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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Story Secrets: ENCHANTED IVY by Sarah Beth Durst + Giveaway!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I'm very happy to be hosting Sarah Beth Durst to hail the arrival of her fourth amazing YA fantasy novel, ENCHANTED IVY (and you may remember that she was my very first Story Secrets post last January for ICE).

Sarah Beth and I go way back...all the way back to the SCBWI Conference in New York the year before I signed with my agent and sold Tell Me a Secret. She had just come out with her first book, Into the Wild, and I was almost finished writing the first draft of mine. It didn't take long to become fast friends!

Sarah Beth, welcome back to Story Secrets!


Enchanted Ivy is about getting into college. You know, taking the campus tour, talking to the gargoyles, flirting with the were-tigers, riding the dragons... Essentially, it's about magic at Princeton. (read a first chapter excerpt here)

Holly Cupala: Hi, Sarah Beth! Tell us about Enchanted Ivy.

Sarah Beth Durst: Junior and senior year of high school, I was absolutely obsessed with the whole college application process. I saw college as this huge Life Turning Point (with all capital letters) that would determine the shape of the Rest of My Life, and I was desperate to do everything "right," i.e. choose the right school, write the right essay, etc.

Of course, after all of my neurotic obsessing, I choose my college because I liked the trees and wrote my essay about the trials and tribulations of having curly hair... Regardless, this novel grew out of that overwhelming pre-college experience.

Holly: You've written four gorgeous fantasies now. Any surprise discoveries for this one?

Sarah Beth: Midway through the first draft, I discovered that the novel is, at its heart, a mystery. It's all about unlocking the secrets of Lily's family, the Princeton campus, and the nature of the world.

I love those in-progress kinds of discoveries. You know, the theme that springs out of your subconscious, the minor character that develops into a fascinating fictional friend...

Holly: Now for the fun question...did you travel for research?

Sarah Beth: I went back to my alma mater.

When I started this novel, I didn't think I'd need to research Princeton since I'd lived there for four years, but it turns out that you see a place very differently when you look through a character's eyes. I visited the campus twice while writing the novel and walked every step my character did. In doing so, I discovered all these fabulous, bizarre gargoyles that I never knew existed, like an ape in graduation ropes and a dragon chained an archway -- and they ended up becoming characters in the book!

Holly: What authors would you recommend for new fantasy readers?

Sarah Beth: I'm inspired by the books that I love, such as those by Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles de Lint, etc.

Holly: Would you tell us about your writing process?

Sarah Beth: Enchanted Ivy took about a year and 15 drafts. I have been known to write as many as 36 drafts, but this novel really stayed true to my original concept throughout (with the exception of one character who refused to obey my outline -- so I had to put him in a coma).

My process is to address just a few issues with each draft. For instance, in one pass, I might focus on the character's emotions. In another, I might fix the pacing. In another, I'll look at the descriptions. I find that with each pass, I learn more about the story and am able to deepen and layer it on a global level while I fiddle with details at a local level.

Holly: Have your life experiences helped you get to the heart of your story?

Sarah Beth: I often joke that this novel is 100% autobiographical, except for the were-tigers and the dragons and the talking gargoyles... Really, though, Lily isn't me, and her family life is very different from mine. But at its heart, I believe that Enchanted Ivy is emotionally true. I tried very hard to tap into that pre-college experience and all the emotions -- the anxiety and the exhilaration -- that I felt at that time.

Holly: Any secrets you're willing to share?

Sarah Beth: I can share what I believe is the secret to being a writer: sheer pig-headed stubbornness. Seriously, I believe that the most important trait for a writer to possess isn't talent or intelligence or a sense of humor or any of that. It's persistence. Don't give up on your story, and don't give up on yourself.

Holly: What's up next?

Sarah Beth: My next book is about a vampire girl who develops a conscience after she is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn's horn. It's called Drink, Slay, Love, and it will be out fall 2011 from Simon & Schuster. It was incredibly fun to write, and I'm so, so, so excited about it!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!


That's hilarious. Thank you for stopping by, Sarah Beth!

Ok, readers, so now it's time for...THE GIVEAWAY.

Leave a comment below on one of the following: a) why you're dying to read ENCHANTED IVY; b) the kind of story you might write about a magical college campus, or c) if you were to write a fantasy whose title parodied a well-known book, what would you call it? (big points for creativity!) You have until midnight on Monday to post.

Lastly, check out the ENCHANTED IVY trailer:


  1. Hmm... Beautiful Smeatures lol no, I'm just kidding. Probably Strange Creatures because Strange is my middle name.


  2. Great interview! LOL, I remember applying for college. I absolutely loved visiting different campus colleges, but since my parents (and everyone in my family) is a longhorn, I had to go to UT. Keep up the tradition :)

    OOOH, I like this. If I wrote a fantasy novel that parodied a well-known book, I'd title it Wicked Ugly, after Wicked Lovely. Instead of pretty fey, there would be ugly ones :)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Holly!



