This weekend sees the return of the Writing Corner after a short hiatus. My guest is the author of Rise of the Sparrows and the creator and blogger of Cookie Break, Sarina Langer. I would like to thank her for the time for going through the questions. I hope you all enjoy the chat.
Thank you for inviting me over! The weather is a little confused here, I think. A couple of weeks ago it was hot and I burnt, then it was miserable four days ago with constant rain, and today it’s hot again. How’s a girl supposed to cope with that? Damn the humidity!
Has it been a busy time for you as late, with the book launch and other writing projects?
It really has! I launched Rise of the Sparrows at the end of May, but I haven’t stopped since. There’s promotions and marketing to be done, and then there are my three WIPs that need writing! I’m focusing on the sequel, but every now and again the other two demand more attention than they’re getting.
It’s great fun 🙂
You released your novel, Rise of the Sparrows in May, how long did it take to get from the original idea to the finished product? And do you remember how the idea came about?
That’s hard to say, because I started the very first outline of a draft years ago when I was still studying Photography at university. I only wrote the first three chapters then (I had no prologue at the time), but had to set it aside because my studies had to take priority. I was still determined to be a photographer after university then, and so my WIP was put to rest. I picked it up again nearly a year after I finished my degree – that was last year around June. It took me three to four months to write the first draft, and between leaving it to proof, editing it, setting my betas on it and finally having my editor go over everything it took me roughly a year. The original chapters I wrote at uni didn’t survive the edit, but the idea was born then.
At the time I read a lot of fantasy novels where magic was an unquestioned part of everyday life. People either had it or they didn’t, but either way it was there and it was part of society. I wanted a book set in a time before magic was accepted. That’s what Rise of the Sparrows is about – Rachael has the gift, but she’s homeless and orphaned so she struggles enough to stay alive as it is. But with her visions of people dying? The other people of Blackrock avoid her and make no secret of their hatred for her. So when a girl a few years younger than Rachael stumbles into her small hideout – a girl who can set fire to everything and anything – Rachael wants to hold onto whatever friendship they might be able to have. Naturally it doesn’t take long before the other residents of Blackrock get paranoid of them hanging out together, and call for the White Guard to take them away for execution. Thanks to Rachael’s visions, they have a chance to make their escape.
For those who may not know about the book, could you tell us what the story involves?
As I already mentioned above, the story is about Rachael who has visions of death, and who becomes friends with a little girl, Cephy, who sets things on fire. In a world where people are deeply suspicious of magic at best – and outright hateful towards those with the gift at worst – Rachael knows it’s best to stay hidden. That becomes impossible when Rachael has a vision of herself dying, and when the White Guard arrive to take them to the White City. Together with Cephy she runs – and ends up in worse circumstances than before. The devil doesn’t seem so scary when she smiles and looks pretty, right? Rachael just wants to live a normal life without being judged for a gift she doesn’t want. Instead she becomes involved in prophecy, a plot to kill the king, and moves right into the heart of what she was trying to run from.
Out of all the characters, which one did you enjoy writing the most? And which one gave you most trouble?
None of them really gave me any trouble, but I loved writing King Aeric and Kiana. King Aeric is trying to do what’s best for his country on the brink of war, and he struggles with his morality a lot. Kiana is simply kickass, lethal with her daggers and adds a bit of sarcasm. (Also, she’s a redhead.)
I recently finished the book and enjoyed the story, the pacing and the development of the characters. Would you be willing to share a snippet for us?
Thank you! This is a snippet from the very first chapter, where we first meet Rachael.
Sinking into the thin fabric, she held one hand to her pounding head. The last nightmare had been bad and had left her bruised in some places. Her head had smashed into a small rock on the ground when she had thrashed around in her sleep, and her foot had hit the frozen ground. The pain of her ankle crashing into the cold cobblestone had woken her from the dream, leaving her aching and with a bleeding nose.
The last dream had been about a merchant from the wealthier part of Blackrock, who was about to leave town with his wife and two children. They were headed to Tramura, across the Boneanvil Mountains, but they would be attacked, robbed and murdered before they reached the save end of the narrow mountain passage.
A long time ago Rachael had warned the villagers, and had asked them to stay. They had ignored her, believing that she was just another homeless child craving attention. When the first woman whose death she had foreseen had died, they had blamed her.
Magic was a terrifying thing to most people, including her. They didn’t understand how it worked, but they did understand that Rachael had seen a death before it happened. It was easiest to blame her.
She had only tried to help one more time after that. The villagers had responded by trying to burn her alive. She had spent months in hiding before she had dared come out into the daylight again. By then, the people had moved on to some new gossip and a new tragedy, and had paid her no mind. They had decided that it would be in their best interest to leave her alone, and life had continued. She had become a bad omen, but as long as she found food she didn’t care.
The merchant and his family would have to die in the Boneanvil Mountains. Nothing good had ever come of her helping others. She knew better now than to get involved.
Is there anything on reflection that you would differently or change?
Oh my, yes! I’m a perfectionist, so there’ll always be something I could have done differently. The things that work beautifully for me today will be obviously flawed in three months time. If I waited for my novel to be perfect before approving it for print it would never fall into anyone’s hands but mine! There’ll always be something I wish I’d written differently, but not every change we make is for the better. It’s equally important to know when to let go as it is to know what to change.
As I am a keen follower of your blog, I have been keeping up to date with the progress you have made with the sequel, but also, you have two other projects that you are working on. Would you be kind enough to speak about these?
