Best known works: Forsaken Lands: Tragedy
Where you can find her: Website / Facebook / Goodreads
Top writing tip: No one is going to tell you to become a writer – the only way to become a writer is to face that blank page day after day with the unshakable belief that this is what you need to be doing.
Hi Sydney, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. It's always nice to meet the person behind the pages.
Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
I am a medical professional by day and writer by night. Forsaken Lands: Tragedy is a story that grew out of my own personal experiences and those of many of my close friends. I’ve been the victim of a lot of lies, deceit, and hate in my life, and wanted to describe that pain in the light of compassion. Although the story is based in fantasy, I have found that sometimes fiction can be the best medium in which to illustrate important real-world concepts. It is my hope that a person who reads my story picks up on the message that all of us make mistakes, some of us are the victim of tragic circumstances, and despite all of that, even the people that society has shunned are still human beings worthy of our understanding.
That sounds like deep subject matter. How does your faith fit into your writing?
I’ve called myself a pagan for the last five years or so, since I was eighteen, but looking back I feel like I’ve been a witch my whole life, even while growing up in a hardline conservative Christian household. Since I was six I’ve looked for the fairies in the garden, given offerings to the spirits, and reached within myself to find my own spiritual and personal power. Formally asking the gods and goddesses into my life has opened my world to wonderful new experiences and a community of amazing friends.
Do we see some of you in your book?
Aiasjia, my female protagonist, has an almost shameful amount of myself in her story and her personality. Outside of her obvious similarities to me, each of my characters has something of me inside of them, as I think is the case with most authors. I do try to allow each character their individuality, and I love it when they surprise me.
When and why did you begin writing?
I probably penned my first story as soon as I could string words together in a cohesive fashion. My writing is deeply personal – during my adolescence it sometimes seemed to be the only place in which I could be myself. Now that I am an adult and I can be myself wherever I go, my writing continues to be a place where I can commune with the characters in my mind and create stories that, I hope, will broaden the minds of others in the way that stories helped me develop my own sense of the world. Tragedy is the third complete book I’ve written, but so far the only one I feel is fit for publishing.
How have you found the publishing process so far?
I am a self-published author, and at this time I’m very happy with that decision. I submitted to two publishing companies after the book was finished, one large company and another smaller publisher. The large company never really responded, and the small press felt that my subject matter was too controversial. I do tend to cover issues such as sexual orientation, religion, abortion, and ethically ‘gray’ situations. After I was rejected I felt like it was my sign that self-publishing would be the way to go. I haven’t made big money, but that’s never been my motivator. I want the story to get out to people who might find it relevant to them, and so far I’ve been meeting that goal.
What do you enjoy reading when you're not writing?
I read a lot of fantasy and paranormal romance, but can be convinced to try any book which is character-driven. I’m in love with the works of Anne Bishop, Karen Miller, and Brent Weeks, all of whom create vivid worlds with characters who feel like real people.
You mention your other works, can you tell us a bit about those?
Technically Fathers and Sons, the short story prequel to Tragedy, was my first publication. Tragedy is my first published novel.
How did the topic of your book come to you?
Books tend to come to me in a flash of a scene. I remember thinking about what it might be like to be someone who was neither purely good nor purely evil, and in that moment I saw my male protagonist, Teveres, standing over the bodies of the townspeople he had killed. I knew that the townspeople were ridiculing him for some reason, and that his parents had just been murdered. I could see his eyes quite clearly – green with gold flecks – and I knew that his story needed to be written. My female protagonist, Aia, came later, and after writing scenes for both of them I realized that their stories had to take place in the same world.
Do you plan your stories before you begin?
I am what you would call a “discovery” writer – I tend to go wherever the story takes me. I typically start with an image of the first and last scenes, but without a very clear picture of how to get from the beginning to the end. I will sometimes get on a roll and jot down a few lines about where the next chapter or two is going, but that’s about the extent of my outlining. This does mean that I will occasionally find that the story has taken a wrong turn and end up deleting 10,000 words, but that’s all part of the adventure. I try not to get too attached to any single scene.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
So far my longest stretch of writer's block lasted two years. During that time I was super stressed and not making any time to take care of myself. Those were dark days! I finally sat down and realized that this wasn’t going to work. I have to be able to write in order to stay sane. I opened up a blank word document and just started writing again. I decided not to care if it was any good, or if it would ever be fit for another soul to read. I just had to do it.
Thankfully people have been reading your work. How important are reviews, do you read them?
Reviews are essential for self-published folks such as myself. I don’t have a lot of reviews yet, but I am eagerly awaiting them. I know that eventually someone is going to have some nasty things to say, but I’ve been pleased with the heretofore positive responses to my work.
Do you have someone who encourages you?
My husband has been one of the most encouraging, supportive forces in my life since I met him, both in my writing and in my professional career. While he is the reason I keep writing, my grandmother is the reason I started at all. She always encouraged me to believe in magic and let me explore any story I wanted to when I was a child. She has never discouraged me from doing what I love to do, and for that I will always be grateful.
Can you tell us a bit more about the story and characters in Tragedy?
The Land of Elseth was once a place of great prosperity. The gods gifted the land with abundant rivers, mountains, and powerful kelspar ore, the source of divine power in the world. The Children of Elseth lived in balance with the gods and nature; they built great cities and fostered brilliant minds. They wanted for nothing. Somewhere in the world, something has changed. Crops have withered, earthquakes destroy whole cities, and a war stirs between Elseth’s Children and the southern Kaldari tribes. Standing between the destruction of their society and a future of hope are the Deldri, a group of individuals thought to have died out more than a century ago. They might be able to stem The Decline, if only they themselves were not in danger.
Aiasjia and Teveres hold the powers of life and death in their hands. Though they do not know it, their destinies are intricately tied to the fate of their world; it is by their success or failure that their people survive. The leaders of their homeland have been captured, the high priest who has taken over is not who he seems, and the warring Kaldari people have broken through their borders with the intent to destroy everything they ever knew. It is up to them to find a way to move beyond their own limitations to save what is left of their home before they lose their society forever.
That sounds like it could turn into a tale of epic proportions. Have you any plans to expand it?
Right now I am very excited to be working on Forsaken Lands, Book 2: Suffering which should be coming out in a year or so. The story is going some very interesting places, and I can’t wait to see what happens! Once the Forsaken Lands trilogy is over I will see what presents itself to me.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Sydney. We wish you every success with this book and your sequel.