  3. I want to read this book because the concept seems very interesting, and the cover art, frankly, intrigues me to want to know more as well.

    I'm amazed that the book took 15 drafts but was still completed in a year... That's dedication.

    Thanks for this chance!
    jlelliott08 AT gmail DOT com

  4. I'm dying to read this book because the cover is gorgeous and the premise sounds awesome. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for the giveaway!

  5. I want to read this book becasue it sounds like a lot of fun! I am applying to college right now so I think this would be a fun play off that!

    a_readers_adventure at yahoo.com

  6. I want to read this book because it sounds fun! I'm currently applying to college, so I think I can sympathise with what the protagonist is going through.
    Also, when I was little, I used to pretend that school was a more different place than it actually was-- I would imagine that the school building was a ship, and we were sailing on the high seas, that there were secret rooms like in Hogwarts, things like that. So it would be cool to find out what collage would be like with talking gargoyles.

    elocin12 at gmail.com

  7. As I'm currently finishing up my master's degree, I would definitely write about a magical college campus that does your assignments for you. ;)

    Anyway, this book sounds great! I can't wait to read it.


  8. I'm dying to read Enchanted Ivy because my fantasy buff eyes was sooo attracted to the cover! I know, I know... I'm shallow... but I am that kind of a fantasy reader :)

    Re-posted your contest at: http://contests-freebies.blogspot.com/2010/11/win-enchanted-ivy-at-holly-cupala.html

    Cherry Mischievous
    cherrymischif-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

  9. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Im dying to read Enchanted Ivy because it seems like a really fun book. Almost all ya book characters are still in high school so it will be interesting to read a book about a college student.

    jessica b

  10. I am dying to read this, it sounds awesome and I loved her book Ice.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I'm dying to read this book because I've been hearing so many great things about this novel, and I love that this takes place at a college campus. It's different from all the paranormal novels that set place in a private school, or high school.

    thanks for the giveaway



  13. Lovely interview!

    I'm dying to read Enchanted Ivy because...I'm in college. It would be so fun to read about colleges. Every place has a certain meaning for every individual - human or magical. I'd like to find out more about the places in Enchanted Ivy. Plus, i havent seen a copy of it here in my country!



  14. I can't wait to read a new twist on the paranormal. I love fantasy books without vampires :)

    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  15. I would love to read Enchanted Ivy because I read Ice and neloved it and can't wait to see what Ms Durst has in store next.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  16. I would like to read Enchanted Ivy because I feel there are not very many older teen novels especially for the college age group.
    Thanks for the giveaway, Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. I'd like to read it because of the cover but also because of were-tigers. You had me at were-tigers, I just saw that word and I was like I have to read that:)

  18. I really want to read Enchanted Ivy because I have heard such great things about Sarah's other novel, Ice!

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

  19. I would absolutely love to read this book. It looks exciting, and something about the fact that it takes place at a college excites me as well. Maybe its the fact that I'm applying to colleges this year, or maybe the fact that I am actually planning to apply to Princeton, but whatever it is, this book has just made my to be read list.


  20. I cant wait to read this book. I remember all those college visits and how horrible and scarey they could be. I can only imagine what it would have been like to visit a school like this. Kinda fun though. I would love to read about it.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  21. Great interview. I loved Sarah's advice on her multiple revisions of her draft.

    I can't wait to read Enchanted Ivy. I love fantasies and mysteries. This is a great combination of both.


  22. I'm dying to read Enchanted Ivy because I loved the whole college experience, and this sounds like a great take on it. I also have a cousin going through the application process right now who I'd love to share it with!

  23. The college setting is so fun and goes by so fast, I'd love to read this story and the magical aspect. And I love secrets and mysteries.

    For a parody, I'd write a story titled, Quiver, a love story between a girl and a boy, except the boy turns into a frog when near pond water. you get the picture. And the girl was attacked by frogs when she was young.

  24. I enjoyed this interview :)
    I might write a story about a college campus that involved time travel--and how part of the course curriculum for history would involve witnessing an event, and not changing it. I would write about one students experience and whether or not they were able to stand by and let history unfold, or if they were too tempted to change the past. And how those changes would effect the future.
    melodiousrevelry (at) gmail (dot) com

  25. I'd love to read this. Some fantasy might make college even cooler! :) I think the idea of the book is very interesting. And her upcoming novel sounds intriguing, too. Can't wait to find out more!

    entrelibros_blog at hotmail.com