Today I’m interviewing the lovely authoress, Sarah Scheele. She is the author of Alyce, a charming fairy tale retelling. Join us as she talks about her faith, unexpected lessons, and the character she would choose to move in next door to her …
I notice that you write a combination of a few genres: historical, fantasy, science fiction … what draws you the most to these genres? Is there a genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to try?
With these genres I can emphasize characters. If I used a real setting, I would need to research—sometimes quite a bit—and it would distract from character creation. Fantasy was an obvious place to start, but I never felt quite natural handling magical props. So I switched into a historical-type setting that resembles southern Europe in the 18th century, but with some invented political situations. The science fiction stories are fewer, though they are actually my personal favorites.
I’m curious about the new field of early 20th century that has just opened up. (The “vintage” or “nostalgia” genre.) I’d love to explore that. Perhaps a twist of some kind, such as time-travel or an imaginary world, could give me an outlet into that era. We’ll see . . .
How does your faith factor into your writing process or your books themselves?
With a few exceptions, my characters are already firmly established in their faith. I explore their daily lives in a religious family or community—clearly Christian no matter how it is labeled in the fantasy story—rather than focusing on spiritual struggles or conversion experiences. I’m also interested in how lack of sincerity and charity can correlate to stunning rudeness and littleness, which is surprisingly an issue even in the most devout circles.
If you have to choose one of the characters from any of your books to move in next door to you, who would it be? Why?
Wow, that’s an interesting question! Probably Katia (and her brother Frank) from City of the Invaders. Katia is more like me, in some ways, than any character I’ve drawn so far, so I could really enjoy spending time with her.
Is there any book you’ve read that you wish you could have written yourself? Which one? Why?
Hmmm . . . The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer has an amazing gift for showing a huge diversity of people, very honestly, but also without being critical. Most authors (myself included) have a small cast of characters they use repeatedly. I don’t know if I could ever reach that level—outside of the real world God has created, almost no one has more diversity than Chaucer—but it’s something I admire.
What is an unexpected thing you’ve learned about yourself from writing?
I had thought that historical romance settings, even in juvenile fantasy, were too glamorous for me to attempt. But I’ve found the opposite is true. When I use historical costumes and situations, suddenly everything clicks into place. I’ve learned that I have been too afraid at times, assuming that things were out of my reach and belonged to other people. When I became more confident, I was surprised by the results.
If you could choose any writer, alive or dead, to have as a mentor, who would it be?
Probably two authors: Mary Stewart and Charles Dickens. Both have qualities I want to include in my work. Stewart is great at creating action plots that are glamorous, but still feel realistic, and Dickens had a rare ability to incorporate humor and social commentary without offending people. Learning to combine those two things would take my stories in a really good direction.
I was reading the blurb for your newest work, the novella Alyce, and it looks so amazing! Can you tell me a bit about how you were inspired to write the Cinderella story in this original way?
I was drawn years ago to retelling Cinderella because I wanted to explore what the fairy tale was really about. Cinderella is a young woman who is socially marginalized and vulnerable to selfish or unfair treatment on that account. As I developed Alyce as belonging to a tiny subculture, always at risk of negative treatment from outsiders, I was able to give my story the same theme while changing nearly every detail.
I found Alyce really resonated with readers, so I plan to continue with more fairy tales. Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, etc—always trying to see how many things I can change while maintaining what the story is about. These old legends provide a great framework for creating compelling situations.
I don’t officially title my story until I’m about a third of the way through. Once I know the story’s personality, I let a few titles materialize and try them out as little trailers. As in “The Castle of Randena, Coming May 2015.” I pick the one that sounds catchiest.
Do you have any interesting writer quirks? What are they?
I need to walk around while writing. This is obviously almost impossible, so I compromise—I write a bit, then get up and walk around to sort out the next scene, write it down, then bounce up again and start walking. It is essential for me to work alone because I probably look crazy. 😛
If you could get lost within a book, which book would you choose? Why?
I’m not sure I can get lost in a book these days! I view reading and writing in a job-oriented way—which isn’t very conducive to getting lost in the magic of words. But when I was younger, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis was one of my favorites. I’m drawn to hot places as settings, and at that time almost everything I read was located in the British Isles, New England, or imaginary places that resembled them. The society of Calormen and the daring escape across the desert felt really fresh and they captured me.
Sarah Scheele writes historical fantasy stories and science fiction from her home in Texas. She is the author of The Valley Stories, set in a nonmagical fantasy world based on southern Europe, and the futuristic action/adventure novella City of the Invaders. Her blog Stardust and Gravel regularly showcases reviews and interviews for other authors, as well as the occasional comic skit.
Alyce Lomlossa has never dreamed of visiting King Timson. To a member of a minority group that opposes his rule, his brooding, glum palace is associated only with imprisonment and death. Though it’s been a long time since any Sherban was arrested, Alyce feels little in common with her ruler and is quite content to stay unnoticed.
Until a mandatory summons to the King’s court dance leaves her no choice.
A 20,000 word novella that enlarges the story of Cinderella.