It’s author Sarah Ash on my blog today. She is the author of many fantasy novels such as the Tears of Artamon trilogy and the Tide Dragons series. You can visit her at her website www.sarah-ash.com/
1) Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Your friends and family.
I’m from Bath (Aquae Sulis in Roman times, rather more recently, Jane Austen territory) in Somerset. I’m married, with two grown-up sons. My sister, Jessica Rydill, is also a published novelist. I’m lucky to have friends from school and college days, my years spent teaching, and new friends made since we moved back to Bath. And the genre writing community is wide and supportive; it’s great to be able to meet other writers and readers via the internet.
2) Tell us about your books.
I (mostly) write fantasy that’s rooted in a version of this world as it might have been, had magic existed. So the Tears of Artamon trilogy and its two prequel/sequels are set in an alternate Europe in the last years of the eighteenth century. It grew from my love of Eastern European folklore and music, hence the legend of the terrifying Drakhaoul in the far north that the ambitious, empire-building Prince Eugene dismisses as mere superstition…until he encounters the real Drakhaoul for himself. My current fantasy sequence, Tide Dragons, is based on an ancient Japanese legend. I am fascinated by any myth or legend connected with a place; Bath, where I live, has legends about the hot natural springs that have been altered over the centuries by the Celts, the Romans and subsequent generations to fit their own particular needs.
3) You started writing at an early age. Can you tell us about what you wrote as a child? ‘The Miglas’ was your first book, I believe?
Spare my blushes! ‘The Miglas’ (heavily influenced by Alan Garner) was the first novel I actually completed, although I also wrote plays for my (long-suffering) friends to perform. It’s set in Bath (where I grew up) and in the Mendip Hills nearby. I wrote two more fantasy novels before ‘Charlie’s Treasure’ which (with the help of my friend Liz) I typed up (double-spaced) and tried to get published. I didn’t succeed – but I had some really encouraging letters from editors.
4) How do you go about the process of creating interesting characters in your books?
Characters just turn up, often uninvited, already whole people. I don’t have to ask them what cereal they eat for breakfast or what their favourite fruit is; they are who they are. However, I feel a story isn’t ready to be written down until I start ‘hearing’ conversations – arguments – between the main protagonists. ‘Lord of Snow and Shadows’ (the first book of The Tears of Artamon) didn’t take off for me until I suddenly ‘saw’ Prince Eugene of Tielen out riding in the grounds of his new palace of Swanholm – and suddenly realized that I was seeing his world through his eyes. He’s the main antagonist…but the story didn’t really begin to work until I understood his ambitions and wishes ‘from the inside’.
5) Do you send your work to beta readers after completing the first draft?
I don’t. I wonder if I’m, unusual in this respect? I had to teach myself to be my own ‘wise reader’ in pre-internet days. Although, when I started scribbling, a couple of close school friends used to read what I was writing; my sternest critics, ever!
6) What’s a typical day like for you?
Now that I’m not rushing off to school (a strange feeling) I tend to do editing and correspondence in the mornings and writing in the afternoons.
7) You have been a music teacher too, haven’t you?
Music and writing were always my favourite things to do and I studied music at uni, going on to teach class music (and piano when my sons were small). I had a lot of fun running school choirs and orchestras, putting on shows, and trying to make learning music fun for everyone. I was lucky to have some wonderful students and wonderfully supportive colleagues too.
8) Tell us about your interests in anime and manga.
How long have you got!? I always loved comics, especially Tintin and Asterix – but it was thanks to my oldest son Tom that I was introduced to manga and anime back in the day before it was easily accessible in English (he got into Dragonball Z and Saint Seiya!). Nowadays, I review and edit for an online magazine: Anime UK News.
I like the way that mangaka don’t baulk at showing adversity, heartache and death if the story requires it. I also love anything that’s based around Japanese folklore and mythology. Here are some recommended manga titles with a fantasy twist: 07-Ghost; xxxHolic; Silver Diamond; Servamp; Kamisama Kiss and current favourite, The Ancient Magus’ Bride.
9) Which books and authors have most influenced you? Are there other areas of life that inspired you too?
I was a voracious reader as a child, so it’s hard to just name one or two influences from so many. Alexandre Dumas and J.R.R. Tolkien probably top the early list. However, I also adored the historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Renault and on the fantasy/science fiction front, Ursula LeGuin, Alan Garner and Gene Wolfe.
As to other areas of life, I think that all our experiences go into shaping us as authors: people we meet; life events, good and bad; places we visit.
10) Do you have any plans of writing outside the fantasy genre?
I have an historical novel ‘out there’ doing the rounds at the moment.
11) So what are you currently working on?
I’ve recently finished writing Emperor of the Fireflies, the second volume of the Tide Dragons sequence which is set in an alternate Heian-era Japan. Expect to find betrayal, lost love, forbidden sorcery, kitsune, shape-shifting and…Tide Dragons.
12) Anything you would like to add?
I wanted to say a big Thank You for asking me to take part in this interview. I’ve recently been running a Guest Blog called ‘Nobody Knew She Was There’ on my website about the problems of visibility for women writers of science fiction and fantasy, so I really appreciate the opportunity to become visible again for a short while. I also would like to wish you all the best with your own fantasy writing!
A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” releases shortly. Click here to download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free.