Bestselling Author Sarah Dessen on Her New Book, Dreamy Love Interests, and What's Next
Few authors are more synonymous with summer reading than Sarah Dessen. Since the publication of That Summer over 20 years ago, Sarah's books have been a fixture of many a nightstand, backpack, beach bag, or carry-on. We're so excited to share the latest from this #1 New York Times bestselling author with you next month—it's called The Rest of the Story, and it's exactly as big-hearted and magical as you'd expect. Sarah's coming to visit us on June 5th as she kicks off an epic book tour. Come join us to talk books and get your book autographed! In the meantime, check out our exclusive Q&A with the author below. We asked Sarah all about the new book, the love interest, and her favorite summer getaway.
Congratulations on your fourteenth novel! Tell us about the process of writing The Rest of the Story—was it different from that of your past books?
This one was really hard. Writing books is never easy for me, but some stories definitely come with less blood, sweat, and tears than others. I was going through a lot when I started this novel: I'd set aside something I'd been working on and had really lost a lot of my confidence. I told myself I could be scared to write, or just start. So I started. Four months later, it was done. But it was pretty brutal.
Your protagonist, Emma Saylor, has an interesting relationship with her name. As Emma learns about her mother's family, she chooses to go by what her mom called her—her middle name, Saylor. Why did you include this interesting duality?
I think we're always trying to find our place in the world, and our own families. The names we are given are the start of that. Emma was the name her dad liked, solid and true. Saylor was her mom's wild side. I think our teens and early adult years are about trying on our different selves, seeing what we choose to keep and what gets left behind. Two names, two stories. But Emma Saylor finds she can use both, and tell her own.
Emma learns that the community where her parents met has a significant class division. As you explore the wealthy resort where her father vacationed, and the working class community where her mother grew up, you share an inside perspective on the lives of hotel housekeepers. Did you draw from personal experience or spend time with hotel housekeepers to craft that narrative?
A few years ago we started vacationing with friends in White Lake, NC. I'd grown up spending my summers either in Cape Cod, with my extended family, or at the NC coast. The lake was a whole different world I hadn't experienced, and I fell in love with it. Our first visit we stayed in a cinderblock motel with flyswatters hanging from the wall and a can marked GREASE above the stove. The motel was family owned, and you could just sense this amazing community with the comings and goings all day on one hand, and the guests vacationing on the other. It was just what appeals to me! I knew I'd have to write about it.
Your love interests are famously dreamy, and Roo is no exception in The Rest of the Story. How do you create such swoon-worthy guys?
I realized a long time ago that if I don't fall in love with the boy in my book, no one else will either. So I'm basically creating the kind of guys I loved when I was younger: funny, cute, and usually lacking gas money. The funny part is key. If I find myself smiling writing early scenes with my narrator and her love interest, I know I'm on the right track.
Your daughter is getting old enough to read your books. Has she read any? How is that going?
She read my first book, That Summer, a few weeks ago. I read to her before bed every night (I read every word of every book of Harry Potter aloud, I will take this achievement to my GRAVE, but I digress) and originally she wanted ME to read it. I said I'd have a nervous breakdown. That book was written twenty years ago! All I would see on the page is everything I'd do differently now. So she read it herself and liked it! Or so she said. She's a bad liar so I think she was telling the truth.
We'd love to know: What's next for you?
Oh, man. Well, this book tour first, which begins in June. Then summer and the lake! Work-wise, there's a lot of stuff that MIGHT happen which is really exciting, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And sleep. Sleep would be nice!
Special Preorder Offer! Purchase The Rest of the Story from the shop by June 4th and submit your receipt to Epic Reads to receive a beach tote—it's perfect for holding all your summer reads!
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen comes a big-hearted, sweeping novel about a girl who reconnects with a part of her family she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl—and falls in love, all over the course of a magical summer.