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A teacher's opinions on YA literature and the state of public education in America.

Interview with Sarah Dessen

It’s so awesome to be revamping my blog with none other than Sarah Dessen! Sarah, thank you so much for agreeing to a quick interview about your latest book What Happened to Goodbye. And congratulations on your eleventh book The Moon and More, which is schedule to come out this June! (Readers, save the date.)
I just have a few questions for you. If you’re ready, here they are.
1.) What’s your first step in writing a new book? I would imagine after as many as you’ve written, that you have some kind of ritual.
Usually when I finish the draft of a book, I’m sure I’ll never write another one. I’m just that tired and sick of myself. But then after I take a month or so off, watch a lot of Bravo and read, another idea starts percolating. It usually begins with the narrator’s name, then some idea that intrigues me about her life or situation. I try to ignore it as long as I can, because I know when I start writing, I’ll be right back into it, every single day. But eventually, I just have to. It’s a compulsion!
2.) If you could bring any two of your main characters together for a story, which two would it be? Why?
I’d love to write about Remy from THIS LULLABY again. I just had so much fun with her, because she’s so different from me. As far as who I’d put with her, I’d love to see how she’d interact with Auden from ALONG FOR THE RIDE. They’re both very smart about a lot of things, but clueless when it comes to others. It would never be dull, that’s for sure.
3.) Since my name is weird—Risha—I’m always interested in other odd names. What made you choose Mclean for GOODBYE?
Mclean is the last name of some of my family, and I also knew a guy named Mclean when I was in high school. I just have always liked it and thought it was cool sounding, especially for a girl. When I was younger I always wished I had a more exotic name—although I really like Sarah now. Then, though, I wanted to be a Veronica or a Stephania, something fancy. I guess I live vicariously through the girls in my books.
4.) The whole world loves your writing, but as an author, there have to be a few reader contacts that have stuck in your mind. Can you tell us the best response you’ve gotten for GOODBYE? What made it stand out to you?
I can’t think of one specifically for WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE, but on the whole the responses that mean the most are when girls tell me, “Your books got me through high school.” That is the biggest praise I can imagine, because reading saved me when I was that age. I just felt so alone sometimes, like no one understood, and often it was only in a book that I found comfort. Imagining that my books could serve as solace for someone in the same place just makes me so, so happy.
5.) I think a possible theme of GOODBYE is that going through adversity will strengthen who you are, if you’ll let it. When you you sat down to write this story, did you have themes in mind, or did they just come out organically as your characters took shape?
I just loved the idea of someone who had become accustomed to shedding their identity like a skin and starting over, never having to deal with any long-term relationships, who suddenly had to do just that. I went to school with the same people from kindergarten to senior year of high school: I always wished I could suddenly change and be someone else. So I liked exploring both sides of that, what might be great about it and what would happen when it wasn’t possible anymore and you had to just be yourself, for better or for worse.
Quick round of favorites:

Winter sport? Ice skating! I stink at it, but love to watch it on TV.
Candy bar? I am a sucker for dark chocolate with almonds.
Wine? Chardonnay in summer, Cab in winter.
Quote? “Everything will look better in the morning.” —My mom
Brand of jeans? Citizens of Humanity or Sevens. Love them both!


  1. Yay!! I’m a dark-chocolate-with-almonds lover, too! Thanks for conducting this super informative interview with the awesome Sarah Dessen, Risha. She’s definitely one of my favorite contemporary YA authors out there, and like a lot of other girls, her books got me through high school. I especially like the part in the interview where she said she’d love for Remy and Auden to be in a story together–those two are hands down my favorite characters!

    Oh and Sarah, on the off chance that you’re reading this: YOU ROCKK!!! (And so do your tweets!)

  2. You’re very welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Sarah Dessen is always fun. 🙂

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