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Go Ask Mom

Q&A: Bestselling author Sarah Dessen shares about latest book, parenting, what's next

Posted July 2

Bestselling young adult author Sarah Dessen

Author Sarah Dessen has done it again.

The bestselling author, who also happens to be a Chapel Hill mom, is back on top of The New York Times' list with her latest young adult novel - "Once and For All." The book follows the story of hard-hearted Louna and "girl-magnet" Ambrose, who tries to win her heart.

I checked in with Dessen, the author behind other bestsellers, including "Saint Anything" and "Just Listen," to learn more about her book and her efforts to balance motherhood and work. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: In your writing, you've drawn a bit from your own experience as a teen. How do you think today's teens are the same as you (we were) back then? How is their experience different?

Sarah Dessen: I think a lot is different, that it's much harder to be a teen now than it was then. We didn't have social media, for one thing. High school was hard enough without constantly seeing everything you might be missing or not invited to attend! But certain things, I think, are timeless. The relationships you have with friends, your family, the insecurities about navigating the social scene. I do my best to focus on those.

GAM: My daughter is 12 and just starting to read young adult novels. The genre covers such an age span and 12-year-olds are so different from 16-year-olds. How do you handle that in your writing?

SD: When I'm first writing, I'm only thinking about my narrator and the story I want to tell. You have to be honest and true and create the narrative that needs to be there. It's in editing that we start talking about what's appropriate in terms of the audience and make adjustments as necessary. Stephen King has a great quote: "Write with the door closed, edit with the door open." You need that balance!

GAM: What's your new book, "Once and For All," all about?

SD: It's the story of a girl named Louna, who has been raised in the wedding planning business. As the novel begins, she's still reeling from the end of her own first love, which makes being part of so many of other people's ceremonies hard at times. I was really curious as to whether working so often on the "best day of someone's life" would make you more or less hopeful about love, and how that might change over time. It does for Louna, but not always in the ways she expects.

GAM: You're a mom. How do you attempt to balance motherhood and work? Any pointers for the rest of us?

SD: Oh, it's such a struggle! As I write this I've been away from my husband and daughter for almost a full week. I'm missing a Tae Kwon Do belt graduation AND the last day of school, which is SO hard. When I am home, though, I do my best to write when she's in school or after school so I can be present when we are able to be together. I've had a lot of help, especially when she was little. I never would have gotten any books written without my babysitters. It's still usually chaos, though. We're all just doing our best.

GAM: Are you ready for the day when your daughter is ready to read your books?

SD: Not really! As a teen, I don't think I would have liked my mom assuming she understood my experience enough to write about it. So that might be the time I start writing something else, give her that all for her own. We'll see. I have a few more years, thank goodness.

GAM: What's next for you after your book tour?

SD: Sleeping in my own bed, first and foremost. I love summer so I want to soak up as much as I can after all this work stuff is done. If all goes well, I'll start another book in the new year. But I can't even think about that yet, to be honest. One day (and book) at a time!

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.


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