Sarah Fine is the author of Sanctum, the first in the Guards of the Shadowlands young adult urban fantasy trilogy. Sarah is more-or-less from Indiana, and works as a child psychologist when not writing for young adults. She enjoys fried food and confesses to a rather eclectic taste in music.
Could you tell us five random facts about yourself?
1) Despite being a writer, I despise paper.
3) I can’t stand having things around my neck. Even scarves make me feel like I’m being strangled.
4-5) I’m left-handed and have O-negative blood, and am strangely smug about both those things, even though I had nothing to do with either. (I’ll let that count as two facts.)
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
I’d always been a reader, but I never took a creative writing class and never considered writing until the weekend after my 35th birthday, when I decided I wanted to write a novel and completed it in about four weeks. That manuscript sucked, but it got me started, and I haven’t yet stopped.
What has surprised you about writing and publishing?
I’ve been surprised and delighted at how invested my agent and editors are in my work. They take it so seriously and put so much time into it, which is serious motivation for me — I want to honor their time and efforts by working just as hard to improve.
Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?
I am very attracted to characters who are seriously scarred, both physically and emotionally, and I like writing about redemption and sacrifice in their various forms. I write about things I want to explore, but with stories, I can do that in more metaphorical and metaphysical ways than I can in real life.
At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?
Either ideas die early or they sink their claws in, I start to obsess, and the book’s written shortly thereafter. So, when I can’t stop thinking about something despite multiple competing demands for my headspace, that’s usually a good sign.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
The toughest was also the most helpful: that I have a tendency to over-explain emotion through characters’ inner thoughts. I’m working on that.
What has been the best compliment you’ve received?
That my book surprised someone. When I read things like, “This book was weirdly good” or “I thought I’d hate this book but ended up loving it,” I feel so happy.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
Anywhere that’s not a desk. I like to have my feet up, my little tray table in place, and my earbuds in. Apart from that, I’m not picky, because I tend to disconnect from the outside world when I write.
Do you most relate to your main characters, or to secondary characters?
My main characters, though all of them are very different from me. I don’t tend to write a lot of secondary characters in my stories — I usually keep the cast pretty small. Probably because I am easily confused.
How do you approach writing villains or antagonists?
Thus far, all my villains are absolutely depraved. I haven’t yet written a charismatic, sympathetic one. Maybe I should put that on my list of things to try…
What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?
I spent all day recently rewriting an already-emotional scene (in Book 2 of Guards of the Shadowlands) to make it even more devastating. It was intense, but I love when a scene makes everything else go away.
Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
For me, the first. Definitely.
Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
Before I Die, by Jennie Downham. That book reminds you that true connection is bravery, because it doesn’t last forever, and you have to be willing to endure the pain of losing it.
Do you have things you need in order to write (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music)?
Loud and intense music.
What are you working on now?
I am revising ALL THE THINGS. I have at least three projects in various stages of revision, and though I enjoy that process, I’m looking forward to completing those manuscripts so I can get back to writing new things.