Saturday, June 30, 2012

Interview with Fantasy Author S.A. Hunter

The spirit of the forest, Elanraigh, speaks to a young girl, whose own spirit rides the wind in the body of a Sea Hawk.  Oh, I love the magic in that image.   I enjoyed reading this new YA Fantasy, Elanraigh – The Vow and getting to know the author, S. A. Hunter.  Please note, Sandy is also presenting to one lucky commenter an ebook of Elanraigh.

Cover Art: Amanda Kelsey

Welcome Sandy to the Salon,

Elizabeth, thank you so much for this opportunity to present Elanraigh to your blog members and fans. I was so delighted to find your site, and meet some more great folks who are fans of fantasy.   

How long have you been writing? What was the spark that started you to take up writing seriously?  

I’ve always had an imagination working in overdrive. That being said, I was in my late 30’s before I finally submitted anything to a publisher. I was taking a creative writing class at Douglas College and at the instructor’s suggestion submitted a science fiction short story to On Spec, where it was accepted. Since then I’ve had other fantasy short fiction and poetry published, Elanraigh, however, is my first novel 

 Elanraigh was six years plus to write in its original form (I later adapted my first  manuscript to YA). I was working full time with lots of night meetings, so Sunday was only available time to write. I’d usually try to get a least four straight hours in. I’m very grateful that in those days I belonged to a fantasy writers group, we met once a month and I was determined to submit chapters each meeting. Published authors all, their critiques were always of value--the meetings kept me highly motivated.  

What was the inspiration for this book? 

In 1995 I read an intriguing article in the Vancouver Sun, titled “Lumber firm wails the blues over “singing forest”. Apparently a local tree planter had a spiritual experience in a forest near Tenise Creek; she says, ‘something akin to the voice of angels rose from the landscape.” I tucked the thought provoking article away and some years later, was sorting through my tattered old file full of various newspaper and magazine articles, the “Story Idea File” and read the “singing forest” article again. I began to type and wrote, “The Elanraigh quivered with deep unease. Forest-mind sifted the westerly wind and breathed its warning.” And so a sentient forest came to be both a major character and the setting for my YA fantasy.                      

 What was the most difficult part of writing this book? How did you get through it? 

Do you know, the majority of the writing was a joy—I was a ‘seat of the pants” writer and the story and my characters carried me along with them. I’d get in a mind-space where things flowed…sometimes how it all came together amazed me. What was difficult was adapting the original 120, 000 wd. story to an 80,000 wd., so as to be more suited to a Y.A. market. Cutting whole scenes hurt and certain characters just had to go. However, I had to get through it and get it copy edited in time for Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest, so I got ‘er done. I didn’t win the category for the contest but I had a polished manuscript ready to submit queries on. 

 Was getting the language for this time period difficult? How did you go about getting it down for the book? Can you describe what it felt like during that period of writing? 

I’ve read a lot of fantasy that has had “historical” settings, particularly a medieval feel…perhaps you absorb a feel for the cadence of appropriate speech…I found it easy to write. With the “common folk” I allowed more of a ‘dialect” to be present, however, on the advice of an astute beta reader, I did delete the “thee’s” and “thou’s” in my original manuscript. As my beta reader pointed out, very few people truly know how to properly use those today—best to leave them alone. I’m very grateful for her advice. I do have a great affection for Mary Stewart’s Arthurian novels, especially “The Crystal Cave” and “The Sword in the Stone.” I’ve read those books many times, and much admire the writing. 

 What was the most important stage of writing this book? Can you describe what it felt like during that period of writing? 

I believe I’d say it was the final third of the book…from the critical battle off shore, and on. Now is when the threads must be gathered to weave the final pattern…the battle scene was vivid in my mind as I wrote and the elements came together well, however, two new characters, Duke Ambraud and the Besteri Mage came into being and I found myself fascinated with them… I knew I must either play them down, or a sequel would be in order. I enjoyed writing them so much (villains are such fun to write, aren’t they?); I decided I would indeed carry the story on in a second book. 

