Tuesday, November 12, 2013
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sara Bain
1. When and why did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve been a newspaper journalist for over 15 years and an editor of professional books before that, so writing has always played a significant role in my life. When my children were very young, I was at home and read a lot. One day I was reading a fantasy novel and, by the end, was really disappointed, almost angry. Although I liked the world that the author created, I couldn’t empathise with any of the characters: in fact, I didn’t like them at all. It was then I decided I would write my own fantasy and fill it with characters I could relate to. I’ve always been passionately interested in fantasy and all those escapist stories that explore brave new worlds away from the realities of everyday life: it’s all about experiencing the best of many worlds as well as my own.
2. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I am also a photographer and graphic designer, so I would probably be creating visual stories.
3. What books/authors inspired you when you were younger? What do you like to read today?
I grew up with the classics: from the early works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dunne and Milton, to the 18th and 19th century English novelists like Fielding and Hardy. The 19th century romantic poets, in particular, really inspire me, even though I don’t particularly associate myself with romanticism. My favourite is John Keats who had a very magical way with words.
My interest in fantasy began, as it did with most people, with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings trilogy which I expected to be a sequel to the children’s story. It’s occasional darkness shocked me but kept the pages turning.These days I have very little time to read, unfortunately, but can say that I love Anne Rice for her beautiful descriptive prose and Joe Hill for his amazing ability to terrorise his readers from the first few opening paragraphs.
As well as a good story, it is quality in writing that particularly inspires me. I think I’ve been a sub-editor for too long. I can’t read badly written or poorly edited books, even if the story is strong. I can usually tell from the first few lines whether I’m going to read the book or not.
I am currently reading Attrition: The First Act of Penance by a young author called SG Night, who I met on Goodreads. I’ve only just started it but the author shows all the signs of being a very good writer.
4. What was the inspiration behind The Sleeping Warrior?
As I have said, I’m a fantasy author and mainly write in the epic fantasy genre. I did send my first novel out to a few publishers but, although they all (that is, those who bothered to respond) agreed that the book was well-written, with good characterisation and storyline, it didn’t quite fit into the regular genre classifications of fantasy fiction that libraries and bookshops use – not enough faerie beings or magic systems - so they didn’t know how they could sell it.
In a fit of rebellion, I decided to write a book that would cross as many genres as possible, populate it with as many anti-heroes of modern fiction I could squeeze in and place the story against a contemporary setting of places I know.
I took one of the characters out of my big fantasy and shoved him in the midst of all this to see what he would do. The result was very pleasantly surprising.
Half way through writing it, I lost my confidence and wondered what on Earth I was doing. For some reason, however, it all came together as if it was always meant to be. That’s how my writing tends to lead me.
5. Aside from the main plot, you have little sub-plots like Libby's affair with her boss. Why did you decide to make there be so many elements to the story?
Humans, by their very nature, are multi-dimensional and highly complex beings. Sentiment and the way in which we cope within our personal environment has a knock-on effect on the lives of others.
Libby, being the main protagonist, had to be the most well-developed. The focal impact of the story is the effect of the events on her from a personal perspective, so her character had to contain more than a one or two-dimensional element for readers to empathise with her or dislike her, as the case may be.
When I begin a book, I start with a name and let that person develop through setting a scene and adding other people. I have little inclination as to what will happen or who that person is until they begin to interact with their environment. It’s a bit like watching a film.
Oddly enough, despite a full cast of seemingly bad characters, Carl is my least favourite. I did try and kill him off early in the plot, but he worked too well and only served to enhance it.
In life, everyone’s story is based on a multitude of components that make it a whole. Without those elements, human beings would be pretty dull.
6. Why did you decide to name a character after Stephen King's screenplay Rose Red?
This may sound a little implausible, but, although I had read some of Stephen King’s novels and seen a few of the films, I had never heard of the name before I wrote it. Of course, there may be some subliminal explanation but it wasn’t until a few months later when I was looking up the Russian equivalent to the words that I noticed Rose Red was the name of a King novel that has been widely televised. I didn’t change it because I felt Rose befitted her association with a horror story.
