– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Of Ash & Shadow’ blogtour, organised by Booktamins.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Sarah King is the author of the YA Dark Fantasy novel Of Ash & Shadow. Sarah wrote her first book at fourteen and quickly decided it would never again see the light of day. Six (never-to-be-seen-again) books later, she wrote the first incarnation of Of Ash & Shadow during her final residency at Seton Hill University‘s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program.
A Connecticut native, Sarah currently lives in Tampa, Florida with her very understanding, listens-to-her-rave-about-the-stupidity-of-writing-a-golden-sword-into-her-book, boyfriend and two (lovingly spastic) dogs. Dogs who she honestly talks about more than her writing.
The Fae stole everything from Wyn. Her home. Her family. Her soul.
Now they want Her help. A murderer for hire, but this mission – kill the Shadow Queen, the boogeyman of the realm – is a suicide mission. At best! If she doesn’t say yes, they’ll steal more of the small family she’s piecemealed together since dragging her ass out of Faerie three years ago.
Guided by a vaguely familiar dark elf, Wyn must traverse the Shadow Court, a barren wasteland with toxic air populated by nightmarish creatures. Faerie warps everything it touches.
And helping them? Means giving them the last part of herself. Her humanity.
Trigger warning: mention of abuse
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
For those who don’t know me, as a child I hated writing and reading. It wasn’t necessarily the act of writing, it was the fact that, as a student, I was forced to write papers that were boring and pointless. On the rare occasions I got to write fiction in lieu of papers, I excelled. I found my way back to reading thanks to my mother, who wanted to foster my love of books. She picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at one of our book fairs (I believe) when I was about nine, and started reading to me every night. I found out later, she often stayed up after I fell asleep to finish the books herself. Harry Potter led to A Wrinkle In Time, which in turn led to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. From there, there was no stopping me.
Years later, the night before my first day of Freshman year, I had a dream and awoke with the urge to write the dream down. The story was absolutely terrible, I had no clue what I was doing, and unfortunately, it became the main reason I did not do well in class – choosing to write instead of listening to my teachers. I’m sure my mother would not have been happy to hear that back then, now she’ll probably just chuckle. Though she did give me a thorough kick in the butt my sophomore year as my grades slipped, making it clear, if I didn’t get my grades up I’d never get into college. Depending on the circumstances, I have the silly need to prove people wrong. So, I became an A and B student, went to college and then ended up in graduate school to boot. During that time I wrote six or seven novels before I started Wyn’s story. That was four years ago. Four years of writing, rewriting, and endlessly editing this book, until a fellow author told me it was time to get my butt out of the editors chair and publish the darn thing – so here I am.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
Harry Potter will forever be the series that started it all. There is a special place in my heart for the golden trio and their magical adventures. Similarly, A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine. I always connected with Meg, how she was different from other kids, how she felt like an outcast. Something about her spoke to me, even more so than Harry, Ron, or Hermione. To name a few others from my childhood: The Pendragon Series, The Inheritance Cycle, The Mortal Instruments, The Chronicles of Faerie, even the Twilight Saga. There are honestly too many to count.
As an adult, I still love YA. It’s what I love to write. Today (while writing this) I’m enjoying House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin J. Craig. My TBR list is ever expanding. But, my favorite author as an adult is a Paranormal Romance writer – Nalini Singh. I own every one of her books, and will autobuy anything she writes going forward. Her craft is phenomenal, I wish I wrote like her, and her stories, the tales she twists, enchant me every time I read and reread them.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
This may not come as a shock after my last answer, but Nalini Singh. For sure. To be able to pick her brain about how she comes up with her ideas, how she fleshes them out, the questions she asks herself when writing each book or building a new aspect within her worlds – would be priceless. I am such a fan of her writing, it’s beautiful and descriptive without ever losing me or being – this is a terrible word but – pointless, if that makes sense. Every description, every sentence drives the story forward. Not just the romance, but the plot, and I would be honored to learn from her. She is an author whose books I don’t just consume for the sheer love of her stories, but to study her mastery of the craft.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
This is so hard haha.
From my books? Probably Wyn, I think our sense of humor would jive, though we’d not be having tea. I could see instead maybe a knife throwing or self defense lesson. I’d love to meet the Wyn from the end of OAAS, right before book 2, after everything she’s been through, seen, learned. If I were picking a secondary character, maybe Hella or Cré, both I know would have amazing stories, but also they seem like they’d be fun to go out on the town with haha.
From another book…my best friend and I always talk about how, if we had to live in a fantasy world, we’d wanna live in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world and if we did, the species we would choose to be – changelings. So I think I’d have to say Valentin, the Alpha of the Stonewater bears, because I’d definitely be a bear changeling. They’re loud, always eating, love to have fun and everything revolves around family. Not to mention their senses of humor and penchant for antics is wonderful. They are essentially just like my family. Also, super stubborn and hard headed, which I am as well. So, I think hanging out with Valentin or anyone from the Stonewater pack would be great fun.
