Today’s post is an interview with the extremely lovely and talented author, Sarah Glenn Marsh. I am incredibly honored and excited to have had this chance to talk with her and get to know her, as well as to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hey! I’m Sarah: currently blond (but sometimes pink-haired!) lover of animals; mother to four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and tons of fish; eater of sweets; always anxious; sometimes funny; someone who loves writing books for kids and teens.
How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (we’re talking little stories when I was five years old about why my parents should get me a dog…!), and I’ve always been a voracious reader. I started loving trips to the library in preschool!
I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was out of college, however; it was actually my husband who pushed me to follow my writing dream and supported me every step of the way, however he could, because he believes in my talent (even when I don’t)—I hope everyone who’s seeking a partner in life finds one who supports their dreams like that!
What is your writing process usually like?
Quiet, full of looking up dog memes, and consuming copious amounts of kit kat bars 😉
In all seriousness, I’m one of those people who edits as I draft, so what I usually do is spend the day getting down a bunch of new words, the evening going over them to edit, and then the next morning before writing any more, I’ll read over what I edited the previous day to refresh my memory!
Where do you usually go to write, and is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the right mindset?
I like to write in my dining room, because it’s quiet, sunny, and there’s a big table in there! Plus, whenever I get stuck on a scene, I can stare at my awesome fish tank on the opposite wall 😉
As for getting in the writing mindset, what helps me most is routine. I write in the same spot every day, during the same general hours, and so when I go sit down in the dining room, my brain switches into ‘work mode’ with little effort!
Sometimes, to set the mood for a certain scene, I’ll also listen to music first 🙂
What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?
The most challenging part of the process for me has changed over time. It used to be revisions that I found daunting, though after plenty of experience, I now love them.
Now that I have a publisher and write under contract, I usually have to think up a synopsis for a story ahead of drafting. And since the most magical part of creating a new book used to be discovering things about the world and characters as I wrote, I’d say that currently, the toughest part of the process for me is plotting in advance. However, I figured out a way to help myself plan ahead while working on the sequel to Reign—the index card method.
I write out every scene I can think of on individual index cards—and not just scenes, but character building moments, pivotal moments in relationships, and so on—and then lay out all the index cards and try to put them into the order in which I think they belong. This allows me to see what’s missing from certain sections of the plot (ie: if I have three action scenes in a row, I’m clearly in need of a quiet, character-building moment in there somewhere), where I need to tie certain plot threads together better, and so on. Sometimes, my husband will take a peek and help me rearrange them. Having another pair of eyes is helpful even at that early stage!
Your characters are incredibly well-crafted, realistic, and easy to connect with. How do you typically approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?
My biggest tip for characters is to give each one a fully realized character arc (yes, even for the most minor of characters named in the book!) before starting to write the story. I found this really helped me make everyone in Reign distinct and more real. Before writing the book, I also spent time giving each character detailed backstory- even stuff that didn’t make it into the story in the end!
While reading Reign of the Fallen, I was really struck by how refreshing and unique every aspect of the story felt. How did you come up with the world, the magic system, and the overall role that necromancy played in Karthia?
Thank you! When I began world building for this story, I knew I needed a unique take on death and necromancers, since they’re a part of so many fantasy novels and I didn’t want mine to feel cliché! To do this, I went back to one of the earliest stories of necromancy– the Greek myth of Orpheus, a man who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the culture in Reign of the Fallen, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there. The spirit world in the book, known as the Deadlands, was also inspired by the Greek underworld! I took some of the themes from that world and put my own spin on it by having my Deadlands be a landscape that’s ever-shifting, ever-changing, unlike the spirits themselves. It seemed fitting, somehow. Same with my spirit world being full of flowers and beauty, things that grow the way the spirits long to still.
Since we are on the topic, Reign of the Fallen is such an emotionally intense story, and it’s clear that you put your heart and soul into every word. In what ways did that emotional intensity affect you while working on it?
Writing from Odessa’s POV, being so close to her thoughts throughout the tragedies that befall her during the novel was definitely a challenge at times! But the emotional intensity was actually…freeing, and healing, in a way. My grandmother was really sick while I was writing this book, and I was frustrated at some of my circumstances—getting to channel that negative energy into something positive through writing this story helped me tremendously.
How does it feel to know your stories are published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?
I won’t lie; it’s a little nerve-wracking knowing your work is out there to be judged, loved, hated, discussed, etc.! But the coolness factor completely outweighs that. It’s a joy to be able to share stories with the world. I feel very fortunate.
My favorite part of the experience is when people contact me and say that after reading Reign, they were inspired to work on their own book. Knowing I’ve inspired someone else to make their own art is the best feeling! I also love hearing from readers who identify with one or more of my characters, because they are such a part of me.
What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?
Patricia McKillip is probably my biggest influence. Her writing is the strongest and most beautiful I’ve ever read, and I wish I had a style as elegant and mysterious as hers. If you’re not familiar with her work, here are some titles I love: Ombria in Shadow, Winter Rose, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
I also have to give a shout-out here to the most recent book I read and loved to pieces: MAMMOTH by Jill Baguchinsky. It comes out this November (2018) from Turner Publishing, and just…do yourselves a favor, friends, and read this book!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Here’s my best advice for aspiring authors, broken into three parts:
- Get others to critique your work, but more importantly, offer to critique for others! Critique as much and often as you can. There’s nothing like finding the strengths and weaknesses in a variety of different authors’ work to teach you about how to edit your own stories.
- Read voraciously in the genre/category in which you want to publish. When you’re doing that, and you have a strong response to something- love it, or not so much- try to identify what it is you’re enjoying, or what’s not working for you about the story you’re reading. You’ll pick up things you might like to try in your own writing this way (for instance, maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new POV!), and will also identify things you may want to avoid (the things that don’t work for you as a reader).
- Seek community. In the online writing community, I’ve found like-minded people, learned more than I ever would have imagined possible, and made life-changing connections with wonderful authors and bloggers who I’m so happy to call friends. You have everything to gain by interacting with other book lovers online!
Thank you so much, Sarah! If you guys would like to check out my review of Reign of the Fallen, click the teacup below! And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, in the words of Sarah…do yourselves a favor and read Reign of the Fallen! 😀