Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shards of ICE

This is it! Today is the day that my new book ICE makes its way out into the world. That this day has arrived is monumental to me. And I am filled with a sort of placid joy that is beyond my ability to describe.

ICE isn't my first book. It won't be my last book. But it is a book that is very dear to my heart. And it will always be special to me.

This story has been inside me for a long time. It was born of a fairy tale and then grew into a love story and an adventure. It is the sum of many pieces, influences, experiences... many shards of ICE.

First Shard: The Fairy Tale

It started with once upon a time... a fairy tale called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I found the tale in the Curious George & Friends bookstore in Harvard Square on my way home from my day job. I was working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a company called Target Analysis Group (now Blackbaud) that helps nonprofits. On my way home from work every day, I always did a circuit of the bookstores: Harvard Book Store, Pandemonium Books, Harvard Coop, and Curious George. It was the best walk home imaginable.

On this day, I discovered a picture book filled with gorgeous illustrations by P. J. Lynch. I fell in love with his paintings of a majestic polar bear and a fearless heroine. But there was one moment in particular that caught my imagination and stuck:

"Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got upon his back with her bundle and off they went. When they had gone part of the way, the White Bear said, 'Are you afraid?'

"No! She wasn't."

And so that is where it began: the image of a girl on a polar bear denying all fear.

Second Shard: The Arctic

It grew into a quest across the frozen North. I wanted my fearless girl to be a modern-day Arctic research scientist li
ving at her father's research station in northernmost Alaska. And so I immersed myself in studying that icy world.

I buried myself in stacks of research books: polar bear books, explorer memoirs, field guides... I poured over A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic by E. C. Pielou. I tracked the GPS readings of David Hempleman-Adams's journey in his memoir Walking on Thin Ice. I studied the SAS Survival Guide, How to Stay Alive in the Woods, How to Survive on Land and Sea, The Survival Handbook... and dozens of books with luscious photographs of polar bears and arctic foxes and caribou and beluga whales.

I am not a good traveler in real life. I like to be home, and I am not very brave. But while I was researching ICE, I was able to dream that I was in this world of ice deserts and rippling auroras and sights so incredible that they are real-life magic.

I bought a map of the Arctic at the Globe Corner Bookstore and spread it across the floor. From there, I plotted Cassie's path over the ice, across the tundra, and through the boreal forest... and I journeyed with her.

When I exhausted all the books I could find locally, I spent two days in Canada sequestered inside a Chapters/Indigo pouring over all of their Arctic books -- and then hauling my favorites back with me across the border.

When I ran through those books, I peppered my college friend Jim with rock-climbing questions and my friends Kate, Kira, Jay, and Emily and my mother with random medical questions. With my husband, I watched every Arctic documentary I could find over and over until I dreamed about ice mirages and whiteouts.

I even bought an Inupiaq-English dictionary, North Slope Barrow dialect. I remember walking into Schoenhof's Foreign Books, asking for it, and having them magically produce it from the back room. I took that to be a sign: this book was meant to be.

Third Shard: The Bears

Once, in the middle of drafts, my husband and I took a trip to San Diego. We spent a day at the zoo, and I remember standing in front o
f the polar bear exhibit, watching the bears walk and swim and dive and live.

I stood there for two hours.

When a baby polar bear was born at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, they set up a webcam. I wrote one entire draft with the webcam open on my computer. As I wrote about my Bear, I watched the real bears. My little ursine muses.

My husband bought me a stuffed animal polar bear that I perched on my desk while I worked on this book. I'd hug it for inspiration.

Fourth Shard: People

Every day during the writing of ICE, I emailed back and forth with a writer-friend of mine, Amy, who was working on her own novel at the same time. We cheered each other on. I treasured those emails. Another friend of mine, Rick, encouraged me too, and on my birthday my friend Dave sent me a gorgeous book of polar bear photographs. They (and many of my other friends) understood how much this mattered to me.

I met author Thomas Sullivan (Sully) while I was writing this book, and we'd email back and forth about writing technique. And I remember talking with Keith R. A. DeCandido about polar bears while he worked on his own book featuring polar bears.

And then there were two of my writing heroes: Tamora Pierce and Bruce Coville. I'd met them at Boskone (a Boston area science fiction and fantasy convention) after years of loving their books. They both read early versions of ICE, and they believed in me and in this story.

I can't begin to describe how much it meant to have writers who helped shaped my childhood read my words.

Later, my agent and my editor added wonderful touches that brought the final draft to life. And then the amazing team at Simon & Schuster made it into a real book, complete with beautiful artwork on the cover by Cliff Nielsen -- art that so perfectly reflects my characters that he might as well have scooped the image directly from my mind.

Fifth Shard: Love

Writing this book was a labor of love. I love polar bears. I love fairy tales. And I love fearless girls who cannot be stopped. But most of all, I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. Beyond the ice and the bears and the everything, ICE is about true love, the kind of love where you face the world as a team... the kind where you'd go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other.

