Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst on The Queen of Sorrow

Hello everyone! I’ve been on semi-hiatus while traveling, but I’m back to share an interview with Sarah Beth Durst! I’ve really enjoyed her Queen of Renthia trilogy (starts with The Queen of Blood), and she’s here to talk about the final book in the trilogy, The Queen of Sorrow.

Can you describe The Queen of Sorrow and how it fits into your Queens of Renthia series?

I’m so excited for readers to read The Queen of Sorrow! It’s the finale of my epic fantasy trilogy, and it concludes the stories of Daleina, Naelin, and Merecot, as the three determined queens clash over two countries plagued by bloodthirsty spirits.

There’s also a lot more of the wolf Bayn. And we learn more about the malevolent nature spirits that make Renthia so beautiful and so deadly.

Because of these spirits, Renthia is a world of extreme natural beauty. For example, it doesn’t just have a forest; it has massive Lothlorien-Endor-size trees, with entire cities nestled in their branches. It’s a gorgeous place… if you can ignore the constant risk of painful death.

In The Queen of Sorrow, we get a closer look at the elusive Merecot. Would you consider her a villain or an anti-heroine?

I loved writing Merecot! Usually I develop my characters over the course of the revision process, but Merecot walked into her first scene fully-formed.

You could call her an anti-heroine, or a villain who thinks she’s the hero. Merecot believes she’s destined to save the world. But she might destroy it.

Out of all the characters in The Queen of Sorrow, who was your favorite to write?

Bayn! He’s a wolf who may be more than he seems…..

Motherhood seems to be an important theme with this series, from Naelin and Garnah to Daleina being a sort of mother of her country. Was this a conscious theme, or did it develop unexpectedly?

It developed organically. I find that happens with most of my themes — I often write an entire draft and then have this epiphany moment of “Oh! That’s what it’s about!” And then in revision, I go back through and strengthen and layer the various themes.

I think it’s important for a theme to develop naturally, rather than trying to force a theme to fit a story.

The theme of motherhood grew out of the character of Naelin — with her, I wanted to play with the trope of the reluctant hero, but I wanted to give her a very good reason to be reluctant. If she uses her power, she runs the very real risk of leaving her two children motherless.

What was the most interesting thing you learned while writing The Queen of Sorrow?

One of my characters, Garnah, is a completely unscrupulous master poisoner. Very fun to write! So I learned a fair amount about poison. I highly recommend the book Poison by Sarah Albee. Fascinating info (and very well-written).

You end up learning all sorts of random facts when you write fantasy. One that’s stuck with me was a fact I learned when I was researching my YA novel Ice (which is a Beauty and the Beast type story set in the modern-day Arctic) — if you cry at the top of the world, your eyelashes will freeze and break off.

The Queen of Sorrow deals a lot with the concept of history becoming legend and myth, especially in the context of creation stories. Do you have any favorite mythological stories? Are there any that influenced The Queen of Sorrow?

I can’t point to any one particular story and say, “That one!” But everything anyone writes is influenced by everything they’ve read, and I’ve read a LOT of legends, myths, fairy tales, folktales, etc.

I love Galadriel’s quote from The Lord of the Rings (or at least from the first movie): “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the Ring passed out of all knowledge.” I find that fascinating. I love the idea of stories mutating over time.

Do you have any other upcoming releases? Something you’re working on now?

Yes, I am working on two books right now. My next book for adults is The Deepest Blue. It’s a standalone Renthia novel set on the islands of Belene, about an oyster diver whose wedding day is interrupted by a storm of wild spirits.

And I’m finishing up Spark, my next kids’ book, which is about a girl and her lightning dragon in a world where storm beasts control the weather, and the government hides a terrible secret. Both will be out in 2019, and I’m really excited about them!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!


Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of sixteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Stone Girl’s Story. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of 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, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.

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