Ask the Author: Sarah Beth Durst
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be (except when I was five and wanted to be Wonder Woman — one of the few career paths less practical than writer). And I’ve always wanted to write fantasy.
For me, fantasy is a literature of hope and empowerment. It can provide light in the darkness, an escape when you need an escape, and a reminder that the impossible can sometimes be possible. There’s a quote by C.K. Chesterton that says (and I’m paraphrasing), “Fairy tales don’t tell us that dragons are real. They tells us that dragons can be defeated.” Love that.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My editor refers to it as “podracing but much, much deadlier.”
RACE THE SANDS is a standalone epic fantasy about two kickass women — a trainer and her student — striving to become monster racing champions.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I write by what I call the Rule of Awesome. I sit down at my computer and ask myself, “What do I think is awesome today?” And that’s where I get my ideas. I try not to wait for the muse to show up. Instead, I start typing and keep typing until the muse, wandering by, sees that I’m here and decides to come help.
The core concepts in RACE THE SANDS came from a brainstorming session like that: a sun-blasted desert land where the most depraved souls are reborn as monsters, and where people ride those monsters to compete in incredibly dangerous races.
Tamra, the main character in RACE THE SANDS, is a seasoned trainer and former champion. She’s also a single mother. She’s the most badass character I’ve ever written. I think there’s a dearth of middle-age heroes and parent-heroes in SFF, and I created Tamra to help fill that void.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I always love when I get to write the moment right before the big battle scene, where the characters are metaphorically walking slowly away from a ball of fire and the soundtrack is blaring in my head — the moment where the characters say, “This is it. We’re doing it. Burn it all down.”
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
RACE THE SANDS is dedicated to Tamora Pierce, and the main character (Tamra) is named after her. When I was ten years old, I read ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, and I remember thinking to myself, “If Alanna can become a knight, then I can become a writer.”
I try to write the kind of books that I love to read — the ones that make you feel like the world is a bit more wondrous than you thought it was and that you are a bit stronger than you thought you were. I love books filled with adventure and magic.
As a kid, I devoured everything by Tamora Pierce, David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, Charles de Lint, Patricia McKillip, Terry Brooks, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia C. Wrede, Lloyd Alexander, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robin McKinley… Still love all of them!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Be kind to yourself. Find tricks to quiet that critical voice in your head so that you can get words onto a page. You can always go back and fix those words later — that’s part of the beauty of writing. Unlike brain surgery, you really don’t have to get it right the first time.
Write what you love. Write what you want to read. If you love your characters, if you love your world, that will shine through in your words, and you’ll be able to bring your stories to life.
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