Do you have some rituals or habits while writing?
Oh, I have a terrible habit haha, I make faces while I write. When I get super deep into a scene, to the point where the outside world is completely out of my mind, I end up making the faces I assume my character is making at that moment. Which is terrible when I’m writing anywhere I can be seen, because I probably look like a deranged madwoman. Rituals – no, there isn’t any one thing I MUST do to write. I taught myself to read/write from a young age in noisy places so I can pretty much drown out the world no matter where I am when writing. Sometimes I’ll play music if there is a song that particularly inspires me during that chapter. In the End by Black Veil Brides, was pretty much the anthem for Wyn’s story, though I listened to their whole catalogue of music while writing book one. Another habit, which is probably something most writers do, is daydreaming what’s happening in the next scene. If I can’t write at that moment, I’m usually daydreaming about what Wyn is saying, or Keir, or what they’re doing. One habit I try not to do is daydream about chapters in the future cause I’m a linear writer. If I jump around from chapter to chapter, I tend to have timeline issues and inconsistencies.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
BAHA maybe a little! 😛 There are very few characters who have a passing resemblance to anyone in my life, and the small resemblance is shown in the best light. Places, on the other hand, are different. I use real places often throughout the book. I’ve never actually threatened to kill anyone in my own books, though a friend did threaten to kill me in one of theirs for being too cheerful in the morning before they’d had their coffee. I take that as a compliment though.
Generally, my ideas are the first chapter. Majority of the stories I’ve written are born from daydreaming where the initial chapter springs into my mind, almost fully formed, and then I have to figure out what happens from there. So, for Wyn’s book the opening chapter is almost exactly as I first imagined and wrote it. Thanks to a revise and resubmit, I actually pushed the opening chapter further back by about an hour’s time. Originally it began with Wyn atop the fae she’s hunting, striking the killing blow. The R&R I received suggested giving the opening just a little bit more time to unfold, so I pushed it back to her hunting the fae and why she was hunting it, which I think was for the best because it helps build the world and her character for the reader a bit quicker. I then took a course at the Margie Lawson Academy about honing your first five pages which helped solidify the chapter the reader will see when they open the book. But, when I started writing that chapter – four years ago – I had no idea where the story was going at all.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Plotter all the way, and if I didn’t know this years ago, I was taught the harsh lesson over again that I will never be anything other than a plotter, when I started writing Of Ash & Shadow. I started writing OAAS during my final semester of graduate school. At this point, my mentor and I had already discussed the fact that I probably shouldn’t write another post-apocalyptic/dystopian story seeing as they had just fallen out of trend at the time. So, of course, what do I do? I start a post-apocalyptic fae novel. Cause that’s a bright idea. But, I knew I had to write Wyn’s story. She wouldn’t leave my head no matter how hard I tried.
At the same time, I decided I wanted to give pantsing another go. I used to be a pantser whole-heartedly until I got to my thesis novel, which I plotted out like it was my job – which it sort of was. Trying to be a pantser again was a massively dumb idea on my part. I wrote the first five chapters of the book and had no idea where it was going from there. Cue about three months of agonizing over where the book was going, because I knew the end, but the middle eluded me.
I went to my final residency annoyed that I could not figure the middle out. I had handed in my first ten pages – at the time the whole first chapter – for review by my classmates, which was hilarious when I discovered my mentor was running my critique session. We had a nice laugh over my inability to take her advice about trends and what to write next, as well as my stupidity in thinking I could just pants a new novel.
Thankfully, I have some of the best friends, who after graduation, sat down with me and helped me figure out where the story was going. I love them dearly for the brainstorming session. I also learned, I will never pants a story ever again.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I sometimes still feel like a novice writer, and I’ve been writing for almost sixteen years now.
We’ve all heard this before, but I’ll repeat it real quick – read. Read everything, voraciously read in and outside of your genre.
Look at the voice of other authors and decide what you like and what you don’t, so you can then move on to figure out your own voice. I was taught, by an awesome writer and teacher, Julie Rowe, that voice isn’t just how the character speaks, but also becomes an extension of who the writer is and so the writer’s voice will always filter into their writing. It’s this huge amalgamation of description, conflict, pacing, emotion, etc. I think finding your voice is something that takes the longest. My voice, writing my first, second, third books, is 100% different from the voice I use today in my writing. I can see where it was starting to show up in previous stories, but OAAS really helped me solidify my writer voice.
A great resource for writers to learn more about in-depth topics on writing – such as voice – is the Margie Lawson Academy. Obviously, money may be a little tight right now for many, but a great alternative to taking her classes live is to purchase her lecture packets which are far cheaper. If you have the discipline to teach yourself, which I think all writers should have as we are always learning, then the lecture packets are a wealth of knowledge.