 What do you like about your characters? Are they like anyone you know? Anything like you? 

 Thera, my protagonist embodies many of the qualities I would love to meet in a person, well seasoned, however, with human flaws that have the potential to become strengths. It was critical to the story that Thera have both the ability, and grace, to learn from those around her. I like her; I hope my readers will too J  

I must admit I was an only child blessed with wonderful parents--my father exemplified to me all that was best in a good man;  Thera shares some “only child” traits (some good, some not)  and in my characterization of Duke ArNaronne, the Duke shares some characteristics of my father.  

That being said, there are many of my secondary characters I became extremely attached to, and had great fun with, and I’ve been thinking of delving more into their back stories. 

How did you come up with the names of your characters? 

I wanted to keep something of a Celtic flavour to names, and in many cases to perhaps give my  reader a hint of that person’s character…Duke Leon (lion); Lady Fideiya (fidelity); Nan (just has a homey feel to it). Of the elementals mentioned, particularly the Elanraigh forest (pronounced Ellen-ray) I wanted something sounding both Celtic and haunting. The little wind elemental, so helpful to Thera, is named Sussara (as susurrus, is the sound of a gentle wind). For the villains of the piece we have Memteth which is more Sanskrit of origin, referring to reptilian-like.  I think naming is a fun component in writing fantasy. 
What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Read everything you can; both the genre you love, and other works, especially the classics—read for enjoyment and what you can learn—how did the author go about engaging you and creating a great story. Write always--if you’re not engaged in creating a work at present, then journal. Personally, I found belonging to writers groups helpful-- a “Fellowship of the Pen”-- and a source of mentors and friends. Critique groups are another matter, and not for everybody. If you have a work completed, or even an outline…and if you can possibly afford it… get to a Writers Conference! The workshops are an invaluable source of information and inspiration. Practice pitching your idea to actual editors/publishers/agents; a sweaty-palmed experience…something akin to walking barefoot over coals; however, after, you’re forever changed. 
Write what you love to read—don’t just pitch to the current commercial trend.

What can we expect new from you?  

A sequel to Elanraigh; The Vow is currently underway.  

Here’s the Book Blurb:

Only Thera of Allenholme hears the voice of forest-mind…and heeds its warning . Thera doesn’t know why the Elanraigh forest-mind chose her, of all the Allenholme folk, to hear its voice and to awaken her gifts of mind and spirit. The Elanraigh sends a warning dream; black sails swooping toward Allenholme from across the western sea—the Memteth, an ancient enemy, armed with blue fire that hungers to consume life. As Thera awakens to her gifts of bonding with raptor birds and reading hearts, the knowing; she also awakens to love. Will she choose Chamakin the young Ttamarini warrior who is a kindred in spirit to her, or the polished young nobleman who covets her beauty even more than her estate? Forest-mind is aware she is yet too young for such power and responsibility. It has no choice—the lives of all Thera’s people and the existence of the Elanraigh Forest itself, depend on Thera fulfilling her destiny. Can she learn what she must of gift, and heart, to survive what comes their way? 

Click on Amazon to buy.

Author Bio:
BR Photography
Sandra attended school in Victoria, B.C. and later graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in English Literature. After her daughter came along, she chose to work close to home and indulge her love of animals by working for an amiable, if thrifty, veterinarian. She believes in promoting the right of all creatures to live the existence that Nature intended. This value is strongly evoked in her novel.
Sandra’s always lived at the edges of ocean and forest, so it came naturally to have a sentient forest as a major character in Elanraigh: The Vow. She loves kayaking the scenic Island coastline, swimming and walking. She has a ready sense of humor and an optimistic outlook (a good thing when you’re a writer).
Her publications include Dark Fantasy short stories in pro magazines and she is currently working on a sequel to Elanraigh: The Vow.

Follow Sandy here:
Sandy's Blog
Thank you Sandy for the interview and for writing this enchanting book.
Don’t forget the giveaway, one lucky commenter wins a copy of Elanraigh – The Vow, so drop us a line. 
Till next time,


Amber Belldene said...

