Saint Anything: book launch + Sarah Dessen interview + giveaway!

May 8, 2015 Uncategorized 63

saint anything

Earlier this week, I went to the launch party for Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen here in Los Angeles. While a new Dessen book is always something to celebrate, I had an especially good time because I had the chance to interview Sarah before the event. Yes! The grand dame of contemporary YA herself!

There was already a line an hour before the event at Children’s Book World, with readers of all ages waiting excitedly to see her. The lovely employees ushered me into the green room View Spoiler », where Sarah was waiting, looking fresh and pretty in a cheery pink dress that her daughter had chosen for her.

Sarah Dessen

I’m going to be very girly for a minute and tell you that the polish on her hands and her toes matched her dress. ADORABLE.

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Q&A with Sarah Dessen (paraphrased a bit, since my notes are messssy)

Wendy: In Saint Anything, Sydney’s family dynamics with her brother and her parents are just as important as her feelings for Mac. I love that your books are about family and friendships as much as they are about growing up and swoony relationships–is this something you consciously make an effort to include in your books?

Sarah Dessen: I write from my own experiences, and being a teenager is about a lot of things; friends, family, why am I in a relationship, why am I not in a relationship, jobs, academics, and so on.

Wendy: I wrote in one of my review of The Moon and More that your books are about absolutely nothing and absolutely everything at the same time.

Sarah Dessen: Yes! That’s an interesting way to put it. Some writers pick a topic and write around that, but I like to include it all.

Wendy: Have any of your characters been inspired by people in your own life? They feel so warm and flawed and quietly complex.

Sarah Dessen: My brother is nothing like Peyton in Saint Anything–he’s a very successful professor of music at UC Irvine. But the sibling dynamics are definitely there. Before I wrote this book, I actually wrote another one and was struggling with it–until I realized I could write about someone going through a crisis not from perspective of that person, but from the point of view of the family. And Layla, the best friend? I wrote the friend I wanted to have.

Wendy: While fantasy books and science fiction are very popular, why do you think character-driven contemporary novels continue to hold appeal for both teen readers and adults reading YA?

Sarah Dessen: Your teenage years are a tumultuous time–your hormones are crazy, everything is new. I think for adults, it’s really an emotional touchstone. Everyone also has an opinion about high school–you were really into it, or you really hated it, like I did. When you read about it, you get to experience it from a distance. I think contemporary YA can also be harder to write than some other genres.

Wendy: It’s harder to write well for sure. You can’t hide behind wild concepts or elaborate world-building.

Sarah Dessen: Every once in awhile the idea of my writing a book with vampires comes up and it always gets thrown out!

Wendy: My mind is sort of blown by that.

Sarah Dessen: It’s just not for me. But I’m very grateful to be writing right now–it’s an amazing time for YA. When I started 20 years ago, there was no Harry Potter, there was no Hunger Games. I’m grateful to Gayle Forman and John Greene and the other authors who have contributed to bringing contemporary YA back.

Wendy: I really appreciate the quietness of your books– there’s usually not a “quest” or a complicated set-up, and yet readers are engrossed in each girl’s story and want to know what will happen to her. For example, in The Truth About Forever, you set the book after Macy’s father’s death, it wasn’t the big dramatic event of the book. It was about living the life after that.

Sarah Dessen: A lot of readers told me that they related to the way Macy felt. As someone who luckily has not lost her father, I was glad I was able to capture that.

saint anythingWendy: Saint Anything was a difficult book for you to write. You’ve written about your decision to take more time with it, and I can only imagine the kind of pressure that a writer must feel if you’re faced with a deadline while dealing with a massive case of writer’s block.

Sarah Dessen: There’s a rather famous photo of me putting 13 books I’d started on my driveway to show everyone. There are a lot of books between the books that get published, sometimes a secondary character you get a little time with in one book might have a whole other book about them in my closet. Even if those books never get published, I think they help shape the other ones–sometimes a book comes out of setting a book aside.

Wendy: It’s fun how you allow us little glimpses into what your characters are up to with little cameos. I still wonder sometimes what Macy and Wes are up to, so I was excited to see them in a couple of your later books. You don’t tend to do sequels, though–I’m sure you must have been urged to by many fans, is there a reason why you’ve resisted?

