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Author Interview: Sara King

I first was introduced to Sara King’s writing when I happened upon a draft her novel Outer Bounds on a writing review site that we both frequent. I wrote an editorial review of the first chapter of her book and asked if she would send me the rest so I could find out what would happen next. We’ve stayed in touch via facebook ever since. With her latest novel about to drop on Amazon, I thought it a good time to introduce this intrepid author to you here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Sara KingMy name is Sara King. Really. And no, I’m not related to Stephen King, though his writing was a very strong influence on me in my early years. I’m a 29-year-old born and raised Alaskan, who’s known since she was a toddler that she was going to be a writer when she grew up. Unlike all the other would-be astronauts, paleontologists, and fish biologists out there, no one really managed to dissuade me from that particular hare-brained notion, so here I am. To give you an example of how stubborn and single-minded I’ve been about the whole writing affair, when I was explaining to my agent that I wanted to release one of my series of books out of order, he laughed and blinked at me and said, “You’re not George Lucas, Sara.” And the first thing that flashed into my mind? “YET!!”

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first documented story when I was 4. I know, because my grandmother dated Sammy the Snake and stuck it in a file folder in her dresser, about six pages long, with plenty of illustrated curly-cues of snakes that looked like twisty wads of poop. I say my first ‘documented’ because I wrote more before that, including Bob the Brontosaurus, which I lovingly stapled together while destroying my mother’s favorite stapler by standing on it when regular means would not suffice, but I’m afraid that my mother’s filing habits are not as complete, and Bob is probably a goner.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As soon as I decided that’s what I was going to be. I knew as a really young kid that I had to be an entertainer of some sort, and looking back, I judged all the positives and negatives of each entertainment profession with kind of creepily-mature decision-making skills. Writing, I decided, had the best collection of traits that I was looking for. It meant I could work from home—any home I wanted, anywhere—it had great opportunities for making a buck, it had huge pre-existing networks in which I could disseminate my ideas, it left me with no huge need to be under intense public scrutiny, and it was something I could basically teach myself to do. I chose writing over art because I felt writing had a bigger chance of making more money and going viral. This all when I was 3 or 4. From that point on, I started teaching myself to write, in earnest.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Alaskan Fury is about a Fury who, 3000 years ago, was told by her Lord to go kill a djinni. The Fury won the duel (think a sword-slinging, super-powered Batman going up against Shakespeare) and the djinni, hoping to prolong his life, submitted, binding himself to her for 3 wishes. The Fury raised her sword to kill him anyway, and, out of desperation, realizing she wasn’t going to take his bribe, the djinni cursed her never to commit violence (a Fury’s stock-in-trade). The book starts with 3000 years of bitterness and despair from their predicament already tainting their every action. It begins when the two of them finally hit rock-bottom, and is about the love story that develops from there.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Actually, yes. I am one of those freakish authors that subscribes fully to the Butterfly Effect. (i.e. The Pull It Out Of Your Ass Syndrome) This wreaks hell with my ability to edit or plot out a story, but it draws people along like nobody’s business. I’d say 1/100 of the authors I know write this way. Stephen King is a perfect example of a writer who writes like this. Basically, the characters will lead you along from beginning to end, so that you never get bored, but the plot doesn’t have perfect arcs and there are random tangents. I have always—ALWAYS—found myself unable to write based on a plot outline. I always take the tangents, always. For years, I agonized over it, but still couldn’t stop myself, even after I’d spent weeks on an outline…I’d throw it all away to take a single interesting tangent in the first 20 minutes because my characters said or did something that was unexpected. So, after about 5 years of struggling to write based on what I was told I had to do, I finally just gave in to that random-ass thrill-seeker part of me and stopped trying to conform. That was when I was 11. Immediately after, I finished my first novel at the age of 12. I think it was 145k words, or something like that, and you can imagine that I thought it was the cat’s meow. (shudder)

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Alaskan Fury takes place in (gasp!) Alaska. I was born and raised here, so I can get pretty detailed without someone screaming ‘hack.’ The characters are me. I’ll blatantly admit it. I pick a facet of myself and channel that baby onto paper, then switch POVs and pick another one. Though I often use what I have observed of other people in my writing, in Fury, it’s pretty much all me except for the dragon. The dragon was based off of my fiancé and his curious—but cute!!—hoarding instinct. Anything valuable or shiny is fair game.

What authors have most influenced your life?

