Author Of The Week: Chat with Sarah Porter (Vassa In The Night)!
Welcome to our weekly special feature post, Author Of The Week!!
Each week we will be interviewing a different YA author
and highlighting their upcoming release!
Introducing Sarah Porter, YABC's Author of the Week!!
I write stories that seem to me to be quite true enough for all practical purposes. Among them are VASSA IN THE NIGHT, THE LOST VOICES TRILOGY, and the forthcoming WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW and TENTACLE AND WING. Realism makes little sense to me and I experience more truth in the fantastic. I always have new novels underway, both Young Adult and Grownup/ Literary/ Speculative. When not writing my own weird stuff, I can often be found leading creative writing workshops with amazing young NYC public-school writers via Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Or I might be drawing, or gardening, or wandering wraithlike through the streets. I live in Brooklyn, land of mystery, with my awesome husband Todd and our two cats, Jub Jub and Delphine.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I grew up with Russian fairytales, but what made me think of retelling “Vassilissa the Beautiful” was the work I do with Teachers & Writers Collaborative here in NY. I’ve taught writing in many public city schools, and sometimes my students have told me stories about living with half or step or foster families that didn’t welcome them or want them: the kinds of families you find in fairytales. It occurred to me that kids like my students are truly the new fairytale heroes, but most of them don’t realize it, so I wanted to write a book that would reflect that reality. Vassa is a lot like kids I’ve known, smart and brave and raw at heart.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Almost everyone I know who has read VASSA would choose Erg, Vassa’s magic doll, but for me it’s always Vassa herself. That combination of morose and sardonic and defensive, but secretly sweet and vulnerable, makes me want to take care of her and comfort her. And I love that it’s her kindness that helps her in her struggle. She’s not an ass-kicking hero, but one who fights with empathy. We see so many models of heroism that involve prowess with swords and fists, but there are other paths to becoming a hero besides demon-slaying, and I wanted Vassa to illustrate an alternative way.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
I knew what the title had to be before I started writing. Sometimes finding the right title is a struggle but this one seemed very obvious to me.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
You mean, from when I started writing at all? Probably that the most important thing is to really hear the voice of each character, to dial in on it like picking up a radio signal. Once the voice is there you can follow it anywhere. I’m not a fan of outlining, personally; I just want my characters to tell me what happened.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Everything! The lettering, the colors, the swan, the stars. It’s so pretty! (At least, I think so.)
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2016?
Dare I say THE WINDS OF WINTER? Or will that jinx it?
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2015?
So many! But ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders, RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente, I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A. S. King, and ANCILLARY MERCY by Ann Leckie were a few favorites. Or maybe some of those were early 2016? All of them are completely fresh and visionary and exploring directions we’ve never gone before.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
Well, a novel I love beyond words, and that I’m really proud of, will be coming out on Tor Teen in autumn 2017. It’s called WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW and it’s the story of a boy, Dashiell, who has died at age twenty-two from a heroin overdose, but comes back to persuade his younger twin siblings, Ruby and Everett, to serve as vehicles for possession. And then I have two novels underway now, one a YA about foster siblings entrapped in an eerily suburban version of Faerie, possibly titled NEVER-CONTENTED THINGS, and one for adults, a historical science ‘n’ sorcery story set in the early 19th century. Now that I think of it, they both involve variations on the changeling myth.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Spoiler alert! There are two adjacent scenes near the end: the voluntary death of a major character, and Vassa’s dream-visit with her dead mother; both were devastating to write. I wept continuously while I was working on them, which meant that I was crying for maybe three days straight, and pounding the keyboard like a maniac while the letters blurred through my tears. I hope you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there!
Meet, Vassa In The Night!!!
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .
Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.
Vassa In The Night
By: Sarah Porter
Release Date: September 20, 2016
One winner will receive a signed copy of Vassa In The Night and a small surprise from Sarah Porter! (US only).
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I love folktales, there always a lesson somewhere or a scary tale to teach you about the dangers of the world. The cover is amazing.