Monday, March 29, 2010

Author Interview ~ Sandra Stixrude



Hey all, I’m glad you could drop in and see who we have on the couch today. Let’s all give a warm Menagerie welcome to Sandra Stixrude.

Hi Sandra, so glad you could join us on the couch today. Make yourself comfy and grab a drink… or tell one of the Boys what you’d like and they’ll make every effort to see that you’re… happy.

Let’s go ahead and get started: Where are you from?


Delaware, (Delawhere?) Yes, that cute little state stuffed between New Jersey and Maryland. I’ve lived here all my life and with family here, I most likely always will. It may not be a glamorous state but it’s close to everything on the East Coast.

And honestly glamorous only lasts so long before it just plain wears you out. It’s better to have family around. How about your latest news?

Marya, the first novel in the Anchorage series, released at Red Rose Publishing, March 4, 2010. Woohoo! Anchorage, my Science Fiction series, currently has seven books contracted, with the second, Romenel: Voyage into Twilight, set to release in the second half of 2010.

That is indeed awesome news! And WOW, seven contracted books. I’m amazed… and a tad jealous, lol. How much of the book is realistic?

Hmm…alien planet, strange life forms, telepathic leemacats, what would you think? Seriously, though, I do try to keep the action and the details as realistic as possible for the setting. I don’t break the laws of physics (or chemistry) and I do try to present character interactions in a realistic way.

LOL, I can understand how you’d think with all that it couldn’t be realistic, but see… you knew what I meant. What are your current projects?

The Anchorage series will most likely take up the lion’s share of my time in the upcoming year. The series, which takes place on a planet far from normal shipping routes, where thousands of years after landing, the human colonists have forgotten their origins.

This series spans approximately eighteen years in the life of Marya Intalva, her family, friends, associates, and enemies. Gotta have antagonists. While each story is, in true SF tradition, a cautionary tale of one sort or another, these are character driven stories where the characters are forced to think outside of their normal, comfortable life patterns and challenged in ways they never imagined.


I’ll bet it’s very interesting. I’ve always loved sci-fi. Can you share a little of your current work with us?

But of course. Here’s the blurb for Marya:

Know he will succeed when all others fail you… so reads the fateful letter of introduction that heralds the beginning of Marya’s desperate journey.

When the Ktar chooses Marya to watch over the heir on his confirmation journey, she has no illusions about a pleasant trip. A prophecy concerning the heir’s death, ominous dreams of a mysterious city, and the certainty one of the heir’s companions will betray him all weigh heavily on her.

Unfortunately, the discovery of the assassin in their midst is only the beginning. His menace pales in comparison to the ancient evil lurking in the mountain city. When Marya and her party are trapped and the men with her enslaved, she is forced into a battle of wills and hearts with two remaining choices: give in to the alien being who offers her power and prestige, or join forces with the same handsome assassin she sought to thwart. Lives are at stake and so are her heart and her honor – how can she choose?


And a little excerpt from the first chapter:

Marya stopped to let her eyes adjust and to collect herself. On either side of the staircase stood the statues of Alia and Liut. Alia held a book in one hand and a trowel in the other, her feet planted on the ground. Carved of bright alabaster and worked in gold, she represented all that was gi: stability, order, law, civilization, light, creation, and learning. Her dark husband, Liut, stood on the left. Made of black, polished stone, he was lost in his wild dance, feet stamping out a rhythm only he could hear. His five hands held fire, the moons, and a sword. Alia’s essential other half, the second of the two sacred, inseparable essences that made up the world, he represented everything that was ro: change, chaos, madness, wilderness, shadow, and destruction.

Marya bowed to both in turn and spoke each name with reverence and Sabiana followed her example. As a Mother Priestess, she had done this many times, but visits to the oracle were still unnerving and Marya needed the moment of ceremony to gather her courage. She took Sabiana’s hand to guide her, the girl’s eyes huge with anxiety.

They had taken a dozen steps from the stairs when out of the darkness came an eerie, hollow voice, “Who approaches to disturb the silence?”

The shape and size of the chamber contributed to the strange, chilling sound of the oracle’s voice, but the oracles were also a breed apart, more in tune with the holy essences than other mortals. No one but the Mother Prelate knew how many oracles served now or how long they held office or if they ever saw the light of day.

Marya straightened her shoulders and gave the expected response. “I am Marya Intalva, Mother Priestess and Healer of the Essensate. I seek the guidance of prophecy, for good or ill.”

The oracle hesitated, the silence closing about them in the dark and Marya heard Sabiana’s breathing accelerate.

“Inquire carefully and be prepared to hear that which you most dread.”

The response was traditional, but the oracle’s hesitation had put Marya on edge. What did it mean? Was the oracle reluctant to give this prophecy today? She asked in the most general way about the heir’s upcoming journey.

In a singsong chant, the oracle cried out:

“Black moon, black sky, black star,
Sunlit towers hidden by storm and cloud,
Trust obscures the assassin’s blade,
The self-styled god consumes despair,
The ruler’s child plunged into darkness,
Honor lost, there is howling at the walls.”


Wow, looks like a good read! Who designed the covers?

Marya’s cover is a Missy Lyons design. She’s done some of my all-time favorite covers (check out the one for Finn.) The planet with the three moons, the mountain scenery, the gorgeous couple, all these things she melded together beautifully to please an overexcited and art-challenged author.