I’m going to revise your question a bit to ask which ‘storytellers’ have most influenced my life, because I spent a great portion of my life (and still do!) analyzing great storytellers and a great story isn’t just told via books. So here goes, in no particular order: Tom Brion, George Lucas, Joss Whedon, Anne McCaffery, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, George R. R. Martin. You guys, I bow to you. Tom Brion is my grandfather, who can spin a tale that holds an entire room enraptured, from whom I literally learned all the basics of good storytelling as I sat on his knee, listening to him tell tales of his misadventures in Alaska beginning when I was a wee ‘human bean.’ Oh, and I would totally grovel at Martin’s feet, if he would let me. Arya is my favorite character of all time, followed closely by Jaime. Now that man can write…

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My fiancé, David MacKey, did the cover. He’s normally a comic illustrator, but I kind of drafted him for this purpose because I love his art and I don’t mind being different. As to how I selected him, he basically selected me. The poor guy read my sci-fi novel Outer Bounds by random accident on the internet, felt compelled to look me up, had a little mini-freakout session with some of his friends when he realized I was single, then politely asked me if I’d like to chat. I think I told him to screw off a few times, but he was persistent…

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Your first novel is going to suck. Keep writing. Then write more. Then write some more. And then more. Do NOT get stuck on your first novel, thinking that’s going to be the best thing you ever write. It will be, bar none, your WORST. Keep analyzing your style and comparing it to what you like about other authors. Figure out how it ticks, then replicate it. Don’t concern yourself overly much with books on how to write. Most of them aren’t written by writers. Use your gut instinct as a READER to tell you what’s going to go over well as a WRITER, and then let all the egg-heads who write their 101 Simple Steps On How To Write The Perfect Novel In 5 Days—written by, I might add, people whose name you’ve never heard of—sell their books to the people who are insecure enough to think they need them. Storytelling is instinctive. You can teach yourself, esp. if you use a batch of first-readers to ‘shotgun’ their criticisms of your work and then analyze that, too. Clusters of comments citing the same problem generally means it’s something you need to address. If it’s a single comment here or there, it’s probably an outlier, so ignore it. Probably around book 4 or 5, you’re going to really start getting the hang of things.

Basically, with writing, everybody thinks they’re an expert, but it is my firm belief that the absolute best people you can get to help you with your work are people who hate to write, but love to read, and love to read the same types of books that you like to write. New writers are often very good at quoting the ‘rules’ without really looking much deeper and seeing the Grand Picture, and are hyper-critical and often wrong. When you’re looking for critiques, stick to readers who don’t write. You’ll get a better gut-instinct reaction, versus an ‘I read this’ reaction. Just because somebody with a couple of letters behind their name put one of their ideas down in a book does not mean it’s a good idea, but new writers, who are desperately seeking the Gospel that will transform their writing overnight into a huge success with little effort on their part, don’t have the confidence or experience to see that. That said, read Stephen King’s On Writing. You’ll love it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I had a world-famous agent for about 4 years, after which, I broke off and decided to do my own thing. Edging your way into the traditional publishing system right now is ridiculously difficult if you’re a new author. Therefore, I’m stepping into the bold new world of e-publishing all on my lonesome, but I expect to be a great success. If romance isn’t really your thing, keep an eye out for my sci-fi and fantasy series. I’ve had them written for years, but they’ve been sitting on my hard-drive for much too long, languishing as I waited for some traditional editor to take notice. I’m finally to the point where, since I know that I can make a decent living at this without waiting around with my thumb up my ass for some editor to notice me, I’m going to start publishing my own stories on Amazon. If you’d like to stay updated on this utterly brazen—and some say foolhardy—endeavor, you can find me on Facebook or Email Me. My first book, Alaskan Fire, came out at the end of January, and it currently has 18 5-star reviews. In my opinion, Alaskan Fury is even better, by far.

Alaska Fury Book CoverSara King was four years old when she wrote her first short story. Seventeen years later, she is currently working on her 16th book, the third novel in the Guardians of the First Realm Alaskan Paranormal world.  Sara lives in Alaska with her soul mate and biggest fan, David. 
Cover art by: David MacKey
Alaskan Fire: Amazon Kindle Store (currently at 18 5-star reviews!!)
Alaskan Fury: Amazon Kindle Store

Book Review: Beat to Quarters

Book Name: Beat To Quarters
Author: C.S. Forester
First Published: 1937

C.S. Forester was a former medical student who wished to become a writer. In 1927, he bought several volumes of The Naval Chronicle, that detailed the professional topics of the Royal Navy during the time of the conflict with Napoleon. Voyaging on a small freighter, he traveled from California to Central America and spent his time reading these books, soaking up all the articles on strategy, gunnery, and seamanship by professional seamen of that time period. By the time that his travels brought him back to England, Forester had plotted his famous novel about the mission of Horatio Hornblower, Beat to Quarters. It would publish in 1937 and would soon be followed by two more books, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours. In 1939, all three would appear together in one volume as Captain Horatio Hornblower. In 1951, Beat to Quarters would be the source material for the movie Horatio Hornblower starring Gregory Peck.

