Sarah E. Stribley [electricalchemy]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I started off reading children's books. "Timmy Tummy: The Icky Sticky All-day Sucker Boy", "Tony and the Magic Watering Can", "Possum Magic", "The Dollhouse King", etc.
By the time I was six or seven though, I was trying to reading Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I shouldn't say "trying" though, I actually was reading books by those authors, I simply didn't understand everything I read.
I began writing when I was seven. My first finished book was a
"touch and feel" book for toddlers called "Topsy Turvy". I gave it that name because of the odd way I created the book...so that you could read the story from any angle (I had the sentences written on all four sides of the page).
I don't really know how I began to write, that is, I don't know what inspired me, I just began writing one day. My stories were similar to those by Dr Seuss and Shel Silverstein, both very imaginative writers.
My mum always was the first to read whatever I wrote, after that my dad and my siblings.
My mum has always encouraged my writing, and she still does today. In fact, she's still the first person to read whatever I've written. -laughs-
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
My favorite genre is fantasy, I've been working with it for years!
I prefer fantasy mainly because there's so much you can do with it, it has more room to spread and it's certainly more flexible. You won't get a reader to believe in cowboys that change into coyotes unless the book is under fantasy. -laughs-
Here's a link to my profile, from there, you can look up my writing. I have both novel excerpts and poetry on Helium.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I don't usually think to myself "I'm going to sit down and WRITE!!" I usually just sit down and then get the sudden urge to write, and once I do...there's no stopping me for hours.
Well, when I sit down with my laptop, I've usually been thinking over some unfinished chapters. I'll go over them, thinking "This is what happened last, and this is what NEEDS to happen in order for the chapter to finish". When I do that, there's usually a flow of ideas and complete sentences, so I'll quickly open a writing program and finish the chapter.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Other fantasy novels.
I often turn to Mercedes Lackey, Diana Wynne Jones, and Patricia A. McKillip (whose writing I've been compared to).
Other genres sometimes inspire me, such as romance novels or novels involving battles, weapons, and other such things, and sometimes science-fiction...though I don't often read it.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Action, adventure, spirit, emotion (real emotion), tears, laughter, surprised gasps, and a few shudders. -laughs-
Every story needs real raw emotion, the moments where the reader can say "I've felt that!" or "I've done that" etc. Even fantasy needs to feal REAL. Just because it's fantasy doesn't give the author the right to make plastic characters with the excuse that "The action and magic will make up for the emotion". It won't! People want to cry over a book, laugh over it, relate to it. That's what makes a book that will be read again and again.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I am currently finishing up a short-story in first person, but I'm going to stick to third person as far as novels go.
I figure if the reader only feels connected to your story because it reads as though they are doing everything themselves, then that's not good enough. I've read many novels in the first person, and I was utterly bored because what I was reading was boring.
I prefer to have the reader feel as though they're a silent unknown watcher; they're afraid to move or make a sound unless the entire cast of my book turns and sees them...and stops the novel. -laughs-
What well known writers do you admire most?
Patricia A. McKillip is at the very top of my list!!
I love her novels; the way her writing is so poetic, it flows across the page and into your mind, it seems to echo magic and unknown languages.
After her, is Friedrich de la Motte Fouque.
"Undine" is a wonderful story, filled with everything a book should be! And his other works are also overflowing with magic.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Mainly emotion. Very real emotion. Mix in a few character-flaws, some stubbornness and defiance, the occasional cocky attitude, mischief, rage, a bit of emotional/physical weakness, their own sense of humor, etc.
A few of them are based off of people I know, one is usually based off of myself, and the rest I create by mixing together random characteristics and features. I create any memories any of my character have from scratch, using the emotions I have felt during similar circumstances. If I haven't gone through something that my character has, I imagine how I would feel if it had happened to me.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
-laughs- I suppose so. My nieces are always asking me to read, they say I do it best, and I was always called upon to read in class.
I once asked why the teachers chose me but no-one else and they said because I had good enunciation, I knew how to properly pronouce words, I used expression, etc.
If you mean telling stories off the top of my head. Yes. So long as the story is within my genre. I'm very practised in the art of telling ghost stories, and I often make up fairytales for my nieces to listen to.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I want to write something that everyone will like.
So many times I've read a book and thought "It would be better if they did this" or "They should have written it THIS way" etc. So now, when I'm writing, I think "I'm not going to do what that other writer did. I want the reader to find no fault in my writing."
People may not like my writing because it's fantasy, but I'll be able to say that they didn't dislike it because I used bad grammar, orbecause they found it lacking in emotion or description.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
When I'm mad or crying, certainly.
I've written some of my best and most emotional chapters when I was very mad or very upset.
I write well when I'm extremely happy too, though those chapters of excerpts tend to have a different feel to them.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Yes, but I rarely get it.
Two writers find that they love my writing, they're the only people outside of my friends and family who have read my writing though.
They say I'm very imaginative, that my novel flows easily into their minds, that my writing conjures amazing images, that it's poetic, and that I need some work on my punctuation. -smiles-
On the whole, yes, their feed-back has been very helpful. I often miss something, and when they point it out, I'm eager to fix it.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I competed in one contest, but I lost. -smiles-
I don't mind, I joined for the fun of it, nothing more.
No, I've never received an award.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes, my mother. She is great at critiquing my writing, always ready to say "You have a comma there, right?" or "Is that italicized? Well, it needs to be!" or "Did you mean to word it THAT way, is seems somewhat jumbled. Why don't you see if you can reword that so it flows?"
Sometimes one of my friends will read over my writing, but most of the are writers themselves and rarely have the time.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I know I've found my "voice", and I'm going to use it every chance I get. -laughs-
I'm sure some people are still searching for it, and maybe if they looked outside the "box" they might find it.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I CAN'T write by schedule, I get writer's block if I do. I have to write when the inspiration comes to me.
I have no schedule, no curfew, though I try to write 2,000-4,000 words every time I'm at my laptop.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I don't really "surround" myself. I just sit on my bed with the lights out, listen to my iPod, and pull a thesaurus, a dictionary, an encyclopaedia, a few foreign dictionaries (Gaelic, German, and Latin), and a "Decriptionary" next to me...then start writing.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on my laptop.
I rarely print unless I've writen a huge chunk since I last printed, and I use a red pencil to correct what I've printed. However, I usually try to correct any grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors on my laptop.
My process is to save as I go, usually to a floppy-disc (Yes, people still use them), correct as I go, and print once I've finished a few more chapters.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I frequently use Helium.com or Yahoo! Answers. I also post information on my Facebook profile.
What has been your experience with publishers?
They usually tell me that they aren't looking for fantasy writers or that my style isn't what they're used to.
I've also been turned down because I was too young.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a novel titled "The Snake Heart".
Also, I'm close to finishing two chap-books, one titled "Palpitations" the other "Elemental Alchemy".
Once I've finished with both chap-books, I plan on having them published separately and as a compilation of both. The compilation will be titled "This Alchemic Universe"
I will soon be working on a book of short-stories titled "Dreamscape". A couple of the stories for this are already finished, while there are a few that are almost finished or need to be rewritten.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Put them together as an all-sorts book. You can even rewrite them and put the old and the new versions together...as a sort of "before and after" book. This is how I was years ago...this is how I am now.
That's what I'm doing!
Sarah E. Stribley