Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen

Quail Ridge Books & Music—Readers suffering from writer’s block, please try to not hate Sarah Dessen. Just a year after her eighth novel, Lock and Key, was published—and after giving birth to her first child—the Chapel Hill-based author has another book out this week, the young-adult novel Along for the Ride.

Dessen remains modest about her prolific output. “With my last few books, people had all these expectations for me to keep producing. But suddenly everybody just left me alone because I had this little baby.”

The time constraints of having an infant helped Dessen become more productive when she sat down to write. “I would come home, and I would have an hour, and I would just sit down and write,” she said. “I’d have had all day to think about what I was going to write, so I’d just jump right in. It was actually really good for my writing—it took away a lot of that obsessing I just didn’t have time to do any more. Plus, I was able to write about a character who was a new mom and channel a lot of what was happening with me on the page.”

Along for the Ride concerns Auden, an awkward, insomniac teenager. Over a summer, Auden deals with her stepmother, who’s recently given birth to Auden’s half sister, connects with Eli, a fellow loner, and finally learns to ride a bike. The story is set in Colby, a fictitious North Carolina beach town Dessen previously used in her novel Keeping the Moon. “I loved going to Emerald Isle in the summer, and I love the idea of that summer where you go away from home and everything changes,” Dessen says.

She’s “very, very early on” in her next novel, but she assures us that between promoting Ride and tending to her daughter, “I’m not going to have another book out this time next year, trust me.” Dessen appears at Quail Ridge Books & Music at 7:30 p.m. —Zack Smith

Reprinted from the Independent Weekly