was published in digital format on December 2nd by Harper Voyager Impulse. The Mass Market Paperback edition will be published on December 30th.
: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?Sarah
: Thanks so much for having me! So excited to have a moment on The Qwillery!
Oh, like many authors I started writing early on. When I was in third grade I was confined to my bed with a really nasty case of the chicken pox. My mother (an elementary school teacher) handed me a battered copy of The Hobbit as a distraction. It was my first foray into fantasy, and I was hooked. I read every fantasy and scifi book I could find in the local library, and when I ran out of reading material, I started writing my own. I really wanted to create my own worlds, and inhabit them with my own characters. TQ
: Are you a plotter or a pantser?Sarah
: Entirely a pantser, which is why my first draft is usually such a mess. Generally I start a manuscript with a beginning point and ending point, and a vague idea of how to send the characters through. Then I just go. And often the final result is very different from my original expectations. The bones of the story stay the same, but so details change along the way.TQ
: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?Sarah
: Self-confidence. Definitely self-confidence. I have a strict non-reading rule when I’m writing a book, which is a very difficult thing, because I’m a bookaholic. But if I read, say, Robin Hobb or Anne Rice’s newest while I’m trying to write my own story, I usually end up feeling miserably below standard.
Luckily I’ve got a ton of passion, and the drive to write out-weighs that lack of self-confidence. TQ
: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?Sarah
: I’ve already mentioned Hobb and Rice and, of course, Tolkien. I cut my teeth on Narnia. Also Stephen R. Donaldson. THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT are probably responsible for any shadowy angst you find in my work. And Judith Tarr’s AVARYAN CHRONICLES for the sunshine.
I’ve got an English degree in literature, and my focus was James Joyce. I’m of Irish heritage and you’ll see a reflection of that fascination with Gaelic legend in my writing as well.
Oh, Mary Stewart’s THE HOLLOW HILLS, that’s an old one, but a Stewart was the sort of author I wanted to grow up and BE. TQ
: Describe Stonehill Downs
in 140 characters or less.Sarah
: Ah-ha. I’ve participated in Twitter’s #pitchwars. I can do this:
When the dead walk on the downs, Mal and Avani discover an old and unfriendly magic is waking.TQ
: Tell us something about Stonehill Downs
that is not in the book description.Sarah
: I wrote it with my children and my nieces and nephews in mind. They’re growing up in a diverse, non-binary world, and the fantasy genre (not just the fantasy genre) needs to grow up alongside. The next generation needs epic fantasy that looks like them.TQ
: What inspired you to write Stonehill Downs
? How does the magic system work in Stonehill Downs
: Honestly, I wanted to write a detective story in a swords and sorcery world. And I wanted to write about religion and magic together, and how the two might co-exist…or not.
Without getting into spoiler territory: the magic system isn’t terribly complicated. A magus has innate spell-casting ability. A priest, on the other hand, can cast only via book or ritual. And the sidhe are the root of it all.TQ
: What sort of research did you do for Stonehill Downs
: Medieval forensics, mostly. Hooke’s microscope, old world medical procedures. It’s all stretched a bit in STONEHILL, because it had to be, for the sake of the story. Herbalism.
I also went to my sister, who is Indian, with questions about Hinduism. Avani is very much based on my sister, with a fantastical twist.TQ
: In Stonehill Downs
who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?Sarah
: Mal was pretty easy. I started writing STONEHILL after I’d suffered a loss of my own, and I went into wondering: what would a person be willing to do to reverse that loss? What would Mal be willing to sacrifice of himself? Mal started out being about loss. Luckily he grew and improved upon himself as the story unfurled.
The hardest was Jacob. I didn’t want Jacob to be my deus ex machina. I’ve spent a lot of time second-guessing that bird.TQ
: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Stonehill Downs.Sarah
Faolan’s head swiveled. He pinned her with empty eyes.TQ
“There are no gods,” he replied, “but us.”
: What's next? Sarah
: The sequel to STONEHILL - ACROSS THE LONG SEA -comes out in the spring. I’m busy polishing that up. I’ve also got a young adult fantasy series going - THE MANHATTAN EXILES - and I’m hands deep in book two there, also. It’s a winter of second volumes.TQ
: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.Sarah
: Thank you so much for having me!