Sarah Ashwood is a writer, runner and mother – talk about juggling three time-consuming roles! She’s the author of the Lands Beyond Sunset trilogy which features magical lands, fairies, giants and unicorns. Um, magic, fairies and unicorns? Yes, please!
Despite her busy schedule, Sarah has kindly taken time out to chat with The Salonniere’s Apartments about her books, her writing process and how she manages to do it all. Read on to find out just how she does it!
Tell us a little about your writing journey! Did you always want to be a writer?
I think my desire to write was born early on from my deep love of reading. I’ve been enamored with fairytales, stories of knights, pirates, swordsmen, ancient Rome, and Vikings from the time I was very young. When I turned eighteen I also discovered the fantasy genre. When I began writing, fantasy was the genre I naturally turned to since I could combine all of my interests into one.
It’s been out for a while now, but I’m going to say it anyway because completing a book, let alone a full trilogy, is a massive achievement – congratulations on the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy! It sounds like an amazing fantasy adventure story. For readers who don’t know about the trilogy, what are the books about?
The Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy is the continuous story of an ordinary young woman, Hannah Winters, who is a college student working part-time at her father’s newspaper. Life is commonplace for Hannah until the day she encounters a strange man on her neighbor’s property wearing brown robes and carrying a bejewelled staff. This stranger tells her she is the prophesied saviour of another world, Aerisia—the land beyond Earth’s sunsets. Initially, Hannah resists the idea of being anyone’s saviour, especially when she’s transported against her will by this stranger to a new realm. However, the longer she stays in Aerisia, the more attempts are made on her life by the Dark Powers, leaving her with no choice but to begin trying to uncover the truth of the prophecy. Ultimately, Hannah discovers both magic and romance as she begins a quest to reinvent herself as a woman with magic, and to save Aerisia from the Dark Powers and their might.
Could you tell us a little about the publication process like behind Sunset Lands Beyond? I understand you went with a small publication house called Griffineus Publications I’m not sure if they are still going or defunct?) How did you find the process of working with a small publication and what were the pros and cons?
Oh, they are very much still going. Griffineus Publications was great to work with. The pros of a small publishing house are that you are very much in touch with the people in charge, and you get all the individual help and attention you require. They also welcome your input on things such a cover art, artist, etc. (Btw I really love my books’ cover art.) The cons are, of course, it’s harder to get your books in the hand of a larger audience, because they don’t have the clout of a major publishing firm. However, it’s been a great experience overall, and I’m just happy to have my trilogy published!
There has been a lot of praise for the world-building elements in Sunset Lands Beyond. What was the research process like for this?
Um, would it be terrible to say there was very little actual “research” that went into it? Basically, I simply incorporated elements of everything I’ve always liked into my story. There are fairies, giants, and unicorns from fairytales. The Ranetron, Aerisia’s main military force, is heavily based off the military of ancient Rome, and the Galandorf on pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. I like to think these diverse elements help make the world of Aerisia somewhat unique. It would seem that at least some of my readers agree.
What have you learned, writing-wise, from writing Sunset Lands Beyond?
Well, for one, don’t start out writing your novel by hand. That’s right: I wrote the entire rough draft of all three novels by hand, and filled 8 notebooks doing so. Then I had to type it all up on my computer. Took me forever! Never again will I use that method.
You’re also a published poet. Do you find it challenging switching between poetry and prose in your writing?
Not really, although there does tend to be poetry in my prose. I’ve added some poetry in more than one of my novels. Also, I like to think having a background in poetry helps add to the descriptive quality of my work.
Do you have any particular writing habits or a writing routine?
Habits, no, except drinking coffee while I write. My writing routine, such as it is, is to make my older kids lay down in the afternoon for a nap or quiet time. Then I try to put the baby to sleep. If I can get all three of them quiet at the same time – which isn’t always a simple job – that’s when I jump at the opportunity to get some writing done, even if it’s only 500 or 1,000 words a day.
You’re a mum and also a runner! (High five from a fellow runner-writer!). Writing can be pretty time-consuming so how do you juggle writing in between other life commitments?
Oh, well, as you know, it’s not easy! I have 3 boys under the age of 5. Every day I try to do preschool with my oldest, workout and/or run, write, straighten the house, work on potty-training my middle child, and cook dinner for my family. And that’s not to mention all the other million and one things a stay-at-home parent has to do. Those are just my primary jobs. I think the biggest things I’ve had to learn are multitasking, and lowering my expectations. I’ve had to realize I simply can’t do everything all in one day – and that’s okay! I do what I can today, and tomorrow keep going with what didn’t get finished.
What are you currently reading?
I cheat on current reads. I always have more than one going. Right now, I’m reading Rule of Thieves by C. Greenwood, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and Vienna Prelude by Brock and Bodie Thoene. I’d have to say Rule of Thieves is my favorite of the three.
Finally, what’s next for the future?
Well, I am nearly finished with a historical novel set in ancient Rome that involves a former gladiator, and a physician’s daughter who lives outside the societal boundaries for women of her day. It’s quite a bit different from my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, but, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve always been intrigued by ancient Rome and Roman culture. I am hoping to market this book to bigger publishing houses that publish historical fiction. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed.
Thanks for hosting me here!