I may have written the words, but this book is about both of us. Not in the details. Not in the plot or the personalities or the setting. But in the book's heart -- in the belief that true love isn't something that appears in a single, shiny moment on a ballroom floor. True love is a journey, not a moment. It's something that grows and something that causes you to grow.

I pour the best of myself into every story I write. But into this one, I also poured the best of us.


And now it's a book. In the world. Wow.

To those of you who do me the honor of reading it, I hope this story brings you as much joy as it has brought me.

To those of you who were with me on the journey... thank you.

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At 12:32 AM, Blogger Enna Isilee said...

Hoorah! I'm so excited! I'm giving a copy away over at my blog.

And, In celebration, I took my book on a tour of the arctic. These are not photoshopped I just have the fabulous luck of working alongside some real arctic animals (even if they are stuffed) and I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures today on my shift.

ICE with Fluffy
ICE with Baby Bear
ICE with Bear

Tee hee. Congrats again Sarah on the release!

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Meagan said...

Congratulations Sarah! I look forward to picking it up.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Enna Isilee: You. Are. AWESOME. Those are probably... no, definitely... the coolest photos I have EVER seen!!

Meagan: Thanks! Hope you enjoy it!

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Jeri said...

What a wonderful story behind the story. Thanks for your insights, and especially for your books. Big congrats on release day!

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Janine said...

What a marvelous journey! I'm looking forward to reading the book.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Gypsy Thornton said...

Congratulations! I'm enjoying all the interviews, posts and, of course, your new obscure fairy tale commentary of the week (love those things!). Love hearing about the inspiration and journey of the story from initial neuron firing to page!

FYI I blogged on you and your book today at my fairy tale news site Once Upon A Blog... :)

Wishing you great success, huge sales and massive quantities of excellent quality chocolate!

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Gypsy Thornton said...

Oops - I think I pressed the wrong button when pasting the link - let's try that again shall we?
Once Upon A Blog celebrates Ice today: http://fairytalenewsblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/release-day-ice-retelling-of-east-of.html

OK - that looks right this time!
Congrats again.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger holly cupala said...

Happy birthday to ICE, Sarah Beth! I'm so excited and happy for you. I'll be heading to my bookstore tomorrow to get a copy! How lucky was I to meet you years ago. xo

At 2:23 PM, Blogger heather jeanne said...

Congratulations on your release!

Thanks for posting about your journey here. I found it really inspiring.

Looking forward to finally reading Ice =)

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Melissa Walker said...

Yay! HUGE congrats, Sarah! I'll be there on Weds!

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Tara McClendon said...

Great post. Congrats on your release!

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Jeri: Thanks so much! And thanks for inviting me to participate in Blogtoberfest!

Janine: It really was a wonderful experience. Now that the book is done, I kind of miss working on it. Hope you enjoy it!

The Ink Gypsy: Wow, those snow sculptures are amazing!! Thanks so much for all your kind words!

Holly: I was so lucky to meet you too! Congrats on Tell Me a Secret!

Heather: Thanks! Best of luck to you with your writing!

Melissa: So glad you're coming! Yay! Looking forward to seeing you.

Tara: Thanks so much!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Anne Leigh said...

*flails* Must. Go. Out. And. Buy.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Q said...

I was scraping frost off my windshield this morning at some ungodly hour and was cursing it, but then I thought, "For shame, Q. Ice comes out today. Have a little respect."

It's funny, The Maze Runner (James Dashner) and Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld) also come out today. Does publishing often have dates like that?

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Congratulations! I had no idea that so much research and preparation was put into ICE. It just makes me want to read it even more!

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Q said...

Also: I blogged a short plug for Ice today.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Antonietta May said...

i am very depressed, because not one book store in my whole city has it. my mother looked all day, while i was sick in bed. see if i support b and n anymore- they have no plans to get it in the near future. guess they wouldn't know a good thing if it bit them on the butt.
anyway, i'll read it when i get it.. i can't wait.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

SavyLeartist: Yay! Hope you like it!

Q: Thanks so much for the shout out!

Priya: The best part about researching the Arctic is that you can do it from inside a nice heated room. :)

Hedgi: I'm thrilled that you're excited about ICE! But no need to despair or run all over town. If your local bookstore is out, you can always ask them to order it for you, or just order it online with a few clicks of your mouse. Hope you enjoy it!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Nadine said...

Absolutely beautiful post!! I loved reading the shards!

The book sounds great and I can't wait to read it!

At 4:55 PM, Blogger PL Anne Anderson said...

I love Fairy Tales and especially East o the sun, west o the moon. Can't wait to read ICE. It sounds like a great story! And it was fun to read how it came to be.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Ruth (Book Focus) said...

This is a great post. I still can't wait to read this book. :) Sadly, mine's being shipped from the States (to little ol' New Zealand) so I won't get my copy for aaaaages.

I'm still really looking forward to it though. :) *sigh*

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Phebe H.L. said...

Wow!!!! I am going to buy ICE copy at the bookstore soon, becuase I bet it'll be awesome! Into the wild was super-duper good (I read it in a day, Tee Hee ^_^). Anywho, congrats Sarah and I can't wait to read ICE!!!!! :):):)

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Amber Lough said...

