Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, my name is Sandra Hurst and I’m a Sci/fi – Fantasy author, thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers today! I’m 31 years old with 25 years of experience (okay I’m 56).
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Nottingham England and moved to northern Canada when I was 8 years old.
Fiona: Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband and son, both of whom I love dearly, and have put up for sale on e-bay when their behaviour demanded it. My day to day life is a balance between my outside life as a paralegal counsellor and my inner life as an author/poet. In between writing projects, I work on improving my craft, study the Cree Language and ancient history, write book reviews, try to keep my blog current, and study mythologies from around the world.
If there is one thing I would say was unique or quirky about me it would be my breadth of interests, I’m a bit of a Hermione, a collector of odd facts and knowledge about anything from the Kaiju culture of manga Japan, to Shakespeare, to Opera, or the band Nightwish. There isnt much that I won’t listen to, read, learn about and find value in.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
2019 was a busy year for me. The second book in the Sky Road Trilogy, Guardian, was published in the spring, I attended When Words Collide, a Calgary Readercon in the summer, and I am now working on the final book, Lifebinder, which I am at releasing in the spring of 2020.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was little, we had a burgundy set of children’s encyclopedias 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.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Honestly, I think I’ve always been a writer. My parents kept birthday cards from when I was 9 or 10 years old and in every one I had written a story, not just ‘happy birthday.’ In 2015 I started taking classes at the Alexandra Writer’s Centre Society in Calgary. Taking those first steps to take the ‘work’ of writing seriously is when I started to feel like I could call myself a real writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first novel, Exile, came out of two unconnected events about four years ago, the first was an off the cuff 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.
Myths give us a way to interpret the world past our normal experience. To ask questions and explore answers in a larger-than-life game of ‘what if.’ In Exile, the question 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?
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I decided on the title of the book to reflect the journey that Y’keta goes through in the story, starting with his exile from his own people, his fight for a new identity, and eventually his choice between the old life and the new.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Hmm. That’s a difficult question since it’s my voice. I think that question would be more appropriately asked of someone who has read my work. It’s hard to describe yourself without being either self-congratulatory or somewhat delusional. If I had to say something about my own style, I think I would call it lyrical. I was a poet long before I accepted the challenge of writing prose. I would compare my style to current writers I think I would say that it is somewhat like early work by Guy Gavriel Kay or Neil Gaiman, although I think I smell the self-delusion rising on that one.
I believe that every genre has its own challenges. I find that writing in a mythical fantasy or science fiction genre can be difficult because there is so much great fiction out there that finding a really new story or a new twist on a favourite can be difficult.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My books focus on real people in high fantasy situations. You’ll find a lot of realism in the people I write, but magic in the worlds they inhabit. One of the characters in my second book “Guardian” is based on my younger brother Tony. Also, there is a character in my Sky Road Trilogy that is very much ‘me.’ I’ll leave it to the readers to figure out which one.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
While I have done a great deal of research for my books—on everything from how long it takes to burn a dead body to the effects of PTSD on young adults—I have yet to travel to the Sky Road to find out if Y’keta can really fly.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers were done by the amazing Amy Queau of Q-Design www.qcoverdesign.com
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think the main message in the Sky Road Trilogy circles around the ideas of identity and control. It is never too late to recreate yourself, to take an old dream and make it new, or to follow a new dream to the stars, but YOU have to do it. No one can make that journey for you.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
One new author whose book caught my interest is Kelsey Rae Barthel, her book, Beyond the Code,is a bright addition to the sword-and-sorcery fantasy genre.
My favourite writers are Guy Gavriel Kay, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Patricia Kenneally Morrison. There are several common threads in all their books, the language is beautifully handled, nuanced, and evocative, the characters are realistic and believable, and the worldbuilding is deep and well thought out.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have been very fortunate in my development as a writer. The Alexandra Writers Society Centre started me on the path of learning the craft behind writing and has been a constant source of support and the people at When Words Collide, a Readercon, in Calgary have shown me over and over that there is still so much to learn and so many who are willing to teach.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m not sure. Writing is definitely a vocation more than a career, it takes much more heart, blood, and coffee than my 9-5 job ever could. Do I write full time? Not at the moment. Bills must be paid after all. Would I if I could? In a heartbeat.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Maybe not in the book itself, but if I could re-release, Guardian, I probably would do. I made several mistakes in the rush to get the book out the door that reduced the coverage and initial sales bump that a new book
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Definitely, When I initially planned the storyline for Guardian I had one of the older characters as the central focus. I struggled for six months trying to get the story to feel right and I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t until my editor pointed out that I was asking too much for the reader to jump from a young (mid-20’s) protagonist in the first book to a middle-aged one in the second book. Moving D’vhan’s story into the background and allowing the youngsters to take the book back smoothed the storyline out nicely.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I can see Josh Hutcherson as Y’keta, my main male character, he has the square looks and the vulnerable/tough character that Y’keta needs.
Fiona: Any 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.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you. Writers are isolated creatures—digging so far into our own psyche’s that it’s hard at times to remember the outside world. Thank you for believing in what we do, the visions we see, and the joy that exploring them can bring.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished DarkWolf by Christine Feehan and I’m planning on starting something new this weekend. What would you suggest?
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book that I can remember reading was The Mahogany Trinrose by Jaqueline Lichtenberg. I’m still looking for another copy, mine got lost (YES, I’m one of those people who has to keep all the books!)
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Almost anything can make me laugh, especially puns, bad puns, awful atrocious puns. Crying is different – I’m not an outside cryer.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I don’t think that I have a real-life hero. There are so many people that inspire me, whether they are historical figures or literary ones. I think the common thread in all of them is that they had the opportunity to quit, every reason to say I’m too old, too tired, it’s just easier to let it be someone else’s problem. This kind of hero, unwilling, often flawed, yet willing to step up, gets me every time. These heroes all have one thing in common. They are people very much like I am, broken and damaged people just trying to do their best with the time they are given.
As far as literary heroes, I love the authors who can make words dance and sentences MEAN things. This has led me to authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, and Don Dellilo. I would give my left ovary (not so dramatic a thing since at 56 those parts are hardly crucial) to sit down with either of these gentlemen, or even better their writing notes, for an afternoon!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook and enjoy learning about foods from different parts of the world. I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy superhero movies, musicals and watch a lot of manga. Right now I’m binge watching Good Omens on Netflix and Full Metal Alchemist on crunchyroll.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I’m not sure that I can answer this without going into pages of detail! I love so many kinds of foods from all over the world. I love experimenting with new flavours and textures. I’m currently learning how to make Bunny Chow (a South African curry). My favouritecolours are royal purple and British racing green! Music? I’m all over the place. My current writing playlist goes from ambient forest music to Sabaton and Nightwish. I listen to a lot of classical music and love the songs from the 50’s doowop groups.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read, listen to music, tell the tales I can no longer write down. My heart would go on.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
If I knew that the world would end tomorrow I think that I’d want to spend my last day camping. I can’t think of a better way to spend my last hours than with my family beside a campfire, listening to the sounds of the loons in the night.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She loved people and never allowed the world to take away the magic.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You can find more about me, or follow me on social media at all of the links here:
Facebook – @SandraHurst.Author
Twitter – @_SandraHurst
Amazon Authors page UK: https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Hurst/e/B01MSAX29D/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1