Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Conjured: Sarah Beth Durst on Inspirations & Influences

Hello everyone and happy Friday! To kick off the long weekend in style, we are thrilled to have Sarah Beth Durst over for a guest post. To celebrate the upcoming release of her new novel, paranormal contemporary young adult fantasy Conjured, we are thrilled to have Sarah over to talk about her inspirations and influences about the book – namely, the story behind the

Conjured Sarah Beth Durst

Give it up for Sarah, folks!

Here’s what research for Conjured was like:

Picture me, at my desk, with my browser open to Google Images.

I type in “creepy carnival,” make a few notes, and then type in “creepy circus”…

My husband wanders in. “Did you feed the cat? She’s meowing.”

Me: “No.”

Husband: “Are you going to?”

Me: “No.”

Husband: “Um, okay. Why not?”

Me: “I’m not going down to the basement. Ever.”

Husband: “Why not?”

Me: “Can’t go. Clown will eat me.”

Let this be a lesson to you. Choose your inspiration carefully. Or only do research in daylight.

Conjured is about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program, who, haunted by visions of carnival tents and tarot cards, must remember her past and why she has strange abilities before a magic-wielding serial killer hunts her down. It comes out on September 3rd from Bloomsbury/Walker. And I’m really, really excited about it.

It’s the creepiest novel I’ve written, by far. I’ve written an epic desert fantasy (Vessel), a vampire and were-unicorn comedy (Drink, Slay, Love), a getting-into-college contemporary fantasy (Enchanted Ivy), a modern Arctic fairy tale (Ice), and two fractured fairy tales (Into the Wild and Out of the Wild). But Conjured is my first novel that is creepy and mind-bending.

One question that I’m asked a lot is: Why are my novels so different? And the answer is… I dunno. I write what I like, and I like a bunch of different stuff.

Actually, that really is the answer. Sometimes my novels start with a tiny sliver of an idea, even as little and as bland as “Wow, carnivals are creepy,” or “Deserts are beautiful.” From there, I start asking myself, “Well, what’s the most awesome thing in a creepy carnival?” Or “What’s the coolest/scariest/freakiest thing that could happen to a girl with amnesia?”

And then I start chasing that idea to the next and the next and the next, each time asking myself what’s the coolest or most awesome or most whatever thing that could happen, given everything that’s come before. By the end of that chase, I have this mass of stuck-together ideas that serve as the seed for the entire novel.

The litmus test for all my ideas, though, is always the same. I always ask myself, “If I were to walk into a bookstore or library right now, what book would I want to read?” And I try to write that.

Really, that would be my advice to any aspiring writers out there: write the book you want to read. Write what excites you, interests you, scares you, makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you care. Write what you’re passionate about. Let that be your inspiration.

About The Book:


Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past.

She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

About the Author:

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of Vessel, Drink, Slay, Love, Enchanted Ivy, and Ice from Simon & Schuster, as well as Into the Wild and its sequel Out of the Wild from Penguin Young Readers. Her next book for teens, Conjured, comes out in September 2013 from Bloomsbury/Walker. Her first book for adults, The Lost, comes out in June 2014 from Harlequin/Mira. She has been writing fantasy stories since she was ten years old and holds an English degree from 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 children. For more information, visit her at

Thank you, Sarah!

Giveaway Details:

To kick off the holiday weekend, we have one autographed copy of Conjured up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the US only and will run until Sunday, September 8 at 12:01am (ET). To enter, use the form below. Good luck! And make sure to stop by next Tuesday for our review of Conjured!

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  • Vanessa L
    August 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    My favorite creepy setting is the Victorian hauntedness of The Haunting of Alaziabel Cray in books. But the carnival in the TV show Carnivale was creeeeeepy.

  • Sara C.
    August 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    The house in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Creepy house filled with creepy people.

  • Alyssa L.
    August 30, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Sounds like a creepy-fun book! Perfect for fall. I was actually unaware of Sarah Beth Durst’s books until yesterday when I saw that she got a 2013 Mythopoeic Award for Vessel, so I will definitely be checking that one out and now this one, too!

  • Alyssa L.
    August 30, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    (Also, I fail at reading instructions.) As for creepy settings, one of the creepiest I’ve encountered wasn’t in a book, but in a story presented online in a sort of “this is real” sort of way back in 2004–it was called “The Dionaea House,” written by Eric Heisserer. A quick googling shows me it’s still online! Good, creepy stuff.

  • Serena
    August 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I’m always a sucker for creepy bathroom scenes…I can’t think of any book examples, but there are more than enough film scenes to go around!

  • Lexi
    August 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Thinking about carnivals, Something Wicked This Way Comes had one of the creepiest settings I have ever read. The button part in this book also reminds of it with the tattoos.

