Sarah Beth Durst Talks Inspiration For CHASING POWER

Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive… or survive.

The idea for my new YA novel CHASING POWER came from one of those questions that you ask your friends late at night after you’ve finished dissecting everyone’s personal lives, speculating on the future of various relationships, and musing over the awesomeness of avocados.  Namely: “If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?”

My standard answer for years has been telekinesis.

(This is, of course, assuming that I can’t choose the power to end world hunger, cure all diseases, or other world-improving ability.)

So that’s where I began this novel: a girl with telekinesis.  But I didn’t want her too powerful, because then she could just rely on magic to solve her problems.  I wanted my girl to be clever. So I made it that Kayla can only lift very, very light things with her mind.

One idea is not a novel, though.  Novels need a whole lot more.

I’m convinced that novels aren’t born from a lightning strike Idea-with-a-capital-I, but are instead grown from lots of little sparks that stick together to create a blaze.  Here are a couple of the sparks that went into creating CHASING POWER:

1. Telekinesis — I’ve loved this power ever since I first read THE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES by Willo Davis Roberts and watching the movie Escape to Witch Mountain.

2. My mom — She has a Ph.D. in Mayan archaeology, and this inspired me to turn toward Guatemala for several key plot points.

3. My mom, again — She and I are close, and I know that inspired Kayla’s close relationship with her mother, even though character-wise Kayla and Moonbeam are nothing like my mom and me.

4. The year I spent living in Santa Barbara — Kayla lives in Santa Barbara, and all the State Street scenes are sprinkled with images from my memory.

5. Whatever National Geographic issue had pictures of old catacombs in Europe filled with displays of skills — There’s this one scene where… well, you’ll see

6. Another National Geographic issue that had an article on the People of the Clouds in Peru — See, hoarding magazines can be useful!

I could probably pick another half dozen things that filtered into my mind and came out into the novel, and there are probably at least a half dozen more that I’m not even aware of.

Whenever anyone asks, “Where do your ideas come from?” or “What’s your inspiration?” I always feel so cheesy answering, “Everywhere and everything.”  But I think that is actually the truest answer.

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nine fantasy novels for children, teens, and adults, including Conjured, Vessel, and Ice. Her most recent YA novel, Chasing Power, came out in October 2014 from Bloomsbury, and her next middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, is scheduled for release in fall 2015 from HMH/Clarion Books. Sarah was awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times.

Sarah was born in Northboro, Massachusetts, a small town that later became the setting for her debut novel. At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories. She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and two children.

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