Pro Talks: Sarah Porter

Posted September 20, 2016 by BAMF in Features, Interviews, Pro Talks // 0 Comments

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Here at BAMF we are always looking to shine the light on authors and their books. And what better way to do so than to hear about a book than from the author themselves? That’s why we have started our Pro Talks Feature where we interview an author about their book(s) and get the down low on characters, plot and anything else they want to share with us about their life as an author! You can find your next great read here.

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About The Book

Pro Talks: Sarah PorterVassa in the Night: A Novel by Sarah Porter
Also by this author: Vassa in the Night
Published by Tor Teen on September 20th 2016
ISBN: 0765380544
Pages: 304
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In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.


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Today’s guest is …

Sarah Porter discussing VASSA IN THE NIGHT

BAMF: Describe VASSA IN THE NIGHT in 10 words or less.

Sarah Porter: A girl gets trapped working in a witch’s convenience store.

BAMF: What genre do you find yourself writing in most? Is this the same as what you read the most?

Sarah Porter: I only write the fantastic, some mixture of fantasy and sci fi and magic realism and just plain weird. And yes, that’s mostly what I read, too. Realistic fiction has to have devastatingly brilliant prose and extreme originality to hold my interest these days.

BAMF: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Sarah Porter: I want to write completely amazing books; books unlike anyone else’s. Ideally, I’ll make a living doing it; I’m getting pretty close to that now. And I passionately want to publish my fiction for adults as well as my YA novels; I have a backlog of weird/ speculative novels for adult readers that are stuck in limbo.

BAMF: What was your favourite scene to write in VASSA IN THE NIGHT?

Sarah Porter: Ooh, that’s a hard one! I’m going to say the scene where Vassa sneaks into Babs’s apartment and encounters the faerie party and her mother’s painting. Trying to capture faerie logic was an exhilarating, giddy challenge throughout the book, but especially in that sequence.

BAMF: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Sarah Porter: I think my younger self might have been pretty judgmental about the direction my work has taken; she would have wanted to keep things very literary and a bit obscure, even though when I was growing up I loved Tolkien and other fantasy fiction as much as I loved Woolf and Faulkner. So I think I’d advise her to be more open to all the forms meaning and beauty can take.

BAMF: How did you first hear Vassilissa the Beautiful? Was it told to you as a child or did you come upon it later in life?

Sarah Porter: It was read aloud to me many, many times when I was a small child. My family had a beautiful, crumbling copy of Pace Wheeler’s RUSSIAN WONDER TALES that we read from often. I’m not sure I could have formed such a primal relationship with a story I encountered as an adult; “Vassilissa” helped form my imagination from the beginning, and that’s what made me want to retell the story.

BAMF: In both LOST VOICES and VASSA IN THE NIGHT, you seem to explore the darker side of folklore. Is this a conscious decision or does the story lead you there?

Sarah Porter: Almost nothing in my writing involves conscious decisions. It’s all impulse and intuition and following the characters. But really, most folklore and mythology is pretty dark, if you look into it in any depth. It formed in a world rife with chaos and disease and early death, far worse than what people in developed nations confront now, and much of it serves as a guide to surviving in grim and unpredictable situations. The happy endings in fairytales are there as an assurance that we can make it through horror and trauma; folklore never suggests that the path will be an easy one!

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About Sarah Porter

I’m a writer, artist, and freelance teacher. I teach creative writing workshops in the New York public schools via Teachers and Writers Collaborative; I’ve worked with kids in grades K-10, but I’ve focused on junior high and high school for the last several years. I don’t think I would have written a YA novel if it weren’t for that experience! Reading my students’ intense, passionate poetry and stories recalled my own emotions at that age. Lost Voices was my attempt to write the book I most needed as a twelve-year-old struggling with what it means to be human: a book I never really found.

I live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband Todd, an artist and fabricator of electronic art, and our cats Jub Jub and Delphine. I have an M.F.A. from City College.

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