Sarah Dessen: Once I’m done with a book, I’m done! I’m just not a sequel kind of girl. By the time I’ve finished a book I’ve read it so many times that it’s time to move on. I actually did craft the first chapter for a sequel to This Lullaby, but it’s just not going to happen.

But I like doing the little cameos as a thank you to the readers who have cared enough to ask what happened to everybody. As far as I’m concerned, life is good, everybody is happy, and the couples are all still together.

Wendy: They’re definitely still together in my mind, too. Your books often includes food that makes us drool! For Saint Anything, it was pizza and French fries and Dum Dum lollipops. Are these the foods you were making your way through while you were writing?

Sarah Dessen: You know, I was writing during the winter, which is my least favorite season, and I think I was just craving comfort food. (I had french fries for lunch today!) But food is community, and people bond over food, too.

Wendy: Which books meant a lot to you when you were a teenager?

Sarah Dessen: Judy Blume, Lois Lowry. (Sarah described being a little awestruck over Judy, and I sort of spaced out because I was thinking about how I did the same thing last summer.)

Wendy: What are your favorite books you’ve read this year?

Sarah Dessen: I tend to only read YA when I’m not writing YA, so right now I’m in the middle of The Royal We, and I loved All the Light We Cannot See. I also listen to a lot of non-fiction audiobooks in the car, like celebrity memoirs. Anne Tyler has my dream career, in terms of the longevity, continuity, and quality. I inhaled her newest book A Spool of Blue Thread.

Wendy: Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Sarah! I love your books, and it’s been a pleasure meeting you. I’m glad you took your time to write the book the way you wanted to write it.

Sarah Dessen: Once Saint Anything came, it came fast and furious. This book is close to my heart and I feel very passionately about it. Who knows what the future will bring?

Wendy: No vampires, though.

Sarah Dessen: No vampires. Or zombies. I’m just such a Muggle.

dessen speakingAfter our interview, Sarah joined the party, where she read an excerpt from the book and showed the audience a sweet “Happy book launch” note her daughter had handed her before she left that morning. She took some questions from the audience, who then lined up for cookies, Dum Dum lollipops (which play a part in the book!), and photos with Sarah.

dessen signingIt was so great to see so may readers excited to meet Sarah, which included girls and women of all ages as well as a couple of guys, too!

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Win an Autographed Saint Anything ARC

Sarah DessenThanks to Viking Juvenile, we have a copy of the book to give away to one of our readers! Sarah even autographed it especially for you after our interview, so it’s a very special copy indeed.

All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us what your favorite Dessen book is and/or why you’re excited to read Saint Anything. Open to US and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway copy was provided by the publisher.

vine-divider-finalI haven’t had a chance to write my review yet, but if you’ve never picked up a Dessen book and you like quiet contemporary YA books about ordinary girls, you should definitely check out her books! They are perfect summer reading. I’ve read everything she’s written except for one book, which I’m saving for a rainy day.

My thanks to Sarah Dessen for the lovely interview, to Children’s Book World for being gracious hosts, and to Viking Juvenile for inviting me.

Saint Anything just released in stores this week, and is available online and in stores everywhere.

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63 Responses to “Saint Anything: book launch + Sarah Dessen interview + giveaway!”

  1. Bethany

    You’re so right Wendy… The story isn’t boring at all, but it quietly (sometimes tensely) progresses with some tension building and other relationships providing release… And i really liked Layla! What a friend.
    Bethany recently posted…Isla and the Happily Ever After

  2. Lindsey

    I used to be a very dedicated Dessen reader, but somehow fell off the wagon between releases. I think this might be a good moment to join up again!
    Lindsey recently posted…5 Reasons to Read Saga

  3. Jillian J

    I’ve always been a Huge fan of Sarah Dessen! Someone Like You was the first one I read, and will always be my favorite. I’m super excited to read Saint Anything!

  4. Aila

    Great interview! I’ve never read a book by Dessen before, although I’m thinking of starting with this one. (Hey, you’re never too late to enter the field, right?) I really appreciate that Dessen puts little couple cameos in her books though; that’s pretty thoughtful towards the fans who want to know more of their stories haha.
    Aila recently posted…Renee Ahdieh – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

  5. Shyanne

    How can I just pick one book? I loved What Happened To Goodbye, Lock and Key, The Truth About Forever, and Just Listen.

