Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interview with Michelle Sagara about her novel Cast in Sorrow

Today I'm excited to welcome to The Reading Frenzy Michelle Sagara as she chats about her newest novel Cast In Sorrow 9th in her Chronicles of Elantra series. When I asked her why she also wrote under the pen name Michelle West she explains ––"The West novels are also much more like an -ology than the Sagara Cast novels...––So: I wanted people to know that the two books were very tonally different."
Learn more about the author and her works below!

  • ISBN-13: 9780373803569
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Series: Chronicles of Elantra Series , #9
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 480


THE END OF HER JOURNEY IS ONLY THE BEGINNING The Barrani would be happy to see her die. So Kaylin Neya is a bit surprised by her safe arrival in the West March. Especially when enemies new and old surround her and those she would call friends are equally dangerous. And then the real trouble starts. Kaylin's assignment is to be a "harmoniste"—one who helps tell the truth behind a Barrani Recitation. 

Praise for Michelle’s Novels:
"First-rate fantasy. Sagara's complex characterizations and rich world-building lift her above the crowd." —New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong
"No one provides an emotional payoff like Michelle Sagara. Combine that with a fast-paced police procedural, deadly magics, five very different races and a wickedly dry sense of humor-well, it doesn't get any better than this."
-Bestselling author Tanya Huff on The Chronicles of Elantra series
"The impressively detailed setting and the book's spirited heroine are sure to charm romance readers as well as fantasy fans who like some mystery with their magic."
-Publishers Weekly on Cast in Secret
"With prose that is elegantly descriptive, Sagara answers some longstanding questions and adds another layer of mystery. Each visit to this amazing world, with its richness of place and character, is one to relish."
-RT Book Reviews (4 ½ stars) on Cast in Silence

Please welcome Michelle Sagara to The Reading Frenzy

Michelle, tell us a little about Cast In Sorrow
Cast in Sorrow is the first novel in the series to take place entirely outside of the city of Elantra, where Kaylin makes her home and does the job she (mostly) loves. It picks up directly after Cast in Peril, and follows Kaylin to the West March, where she discovers more about Teela’s history than it’s strictly safe to know.

This is the 9th novel in your Chronicles of Elantra series.
Is there a planned number for the series?
When I started this series, I envisioned the plot structure of a television show, with many corners for me to explore and develop in future books. I wanted a continuing cast of characters, but I wanted to write books that stood alone, in the hope that readers could pick up any book set in Elantra.
I’m not sure I did a great job with that last part...
I intend to write CAST novels until I run out of stories I want to tell in that universe. At the moment, I keep tripping over new ones to add to the list; I do write some of the books on that list, so it’s holding steady.

Michelle you also write under the name Michelle West.
The West novels are--to me--very different in tone. Some readers don’t find that true; some readers have said that if they hadn’t come to my web-site, they would have had no idea that Michelle West and Michelle Sagara were the same author.

Because I’ve spent over half of my life working in bookstores, and spent the better part of that time recommending books to readers, I’ve developed a dread of giving a reader a type of book she doesn’t want. I realize that no book, no matter how brilliant, will speak to all readers, and that sometimes we pick up books that we don’t consider good. But that’s a matter of preferred execution, not genre. I don’t recommend Ilona Andrews to someone who comes in asking for books like Joe Abercrombie’s. Or vice versa.

The West novels are also much more like an -ology than the Sagara Cast novels. They start, and the story continues throughout the series; while each book has an arc and a structural movement, they tell part of one story.

So: I wanted people to know that the two books were very tonally different.
Some people prefer the West novels ; some, the Sagara novels.

Michelle according to your bio we have the same problem. No matter how many bookshelves we buy there’s never enough.
When did your love of literature start and who was an early favorite author of yours?
I honestly can’t remember the first book I read. My father--and mother--read to us when we were children, and we picked up whole-word recognition from them. I remember Oscar the Otter (picture book).

None of the early picture books were books I chose myself, though.
I started to read - with a great deal of pride - non-picture books, which made my six year old self feel so mature and grown up. I read all of the Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on, and then all of the Hardy Boys books (because my cousin had both), and then all of Enid Blyton’s middle-readers, and then... C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and its sequel (check: Red Moon of Gomrath). The Hobbit.

These books were magic, to me. I had strengthened my technical reading skills on books whose plots were predictable, and whose characters did not undergo alarming - or any - changes. And I think that was a necessary part of learning to read, again for me. But when I opened up the covers of these other, non-series books, things lost predictability. They lost a certain sense of safety, they rode off the rails.

I loved The Hobbit. But when I opened Lord of the Rings, I was quite put out at the introduction of this new hobbit, Frodo. I mean, yes, Bilbo was there - but the book wasn’t about him. In my disappointment, I set LOTR aside for two years.

When I came back to it, at eleven, I loved it. I read it back-to-back four times in a row. It was mythic and it was elegaic; it was about duty, friendship, hope and also sacrifice. I think it was the loss of the elves that moved me most, because they knew what the war meant, and they were willing to give up everything that they had made or built in middle earth in order to end Sauron’s reign. In the elves--and the dwarves--the sense of profound loss, the sense of farewell, carried with it the sense of the ancient, the wild, the glimpses of things almost, but not quite, lost to history.