Of course! 🙂 The sequel is my main focus, but I am making progress on my other two babies. Neither of them have been titled, so the names below are temporary. (Things get very confusing when you keep calling your WIPs Book 2, the other Book 2, Book 3, and so on – you get the idea.)
The first one would be Soul of the Heart. I was trying to ignore its whispers, which have been at the back of my mind since earlier this year, but it got to a point where it was constantly asking for attention. So I gave in, and started. It’s another fantasy series, but completely unrelated to Relics of Ar’Zac. It starts when one of my main characters, Naavah Ora, visits the spirit realm and sees it being corrupted by darkness, which also slowly seeps into the world of the living.
My other one, Immortals (temp. title) is my first go at writing sci-fi. Last year I posted a brief short on my blog which I’d thrown together in ten minutes. I did not expect the amazing response that I received, and now that short is the basis for the novel. It’s about two women – Chrys, who is immortal but doesn’t know why, and Ivy, who has received a treatment to become immortal to fulfil her daughter’s last wish.
Do you have a preferred time of day to write?
I don’t really have a choice in the matter. I work part-time at my day-job in the afternoons, and don’t get home until late. I love sleep far too much and am too easily distracted by our TV to write after dinner, so the mornings it is! I have plenty of time then and usually get a good amount of words down before it’s time to leave.
What is the ideal writing day for you?
I don’t work the weekends, but other than that I can write any day – although, my word count tallies show that I often don’t write on Mondays, and that Wednesdays and Thursdays are often my most productive days!
Can you name five things that you love about the writing process and three things you loathe?
There’s nothing in particular that I loathe (Besides formatting in Open Office. That’s the devil.) but there are so many things that I love! The writing community is incredible, and their support and enthusiasm amazes me every time I’m on social media. Then there’s the actual writing, which is fantastic because I create worlds from nothing. And then there’s the first time you receive your cover’s proofs… That was an emotional afternoon at work for me. Seeing your book’s cover makes it so much more real! And then there’s the moment you get the finished version of your world map – a world you created and shaped – and that definitely makes it a lot more real! That’s not to mention the actual release day – from when on you can say that you’re a published writer and that yes, you can buy my book! – or the reviews as they begin to trickle in.
There’s so much to love about this process and everything involved!
Is there a lucky charm that you must have with you whilst writing?
I do, I have a writing hat! I’m trying to make it a habit, so that every time the hat pops on, my mind knows it’s time to write. So far, so good!
Can you name three things that will stop you from writing?
Food, my cat, and social media. Naturally, all three of those can also aid my writing, so it depends on your perspective 😉 (and just a little on how pushy my cat is)
When did the moment hit and you told yourself, I am a writer. This is who I am?
I can’t remember exactly when it was, but last year I saw a tweet which said that every time someone calls themselves an aspiring writer, a fairy dies. When you call yourself an aspiring writer, it essentially means that you want to write but you don’t. It implies a dream you have but don’t try to pursue. If you do write, you’re a writer. There’s nothing aspiring about it.
What is your proudest writing achievement?
I think Rise of the Sparrows will always be special. It’s my first book, my baby, my oldest, and it’ll forever mark the moment when I decided to make dreams real.
In five words how would you sell the Rise of the Sparrows to us?
Buy my book now, please? ^-^
… No? Okay, let me try again.
Magic, Survival, Fire, Prophecy & Swords!
Would you give us the honour of telling us about Sellybean?
It’d be my pleasure! 🙂 Sellybean, or Selina, is our cat, and official mascot to CookieBreak and my writing. We adopted her from a rescue centre nearly two years ago, and she has been my ever-purring shadow ever since. She’s very shy and skittish, but she adores us and often shows it by cuddling up between us at night or by bathing our arms, hands and faces. She’ll usually try to sit on my keyboard while I write, or at the very least sit by my chair meowing up at me. She also loves sitting on my wrist when I take notes. For those of you who have bought my book (I love you!) you might have noticed the dedication at the front – that’s to her.
Where can we find Sarina Langer and your novel?
It might be faster to tell you where you can’t find me! You can find me on…
This next section I like to call World without words or life without love? I Would like to ask you random questions and for you to answer with the first thing that pops into your head.
Writing or reading?
WHAT! NOT FAIR!
Writing, I guess? Oh, but I want both… Whatever- BOTH! 😀
ALSO NOT FAIR!
Gawd, Alan, I have so many! My favourites are Karen Miller, Terry Goodkind, Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss, but that list is constantly growing!
Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I’m essentially a Bioware cheerleader. *waves N7-style pompoms*
Favourite character from a book?
Cara, from The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind. Who doesn’t love a kickass female character with an attitude?
That’s hard, I love so many… Last year I watched Interstellar and it completely blew my mind!
Epic Fantasy or Urban Fantasy?
Cake or biscuits?
Both, with tea.
Cats or Guinea Pigs?
My Sellybean would claw my eyes out if I went with guinea pigs, so I’ll go with cats 🙂 I had several guinea pigs as a child, though, and adore their little sqeeks!
Tea or Pasta?
What? I can’t have both? 😦
One book on your wishlist?
I’m really excited for the sequel to the Siblings! 😉
One book I’m dying to get my hands on is the final instalment in Patrick Rothfuss’s series. I read The Name of the Wind eariler this year and have been in love with his words ever since. There’s no release date yet that I know off, though, so yours is a lot more imminent and realistic 🙂
And last but not least…
World without words or life without love?
World without words. There are so many ways for us to express ourselves, but I think a world without love would be a very dark place. We’ll manage without words, but I don’t think we could do the same without love.