Thursday, March 14, 2024

Interview With Author Sarah Beth Durst


1.      What inspired you to write this book? This book was inspired by lies -- the ever-increasing lies that are seeping into our lives, infiltrating our minds and hearts, and poisoning our relationships with our families, our friends, and ourselves. I decided to explore this broad issue through the up-close lens of a family drama with a speculative edge.  

2.      What exactly is it about and who is it written for? The Lies Among Us is about sisterhood, grief, and the corrosive nature of lies, as seen through the eyes of a woman who does not exist. And it's written for anyone who reads that sentence and thinks, "I want to know what that means."

After her mother dies, Hannah doesn't know how to exist without her. Literally. No one can hear her or see her, not even her sister. When Hannah realizes her sister Leah is taking the same dangerous path that consumed their own mother -- where lies supplant reality -- she's desperate to get through to her. But how can she when she may not even be real? 

3.      What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book? I hope they'll have an unexpected experience. And I hope that they'll look at the world a little differently when they're done. That's why I fell in love with books in the first place -- they're these little rectangles with the power to transport you out of your own life, to sneak into your heart and mind, to bring you on a journey and then safely back again, slightly changed. I hope this book takes readers on an unusual journey. 

4.      How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? My husband and I tossed around about a hundred title ideas with the word "Lies" in it, but this one... It felt accurate. The book is quite literally about the lies among us. Hannah can see them: the physical manifestations of the lies we tell, layered on top of reality. The team at Lake Union and Tim Green at Faceout Studio deserves all the credit and thanks for the awesome cover! I love that it includes the wisps of mist that Hannah sees all around her. And I love that the shadowy face is a different woman than the one looking out at the reader. 

5.      What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? Don't run! You'll be fine! I think what I'd most like to say is: be kind to yourself. And trust yourself. Trust that you have a story inside you -- a plethora of stories! -- and if you can convince that little voice of self-doubt that everyone has to shush for long enough for you to get the words out, then the world will be a richer place for the stories you share.  

6.      What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?  Every few years, everyone seems to decide that a new facet of the book publishing industry is doomed. (Right now, it's MG fiction. A while back, it was horror. Urban fantasy. Dystopian. For a time, when ebooks first debuted, everyone was talking about how ebooks will kill all print books.) But I think the fact is that people need stories and will always need stories. They're as essential to human existence as food, water, and shelter. Stories are how we understand the world and how we cope with life, whether we use them as an escape from life or a way to examine life. So, I don't know where the book publishing industry itself is heading, but I have complete faith that people will keep reading and writing and trying to connect with one another through all kinds of books. Wait long enough, keep writing, and whatever trend will cycle through. After all, bell bottoms came back.  

7.      Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?   The most practical thing I did when writing this book was to set it where I live. It takes place on Long Island -- all over the island, really, with scenes in Queens, Garden City, the Hamptons, Montauk, and on the Long Island Railroad. Given that reality in this novel is a slippery thing, it was helpful to be able to draw on my direct experience in all those places.  

8.      How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? I think it's important to adjust your style to the story you want to tell. Every book has its own rhythm, its own music. While I was writing The Lies Among Us, I was very aware of the silences -- the white space on the page. I deliberately broke writing rules right and left. Lots of sentence fragments. Short paragraphs. Sentences that sit alone on a line. I also used pov to shape the feel of the story. For Hannah's scenes, I wanted to create an unsettling, off-kilter kind of effect, so I chose to use first-person present tense. For Leah's scenes, I wanted them to feel more grounded -- to give them a more reliable-narrator kind of feel -- so I switched to third-person past tense. As far as similar books... One book I really admire that also explores the life of a character with an unusual kind of existence is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. If you liked Addie LaRue, you might want to try The Lies Among Us 

9.      What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? This book is a departure for me. I have written over 25 books for adults, teens, and kids, and the vast majority of my books are fantasy. (In fact, I have a cozy fantasy coming out in July called The Spellshop, about a rogue librarian and a talking spider plant!) But this book... While it does employ speculative elements (Hannah sees things that don't exist, and wolves made of shadows hunt in the streets), it's very different from anything else I've ever written. And writing it required a very different process than any I've used before. I didn't write it with an outline (at least not the first draft) like I usually do. I didn't approach each scene by asking myself, "What happens next?" Instead, it was very much driven purely by the interiority of the characters -- What is Hannah feeling / thinking?  What's the inner journey? I let that guide the way. I don't think I could have written this book earlier in my career. It required a leap of faith, as I felt my way through the initial draft, that I could write in this new style and that I would be able to weave it all together. I ate a LOT of chocolate while writing this book.  

10.  If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? You should read this book if you're looking for something that's a bit unusual, that will (I hope!) make you think and make you feel.  

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Brian Feinblum should be followed on This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2024. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.6 million pageviews. With 4,800+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and director of publicity positions at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America several years ago, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, Morgan James Publishing, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. His first published book was The Florida homeowner, Condo, & Co-Op Association Handbook.  It was featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald.


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