  6. J. Oh

    Thank you for that, Wendy! :) The first time I ever heard of Dessen, it was because I saw a girl in my class reading Just Listen in high school. She was a really nice, popular girl, one that I knew wasn’t a huge reader, so I was really curious and ended up checking out the book for myself–and I’m so glad I did. It had so much quiet depth to it, and it’s really stayed with me. After that, I devoured most of Dessen’s books, but the ones that still linger with me the most are Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. I’m excited to read Saint Anything!

  7. Raven Girl

    Heard such great things about this book, this will be my first book of Dessan. :)

  8. Kristina

    I honestly have not read a Sarah Dessen novel, yet. I have heard a lot of great things about her books, and I can’t wait to read Saint Anything!

  9. A Canadian Girl

    I’ve loved Sarah’s books for a long time now, and have to agree that one of the reasons that she’s a favourite contemporary author of mine is because she manages to balance family, friendship and romance in her novels. My favourite Dessen books would have to be Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, and Just Listen.

    I was so excited when she came to Toronto a few years ago and hope she’ll come again in the future; the lineup to see her was insane though. I’m looking forward to reading Saint Anything, Wendy.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Mini Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross and Mark Perini

  10. Emily Jane

    The Truth about Forever is my favorite because I love Macy and Wes’s story, as well as all of the friendships she builds. I can really relate to the need for perfection that Macy faces, and it’s good to be reminded that hectic can be fun. Can’t wait to get by hands on Saint anything and fall in love with another girl’s story!

  11. Elena Sotelo-McCrary

    Thank you Sarah Dessen for providing yet another entree for my middle school readers. It is difficult to pick only just one title as all titles are constantly on hold. However, This Lullaby seems to be particularly out most often. I am previewing the book for our book club, or giving a copy away. Thanks for making reading an escape for my students. Be cool!

  12. Summer

    The Truth About Forever is the only one I’ve read so far, though I have a couple others just begging to be read on my shelf. What I loved about it, is the very thing mentioned in the interview, is that it was as much about family as it was romance, there are some ya books where parents and siblings are just kind of in the background, if even that, and to me, that just doesn’t feel as real as what Sarah writes.

    • Wendy Darling

      They are begging you, but you’re ignoring them?! You’re gonna have to rescue them soon, Summer!

      YES. Her books feel so real partly because they do involve families and sisters and brothers and best friends. I just don’t understand these books where the relationship is the ONLY thing that the author seems to feel is worth any time. That’s terribly boring and unhealthy in real life, and it’s the same in a book.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  13. Chrystal

    The only Dessen book I’ve read so far is What Happened To Goodbye and I loved the name of the main character – McLean! That’s my maiden name! ;)

    I also purchased a few ebooks last week and am looking forward to reading them this summer.

    And I love the part in your interview when she says…. “I’m such a mugger.”

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, fun! McLean is an unusual name, I’d forgotten that.

      Dessen books are such great beach reads. I love that they’re all set in these small, sleepy towns, and often involve the beach in some way. They really get you in the mood for time to slow down.

      And yes, that was one of my favorite parts, too! It was really funny and charming the way she said it so emphatically but matter-of-factly.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

      • Chrystal

        Ugh… I just realized when I was typing that my auto correct was on and it changed Muggle to Mugger…. really?!? Auto correct should know that Harry Potter words would always overrule regular words any day. LOL

        Dessen books are great summer reads… I’m looking forward to reading a few in July!
        Chrystal recently posted…Task It Tuesday: Catching Up

  14. Sydney

    I think The Truth About Forever might be my favorite Sarah Dessen book of all time. I’ve loved all of her books so, so much, but I read TTAF years ago and it’s stuck with me. Macy and Wes — Wes especially — had a story I haven’t forgotten, even if the details are fuzzy. I’m actually seriously considering rereading it because I just finished Saint Anything and I’m not quite ready to leave Sarah Dessen’s writing yet, and I’ve missed Macy and Wes a lot lately.