7. You could've gone in so many directions with this novel. Did you never envision it going differently before, ultimately, deciding with the route you took?
My writing technique is a bit unusual. I tend to begin with a blank canvas and go where the characters take me. It is they who decide the outcome of my novels, not me.
I know this sounds very far-fetched but that’s the way I write. I don’t make notes or lists; I don’t plan out plots or even have a definitive ending or beginning in mind. I start with a character and a place and allow the story to evolve organically.
I have tried to change the direction of characters to fit my plots but that often doesn’t work: it’s as if they won’t let me.
I’ve heard other writers say this too, so I don’t believe I’ve lost the plot (pardon the pun).
8. Will you ever write a novel featuring some of the characters from The Sleeping Warrior?
I will write a sequel eventually. I like the paranormal aspect to the story and may expand on that in subsequent titles. I’m concentrating on my big fantasy at the moment, so any spin-off from The Sleeping Warrior will have to be placed on the back burner for now.
9. In your bio on Amazon it says you're working on a fantasy novel. Can you give the readers any insight on the book, please?
This is a book I have been writing for a good few years. When I wrote the first book, I was very green, over-enthusiastic and believed I would find a publisher immediately. I sent a few samples off to a small selection of publishers and Harper Collins asked me for the rest of the manuscript. I sent it and got a really nice rejection. When I look back, I realise why. My writing was terrible, the story rambled on to nowhere and I hadn’t even finished it! I’m happy to say that I have matured a lot since then, found a voice and am a lot more professional about my work.I love heroes and The Scrolls of Deyesto features a group of extraordinary warriors tasked with saving their world from evil. It’s the usual tale of traditional epic, set inside a dark, medieval-style panorama, but written in a very different way. I like to be different.
As with The Sleeping Warrior, The Scrolls is also very multi-dimensional and a complex tale of human nature. Everyone is capable of extremes of good and evil and, I believe, it’s the balance between the two that underlies life.
10. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I would like to see myself as a publisher of quality fiction. I have set up my own publishing company called Ivy Moon Press and hope, not only to publish my works, but also to publish those of others. I’m not too bothered about genre, so long as the books have a fantasy element (no matter how small) in the theme.
Of course, I would also like to see myself as a very successful, highly respected fantasy author.
11. Were any of the characters in The Sleeping Warrior based on real life or were they all creatures of your imagination?
Although the scenes are set in places I know – like London and Scotland – none of the characters are based on anyone I know, but produced from a very vivid imagination and an understanding of human nature.
12. Did being from Scotland influence the book more (because of location, etc.) than if you'd lived elsewhere, do you think?
Living in Scotland has definitely influenced the setting of the book. The life in rural Scotland is a world apart from the rush of London and it is the contrast that I wanted to convey in the story. Life’s a lot slower here, the scenery beautiful, and there’s plenty of time to relax and reflect. You don’t get that kind of opportunity in London unless you get out of it at the weekends.
13. What, if anything, would you like for fans to take from the book?
At a superficial level, I just would like them to enjoy the read. Secretly, though, I hope that readers will understand the underlying symbolism and concepts of the book: for example, identity and the importance of a name. The title is also an allegory. The Sleeping Warrior is a famous view of the mountains of Arran from the Ayrshire coast; the male hero of the story; and the dominant warrior spirit within us all.
14. Do you have any influences outside of the literary world?
Many. The whole of life influences me. The place where I live, friends, family, travel, work. Fantasy artwork and music can have a powerful influence on a theme or inspire an idea.
15. Thank you for participating in this interview! Can you please give the readers three things that may surprise them about you?
I am an English barrister.
I understand computers and they understand me.
I have four children who are all at university.
Find Sara Bain via the following: