Leah_Cypess (leah_cypess) wrote in enchantedinkpot,

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst, author of ENCHANTED IVY

Now that it’s Spring Break season, do you really want to think about school? Well, yes, you do -- if that school is the Princeton of Sarah Beth Durst’s Enchanted Ivy, where a college visit is about to take a very strange turn for one incoming freshman…


I’ve been a fan of your books for a while, but I admit that I had a special attraction to this book… my husband went to Princeton, and the first time he took me to visit, I thought it was the most magical place ever. I’ve always wanted to spend a day there just writing. Did you get to do that while you were working on Enchanted Ivy?

 Yay!  So happy that you liked Enchanted Ivy!  Thank you!

I visited the Princeton campus twice while I was working on Enchanted Ivy -- once for inspiration at the start of the project and once for details in the middle of the project.  I took hundreds of photos: every sidewalk that Lily walked on, every door she walked through, every gargoyle she passed...  I love to juxtapose magic and real details.

I kept the photos up on my computer monitor while I wrote, but I did the actual novel writing at home.  I always wish I could write on location or in glamorous writerly places like cafes or mountaintops.  But I tend to eavesdrop too much in cafes, and mountaintops are way too windy.  I write best at my desk with a stash of chocolate next to me.

I did write a ton at Princeton while I was a student, though.  And I'd pick picturesque places, like the University Chapel.  I wrote a lot of really, really bad poetry in the light of the blue stained glass.


Did any of the Princeton-specific elements of the novel (talking gargoyles, were-tigers, the Gate) start simmering in your mind when you were a student there?

Sure, I used to imagine tigers prowling through the campus and dragons landing on the flagstones... but to be honest, I imagine those things pretty much everywhere I am.  I love to picture magic lurking in the world around me.  It's how my brain entertains itself.

I blame my childhood.  I was the kid who always checked the closet for a gateway to Narnia, who always put "magic wand" on her birthday wish list, and who believed in the Tooth Fairy for way, way too long.  Pretty much, I was destined from about age three to be a fantasy writer.  :)

I had the specific idea for Enchanted Ivy much more recently.  There's a campus superstition that says if you walk out the front gate, you won't graduate.  A couple years ago, while I was in town for the Princeton Children's Book Festival, I walked through the gate (figuring it was safe since I'd already graduated), and I started to wonder:  What if there's another reason you shouldn't walk out that gate?  What if it leads to another, alternate, magical Princeton?

Enchanted Ivy deals with something that’s a huge issue for many teens, but doesn’t seem to play a large role in many YA novels – the college application process. Why did you decide to motivate Lily with the prospect of automatic acceptance to Princeton?

Junior and senior year of high school, I was obsessed with the college application process.  It was all I talked about, all I thought about, and all I dreamed about.  I saw it as my big chance to determine my future (or, you know, to really mess it up). I was keenly aware that it was a pivotal moment in my life.  So I wanted to write about a character who was experiencing those emotions and who saw acceptance to her dream school as her key to a perfect future.

Over the course of the books, Lily discovers secrets about her family’s past. This seems to happen in most of your books… any specific reason?

Really?  *thinks about other books*  Yeah, you're totally right.

There may be some deep-seated embarrassing psychological explanation for this, but I think the reality is a more mundane craft-related answer.  I like back story.  I think it adds depth to a story and to characters.  Blame the Luke-I-am-your-father moment in the Star Wars saga, but I'm a sucker for a tale with a glorious past.

I tried to get my husband to ask a Princeton-specific question to end off this interview, but he hasn’t come through. So I give you my four-year-old’s description of Princeton: “It’s big, and they have pancakes!” Do you have anything to add to that?

Your four-year-old pretty much sums it up.  I miss those pancakes.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thank you for visiting the Inkpot!


You can find out more about Sarah Beth Durst and Enchanted Ivy at http://www.sarahbethdurst.com/



Tags: enchanted ivy, interview, leah cypess, sarah beth durst

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