Hi, Ray, my name is Sandra Hurst and I’m a YA Fantasy author, thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers today!
What inspired you to write your debut novel, “Y’keta - The Sky Road Trilogy”?
The central question in Y’keta is about identity. Is Y’keta willing to give up his identity to please his father? Is he willing to risk being honest about himself, even though he may lose everything he has grown to love.
The inspiration for this came out of two unconnected events about four years ago, the first was a casual comment made by a relative on the reactions she dealt with when she came out as LGBTQ in the early 80’s, the other was a long night sitting beside a campfire in Grande Cache, Alberta watching the Northern Lights dance over the horizon.
Why did you choose the path of Self-Publishing?
My decision to self publish was driven by a need to put a physical copy of the book in my dad’s hands for his 90th birthday. I think that the learning curve for either type of publishing is terribly steep. Traditional publishing takes time, patience and a degree of luck to hit the right literary agent at the right time. Independent publishing takes all of that plus a substantial cash investment in editors, cover artists, printers etc. Social media is also crucial to an indie author, as word of mouth is often the only marketing tool we have access to.
Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue Self-Publishing?
If you are looking to self-publish I would suggest a few things:
Research – study the process from the rules and regulations of the great god ‘Zon to the trade magazines and websites that track trends in everything from genre to cover design.
Reach-out – talk to authors who are self published. Find a range of opinion and experience – from the wildly successful, to those who are slow starters, to those who tried and quit. There are things to learn from all of them.
Reach in – Self publishing is all about control. Without a literary agent or publishing house every decision falls flat on your head – it can be scary as hell. But you can do it, find your people, make contacts with the sales industry (book stores, book clubs, etc.) and remember – you wrote a freakin book! Compared to that, this stuff is all just admin.
Remember – That your first book is all about finding an audience for your work. Put it out there and let it simmer, don’t expect to be receiving nominations for the Giller awards or paychecks from Amazon. That won’t happen, at least not right away. Just write the best that’s in you, get it professionally edited, rewrite it, hire an awesome cover artist and a printer, and then release your first book-baby to the world.
What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?
When I was little, we had a burgundy set of children’s encyclopaedias and I would pick out stories and poems from them to put on performances in the living room, insisting that my family listen to the stories and legends that I had read. I grew up on the stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and the Fae. What else could I ever be?
I write because the words are my way of exploring a world I can’t see. I’m a mythmaker, there is nothing that gives me more creative juice than asking a question and then building a world to find the answer. Myths and fantasy give us the opportunity to look at ourselves in new and often unusual ways, to play a huge game of ‘what if’ and see where the answers will fall.
My mind isnt healthy if I’m not writing, it really isn’t a choice for me.
Where’s your favorite space to write?
I’m most creative at night, when the whirlwind I call a mind has quieted down for the day. I put some music on and let my world go and step into Y’keta’s world. My family learned early that ‘I’ll be there soon’ really meant “I’ll see you in the morning.” At least 75% of the book was written between midnight and 5am.
Other great creative places for me are restaurants like Denny’s, or Tim Horton’s. I often go to grab a coffee, plug in my tablet, hide behind my earphones and just blend into the crowds.
What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?
Music – playlist according to the scene or world I need to be in.
Tea – lots of tea!
Pen and paper
How many hours a day do you write?
I try to write at least an hour a day, but can go as high as four or five hours if I get on a roll. That’s when ‘I’ll be in bed soon’ becomes a code word for ‘talk to me tomorrow.’
In terms of Outlining are you Plotter, a Pantser or a Plantser?
I’m definitely a Pantser. I tend to concentrate on writing specific scenes in no particular order, then at the end I string all the pearls together and start polishing.
Because I have a pretty Type-A personality, I’m always curious about other peoples scheduling methods. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?
I live and die by my Outlook Calendar. Keeping the balance between my work schedule, writing deadlines, reviews promised and signing appointments takes more than my addled brain can manage. For writing goals and projects, I also lean on Scrivener’s corkboard feature.
What is your favorite part about the writing process?
I love worldbuilding! Setting the background and ‘feel’ of a world lets me really aware of what the characters experience, and why they make the decisions they do, both in the story and just living as a part of the culture.
What is your least favorite part about the writing process?
While I’m not awful at the technical aspects of English, I do find it hard to clinically review my own work. I’ve seen the words so many times that I see what should be there, rather than what is on the page. This is why my editor is worth her weight in Toblerone!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It took two years to write Y’keta and a further 9 months for editing, re-writes, and cover design etc. I can’t say this is average, since Y’keta is the only full-length novel I’ve done, as yet.
What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?
Handling my own nature is the hardest part of writing for me. I tend to be very distractible and moderately obsessive. There is always that one more piece of research, a new book to read, and, Oh Look! I got a Facebook mention. My mind will bounce to anything new and shiny and sometimes when it lands on a topic I find it hard to let go and get back to the writing. There is a definite benefit to this type of mind though, once I start writing and the scenes are flying, I will keep going until someone pulls me out.
What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?
Writing is a challenge, writing as a full-time working person and also full-time parent is like juggling dynamite while riding a unicycle. I am very fortunate to have a great deal of support from my husband and son, even so there are times when my mind is screaming to write but the quiet time just doesn’t exist. To try and work around this I’ve started having ‘dates’ with myself once a week. I go to Denny’s or Tim Hortons and drink coffee for a few hours to let my mind settle into writing mode.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I like to shake things up when I’m struggling for ideas or in a slump. I will sometimes take a side character and re-write a scene from their point of view. It helps me see with new eyes and often gives me the next question that I need to ask or the next move I need to make. Another good trick is to pick the one thing that my character would really hate to have happen, and make it so. Are they afraid of water? Then put them on a boat and sink it!
Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
While getting myself into the headspace to write can be difficult, I find writing itself exhilarating. After two or three hours of writing I end up full of energy and can keep going till I drop, unless someone puts the breaks on for me.
Best piece of advice for other writers?
Writing can be a lonely addiction. Find a group of likeminded scribblers. Join a writing group, attend a con. It will help more than you can imagine just to know that you are not the only one with voices in your head.
What is your favorite quote about writing?
I ran into this quote from Don DeLillo while listening to a lecture on sentence structure (of all things)
“… a sentence is the cell beyond which the life of a book cannot be traced.”
It just floored me and made me look at my work in a different way. Who writes sentences like that for a textbook?
Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
I love authors who can make words dance and sentences MEAN things. This has led me to authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, and Neil Gaiman. I would give one of my ovaries (not so dramatic a thing since at 54 those parts are hardly crucial) to sit down with either of these gentlemen, or even better their writing notes, for an afternoon!
What are you currently working on now?
That's a dangerous thing to ask a writer. *deep breath* ...
A romance novella - Peace Out- due out June 2018
Book 2 in the Sky Road-due out in Fall 2018
A Sky Road Novella - D'vhan
A sci-fi space opera- defending the powerless against a corrupt galactic government.
A fantasy set in a dying world that even it’s own god’s have forsaken
A chapbook of poetry
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