Any time Sarah Beth Durst has a new book coming out, I know I should be excited. She is one of the most prolific and versatile authors writing fantasy right now and, get excited, I think her newest standalone for adults might be her best book yet.
I’m excited to have Sarah back today answering some questions about her monster racing adventure Race the Sands.
Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Race the Sands?
Sarah Beth Durst: When it was time to start thinking about my next book, I sat down at my desk, typed the words “Things I Think Are Awesome,” and started making a list of everything from pizza to armadillos to fire-breathing unicorns. A page or two into that list, I jotted down two words:
And a little voice inside me said, “YES. I MUST WRITE THAT.”
So that’s where this book began, with two words. Everything in sun-drenched Becar grew out of that one core idea: deadly races on the backs of irredeemable monsters called kehoks, who bear the reborn souls of their world’s most depraved humans.
Miss Print: Race the Sands is set in a world where what you do in this life determines what (or whom) you are reborn as in your next life. Augur Yorbel even reads a few characters’ auras during the story to see how they will be reborn. What creature would you want to return as?
Sarah Beth Durst: A dragon!
Or maybe that’s a bit impractical.
How about a cat? A well-fed housecat whose humans know better than to move once I decide to nap on them. Like my cat Gwen. She’s sitting on me as I write this. In fact, I write most of my books with her on top of me. Sometimes it makes it tricky to see the keyboard.
Miss Print: On the other end of the reincarnation spectrum we have the kehoks–souls reborn as monstrous creatures because they have done something so heinous there is no hope of redemption (unless they win the Becaran races). The kehoks come in all shapes and sizes including, notably, the black lion Tamra and Raia work with. What kind of kehok would you want to be (assuming the whole doing something evil to be reborn as one wasn’t on the table)?
Sarah Beth Durst: I’d like to be reborn as something like my black metal lion. Fast and fierce. Preferably without any slime or tentacles.
Miss Print: One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the way you utilize the ensemble cast by following a few different characters as the story unfolds. Did you always know the story would have this narrative structure? How did you decide which characters to showcase?
Sarah Beth Durst: I did plan from the beginning to show the story through multiple viewpoints, but I didn’t fully sketch out exactly whose eyes I’d use for which piece of the story. I tried to trust my instincts.
A lot of writing is trusting your instincts. We’ve all absorbed so many stories that we’ve internalized the rhythm of how a tale unfolds — the trick is to trust that sense of rhythm.
Miss Print: Working off the last question: Did you have a favorite character to write or one who was more challenging? And since this book came out during quarantine in April: How would everyone be fairing in quarantine? Who would you want to have quarantined with you?
Sarah Beth Durst: I loved writing Tamra! She’s a former champion rider who now works as a professional trainer in the sport of monster racing. She’s also a single mother who would do anything for her daughter, even sacrifice her own soul. She’s fierce, driven, and unstoppable, and I loved spending time with her.
She’s named after Tamora Pierce, a fantastic writer and fantastic person. I first discovered Tammy’s books when I was ten years old, the same year that I decided I wanted to be a writer. I remember reading ALANNA, her first Tortall book about a girl who wants to become a knight, and thinking to myself, “If Alanna can become a knight, I can become a writer.”
As far as how my characters would fair in quarantine… I think Tamra would take Raia and Shalla and ride on the back of a kehok out into the desert, away from the cities. And Dar would be doing his best to take care of his people. He’d be worried, but he’d do what’s right to protect as many as possible.
And the character I’d want with me… There’s one brief mention in the book of a woman who bakes the best pastries in all Becar… I’d want those pastries with me.
Miss Print: You always have a few books in the works, can you tell me anything about your next project?
Sarah Beth Durst: Yes! My next book will be a standalone epic fantasy called THE BONE MAKER, coming in March 2021 from Harper Voyager. It’s about second chances — and bone magic. It’s set twenty-five years after the heroes saved the world. Now they’re called to save the world again, but they’re not the same as they once were.
My next novel for kids is called EVEN AND ODD and will be out from HMH / Clarion Books in June 2021. It’s about two sisters who have magic on alternating days — Even has magic on even days, and Odd has magic on odd days — and what happens when the portal that separates our world from the magic world closes.
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!
You can also read my review of Race the Sands here on the blog.