It’s funny, another SF author I know said he read it first as an adventure story, in which the fellowship & the battles figured most prominently; it wasn’t until he was reading LOTR to his son that he could see the elegy and the echoes of loss and grief in it.

But I think it’s all there, and we gain different things when we approach it at different stages of our reading lives.

What is it about Fantasy fiction that most intrigues you?
I like the endless possibilities. It’s not that life isn’t full of endless possibilities, but the scope is often narrower, the focus more internal. Fantasy--or Science Fiction--allows me to create a world, a universe.

When I first open the door into that universe, it’s exciting because anything can happen. I think out and plan out the world itself, but it’s flat on paper; it’s an intellectual exercise. Only when I start to write novel words does it come to life. It’s messier, because things change as I write. I have to go back and revise things, or deepen them.

This doesn’t mean that there’s no sense or no causality in a fantasy environment; there is, and there has to be. If there are no underlying rules that govern your characters’ abilities and actions, nothing makes sense. But the rules of the world are defined in different ways; they allow for things you won’t see here: magic, non-humans, buildings that wouldn’t pass architectural muster in the real world.

They allow you to build crucibles which both test and reveal your characters’ strengths and limitations. They put characters into situations that feel realistic, but which would never happen in the exact same way in the world we live in.

For instance, they allow for ghosts. Ghosts, for me, are a different expression of grief and loss.

What do you most love about being an author?
I love sitting down to write.  Writing isn’t always easy; sometimes it’s difficult because that great idea that I had, which worked so well on paper, utterly falls flat on its face when I try to bring it to life. But I love the creative process; I love opening up both the characters and the world they inhabit. I love it when a book turns left instead of taking the straight road, even when I’m simultaneously pulling out all my hair and shrieking in protest at my computer screen. (This makes my mother worry about me, but...writers are often a bit strange.)

And I love reaching readers.

Reading was a huge, formative part of my childhood. It was a huge and formative part of my adolescence. It is still a large part of my life now. Books spoke to me in ways people couldn’t -- possibly because I was too prickly to listen >.>. They moved me in ways people didn’t, because they were more intense, and more focused, and the view they offered was different enough that I could immerse myself in it.

There was pretty much nothing I loved the way I loved books.

And I wanted that. I mean, I wanted to write something that would move readers in the same way that I myself had been moved. When I find that my books are someone’s comfort reading, or that they got them through chemotherapy, it makes my day. It makes my week.

Michelle, you’ve just turned in your latest manuscript and are packing your bags for a personal vacation.
Where in this world would you be traveling?
Australia. But this time, I would visit Sydney as well and see a little bit more of the country than I did in August. I’m not much of a traveler; for one, I hate planes. It takes me a few days to recover from the flight if it’s longer than about six hours. I also tend to live a little bit too much in my own head; I start to think, I focus inward, and I kind of shut out the world -- no matter where I am.

I don’t do this deliberately; a stray thought will kind of knock me into internal loops while I poke at it. But...I’ve once walked into a moving car because I was thinking through something and I didn’t actually notice that the light was red when I started to walk across the street. I try very hard not to do this, for obvious reasons (and the poor driver was grey-green when she pulled over--I felt so guilty >.<).

It means, though, that I tend to pick up a new book by an author I adore with the same enthusiasm some people save for visiting strange, new places.

And when I’m reading, the world disappears. Except it doesn’t. So then I want to be in the comfort of my cave with these new words and these new thoughts.

If you could choose to travel to only one of your fantasy worlds which one would it be and why?
I’m not sure I would ever willingly visit one of my fantasy worlds >.>. So much of the stories I write are set in periods of conflict and instability. It’s not that life in reality is free of conflict or instability--but demons are not going to reduce me to screaming insanity, and my house is not going to half-melt out beneath my feet, and people who have greater wealth and power aren’t going to randomly kill me on a lark.

I’m a pretty average person. Married, mortgaged, with two children and an old car. I’m not young, and not physically at the top of my form. I have zero illusions of what my life would actually be like if I paid a visit to most of the places I write about: short and probably over quickly.

So understand that if I had to choose only one, I would be choosing the one in which I think I’d have the best chance of leaving a reasonably comfortable working life.

That would probably be Elantra.

Michelle when you’re in the writing zone do you forget about everything else or are you an uber-organized person and nothing suffers?
I am very much the former (I think you kind of have to be to realize, in the middle of a Washington D.C. intersection, that the light was actually red and you are crossing against traffic). I have daydreams of being an uber-organized person. One of my small compulsions is to buy To-do apps for my iPad. Or project management apps. The hope is that I will find one that is so intuitive to my thought processes that I will instantly become an organized person.

So far, this has failed to happen. I start to enter things, and then get overwhelmed by all of the things on the to do list, until making the list itself seems like a herculean task and I back away.

So I have the mounting pile of emergencies, and the smaller pile of things that will become emergencies if I don’t deal with them Right Now.

Michelle thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. Will there be an author/signing event(s) where fans could meet you in person?
I work in a bookstore in Toronto, BakkaPhoenix books, two days a week, and I’m happy to sign books or say hello in person there.

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  1. *raises hand* Um hello, I have the same problem too..I add more books than I read to my tbr pile. When I figure out how to eliminate sleep I may get caught up in 30 years!

  2. I really need to get caught up with this series. I enjoyed the first four books that I've read but then started reading other things and this one got pushed back. Not enough hours in the day for all the reading I want to do.