For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!, Tales from the Asylum, Stuck in the Pages, Party with the Stars, To Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.
Sarah Cline, the author of The Gardens of Ash, chose an interview and so, we sat down for a chat!
Sarah Cline lives in San Diego, California, where she works as a writer and freelance editor. She has Masters’ degrees in English Literature, as well as Library and Information Science. Her writing has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Grim & Gilded, and a Jay Henge Publishing anthology, as well as in The Maine Review and Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Sword and Sorcery under pseudonyms.
Connect with Sarah Cline
The world of Azadia smolders in restless isolation, molten rivers splitting the earth, and curtains of ash dripping from a scarlet sky. The followers of Alrya – an empire that spans many worlds – believe Azadia to be the hell their faith condemns, but to Draden and his family, it is merely home.
Once a feared warlord, Draden now wishes only to maintain a fragile peace in his corner of Azadia. But Draden’s contentment ends swiftly when a Tear – a passageway between worlds – splits open in his kingdom, and a stranger comes tumbling through with the fury of Alrya licking at his heels. Draden decides to take the young man in, but Vessels – eerie creatures that appear to be women, wreathed in flowering overgrowth and puppeted by an unknown force – pursue Jak into Draden’s kingdom, Lucia. The ensuing battle forces Draden to acknowledge that, as much as he hates to admit it, he can’t face this threat alone.
As a new war breaks forth from an ancient rivalry, Alrya fights to appease a god that has fallen silent, while the rulers of Azadia form an uneasy alliance against the waves of Alryan forces closing in on them from distant worlds. But even as these tentative new allies help Draden resist invasion, the conflict draws out Draden’s own struggles with restless memories and the temptations of power.
Meanwhile, Jak, now fleeing Alrya’s endless war, seeks a new Tear in hopes that it will lead him to a place where he will be left in peace to study the stars. But his budding feelings for Edim and Tlia, companions met in his travels, and the revelation of his fascinating gift for Blood Craft, a forbidden magic of Azadia, complicate Jak’s desire to leave the war-wracked world.
Together with Sarien, a famous hero who has put her own adventures on hold to help her half-brother defend Lucia, and Epomina, a mercenary seeking the elusive magic of Storm Craft in a world where strength is all that stands between her and a bloody end, Draden and his allies make their stand.
The Gardens of Ash is the first entry in an epic of gothic fantasy.
Welcome to the Asylum, Sarah! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice, and tell us something about yourself that’s not in your bio!
Hello! In addition to being a writer, I’ve been a librarian, city worker for the Parks and Rec department, barista, teaching assistant, freelance editor, and occasional food delivery minion. But writing is the passion I intend to pursue for the rest of my life.
Welcome to SPFBO! Is this your first time in the competition? If yes, how did you learn about it? What are your expectations/experiences so far? How do you plan to cope with the stress/waiting? If this isn’t your first time, what advice would you give to first-timers? How did the competition treat you so far?
This is my first time in the competition. I learned about it from a youtuber who had previously been a judge for the competition. I didn’t have a book ready to self-publish yet when I first started watching her videos, but knew it was something I wanted to try in the future. I’m coping with the wait by working on new projects, and editing sequels to “The Gardens of Ash.” The best part of the competition so far has been discovering so many other self-published fantasy authors and their books!
Have you read any other books that entered into SPFBO9? Or are there any that caught your attention?
There are certainly a few SPFBO entries that have caught my eye this year. As a lover of Norse mythology and Norse-inspired fantasy, “The Last Fang of God,” by Ryan Kirk joined my to-read list as soon as I saw its beautiful cover, followed quickly by “The Ring Breaker,” by Jean Gill.
Tell us about your self-publishing journey! Why did you decide to take this path? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of it? What advice would you give to someone who is considering to self-publish?
I chose to self-publish “The Gardens of Ash” because I decided it might be too niche for the current publishing market, and self-publishing would allow me to put it out there for the reading public in the way I wanted to. My favorite aspect of self-publishing is the incredible degree of control and self-sufficiency it allows the writer. But my least favorite aspect of self-publishing is that the burden of marketing falls completely on the writer. I don’t consider myself a good marketer, so that aspect of self-publishing is challenging. My advice to anyone considering self-publishing is to not put your work out there until it’s been thoroughly edited, and have a plan for what the marketing of your book is going to look like, and what steps you’re going to take to find and appeal to your ideal audience.
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?
All of the above and more! I find inspiration in many different things; I do listen to music for inspiration – metal is great for planning out battle scenes – but reading the work of great authors inspires me to work harder on my own writing.
Is THE GARDENS OF ASH your debut novel? If yes, is there anything you’ll do differently with your next book? What were the biggest lessons during the process? If not, was your approach to this novel different to any previous one? Has it gotten easier or harder to write books?
“The Gardens of Ash” is my debut novel. It’s actually a book that I wrote twice – once, in high school and college, when I was still learning the basics of writing and storytelling, and again, years later, when I decided that I needed to take some time to study the structure of plot, character arcs, and succinct prose before trying again. Writing the book twice was probably doing it the hard way, but it also forced me to learn a lot in the process. The biggest lesson I learned from this book was the importance of integrating the main character’s development with the plot; plot is not separate from character arc, one is inherently interwoven with the other. Over time, it’s gotten easier for me to write books, but each project is different. Some flow smoothly from beginning to end, others, no matter how well-planned, need some coaxing to come together. But with practice, I’ve gotten better at integrating elements of craft with the sheer love of fantasy and imagination.
What was the main inspiration for the story? Which aspect of the book was the most challenging to write and why?
For “The Sagas of the Fallen Earth,” of which “The Gardens of Ash” is the first book, I was inspired by the strange and fascinating demons, angels, monsters, and landscapes found in Medieval European art, such as that of the painter Hieronymus Bosch. The most challenging part of writing this book was writing it for the second time from scratch, and trying to incorporate everything I’d learned from studying writing craft since writing the first version of the book, because I really wanted to do it right the second time around.
Which character of your book do you identify with the most and why? Who would you like to live with in an asylum?
Sarien would be the most fun to live with for sure, in an asylum or anywhere else, really. She’d find a way to get drunk, escape the asylum, and sober up halfway through her next adventure. But the character I identify with most is probably the main character, Draden. He’s very introverted and reclusive, and never learned to hide it. As an introvert, I can’t help but sympathize.
Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words?
Thanks to Queen’s Book Asylum and all the bloggers participating in SPFBO9 for being part of this unique competition, and good luck to all of this year’s writers!
Grab a copy of The Gardens of Ash by Sarah Cline!
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