  • Kaethe
    August 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    The carnival in Something Wicked This Way Comes, because carnivals are the creepiest. Yeah, I’m expecting to love this one.

  • Lan
    August 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Anything with clowns in the wallpaper, antique dollhouses or the house from The Woman in Black.

  • mary anne
    August 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    OK my mind is a blank – I just woke up and can’t think of anything creepy. Except I think it;s creepy to be terrified in the middle of determined or oblivious mundanity. A little like the setting in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinklr in Time where all the kids come out of their houses and bounce the balls in synchonicity.

  • erinf1
    August 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Dean Koontz Odd Thomas series… it was all creepy!

  • Linda W
    August 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    I also was thinking of Something Wicked This Way Comes. But the house in Coraline is very, very creepy.

  • Kelly
    August 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    The hotel in The Shinning.

  • Kelley
    August 30, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    The weeping angels house in doctor who–will never be able to look at statues the same way

  • Yahong
    August 30, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Love to hear about Sarah Beth Durst’s thinking/inspiration progress–and I’m so glad all her books are different, because I really loved Vessel! That being said, I’m on tenterhooks for Conjured. 🙂

  • JenM
    August 31, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I don’t usually read creepy books, but I’m kind of partial to The Shining. Stuck in a snowed-in hotel, all those rooms where something/someone can hide, endless corridors, and did I mention the isolation?

  • Paola
    August 31, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Hmm, not sure about a favorite creepy setting but from recent reads I thought the Isle of Blessed from Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick was extremely creepy. It was really serene and beautiful on the surface but full of dark secrets.

    I loved Vessel and can’t wait to read Conjured!

  • Katharine
    August 31, 2013 at 7:46 am

    I’m not sure if it was really a favorite, but it stuck in my mind – when I think of Joe Hill’s “The Heart-Shaped Box” I remember scenes in an old barn, inside a car when people are trying to escape and something really bad is in the back seat…..

  • Katrina
    August 31, 2013 at 10:03 am

    All the Halloween movies. I couldn’t sleep for days after seeing them at a 12th birthday party sleepover.

  • Hannah H
    August 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I realize I use So You Want to Be A Wizard for almost all of these. It’s a flaw of mine. But the New York that Kit and Nita entered scared the bejesus out of me as a kid, and I couldn’t look at helicopters the same way for a long time afterwards.
    I also read a comic book once- I can’t remember the name, it really wasn’t very good. It was about astronauts on an international space station who realize there’s a killer onboard. The narrative is mainly linear, following the square-jawed American hero’s attempts to find the murderer, but every so often it would flash to the first victim. The murderer cut the victim’s tether, and the panels showed the victim silent, moving further and further away, still alive but with no chance of rescue…

  • Haven Lee
    August 31, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    i dont have a “favourite” creepy setting, but any creepy setting in a movie freaks me out, it just seems so much more real. The secret house in Coraline stuck in my head. I love creepy books though.

  • Rebecca I.
    September 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I think it’s hard to top a classic haunted house! I’m part way through Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House at the moment and the creepy atmosphere is def. effective!

  • Stephanie
    September 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    My favorite creepy setting is probably parts of the circus in The Night Circus.

  • Emily
    September 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I love a creepy scene in the woods, like in Unspoken.

  • Judi
    September 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    I’m sort of a chicken when it comes to scary books and movies but the creepiest scene I ever saw came from a picture book, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Toward the end, the mother drives in the night to her grown son’s house, climbs a ladder into his bedroom window, gathers his sleeping figure in her arms and rocks him on the bed–now that’s truly frightening!

  • superbwg
    September 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Anything abandoned gives me the creeps, especially in books. Churches, castles, houses, boats, as long as nobody has been there in a while it means anything can be there now! So many examples to choose from but an oddly creepy/haunting/melancholy albeit old example is the ruined castle Cair Paravel from Prince Caspian the second Chronicles of Narnia book. When the children go back and have to relive the happy days they had in a long abandon ruin…its just perfect imagery.

  • Allison
    September 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    The house from House Of Leaves. It was creepy without being overtly so; it worked on the little things, mainly the horror of the house being bigger on the inside.

  • jpetroroy
    September 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I love Coraline.

  • Andrea E
    September 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Something Wicked This Way Comes is the creepiest setting I can think of (though I confess I haven’t read too much horror). That carnival is enough to give anyone nightmares.

  • Justine
    September 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    It’s a toss-up between Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman. Their oeuvres contains some intensely creepy scenes.

  • Michelle
    September 7, 2013 at 7:25 am

    I don’t like many creepy books, but one of my favorites is “Bleeding Violet,” featuring a town full of ghosts and monsters, where even the plants may try to kill you.

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