Sarah, this is the BEST blog post about a book release I have ever read. It has made me breathless to get my hands on it!

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Judi Guizado said...

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear ICE written by the amazing Sarah Beth Durst who also wrote two other wonderful storieeeeeees,
(insert breath here)
Happy birthday to you!!!!

At 6:23 PM, Blogger storyqueen said...

Congratulations. It sounds like just the kind of book I would love. Can't wait to get it!


At 10:09 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Nadine: Thanks! I hope you enjoy it!

PLA Anderson: I love fairy tales too. I have several gorgeously illustrated versions of East of the Sun. I can't resist them.

Ruth: Someday I want to go to New Zealand. I keep hearing how beautiful it is.

Phebe: So glad you liked Into the Wild! Hope you enjoy Ice!

Amber: Thanks. This book is really special to me, and I wanted to share that.

Judi: Thank you! *blows out candles*

Shelley: Thanks!!

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Kirthi said...

I saw the book at Barnes and Noble in the teen section, they were selling fast! Sadly, I had spent all my allowence so I couldn't get it. I've heard a lot and I hope I can read it soon!

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Alyssa F said...

I totally also spent two hours in front of the polar bear exhibit in San Diego! How funny.

Happy ICE birthday!

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Lucy Lu said...

Wow. I read this book and it was amazing! My little sisters and I both loved your other books. This one is probably my my favorite though. I"m 15, and I would probably wait for my younger siblings to turn 13 or 14 before I let them read it. Thank you so much for a wonderful book! I enjoyed it immensely, even though I had to take a science test before I was allowed to buy it... it was worth it. :) Thanks again!

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Kiki: Hope you can read it soon too! And hope you like it, of course!

Alyssa: I really, really want to go back to that exhibit. It was so cool. Pun not intended.

Lucy Lu: Yay! I'm so happy you liked it! Hope your science test went well.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Anissa said...

Ice sounds absolutley stunning. Can't wait to read it.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Casse AKA Catholic Kittie said...

I am so excited! I won your book at Jeri's Blogtoberfest and I can't wait to read it. After I saw your guest blog there I had already added Ice to my Cart to buy (not just because my rule that I buy all books with Cassie's but because it seems so grabbing!) and then I actually won it.


At 1:16 AM, Anonymous ella said...

I just finished ICE. its great! d^-^b i love the characters and the plot. I slept really late just to finish it. is there extras for it? i just crave to read more scenes between bear and cassie. its so heartwarming. :)

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I read this book after my friend had picked it up at our local Barnes & Noble and insisted that I read it and would love it. I hesitated because I already had a stack of books by my bed that hadn't been read. When looking at my stack and then looking at the cover of ICE, what can I say, it sucked me in... and I finished reading the book just last night. What a terrific job you did on this Fairy Tale! Everything was so descriptive and at times I actually felt cold... okay... I live in cold Far Northern California and presently it is cold, but not as cold as I would imagine the Artic. I had a hard time putting your book down. Great Job! By the way... I am in my mid 40's and don't fall into the Young Reader or Young Adult category anymore, but I am still a child at heart!

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I read this book after my friend had picked it up at our local Barnes & Noble and insisted that I read it and would love it. I hesitated because I already had a stack of books by my bed that hadn't been read. When looking at my stack and then looking at the cover of ICE, what can I say, it sucked me in... and I finished reading the book just last night. What a terrific job you did on this Fairy Tale! Everything was so descriptive and at times I actually felt cold... okay... I live in cold Far Northern California and presently it is cold, but not as cold as I would imagine the Artic. I had a hard time putting your book down. Great Job! By the way... I am in my mid 40's and don't fall into the Young Reader or Young Adult category anymore, but I am still a child at heart!

At 11:06 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

After purchasing your book at our local Barnes & Noble, my friend insisted that I read your book. I was thinking "not another book". I have a stack of unread and partially read books and magazines by my bed, in my bookcases and scattered here and there. So... when I sat down to read a book before going to bed I was trying to decide... when the cover sucked me in and there I was trying to read the entire book in one sitting. Well I just finished the book last night (It took me 2 nights). What a tremendous Fairy Tale. I loved it. At times I felt cold... okay I live in Far Northern California and it is cold up here, but not like what I would imagine the Arctic to be. I hate being cold. This is a place I have never wanted to go... your book transported me there and made me want to visit someday, I'll be sure to bundle up. Your book was terrific. It would be great if you could ever make it up to our "neck of the woods" and sign books. I can't wait to read your other books and look forward to the new one.

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Dee said...

I was walking down the aisles of Barnes and Noble when the cover of your book just jumped out at me. I couldn't almost not put your book down once I started reading it. It was a very unique and unusual love story. I had intentions of passing it along to some friends... but after reading this book I am keeping this book and not giving it up! By the way, I did let my friend read it and we are not "young readers" or "young adults". My friend is in her mid 40's and I am 58 years young. Guess you could say we are children at heart. Look forward to your next book!

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

so sorry, computer problems had no idea I posted 3 times! Well... maybe you needed it!


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