Hi S.A. and Elizabeth, What a lovely story about the inspiration to write Elanraigh -- a newspaper article about singing trees! Thanks for sharing about your writing process!

EW Gibson said...


Goes to show you ideas are everywhere. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Ella Gray said...

Wonderful interview! I was especially fascinated by how the character names were chosen - that's something I always struggle with. Thanks for sharing your stories and advice :)

Samantha MacDouglas said...

Really enjoyed the interview. I love hearing success stories. I really appreciated the advice to aspiring writers and can't wait to go to the conference in July.

Unknown said...

Hey Sandra and Elizabeth - what a great interview! I really love hearing writer's stories of perseverance and patience in creating their novels. Congratulations and many best wishes on the release!

S.A. Hunter said...

Good morning - thank you all for your great comments.
Amber, the "singing trees" story haunted me. We have a forest reserve near where I live called Cathedral Grove; massive Douglas Fir trees--a place ethereal in the sunlight and mystic in the rain.I walk there anytime I have the opportunity.
I agree, Ella, names are a challenge because they're so important--decide on the "feel" you want. I did do a blog post on "Fantasy Names", would love to have you visit :)

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi "Unknown" thank you for your comment. There is never enough "patience and perseverance" is there? I chase after those virtues, sometime impatiently :)

Jim said...

I like hearing the stories of writers and how they got to where they are in their writing lives. No matter who we are, once upon a time we were not writers. Now we are. Thanks Sandy, for telling us you writer story.

PS - while Sandy and I are in the same writers' group, I had never heard how she had gotten her start.

S.A. Hunter said...

thanks for visiting, Jim. It's true; isn't it a curiosity as to what spark really sets us off to decide to write :) Everyone has their own story to tell about that.

Paula Millhouse said...

Hi Sandy and Elizabeth,

Thanks for inviting me over to learn about Elanraigh, and I wish you well with your marketing and promotions.

I've always been inspired by fantasy - from unicorns to dragons and all the little wee-folk. I imagine lightning bugs are really fairy's that God treats us to in the summertime.

What a cool concept - taking the singing forest one step further into fantasy novel form. Sandy, I enjoyed Elizabeth's questions and your answers about your story.

I saw myself in the toiling of stripping down a story into something that works for the market. That must have been painful to go from 120K down to 80K. What's that old addage: Cut your darlings? OUCH!

I'm a pantser at heart, but now that I've learned the value of editing (shout out to Elizabeth and our other classmates!) I get it.

Best wishes for your book, Sandy.


EW Gibson said...

@Unknown aka Kayle, @ Samantha, @ Paula Thank you for stopping and commenting.

@Paula love your lightning bugs, will be looking at them differently that's for sure.


S.A. Hunter said...

Thanks for your comments, Paula. There is no doubt that editing is critical. I had a professional copy-editor vet the manuscript, and the publisher routinely does three edits as well. No matter how polished your think your ms. is...there's always something :)

Marian L said...

Great interview. Good luck with your book.

EW Gibson said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi Marian - thank you for stopping by :)

widdershins said...

I have a hard copy 'ideas file' full of clippings as well as one in my computer for e-clippings. Very useful things they are!
I love the concept of a living forest. I don't think anyone who has walked alone through one can doubt that the trees are talking to each other.

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi Widdershins! Forests are an intricate eco-system unto themselves. Apparently trees have been held sacred by many ancient cultures, not just the Celts...of course you would know that... :)

Linda Hays-Gibbs said...

As a Native American, I flinch everytime I see a tree cut down. One day we will realize without their roots to purify our water table, their breath to clean our air, their leaves to shade us and house so many, we will suffer for the death of each tree. Yes, they scream when they are chopped down, it's been recorded. I loved your interview.
Linda Hays-Gibbs

My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls
And soon to be publishe:
Angel in My Heart. Devil in My Soul

EW Gibson said...


Heartfelt comment. Thank you for commenting.

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