The novel is about a secret mission to South America by 37 year old Captain Horatio Hornblower. The Admiralty has ordered the thirty-six-gun HMS Lydia and her captain to support a Spanish rebel in order to disrupt the Spanish naval presence in the area. This presence takes the form of a fifty gun ship of the line known as Natividad. Hornblower is ordered “to take, sink, burn or destroy” this vessel that vastly outguns his own ship. The captain soon discovers that the Spanish noble he was sent to support has lost his mind. El Supremo, as he calls himself, believes he is a god and will tolerate nothing but absolute obedience to his will.

Captain Hornblower manages to negate the situation of being allied with a madman and sets out to seek and destroy the Natividad. The Lydia faces this superior ship twice, once in a smartly done night action and a second battle at sea with the two ships exchanging broadsides in a battle to the death.

Weary of battle, Hornblower prepares to return to England. Stopping in Panama for supplies, he is persuaded to take on a passenger for transport, a Lady Barbara Wellesley. Finding the lady to be an excellent whist player and charming companion, the married captain suddenly finds himself engaged in an altogether different kind of battle, one that could sink his heart.

I fell in love years ago with the Horatio Hornblower saga when A&E created its mini-series based on the book series. Strangely, the mini-series did not cover what is considered the defining novel of the saga which is the first book written by Forester, Beat to Quarters. When I set about reading the books, I started with this one and then read A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours. After the main trilogy is read, the books can be consumed in any order. Most of the stories first appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post before becoming novels, which accounts for their stand alone quality. Beat to Quarters is my favorite of the Hornblower saga and should not be missed. It will turn you into a true fan of historical fiction.

Where to find the Book:

You can find Beat to Quarters by C.S. Forester on GoodReads.

Book Review: Persuasion

Book Name: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
First Published: 1818

Jane Austen was forty years old when she penned her last complete novel, Persuasion. Her health was failing as she wrote and she would die at the young age of 41 before this novel would see print. Persuasion was bundled together with an earlier novel, Northanger Abby, and would prove to be her biggest bestseller. It was also the first of her novels to be published under her real name. Previously, all her novels had been written by the pen name “a lady”. While Persuasion lacks some of the polish of her earlier works due to the little time she had left to revise it to perfection, there are many who claim that it is her finest novel and most mature work of all. Persuasion has not been out of print for at least 150 years and is considered in the public domain.

Until this novel, Austen had always taken as her heroine a young inexperienced woman, falling in love for the first time. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot is twenty-seven years old, a spinster with common sense and decency, but with a beaten spirit. For her, love is something that belongs to her past, not the present. Before the novel opens, Anne is briefly engaged to marry a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded to break off the understanding by her god-mother for reasons of prudence. She has spent the last eight years regretting this decision, and she does not expect to discover love again.

At the opening of the novel, Sir Walter Elliot, a vain and imprudent baronet, must rent his country house and move himself and his family to Bath to pay off his debts. Where once he and his three daughters were rich and respected, now they are poor and the subject of ridicule. His new tenants are Admiral Croft and his wife, Captain Wentworth’s sister. The pair move into Anne’s former home and invite Wentworth to join them. The tables have turned on the fortunes of Captain Wentworth, where once he was a poor navel officer with dubious prospects, now he is wealthy and an eligible bachelor. Being paid off by the navy, he is of a mind to settle down with the “first woman between 15 and 30” to catch his eye. Anyone, that is, except for Anne Elliot, the woman who had broken his heart.

Anne remains in the area to care for her ill sister, Mary Musgrove and tend to her nephews. Time has not been kind to Anne and she has become wane and thin, exhaustion taking its toll on her appearance. Anne and Captain Wentworth meet again due to proximity. The captain treats Anne with cool formality as he flirts with Mary’s two sister-in-laws. The younger women hero-worship Wentworth as they vie for his attentions, each hoping to capture his heart. At the same time, Anne notices small gestures of kindness in Wentworth’s behavior toward her, as if he can not bear to see her in discomfort, gestures that pull the spinster into a private mix of hopeless pleasure and pain, as Anne realizes that she still loves the captain.

During a two-day visit to the village of Lyme, the Musgroves and Anne meet the naval friends of Captain Wentworth and are charmed by their warmth and hospitality. Released from her obligations and refreshed by the sea air, Anne begins to regain some of her youthful complexion. This is noticed by not only Wentworth, but she is admired by other gentlemen in the village. The party’s visit is brought short by an accident on the Cobb and it is Anne’s common sense that saves the day.

