Sarah Dessen
Photo Credit: KPO

Sarah Dessen


Sarah Dessen is one of the most popular writers for young adults. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many novels, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews, and have sold more than seven million copies. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Jay, and their daughter, Sasha Clementine. Visit her online at

Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen



What was the inspiration for Just Listen?

I was doing a speaking engagement at a school, and as I sat waiting, I started to flip though a yearbook that was on the table in front of me. In the back, there were all these senior pages, where people had pictures of their friends and families, and there was one shot of these three beautiful blonde girls, sitting by a pool in front of a big, gorgeous house. My first thought was, “Their lives must be perfect,” followed by how ridiculous it was for me to assume that. I began to think about how quick we are to judge just based on appearances, and the book built from there.

Who were your favourite authors as a teenager and who are you into now?
As a teen I loved Judy Blume and Lois Lowry. These days, I read just about everything. I’d have to say my favorite author is Anne Tyler: I just read her books and she awes me. I also love John Irving, especially his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I think is one of the best written books ever. Right now, I’m reading Marian Keyes, who is perfect for a hot summer day (which this is).

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I always knew that I loved to write. But making the leap from just writing to being a writer is a hard process, and one that is still ongoing, some days. The basic truth is that I love to write, and if I do my job well (which is my intention, every day) people will like what I come up with. I have to say I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Who or what are your biggest influences as writer?
I had very good teachers in college who really made an impact on me, Southern writers like Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle. They were the first ones to really believe I was a writer, even before I did. I also get a lot of inspiration from what I read. That’s how you really learn everything, I think, by seeing how other authors you admire grapple with things like plot and dialogue and building strong characters.

Which book do you wish you had written?
I don’t think I’d ever want to claim anyone else’s book, although there are certainly many that I admire greatly.

How do you think the issues that teenagers have to deal with today have changed from when you were a teenager, if at all?
I think that it’s a lot harder to be a teen these days. There’s an immediacy and speed to everything, as well as lot of issues – like school violence, for instance – that weren’t really as prevalent when I was coming up. At the same time, though, a lot has stayed the same, such as the complications with parents, dealing with friends, and trying to figure out the opposite sex. These things are timeless, which is why I can come back to them again and again in my novels. Whether you’re a teen now, or were twenty years ago, you can relate.

Music is a major part of the book, what are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Macy Gray so far this summer, as well as revolving through my playlist, which is heavy on Tom Waits, Dar Williams and Ryan Adams.


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