SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Author Sarah A. Hoyt
Sarah A. Hoyt is one if the headliners for my anthology Raygun Chronicles. A transplant from Portugal, whose third language is English, she lives with other authors, including her husband and sons, in Colorado. A novelist with three pseudonyms in addition to her name and eighteen novels out, her motto is “no genre is safe from me.” She’s authored popular space operas, Darkship Thieves and Darkship Renegades from Baen Books, the 1st won the Prometheus Award. A third book, A Few Good Men, came out March 5th. Her next novel in her Shifters series, Noah’s Boy, arrives this July. As Sarah D’Almeida, she writes a series of Musketeers mysteries, and as Elise Hiatt, the Daring Finds Mysteries for Berkley. She also has series called Shakespeare Fantasies, Shifters and Magical British Empire as well. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s and anthologies including Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 3, Going Interstellar and Space Horrors amongst many others. She can be found on Facebook or at her website SarahaHoyt.com or blog AccordingToHoyt.com .
SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in speculative fiction come from?
Sarah A. Hoyt: My ten year older brother brought home science fiction and fantasy books. I got hooked. First taste was free. After that he made me go halves on the books from my allowance!
SFFWRTCHT: Who are some of your favorite authors and books that inspire you?
SAH: Robert A. Heinlein; Terry Pratchett; Diana Wynne Jones; Clifford Simak; Ray Bradbury.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to become a storyteller and how did you get your start?
SAH: I decided at six. I thought it would it would be easy. A mere thirty years later, I sold a short story to Absolute Magnitude.
SFFWRTCHT: Meh. Thirty years fly by. How’d you learn craft? Trial and error? Formal study? Workshops?
SAH: Yes. All. Workshops were Oregon Coast professional writers workshops by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith . “Thirty years goes by fast” — when you’re writing fun!
SFFWRTCHT: And here you are about to headline an anthology alongside Kris and Dean in Raygun Chronicles. Did you start with shorts stories, novels? When was your first pro-sale? Or was that the Absolute Magnitude?
SAH: Started with novels, but sold short stories first. strong>Bloodsongs (Australia) with Thirst (print run confiscated for indecency law violations.)
SFFWRTCHT: So from the start, you made trouble. Now I can see you in Athena much better. Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Then she woke up on a DarkShip with a stranger in her room. After taking out the stranger–who turned out to be her father’s bodyguard up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat, seeking help . But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime–if she managed to survive. .. DarkShip Thieves. Where’d the idea for your DarkShips series come from?
SAH: Annoyance at idea cloning should be banned or that anything good would come of a ban. Was angry. Other people kick things when they’re annoyed. I write novels.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did the novels take to write?
SAH: DarkShip Thieves was first written in about six months; rewritten in six months, thirteen years later. DarkShip Renegades took about a year. A Few Good Men poured out in three months, revisions and all.
SAH: Character. Idea is somewhere in the great compost bin of the mind. Then character shows up. Then I write.
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about Athena and her world and family.
SAH: Athena lives in a world where what’s not forbidden is mandatory. Her dad is one of fifty rulers of the whole Earth. Mafiosi writ large. Poor Athena never had a chance to be human. Not because of who she is, but because of her upbringing.
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about what DarkShips are.
SAH: They’re (thought to be) mythical ships that steal the energy pods from the solar energy collectors in Earth orbit. Actually they come from a hidden colony of refugees from Earth.
SFFWRTCHT: So DarkShips steal the light? Are you an outliner or a pantser?
SAH: Yes. I outline more so for some books than others. Sometimes I plot in detail. Most times the story ignores my careful plot.
SAH: It gives me a deeper feel for the story.
SFFWRTCHT: How did you wind up with Baen Books? Tell us about your path to publication please.
SAH: I was already published by Berkley and was edging towards a contract with Bantam. Dave Drake introduced me at Baen. Jim Baen needed a fantasy book in a hurry. I had Draw One In The Dark almost finished.
SFFWRTCHT: DarkShip Renegades follows Thieves with Athena and her husband, Kit, returning to Eden only to be accused of a crime which forces them to space again for a trip back to Earth. Tell us about Eden and Earth and how they are in your future.
SAH: Right. Eden is a functional anarchy, mostly functional because hidden and defended. The idea was to have them be a contrast to Earth particularly in cloning. Because open in Eden fewer abuses.
SFFWRTCHT: Then A Few Good Men follows DarkShip Renegades chronologically?
SAH: Sort of. It starts with the jail break at the end of DarkShip Thieves. Part of it takes place before DarkShip Renegades. The books share a chapter. I thought they were one book. That’s why Renegades took so long to write.
SAH: Short stories are easier because, for a while, I was a member of a group that required one short a week. It becomes internalized. For me, different genres equal different moods. Literary Fantasy is more interior. Historical mystery is like puzzle fitting times and plot. Space opera is keeping the world consistent and trying not to blow the science (too obviously) also more… kicky. Dave Freer says I write urban fantasy in space — based on the touch and feel of my space opera. He might be right. He’s way smarter than I.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write `til you reach word count? Grab it when you can?
SAH: I try to write eight hours a day. Weirdly this often takes sixteen. (Have two young men yammering at me, right now). And sometimes I rotate the (4) cats to avoid writing. The alternative is to deal with the college students (sons). You don’t want to do that to me.
SAH: That is true too. Usually on my keyboard.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any writing rituals or tools? Scrivener? Word? Something else? Do you write to music or silence?
SAH: Music. The weird thing is the character chooses them. Athena likes… Buddy Holly. Buddy Holly died too young. It gets repetitious. The worst are the furniture refinishing mysteries which will only be written to Evita. Seriously. Each book seems to have its time of day and ritual: “diet coke, or coffee?” “Home or coffee shop?” It’s a book thing.
SFFWRTCHT: Well, characters are “characters.” And sometimes books are, too. What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
SAH: Best, from Dean Wesley Smith: “Stop worrying about the words, just tell the story.” — That got me over the ESL fears. Worst was from another published author who said that “first you must find the “engine”” — I still have no clue what she meant.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you work on different series concurrently? If so, does the change up refresh you or tax you?
SAH: Uh… yes. Refresh, ie. I don’t go stale. But sometimes it’s very hard.
SFFWRTCHT: What is your background with history? School? Hobby? Noting you write several series that make use of English history, Shakespeare, etc.
SAH: School, though never major but also family obsession. And growing up in Portugal. I like English history. Portuguese too, but that’s less marketable, here, though I might try indie.
SAH: I read everything, so of course I write everything. Used to drive agents nuts.”But you can write literary! Why SF?” I’ve been married to the same man for 28 years. A girl has to have variety somewhere.
SFFWRTCHT: Which of your works would you give a reader who is unacquainted with your work?
SAH: For SFF, Darkship Thieves. Though for some reason most male readers prefer shifter series Draw One In the Dark. If you prefer literary fantasy, try Ill Met By Moonlight or Heart of Light. Historical mystery, Death Of A Musketeer. Silly (it is) mystery Dipped, Stripped and Dead. Historical, Plain Jane.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
SAH: Through Fire, book 2 of Earth Revolution, Zen(obia)’s story. And DarkShip Revenge (working title.) In the near future Bowl of Red, fourth of the Goldport Shifters series.
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