    I loved Saint Anything though. So much. (Also really cool the MC’s name was mine as well. :D)

    This was a great interview! I love the answers. It’s also really great to know, as someone who would love to be a writer, that there are unpublished novels between the published ones, and that not every story is the RIGHT story right now.
    Sydney recently posted…Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly! I love TTAF so much, even though I don’t remember the specific details as much either. A reread is definitely in order sometime to fix that. :)

      Hah, how fun that you read your name in this book! I was telling my co-blogger Layla that there’s a Layla in this book, so she has to read it, too. She just attended a lunch with Sarah and Carrie Ryan at BEA where she got a copy of the book, so I think she’s going to do it! Did you read Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series, btw? The main character’s name is Sydney in that, too.

      And thanks, I’m so glad you liked the interview! It was funny to then hear her reiterate some of the points when she was doing her little talk to the bookstore afterwards, hah.

      I talked about your last point with Sarah–I do firmly believe that even when something doesn’t make it into a book, just your having written them informs other relationships, conversations, etc. I remember Emma Thompson and the producer of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY saying something to that effect on the DVD commentary, and I think it’s true.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  15. Sarah

    I’m excited to read about the family stuff in this one – Sarah D is SO right, I hate when YA books act like romance is the only thing teens care about!

  16. Carol

    My favorite one is definitely “Just Listen”! I love Sara Dessen’s books because they make you want to know what happens to the characters once the book has ended! She creates wonderful characters who you grow attached to, and that’s why I want to read Saint Anything! (Well that and, you know, pizza!)

  17. Amy

    It’s a toss-up between two of Sarah’s books for me: The Truth About Forever, and Along for the Ride. I relate most to Auden and Macy, because they’re introverted and worry about things that I worry about too. Also, there was something about their feelings that really made me reflect on my own relationships, and the important things in life. I love Sarah Dessen–she inspired me to start writing my own YA novels, and I’m super excited to start reading Saint Anything.

    • Wendy Darling

      I love TTAF! AFTR is the one book of hers I haven’t read yet, I’m saving it for a day when I’m feeling desperate, since we don’t have another book from her on the horizon.

      I relate to her introverted heroines, too–I said this on my review of THE MOON AND MORE, but as much as I wish I were a butt-kicking vampire slayer, I’m much more like a Dessen girl in real life.

      I hope you love SAINT ANYTHING as much as you’ve loved her others! The dialogue is really lovely.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  18. fishgirl182 @ nite lite

    I am so bummed that I missed this event. I really wanted to go but ended up staying at work late. Booooo. I did get to meet Sarah at LATFOB though so that was pretty good. I am not a big contemporary reader but I love Dessen’s books. I like how you described them – being about nothing and everything. That sums it up pretty perfectly.
    fishgirl182 @ nite lite recently posted…Trailer: Tomorrowland

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh no, I’m sorry you missed it! But you got to meet her at the fest, so hey, that’s pretty awesome, too. She’s one of the more elusive authors and obviously a big deal, so it was a treat to spend a little bit of time with her.

      And yes, contemporary YA is hit or miss for me, too. I love her quiet, everyday stories about quiet, everyday girls, though. <3 Glad to hear that you're a fan of hers, too!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  19. BR

    Getting to interview her and spend one on one time with her, I am jealous of anyone who gets that opportunity (but in a good way). I haven’t been able to attend a signing, so I live for articles like these with pictures of her event.

    • Wendy Darling

      It really was very lovely to meet her. I don’t drag myself out of my house for many events, but she was totally worth making the effort for.

      I’m sorry you don’t have any events in your area! We try to cover these things when we can for that very reason, since it’s nice to be able to share the experience (and the giveaways) with our readers. We actually have something in the works so we’ll be able to cover more of this stuff soon, too.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  20. Rebecca M

    I find it funny how this cover is so much darker than her other novels. I am expecting something vicious on the inside. Watch it break me like a Sparks story.

  21. celeste

    Love Sarah!
    One of my favorite YA writers. She is one of a few authors that keep me reading YA books! I can’t wait to read this! ♡♡

  22. Ashley

    The thing I love about her books is it doesn’t matter what age you are, you get sucked in. Sarah is truly an author I still love reading… 13 years after I first discovered her. She’s definitely still my favorite author.

  23. Breanne

    I simply just love her novels. I’ve read all her books since I was in grade 6 and I’m really excited to read Saint Anything. Its one of my most anticipated books of the year!!