I want to say plot your stories, because I understand that some writers are just true pantsers and plotting doesn’t work for them. I will say, however, that I think all writers, even if they don’t plot the book out ahead of time, need to understand goal, motivation, and conflict. Not just for each main character – we sometimes call this what they want and why they can’t have it – but also for every scene within the novel. GMC helps keep the tension and the pace in every scene. Even if you don’t plot, it’s good to know GMC as you move into the scene you’re writing next, to help keep the story running at full speed toward the climax and then resolution. There is a book called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon which is worth checking out.
What are your future plans as an author?
My current plan is to work on Book 2, which I’m hoping to put out next September, if possible, while also potentially working on a secondary story. The secondary story is still just a notion, not a firm plan. Book 2 of Wyn’s story is currently in early stages. I’ve plotted it out thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law who sat and asked me tons of questions, and I’ve just begun to write. Past that, I am unsure. I usually don’t focus on more than one story at a time, I’m just not very good at it, but we will see what the future holds.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Of course! Hopefully, this isn’t too long haha.
Keir plunged his fingers into the warm earth, trying to ground himself in the loose ash. Blue lightning streaked across his brain, every synapsis firing at once. Power overload like nothing he’d ever experienced before ate like brush fire through his body. In the functioning parts of his brain, he half wondered if spontaneous combustion were real. If his brain were melting and would soon leak out his ears.
Words gifted to him by Wyn fanned the flames. Pieces of her memories tugged at hidden strings in his mind like a puppet master and his marionette. A groan ripped free of his throat, his back bowing under strings pulled taut. His insides were tearing apart. Expending all his magic to heal the fissures in each muscle, each tendon, each vein in his body was tiresome. Bearing memories submerged under Gods knew what kind of bindings, trying to force them to the surface, near swamped him in unconsciousness.
A benefit of releasing his powers so extensively was its ability to act as radar, picking up the imminent incursion of the Wild Hunt. Hiding what ailed him from Wyn would be difficult, but first they needed to survive this encounter.
Keir swayed, her hand leaving his chest momentarily to sling his arm across her weakened shoulders. Dragging him onto his feet was no use though, his body frozen in its attempt to heal itself.
“Keir, get up! We need to run,” she said. “Find somewhere to hide.”
“There is no hiding from the Hunt,” he said, power vibrating through his vocal chords.
Too much longer and he’d burn out. Wyn would be defenseless against the Hunt or the likes of the Shadow Court. A fact concerning enough to rip his mind from its search for answers hidden within and allow his magic sweet release. Arm still resting over her shoulder, he used his free arm to spin her body against his side before toppling them behind a charred tree trunk. Part of him wanted to fall asleep, the magic leaching from his system zapping his energy. She was so small, so perfectly fitted against his side, it was hard to fend off sleep’s silky grasp.
“We can’t stop.”
Wyn shoved at his chest half-heartedly, her arms pressed in tight to her body by the cage of his own. Above them, the drum of thousands of equine and lupine hooves and paws pounded through the air, creating small booms of sound. With each soldier who landed, the ground beneath them shook like a great earthquake rumbling through the center of the earth, churning up the land. Minutes passed before relative silence settled once more.
“Keir!” A guttural, barking sort of voice shouted at him.
He rested his forehead against Wyn’s, eyes shut, their noses brushing. Under other circumstances he would have relished their current position. Breathed deep a scent so intrinsically her, that were he blinded, he would still know her anywhere. She was the slight tang of metal, the crackling, smokey flames of a raging bonfire mixed with the tart burst of mandarin juice splashing on his tongue. But, there was no time to admire or luxuriate.
Keir puffed out the disheartened breath he held in a short sigh. Hope and luck were not words used when facing the Hunt. Both died quick deaths when his brethren came knocking. Rolling off her, he shoved to his feet and brushed the ash from his knees and hands while he continued to shield her from the men and women at his back.
Eons of loyalty were under fire. Long nights riding the skies of Faerie and Earth. Battles fought together to the bloody end. Missions run for whoever paid the highest and the resulting enjoyment of their spoils. All, he knew, would be tested in these next minutes.
Dread was a flash fire in his veins. Controlled his muscles to bring his hand to the hilt of his sword. Spread the bitter taste of death across his tongue.
“Majesty,” Keir said, turning to face Anam, the Erlking, commander of the Wild Hunt.
Whosoever defeated the Erlking in combat within the realm of Faerie, took control of the Hunt. A title not suited to many fae, Anam’s rule was ancient. And so was the power he funnelled to his soldiers, gifting them abilities far beyond the regular fae’s. Wyn’s slaughtering of Bakor was a feat unmatched by any other human in existence. This mysterious girl of his broken memories possessed a power of her own, one he’d not witnessed through the ages.
Towering height, broad shoulders, barrel chested and thick legged, the Erlking was an imposing figure missing one key feature. Carried beneath his right arm was his maggoty, red-rimmed and swollen-eyed, gnarl-haired head.
Wyn rose to her feet, hands pressed to his back as she peaked around, one word, a rushed whisper, fell from her lips, “Dullahan.”
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Sarah King.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!