Sarah is a freelance author hailing originally from the South of England, but who, after not taking a left turn at Albuquerque, now finds herself in the North East. Her first sci-fi novel, ‘The Gildar Rift’ was published by the Black Library in December 2011 and her first fantasy novel ‘Valkia the Bloody’ in July 2012. She appeared in the first Fox Spirit anthology ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ with a story about a hero so inept that he makes the British Government look competent.
Her first independent historical-fantasy novel, ‘Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising‘ was published by Abaddon Books and since then, she has written another novel for the Black Library (‘Silver Skulls: Portents‘) along with a number of other short stories.
Sarah finds talking about herself in the third person incredibly hard to manage and so generally prefers to spend her ‘free’ time reading, watching films, playing computer games, running round in fields with swords and hitting people… and playing her music ear-bleedingly in the car.
When did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing stories. Even as a small child I remember making up tales that would get a smile out of my teacher. And reading… I read for England. I would read anything and everything. Things are still the same. There are a billion stories in my head – although some are much slower to get out.
I love the Warhammer universes. There’s something so tempting about 40K, a universe where there’s no such thing as a happy ending. I started reading them some years ago and when the opportunity arise to turn my hand to writing from the perspective of a Space Marine, I didn’t so much jump as leap enthusiastically.
How did you get the opportunity to write for the Black Library?
I submitted a piece during an open submissions window and Lady Luck was on my side. My first short story was published in the first issue of ‘Hammer & Bolter’ and I was invited to submit further idea.
How do you write for a universe someone else has built? Does it lead to changing of ideas/plot as things wouldn’t fit into original lore? Has it changed the way you write?
When you are writing within an established universe, there are very definite guidelines. At times, these can be quite restrictive as you can’t just charge ‘off piste’ as it were and clash with the lore. There’s a respect that needs to exist between writer and lore. On the other hand, the guidelines could be incredibly useful to rein characters back in again. Has it changed the way I write? Yes, in a way. It requires tight planning and chapter breakdowns and that’s something I now apply to anything I write.
What is/was your process in learning all the necessary lore for the books?
Reading them! (Such a hardship). Also, reading the codices, slouching about in the local GW and listening to people talking about the lore – and asking my husband (who is a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge on the subject).
Did you choose to write about the Space Marines or were they chosen for you?
I chose. I had read a short (literally – two paragraphs) piece in the Space Marine codex about the Silver Skulls and said ‘oh, hey, this sounds like it’s a story in the making’. My then-editor said ‘well, submit a proposal and we’ll take it from there.’ And thus, the Gildar Rift was born.
What other races would you like to write about?
Any of them. I love the 40K world. I particularly like Tau, though.
Do you play the game?
I haven’t played in a while, but I do have a Silver Skulls army upstairs waiting to be brushed off and used again.
Other then no happy endings, what excites you about the 40k universe?
The sheer size and scope. The richness of the back story (the whole Heresy situation) and the sheer, grim darkness of it all. In a world where there isn’t really any hope, what does the average citizen even exist for? Fantastic stuff.
Is there another Black Library author you really admire?
I’m a huge, huge fan of both Graham McNeill and James Swallow – their particular styles appeal to me the most.
How/where do you write? (Do you have to be in a specific place/mindset etc.)
I do have to be in the mood. Writing when you’re not in the right mood means you start to resent it and it stops being fun. Whilst writing my Warhammer stuff, I was under pretty tight deadlines and I set myself the target of a minimum 2,000 words a day. I didn’t once miss that target. I’d come home from work, make a cup of tea and just get on with it. I always like to have music on in the background (music rather than songs: song lyrics have a habit of working their way into a manuscript!)
What inspires your stories?
Everything. The world is an amazing place and there are some crazy, crazy things out there.
What do you like to read?
As said before, everything and anything. I largely read (surprise, surprise) fantasy and sci-fi, but I also enjoy breaking out. I love historical fiction – Conn Iggledon’s stuff is outstanding, as is Bernard Cornwell’s. I grew up with Alexander Kent books in the house and that gave me a lifelong love of seafaring fiction. It heavily influenced some of my big space battle scenes, now I come to think of it!
What advice would you give to new writers?
* Write! Sounds facetious, but it’s true. Write at least 1,000 words a day, whether it be whilst working on a story, or writing a blog.
* Plan your story carefully: freeform has its place, but when your characters get out of hand, it can be hard going to get them back on track.
* If you have a story, write it. Don’t edit as you go along. Get the words down on paper and jiggle them about afterwards.
* Enjoy it. If it becomes a chore, it’s not fun. And it should always be fun.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m writing a lot less at the moment. It’s a tough job to juggle a full time job and writing to deadlines at the same time, so something had to give in order for me not to have a complete meltdown! Having said that, I have a couple of short stories in the pipeline, one to be released shortly as part of an anthology from Fox Spirit, one which has been submitted to a new anthology and a few that are sitting on my hard drive. In fact, last night I had a faint idea for a story that wants to be written and I might just make a start on that later.