Author Interview with Sally Brown
How did you become a writer?
I love stories. I’ve always been a reader, consuming books at an unsustainable rate. When I couldn't get my hands on something new, I would make up stories of my own. But to actually committing them to paper, finding the best version to cement as reality, was more of a fairy tale itself than anything I thought I would do as an adult.
As a kid, I would dictate fantastical short stories to my mother and she would type them out on our family computer. They were absolute nonsense, but she was true to every word. In high school I dabbled with short stories and one ambitious novel that never got past the prologue, but even then I was more of a passive consumer of the stories other people were writing. At the time, authors were magical, all-knowing luminaries.
It wasn’t until college that I asked myself “why not me?” I didn’t have an answer to that, all I had was a story that desperately wanted to exist as more than an intermittent daydream.
It took longer than forever, or four years, to finish. I was certain it was all I had in me, the pinnacle of my creativity; I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was just the beginning.
What inspires you to write?
I find sources of inspiration in small things that spark my interest; a coffee shop by a lake, or a playground swing might open an Alice-in-Wonderland-like door to a whole world worth exploring. A new novel idea might emerge from a collection of seemingly incompatible ideas and obsessions.
That being said, inspiration comes from a lot of places, not all of which are the most romantic or admirable. Frustration is a great indicator that there is something yet to be explored. For instance, up until very recently, LGBTQ representation in YA Fantasy has been borderline nonexistent. Finding books to represent me has long been a source of frustration, even before I even had a name for my own identity. Now I write almost exclusively LGBTQ novels, and I love it.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Whether I’m developing my plot or characters, I always start with a purpose. Once I have that certain something that’s sparked my interest, I then search for the best way to explore it. For my current project, I set out to explore a male/female friendship without the sexual tension. That goal defined who they became as characters, and to an extent, the plot as well. The plot and characters in each story go through any number of evolutions before the final product, but the purpose of the work always stays the same.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
I would love to say that spelling is my greatest challenge as a writer, but modern life has made my shortcomings all but obsolete. My real challenges are harder to pin down. If I had to give one a name, it would probably be Self Doubt. That particular hurdle sneaks in without fail just when any project is nearly complete. Months of work will suddenly feel wasted, and I feel tempted to throw the whole thing away because it’s simply not good enough.
Overcoming it is always a combination of time and hard work. It can be difficult to know how long to step away from a project, and then how to find the bad apples making the whole barrel feel rotten, but it’s always worth it.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Sonya Othare is passionate and free with her emotions; she’s the sort of girl who doesn’t keep secrets. I really enjoyed writing such a fun, dramatic character. She’s carefree in the way that nothing sticks to her; the good and the bad sluice right off like water. But it causes her to be reckless, partially blinding her to the collateral damage she causes to everyone around her, and even herself.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Antagonists work best when they have an honest motive, however dubious or selfish it may be, that conflicts with the motives of the protagonist(s). In the case of my current project, the antagonist, Regus, desires safety and autonomy. But to feel safe, he needs to feel in control of those around him, which is where his intentions turn toxic and he conflicts with the protagonists. He has everything firmly under control until rebellious Sonya and wily Lisette arrive. Once he loses that control, he goes to unjustifiable lengths to regain his own sense of security.
What are your current/future projects?
Right now Black Foxes and its sequel are my main focus, but I have a few other projects in the works.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I need to know what I want to write before I sit down to the computer, so I usually think through a chapter or particular scene while working out. It makes running go by faster, and I get some free plotting time too.
Once I actually sit down to work I like to have a drink in my hand; coffee is the ultimate motivator.
If I’m having trouble focusing or finding motivation, I usually go back a reread the portion I want to work off of until something clicks.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself not to be so afraid to share my writing. I’m lucky enough to have wonderfully supportive friends and family. There is no threshold of “good enough” to share with people who truly care.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
If you want to write, then write! There is no better time than now, and no better you than this you to start writing.
Also, if you’re working on a computer, save your stuff. And then save it again. Save it in two separate documents. Save it in the cloud. Save it on a thumb drive. If nothing else, it’s worthwhile to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.
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