Sarah has been writing for more than 25 years, starting with poetry before moving on to non-fiction and fiction. She lives in the Midwest with two monsters (the kids), an ogre (the hubby), and whatever drama-llama is coming to visit this week. Sarah is the author of the Runespells series: Too Wyrd, Fluffy Bunny, and The Chains That Bind. She has short stories in several anthologies, including Counterclockwise: A Time Travel Anthology, A Twist of Fate: A Collection of 11 Twisted Fairy Tales, and Whispers of Hope: A Lexis Infinitum Charity Anthology. Sarah also has a blog via Patreon and makes funny videos about writing on her vlog, Practically Writing.
Sarah, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Over the past couple of years, you have published your short stories in a number of anthologies: Twisted, Chasing Fireflies, London Calling, Beyond the Mask, CounterClockwise, and so many more. What are the pros and cons of an author publishing their works in collections like these?
The pros are that anthologies are pretty easy, publishing-wise. Once you get accepted and agree to the contract, someone else is running point on formatting, cover, etc, etc. You might be asked to contribute to marketing stuff, but you aren’t the one who has to yes or no each decision. Also, since there are other authors in the anthology, marketing to their own fans, your writing gets in front of new people – possibly new fans for your own work. With small press and indie anthologies, the “lifetime” of the anthology is usually only a short while, so you will often get the rights back for your story in 3-12 months. This means you can resell or republish it sooner.
Cons are that, often, royalties are minimal or, in the case of charity anthologies, non-existent. It’s good for long-term, but it’s not likely to pay your bills. Anthologies can also run the spectrum of “hard to get into” to “they’ll take anyone,” the latter of which can lead to some less than ideal quality of work, so you have to know a bit about who’s running the anthology and what their standards are. Another con is that you usually don’t have any real control over pricing, sales, deals, etc which can help or hinder your marketing efforts, and you have to go through someone to get sales info.
New authors interested in anthologies may have questions about finding reputable companies to submit to, the ins and outs of the publishing contract, and the success of the overall publication. What advice would you give them as they start their journey?
Get thee to the author groups! Find a tribe or two, online and “in real life.” Ask other authors for suggestions for specific anthologies or publishers who do anthologies. Many small press publishers will do regular anthologies to boost their business, pull in new authors, etc. Some do only anthologies, mostly because they love it. Ask around for suggestions. Find out who is good for your genre(s). And read all contracts thoroughly. I recently witnessed a huge anthology lose nearly a third of their authors because their contract was poorly worded and they resisted changing it.
Your Runespell Series currently is made up of two novels, Too Wyrd and Fluffy Bunny. Please tell us a bit about your main character, Nicola, and the struggles she faces in the story? Should we expect a third book?
The third book just released on Feb 28th! The Chains That Bind is now available in paperback. It will be in ebook around the middle of March. Additionally, Slings & Arrows is a short story set in the Runespells world, heralding a future spin-off series with a pair of fan-favorite characters from Too Wyrd.
I have NINE books planned for this series – and I mean, basic plot is outlined and the over-arching series plot is paced for that. I’m currently working on the fourth book, Blood of the Moon.
Nicola is a single mom, trying to keep her head down and get bills paid. She doesn’t go looking for drama, but then her step-sister vanishes. She finds out that her ex (and baby-daddy) is involved, and so she decides to help figure out what is going on. She ends up being tagged as a gods-blessed quest hero to find a series of magical pendants known as the Runespells, which someone is convincing people to use to start Ragnarok/Armageddon.
Her biggest struggles are with the real and metaphorical demons she must face in her trials. In book 2, she fears facing herself after what she’s done. In book 3, she has full-on PTSD. In book 4, she’s struggling with the morality of her choices. In book 5, she has to face even more horrific consequences when her daughters get caught up in the whole thing.
Nicola deals with brain-washing, death, murder, demons, addiction, cultural genocide and colonialism, racism, and, of course, religious persecution and fanaticism. The only thing she can be sure of is that it will never be a black-and-white decision.
I am so sorry I missed that! The author note for your series bespeaks of how the books have a basis in fact, originating from the Hávamál. Could you reiterate the connection for our readers on The Book Tavern, explaining a bit about the Poetic Eddas?
The Eddas, Poetic and Prose, are a translation of a series of oral tales that are supposed to be the words and tales of Odin and the Norse gods. The Hávamál, in particular, is the words of Odin. At one point, he describes himself hanging for three days from the world tree, Yggdrasil, after which he discovered the runes (alphabet or written word) in the well at the base of the tree. Each of these 18 runes is described in a formulaic way that tells the meaning of the rune in the form of an effect.
The Runespells is essentially these runes as a spell that creates the described effect. When Nicola finds each Runespell, the words of the Hávamál (or rather my modern translation of that) play in her head, allowing her to understand what each of the Runespells does.
Fun fact: That means you can actually go to any copy of the Hávamál and look up the Runespells for the original translation – and a bit of a preview as to what may be coming up in the Runespells series!
Scarborough Fair is a republished anthology story for a romance anthology. I took up the challenge to write a sweet romance for the anthology, but I had a concept I’d been playing with for some years to use the folk song, Scarborough Fair, as a spell for lovers.
I had read an article about the idea that the song was left over from a more superstitious time when a woman might make a cambric pouch in a specific way and fill it with the four herbs to bring forth a good marriage. While the lyrics are metaphorical for the spell and the challenges a woman should make of her suitor, making the story fantasy and adding magic allowed for a more literal interpretation.
In the story, Brenan, a member of a sisterhood of women mages, searches for her love. Garrett disappeared years before, leaving his governance of Scarborough County to his brother. Brenan hears the song Garrett had written for her being sung by a servant from the Scarborough estate. After interrogating the girl, Brenan takes a position at the castle to search for Garrett. But, of course, love isn’t that easy.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
I am doing a personal writing challenge, #13In24Challenge, where I will attempt to publish 13 unique stories and novels between Aug 2018 and Aug 2020. I will be putting out fantasy, mage-punk, sci-fantasy, paranormal romance, YA fantasy, urban fantasy and more! I don’t know if I’ll get all 13 done (half of them will be novel or novella length), but that’s what makes it a challenge.
Anyone who wants to join me for all or part of this challenge can do so in the forum section of my website. You can write and publish as many works of any length as you want, or you can just ask questions or cheer me and other participants on.
It has been a pleasure, Sarah! Please tell us where fans can find you online.