After the visit to Lyme, Anne rejoins her father and elder sister in Bath, convinced that Captain Wentworth is to marry another woman. She takes the addresses of her cousin, William Elliot more seriously as she tries to move on with her life. Bath’s society paint the two as all but engaged. Then word comes that Wentworth and his intended have parted and she finds that the captain has suddenly arrived in Bath. Anne is overjoyed that this might mean she has a second chance at happiness with her captain, but how is she to let him know that he still is in her heart and that she has not accepted William Elliot’s offer of marriage? Would the captain risk making a second offer to her after she had refused him all those years ago?

Attempting to branch out my reading habits from a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy novels, I found a list of classic literature that I decided to use to guide my choice of novels from the local library. One of the authors on this list was Jane Austen. I could not decide which of her novels to begin with and because Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were not available in the public library, I picked up Persuasion to be the first to cross off my list of recommended Austen classics. Opening the book, I found myself lost in a world of loneliness, sadness and of the hope of a second chance, not only by this quiet young woman, but by a dashing naval captain who was all to human in his hurt and memories of the past. I not only found myself in sympathy with Anne Elliot, but I was fascinated by the culture of the time. The breaking down of the tradition English class system, the elevation of men based on their merits instead of their birth, and the pride that the English people had in their navy. Persuasion reads today as a historical novel with contemporary overtones although it was penned during the Regency period itself. The characters are timeless and the situations as believable today as they were over 200 years ago. I’ve gone on to read all of Austen’s novels, but Persuasion remains my favorite of all her works and to my belief, is the most romantic of them all.

Persuasion Book CoverYou may find Persuasion at Project Gutenberg and in your local library.

Book Review: A Princess of Mars

Book Name: A Princess of Mars
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
First Published: 1912
Original Title: Under the Moons of Mars

In 1911, thirty-five year old Edgar Rice Burroughs suffered a dilemma. His business ventures had failed miserably and he needed more income to support his wife and two children. Being a fan of serial novels, he often told himself that he could write a better story than what he saw published in those pages. As he worked at his brother’s stationery company, he penned a novel on the company pads during his off-hours, telling no one but his wife about it. In the end, he was too embarrassed by the tale to put his name on the manuscript.

The All-Story magazine bought his first story as a six part serial in 1912 and named it Under the Moons of Mars. Due to the typesetter believing that the author’s pen name “Normal Bean” was a typo, the author was listed as “Norman Bean”. The humble serial would become the inspiration of a new sub-genre in science fantasy, the planetary romance. Stories by Burroughs became popular with the public quickly and by 1914 two of his serials were re-printed as novels. His Tarzan of the Apes series was novelized first, followed by his first serial, renamed A Princess of Mars. The Barsoom series featuring John Carter of Mars was born. The novels have since not been out of print for the last 100 years.

A Princess of Mars is the fictional travelogue of Captain John Carter, a Confederate soldier who prospects for gold in the American Southwest after the civil war. After an attack by Apaches, he is mysterious transported to the planet Mars. There on Barsoom, as the planet is known to the natives, he shows great physical prowess as the lighter gravity of the red planet allows him to leap about to the amazement of the four-armed, and tusked men known as Thrak. His skills in battle become renown to all Barsoomians as he gradually battles his way to the top of their society. Driving John Carter to fight is his love for the beautiful princess, Dejah Thoris. The captain spends much of the novel in pursuit of and in rescuing the princess as she is captured by various lustful villains.

I first discovered A Princess of Mars during my early teens at the public library. It was a well-worn, earmarked copy with a four-armed green giant battling a smaller, sword wielding man on the cover. Despite the novel having been written at least half a century before I was born, I was pulled in by the myriad of battling cultures, the intriguing scientific imaginings, and the emergence of love and friendship overcoming the hatred that drove all these different colored people of Mars.

John Carter is a charming narrator in this tale filled with anti-gravity cars, majestic city-states, giant riding thoats, and barbarians of many races. A southern gentleman of the old school, I found his way of offering the hand of friendship to the Barsoomians, a pleasant contrast to the way men are often portrayed in present day. He did not shirk from the violence around him and had the fighting skills to hold his own, yet through it all there was a sense of knowing that things did not need to be this way. His spreading of the concept of peace to the Barsoomians put me to mind of how people must have felt during the First World War, which started the same year that this novel became popular, when their world had gone insane with unheard of violence and war on a scale previously unknown, similar to the fighting that was protrayed on Barsoom. The voice of reason in John Carter was a counterpoint to those feelings that the First World War must have created and struck a chord with readers of his day.

I found the feisty, far from helpless, Dejah Thoris to be intriguing. Women from that era of writing normally did not have such spunk and did not look at the hero with equality as she did. While she does spend much of the novel being captured by powerful villains, she shows herself to be a woman of principle, every bit as much a creature to duty and honor as the hero. I can understand why Dejah Thoris has captured the hearts of so many generations of young men.

I hope you’ll consider reading A Princess of Mars and the rest of the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. You can find the ebook version for free at Project Gutenberg, or check it out at your local library.