Sarah Beth Durst, one of my favorite authors, is back today to talk about her latest middle grade novel The Stone Girl’s Story which follows Mayka, a living girl made of stone, as she ventures far from home to find a way to help herself and her friends.
Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for The Stone Girl’s Story?
Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): I’m a terrible gardener. Zero green thumb. Plants see me coming, and they wither in self-defense, anticipating a horrible death from either too much or too little watering. But I try. And I’m always optimistic that next year, I’ll remember to weed/water/whatever often enough to have a lovely flower bed.
One spring, after hearing me talk all winter about flowers, my husband bought me a little stone rabbit for my garden, and I nestled it in between the daffodils. But by the end of the summer, it was so buried in weeds that I couldn’t find it. So I joked that it had hopped away to join its other stone friends…
That stone bunny became the inspiration for THE STONE GIRL’S STORY (and you’ll see him hopping around the first chapter as one of Mayka’s friends!).
Mayka is a girl made of living stone. Forever twelve years old, she has outlasted the father who carved her and engraved her body with the stories that gave her life. But now the magical marks that animate her and her stone friends are fading, and she must leave her home for the first time to find help if she wants her story — and those of her friends — to continue.
At its heart, this is a story about stories — what stories shape who you are, who chooses the stories that define you, who tells the story of your life.
MP: Stone creatures in Mayka’s world are brought to life by markings carved into their bodies that describe various attributes and parts of their lives. If you were a stone creature, what are some markings you would want to include in your story?
SBD: I would want my markings to say how much I love stories — really, I think they’re as essential to life as air, water, and food — and how much I love to tell stories. And I would want my markings to say how much I love my family. Those are the two things that are most important to me: writing and my family.
Might also want to add a marking saying how fond I am of chocolate.
MP: Mayka leaves her home to find a new stonemason and gets to see the world beyond her mountain home for the first time. Reading this story I was struck by how vivid the locations and landscapes are as Mayka discovers them. Did any real locations inspire the places that Mayka visits?
SBD: Not intentionally, but the world does seep into you and then come out in your writing. Things you think are beautiful, things you think are important, things that stick in your memory… All of those things fertilize the soil of your imagination.
Mayka’s world is born of my imagination, but it’s shaped by my love of this world.
MP: Which scene are you especially excited for readers to get to in The Stone Girl’s Story?
SBD: One of the best things about being a writer is being able to invite people into your worlds, your stories, and your imagination. I can’t wait for readers to meet Mayka and her friends! I am especially excited for readers to meet Si-Si, a little stone dragon that Mayka encounters on her quest.
I think all stories need at least one talking dragon. :)
MP: This is a busy year for you with three novels coming out. Last year was equally jam-packed with your YA novel Drink, Slay, Love’s movie adaptation coming out and the release of your first picture book Roar and Sparkles Go to School. (I love that you literally write for all ages now!) With so many projects going on at once how do you balance everything? What does a typical writing day look like for you?
SBD: I write every day. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it helpful for keeping up the momentum of the story. I don’t have a set time or consistent number of hours that I write each day — basically any time I have two hands free and am near my computer, I’m writing.
I typically work on one project at a time. It takes me a couple days to switch between voices, styles, and worlds, so I prefer to work on one book for a few weeks/months (depending on where it is in the process) and then make the transition to another.
I also always like to know what I’m going to be writing next and will often start a new book on the same day that I finish the prior book. I don’t like saying goodbye to characters that I’ve grown to love, so it helps if I can immediately say hello to new ones!
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next projects?
SBD: Yes! My next book for adults comes out on May 15th: THE QUEEN OF SORROW, Book Three of The Queens of Renthia. It’s the final book in my epic fantasy series about bloodthirsty spirits and the queens who can control them. Very excited for readers to see how it all ends!
In December, my next YA book, FIRE AND HEIST, comes out. It’s essentially Ocean’s Eleven with were-dragons. I just posted the gorgeous new cover over on my website (www.sarahbethdurst.com/FireandHeist.htm).
And I’m currently in the middle of revising next year’s MG book (SPARK, about a girl and her lightning dragon) and adult book (THE DEEPEST BLUE, a standalone Renthia novel with a lot of sea monsters).
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!