Welcome to the five hundred and fiftieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with science fiction & fantasy author Sarah Ettritch. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Sarah. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Sarah: I live in Toronto with my partner and our cats. Becoming a writer wasn’t a conscious decision. When I was in my thirties, I wrote a story based on a recurring daydream, and then went on to produce two novels that will never see the light of day. Writing didn’t grab me at that time. I went back to it when I was in my early forties and have continued to write since then.
Morgen: I was about the same; late thirties, and it took me a little while to get going (‘life’ kept getting in the way) but then it grabbed me and hasn’t (thankfully) let go since. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sarah: I usually write science fiction and fantasy. I often (but not always) include romantic elements, and my main characters are often (but not always) lesbian, so some of my work has also been classified as romance and lesbian fiction. When I’m thinking about what to write next, I don’t consider genre, so I’m open to anything (except erotica). But I seem to favour science fiction and fantasy stories and suspect that most of my work will fall under those categories.
Morgen: And your comfort zone presumably. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Sarah: I’m the author of the Rymellan series (science fiction), The Salbine Sisters (fantasy), and Threaded Through Time (fantasy). I don’t write under a pseudonym. I would have chosen something easier to spell!
Morgen: 🙂 The thing about writing names is that they have to be Googleable. If you were John Smith (sorry any John Smiths reading this), put your name in Google and you’d probably be search result no.100,000. As far as I know there are three Morgen Baileys in existence (certainly online) and because I’m so busy I get most of the front page. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Sarah: All of my books are available as eBooks. Since I often publish my own work, I’m usually very involved in the process. When producing a book (print or eBook), the only steps I don’t do myself are the cover design and editing. Of course, I do my own rounds of editing, but then I work with an editor to polish the story.
I read eBooks, but I prefer print for fiction and some non-fiction. I’ve worked out that when I’m reading for recreation, I want a print book. When I’m reading to learn something, I’m okay with an eBook.
Morgen: Every author should have back-up eyes as we’re always too close. One author said on a LinkedIn discussion that he didn’t need anyone else but was, needless to say, shot down in flames. I can’t remember who he was now or I’d have checked out his work. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sarah: I’m working on the first book in a new contemporary fantasy series. By the time this interview is published, it will probably be available, but I haven’t settled on a title yet.
Morgen: Oh, great. Do let me know and I’ll add in a link. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Sarah: I don’t write every day, nor do I try to. I haven’t suffered from writer’s block yet. I’ve run into challenging story problems that take time to work out, but I’ve always been able to write when I sit down to write.
Morgen: Me too. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sarah: I’m very much a write by the seat of my pants writer, to the point that I often don’t know about key characters and important plot points when I start a new story. When I’m partway through a story, I’ll sometimes write a rough outline of what’s left, so my brain doesn’t explode.
Morgen: <laughs> I should do that with my current NaNoWriMo novel as it feels like it’s flitting all over the place but I’m sure it’ll all come together in the end (she types with fingers crossed). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Sarah: I don’t have a method. To me, it’s magic. It really is. My characters are believable because they’re flawed, and they behave and talk like real people.
Morgen: They should be flawed. How dull is the perfect hero? Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sarah: I do less nitty-gritty editing, in the sense of tightening the language and such. I do the same amount in terms of story structure. Every story is new with a unique set of problems to work out.
Morgen: But doesn’t it feel great when they get worked out. Do you have to do much research?
Sarah: It depends on the story. For example, Threaded Through Time is a time travel story that takes place in the present time and 1910. I researched those areas the book references (politics, status of women around 1910, etc.). I was fortunate to have access to a woman’s 1911 daily journal, which helped me immensely.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Sarah: I definitely prefer third person, for both reading and writing. All of my stories are written in third person, often with multiple narrators.
Morgen: Most readers (and therefore agents) prefer third, and it’s easier to get into others’ heads that way. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Morgen: My favourite format. 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Sarah: I’m the web maven for Broad Universe (http://www.broaduniverse.org), an organization that celebrates women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I also sat on its board for two years. In addition, I belong to EPIC—the electronic publishing industry coalition (http://www.epicorg.com).
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Sarah: I’ve been an avid computer gamer since I was a teenager. When I’m not creating my own worlds, I play in those created by others.
Morgen: Ah ha, hence your writing of them. I used to love the Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson adventure books when I was younger, then turned to Stephen King. I’ve ‘mellowed’ these days (to crime and humour). Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Sarah: Oh, gosh, tons. I’ll mention a few. For book promotion, check out The Savvy Book Marketer (http://bookmarketingmaven.typepad.com) and The Creative Penn (http://www.thecreativepenn.com). For books, I recommend The Synonym Finder (http://www.amazon.com/ dp/0446370290).
Morgen: Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn site has been recommended before. Joanna was my Easter Sunday interviewee this year. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Sarah: You can find out more about me and my work at http://www.sarahettritch.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Sarah: Thank you so much for interviewing me. I’ve enjoyed sitting down and “chatting” with you.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. Thank you for joining me. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Sarah: Yes. Where do you find the time to do all that you do for writers, and what drives you to do it?
Morgen: <laughs> Finding the time is hard (even since giving up my day job in March) but I enjoy it so it’s worth the early mornings / late nights. Like most independent (and otherwise) authors, I was looking for a way to promote my (Morgen Bailey) brand. I didn’t know it was going to evolve so expansively but I’m so glad it has. Thank you, Sarah.
I then invited Sarah to include a synopsis of her book and this is from Threaded Through Time, a romantic time travel fantasy:
For those who were born before or after their time…”
That described Pam. She’d always felt that she’d been born too late—there was no chivalry in the world anymore.
She’d only wanted to commune with the universe while reading a “moon rhyme” in the antique book she’d purchased from the local New Age shop. She had not expected guests—especially not Jasper and Margaret, summoned one hundred years into the future by the rhyme just as Jasper was proposing to Margaret.
Now the displaced visitors insist that they be returned to 1910, and Pam and her roommate Robin agree—an Internet check confirms that Margaret and Jasper were married by year end, 1910. But the rhyme won’t work until the next moon cycle, and in the intervening month, forbidden love blooms between Pam and Jasper, and Robin and Margaret.
They all know they can’t fight the inevitability of history. At the appointed hour, Pam re-enacts the recital of the rhyme that brought the time-crossed couples together…but it doesn’t work exactly as planned.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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