Sarah Beth Durst is an award-winning fiction author who is best known for her novels and her delightful and gorgeously illustrated children’s picture book. Yet Sarah’s interests encompass many genres and styles. In July of 2009, she started writing a story about a teenage vampire named Pearl who suddenly and reluctantly starts to develop a conscience that makes her feel guilty about her eating habits. The book was published in September of 2011 and was selected to be made into a film in May of 2015. Filming commenced in August of 2016 and on September 16, 2017 the movie aired on Lifetime at 10pm. Actress Cierra Rameriz and actor Gregg Sulkin played the lead roles.
Recently, Sarah Beth Durst granted an exclusive interview where she discussed this film and the experience of watching her characters come to life on screen.
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: Have you been interested in vampire fiction for long and how did the plot for “Drink Slay Love” come to you?
Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): One summer night eons ago, back when I lived in Boston, I was channel-surfing and got sucked into the second season finale of a TV show I’d never watched before called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Angelus, the once-evil-then-good-now-evil-again vampire was threatening the title character. “No weapons… no friends… no hope. Take all that away and what’s left?” Angelus taunts and Buffy answers, “Me.” And I was hooked.
I’ve devoured tons of vampire books since then: Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake,” Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy,” “Sunshine” by Robin McKinley, “Undead and Unwed” by MaryJanice Davidson, and so on.
But I never thought I’d write a vampire novel, until one day I was in the kitchen, munching on potato chips (because food is my muse) and had the thought: What if a vampire were staked through the heart by a unicorn horn… and developed a conscience? And what if, instead of feeling all angst-ridden, she was really pissed off about it? And what if she had to (shudder) go to high school, to hunt for a feast for the Vampire King?
MM: How did you go about getting the book published and what was reader response like?
SBD: About eight years ago, I started writing a story about a snarky vampire who attends high school, and I sent the idea to my awesome editor at Simon & Schuster / McElderry, whom I’d worked with on two prior novels. She liked it, I kept writing, and the final book came out 2011. I think my favorite review had to be: “If you hate Twilight, you’ll love Drink, Slay, Love. If you loved Twilight…you’ll still love Drink, Slay, Love.”
MM: What is your favorite thing about the main character, Pearl?
SBD: I loved, loved, loved writing Pearl! It’s so much fun writing an evil character! My favorite thing about her is that she doesn’t suffer fools. And here’s my favorite line from both the book and the movie:
“To you,” he said. “I surrender my heart and soul.”
“Very romantic, considering you have neither.”
MM: How did your agent get it into the hands of people at Lifetime?
SBD: Two years ago, my agent got an email from a producer, saying they were interested in optioning the book to be a TV movie on Lifetime. An executive at Lifetime loved the book and believed in it and then filming began in August 2016.
MM: What did you think when you heard that they were making it into a film?
SBD: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That’s pretty much an exact quote from my brain! The whole thing felt — and still feels! — so very surreal.
MM: Were you happy with the casting and the overall results?
SBD: I’m absolutely thrilled with it! Cierra Ramirez (from Freeform’s “The Fosters”) was a fantastic Pearl. She captured all the right snarkiness, attitude, and heart. Gregg Sulkin (from Marvel’s “Runaways”) was Jadrien, Pearl’s evil vampire boyfriend, and he was EXACTLY the way I pictured him in the book. Zack Peladeau was an awesome Evan, McKaley Miller was a perfect Bethany, and Angelique Rivera slayed it as Antoinette (pun intended). And I was so happy to see Michael Delleva and John C. MacDonald bring to life two of my all-time favorite characters, Matt and Zeke, my wannabe vampire slayers. Really, the whole cast was awesome. I shrieked and cheered pretty much through the entire premiere. There were also a lot of happy tears. It’s such an amazing and surreal experience to see a story and characters who came out of your head romping (and fighting and slaying and kissing and dancing and bantering and…) around on your TV screen. And the producers, director, and screenwriter really captured the essence of the book.
MM: Be honest, what was your favorite scene in the movie?
I love the moment when Pearl revels in the feel of the sun on her face. The camera pans around her, and you see the lake and the mountains, and you feel her wonder and joy. I also love every fight scene. And the moment that the Vampire King (played with awesome creepiness by Victor Zinck Jr.) says in a deep, dark almost purr, “I like the darkness.”
MM: How did you prepare for the debut–I heard you had a party, so how did it go?
SBD: So! Much! Fun! We had tons of vampire-themed treats: heart-shaped sugar cookies with raspberry-syrup bite marks, pretzel sticks whittled into stakes, donuts with candy eyes and fangs… and of course, in honor of Pearl, plenty of mint chocolate chip ice cream!
MM: Is this your first book to be turned into a film and do you hope Lifetime picks up some of your other stories?
SBD: Yes, it is my first and absolutely, I’d love that! They were wonderful to work with.
MM: Creatively, what other projects are you working on and is there anything else that you want to mention?
SBD: I am working on three books for 2018 — one for kids, one for teens, and one for adults. I’m ridiculously excited about all of them!
Coming in April for kids: “The Stone Girl’s Story” is about a girl made of living stone, forever twelve years old, who braves dangers on a quest to save her stone family.
Coming in May for adults: “The Queen of Sorrow”, Book Three of The Queens of Renthia, is the final volume in a trilogy about a battle between vicious nature spirits and strong-willed queens.
Coming in the fall for teens: “Fire and Heist” is about a teen girl who, to restore her family’s honor, must lead her first heist. I describe it as “Ocean’s Eleven” with were-dragons.
And for those of you who are interested… If you missed the premiere of the “Drink, Slay, Love” movie, it’s available On Demand. You can watch anytime within about a month of today, either via your cable box, mylifetime.com, or the Lifetime app. And if you don’t have cable, it’s also available on iTunes!
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To learn more about Sarah Beth Durst and “Drink, Slay, Love”, visit her official website.