owns a secret dream shop where they buy, bottle, and sell dreams, and the adventure she goes on with her best friend — a cupcake-loving monster named Monster — when someone starts kidnapping dreamers.

My least favorite subject in school was:

Gym. I still have nightmares about the Presidential Fitness Test.

My favo9780544706798_lresrite snack:

Chocolate. I’m particularly partial to Raisinets, because they’re (almost) healthy. The fruit inside cancels out the chocolate on the outside, right? I also love cheese.

The best thing about my job is:

 The proximity to my refrigerator. I’m kidding… though it is a perk.

The best thing is the writing itself. I love living inside a story, breathing life into characters, and crafting worlds out of daydreams.

One piece of advice for your middle grade self:

Believe in yourself and in your dreams. Just believe, and you can fly!

Not literally. You can’t actually fly.

Also, middle-school me, please learn about hair gel as soon as possible.

Where can we find you on the internet? (Social media, website?)

You can visit me at www.sarahbethdurst.com. I’m also on Twitter (@sarahbethdurst), Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Beth-Durst/70244665813), and Tumblr (www.sarahbethdurst.tumblr.com).


If you’re interested in JOURNEY ACROSS THE HIDDEN ISLANDS, click here!