    • Wendy Darling

      Wow, since the sixth grade! That’s fantastic. I never thought about it before because I started reading her as an adult, but it’s actually really great that her books are so versatile–appropriate and relevant and entertaining for a wide range of ages. I hope you love SAINT ANYTHING!

  24. miranda lewis

    I think I was a middle schooler when I picked up my very first Dessen book. And it was The Truth About Forever. It has always been an easy favorite of mine. Ive since read everyone of her books even if I’ve “grown up” they’re still these books that seem so real to me. The characters are always amazing and the storylines in each book help people overcome hardships. Gush what can I say I really love her books.

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw! I love that you’ve had such a long love affair with her books. I can’t believe she’s been writing for almost twenty years! I only discovered her myself three or four years ago, but I love everything I’ve read of hers. The characters and stories do seem so very real, I love the little details she includes about each person, even the secondary ones.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  25. Alexa S.

    This is so cool! I haven’t quite had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Dessen in person just yet, but I would love to one day. Her contemporary novels were my first experience with YA contemporary in general, and I will always love her for that. And for how well she handles friendships and family and romance in them too!
    Alexa S. recently posted…Chatting with Corey Ann Haydu

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you get a chance to meet her sometime, Alexa! I really enjoyed meeting her.

      Gayle Forman and Sarah Dessen were my first contemporary YA novels (after I started reading them again), too. I love the life balance in both their books, and I appreciate how hard it is to write books like Sarah’s, where nothing much really happens but you’re totally engrossed in the story all the same.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  26. Jennifer

    Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to read any of Sarah Dessen’s books yet, but this sounds interesting! :D

  27. Abby Barge

    My favorite book of hers is The Truth About Forever and I can’t wait to read Saint Anything because I literally just love all her books! They are such adventures!

    • Wendy Darling

      Sa-woon! Man, I love that book. And like you, I love all her books, too. So much happens even when there’s nothing hugely dramatic happening.

    • Wendy Darling

      I liked her books, and I like her, too! She’s such a lady.

      I’m so happy to hear that you’re a fan of her books, too. This isn’t necessarily my all time favorite book of hers, but I’ve liked everything she’s written, honestly. I hope you like this one, and that you get a chance to read all her others!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  28. Christina

    Sarah Dessen is my absolute favorite writer, and it’s so lovely to know how wonderful a person she is! Also…if I could only get my hands on that first chapter of the This Lullaby sequel….

    • Wendy Darling

      It was so lovely to meet her! I don’t often go to signings, but when Penguin invited me to do this I couldn’t turn it down. I love her books so much, I’m glad you are a fellow fan.

      And I KNOW. I had a hard time restraining myself from asking her a bunch of questions about that THIS LULLABY chapter. *sigh*

      Sorry for the late response, btw, I’ve been sick with the flu and still recovering.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes–sometimes books can feel rushed, and the expectations from a typical YA publishing schedule can be a lot of pressure, I would think. While I sometimes get sad over books being delayed (Alison Goodman, I’m looking at you! RAVEN KING, you too!), I’d much rather authors take the time they need to do justice to their stories.

      My favorite Dessens are THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER (my review is linked above–there is such cute sa-woon in it!), JUST LISTEN, and THIS LULLABY. LOCK AND KEY and WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE are also terrific–but honestly, they’re all good summery reads. I haven’t rated anything she’s written less than a 3, and with 12 books out, that’s saying a lot.

      And yes, isn’t her dress pretty? You could tell she misses being away from her family, I thought it was so sweet that she wore a dress her daughter picked out. It’s a little cold and drizzly in LA right now, so it was like a bit of spring.

  29. Catherine

    Just Listen, Truth About Forever, and Lock & Key were important books to me in high school. Can’t wait for my library to get Saint Anything!

    • Wendy Darling

      All three of those are so, so good. I can’t remember L&K as much, but the first two are my favorites as well! I actually want to reread a bunch of her books soon, they’re perfect for the beach and summer picnics.

      Hope your library gets SAINT ANYTHING in soon! Just be sure you have plenty of pizza around before you start. ;)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Saint Anything: book launch + Sarah Dessen interview + giveaway!

    • Wendy Darling

      If you’re a Dessen fan, every Dessen book is a must-read, right?! I always look forward to her books, too.