Name: Sarah Jane Higbee
Where are you from:
I was born in Ringwood, on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire in southern England. I’m now lucky enough to live right on the south coast at Littlehampton just a five-minute drive away from the beach.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I published my first novel, Running Out of Space, Book 1 of the Sunblinded trilogy – a new adult, space opera adventure on 11th October and I’m planning to release the sequel, Dying for Space in December.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t write. I was always scribbling long, rambling stories as a child and knew there would be a time when I’d write a book. Once I remarried, I started reading and writing again and after Himself introduced me to his library of science fiction and fantasy books, I was so excited the words poured from the tips of my fingers. I couldn’t have stopped if I’d wanted to…
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I started getting my short stories and poems accepted for publication in a number of ezines and print magazines, which was quite a long time ago, now.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Oh yes. I’m one of those Marmite writers – you either really like my writing style or you don’t. My writing voice is quite distinctive, although I have housetrained it somewhat to ensure my work is more readable. The writing group I belong to has been brilliant at helping me achieve this.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Elizabeth, my protagonist, is struggling to find her place in a culture where she desperately wants to be a serving officer, while those around can’t get past the fact that she is a fertile young woman. So she tries to escape – and as it is set in space, I thought the title both established the genre and gives a sense of desperation.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
This book is primarily a story to entertain. But it is also something of an exploration of family dynamics – it is the oldest human social structure of all. No one has come up with anything better, but it is still problematical when parents don’t get sufficient support.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As a teacher I came into contact with children whose family were too overwhelmed to sufficiently care. This gave me the emotional backdrop for Elizabeth, who is very keen to succeed – a rather blinkered over-achiever, who nonetheless is also loyal, persistent and a strong, if rather savage, moral code. She is a blend of various people I’ve met throughout my life – as well as having some aspects of my own character, I think. As for the experiences – given this is a space opera including a shuttle crash, a kidnap attempt and a shoot-out in the family home, I can safely say those all were entirely imagined.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have a number of go-to authors whose work I love – but the one I most deeply respect is Jo Walton. I’ve just completed her Tir Tanagiri duology and once again, she has blown me away with the sheer class and completeness of her worldbuilding and the ease with which I am transported into this amazing Arthurian world. Last year I completed her Thessaly trilogy, which was exploring the precepts in Plato’s The Republic, which probably sounds terribly dry, but isn’t. I would recommend people start with her Victorian take on dragons in Tooth and Claw. She is clever and witty with a clean writing style that pulls you into her worlds before you even know it. I think she is one of the greatest speculative fiction writers alive today and should be a lot better known.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My Creative Writing class that I joined in some despair which I hit a brick wall with writing my third novel. This was many years ago and Jan Henley, the tutor – aka best-selling author Rosanna Ley – helped me realise that writing is a craft that I needed to master if I wanted to make my books readable. I now have the huge privilege of teaching that class – and have done so for the past nine years.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The wonderful Janet Sked designed the covers. I saw the spacescape for Running Out of Space on her website and fell in love with it. And she has since designed the covers for the next two books, Dying for Space and Breathing Space which I’m thrilled about.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
In a perfect world, I’d love Maisy Williams who plays Arya Stark in Game of Thrones to play Elizabeth Wright, my protagonist. I think she has just the right mix of toughness and vulnerability to do a magnificent job.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Continue writing that first draft – don’t keep stopping and returning to the beginning or you’ll never finish it. If you have any alterations or notes, either make them in the margins of a print copy, or use TrackChanges to note down your edits as you write.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for picking it up and giving it a go. I hope you enjoy it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. I loved his Gone-Away World and although this is very different, it’s turning out to be a very enjoyable, mind-stretching read.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
As I’ve mentioned, I have a blog where I mostly review books as reading is my major passion, other than writing. It’s great fun as book bloggers are a delightful bunch of folks.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love The Big Bang Theory, Strictly Come Dancing and Game of Thrones. Not only is GoT a cracking story, the performances are all extraordinarily good.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I really enjoy avocado and cannot imagine ever getting sick of it. Favourite colour to wear – lilac/purple, while my home is decorated in yellows and peach – sunshine colours. As for music – I have a wide-ranging taste but Kate Bush is my favourite female artist.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d loved to have learnt to paint and draw – but I simply don’t have time. Too many books to write…
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website – www.sjhigbee.com
My blog – Brainfluff at https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com
Talk to me on Twitter – @sjhigbee
Talk to me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sjhigbeeauthor
Running Out of Space on Amazon – http://amzn.eu/gpdW0cv