LOL, that’s a great description “art-challenged author.” And it is a gorgeous cover. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes – I’m going to paraphrase Miss Snark here. Get the first draft down; dump your ideas onto the page. Then the actual writing begins. Don’t fear revision. It’s necessary, it’s inevitable, and the process will help you grow as a writer. Only Mozart could draft things in a perfect form the first time through (OK, he used notes rather than words, but the process is much the same.) Unless you’re that sort of genius savant, (sorry, most of us aren’t) revision drives the work.

Very good advice, and I kind of like the revision part. I know, I’m a bit odd… What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Think about writing? Seriously, I have a day job, so leisure time is sparse and precious. I love to travel—we’ve been to Canada, to Europe, to Hawaii, and China in the past few years. (That’s what happens when you don’t spend all your money on cosmetics and shoes, ladies, you have money left over to play, lol.)

I honestly don’t know if I’d know what to do with leisure time, lol. I’m rather jealous of your traveling credits. I’d be happy just to make it to Ireland someday. What does your family think of your writing?

My son is thrilled, my hubby somewhat bemused, and my parents pleased as punch to see me published. Everyone has been enormously supportive over the years, even when I was at my lowest points. While hubby asked at one point why I write ‘those kinds of books’ (meaning stories not based in reality) he still understands the need to do so.

LOL, it’s great to have that kind of support. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I know this might sound as if you’ve heard it before, but the shock for many fiction writers comes when they realize characters take on a life of their own. There’s most likely a convoluted psychological process going on, with the author managing a distance from his or her own normal thought processes, but I’m at a loss how to explain it properly.

Well-developed characters know what they want and how they want to go about things. They tell you and even berate you when they feel you have it wrong.

Writing a novel seems to be the only time society permits you to have voices in your head.


It’s an ongoing joke among us ladies here at the Menagerie and other auhors I know that every writer is a bit schitzophrenic… I’ve even said we need t-shirts: “I write what the voices in my head tell me to.” How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written seven SF novels, a short chapbook, several erotic works under a different name (Angel Martinez), and a young adult fantasy that will most likely never see the light of day. Asking an author to pick a favorite is like asking a devoted mother to pick a favorite among her children. She may feel more disposed to one or the other at any given moment, but she doesn’t truly have a favorite.

I will always love Marya, because I love beginnings. But I adore Romenel as a hero, I loved the challenge of writing Pelinas, and I think I had the most fun of my life writing the two halves of the Emily story. So I’ve answered the question…by not answering the question.


Very well said. And now for our “absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-writing” questions: Do you hate how you look in pictures? Why or why not?

I hate having my picture taken. I freeze up and make the oddest faces. The lighting is always bad and half the time I end up looking demented. Maybe I always look a little demented…

LOL, that might be, but somehow I doubt it. What is your strangest habit?

I hum to myself whenever I’m working on anything, which includes washing the dishes and such. This in itself is not so odd, but I’m usually not aware I’m doing it. If someone stops me and asks ‘what’s that song you’re humming?’ I often find I’ve no idea.

Well, at least you do something happy… that’s gotta be better than pulling out your hair. Have you ever eaten a crayon?

I have never eaten an entire crayon. However, I have sampled a few. Burnt Sienna. Brick Red. They don’t taste good, but boy do they ever look inviting.

LOL, I keep thinking the sour apple one should taste that way… and they never do. What is your heritage?

All American mutt. My mother is from Germany. My father is half-Norwegian, and hence my last name is as well. The rest is a largely indeterminate mix of French and British Isles with who knows what else thrown in.

With the Nordic/Germanic parts, you’re probably thinking ‘blonde, blue-eyed, tall’. Give me a moment here while I try to stop laughing. No, those genes all passed me by. I’m short; the hair was once near-black before it started to silver, the eyes, coffee-dark.


Well, sometimes the genetics make no sense in how they’re distributed… I’m the shortest member of my family… my entire family by at least three inches. :-D Have you ever cried during a movie? If yes, which one and why?

Yes.

Oh, you want specifics. I cry at just about anything during a movie. I cried at the beginning of Up when the old man’s wife dies. I cried as if my own beloved had died at the end of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m not certain if that was because Prince Vlad dies or because Mina had to go back to that bland, expressionless husband of hers.


Hey, I cried during Up too… I don’t see anything wrong with that. Do you like thunderstorms?

I love storms. I love the shape and color of them. They’re like live things, each with their own unique feel. Lightning cracking across the sky has fascinated me from childhood. Exhilarating, exciting, with a strange anticipatory mix of awe and dread, I find my heart pounding just watching.

If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?

Time. The right sort of time. I need more in certain places and less in others. A sewing kit for time, that’s what I’d wish for, so I could cut and re-fashion, resize and re-shape stretches of time into what I need.

LOL, I think we all wish that.

Well, Sandra, that brings us to the end of our interview. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. Go ahead and hang out, make yourself at home.


Perhaps 5'3" on a good day, Sandra has always found the world an amazing (and often large) place. She's always lived in northern Delaware, travels a good deal and loves every locale she's visited. One son, one husband, two cats, and a day job –the writing keeps her mostly sane.

You can find out more information about her and her work at the following places:

Official Site: http://www.freewebs.com/sandrastixrude

Marya by Sandra Stixrude

Know he will succeed when all others fail you…so reads the fateful letter of introduction which heralds the beginning of Marya's desperate journey.

When the Ktar chooses Marya to watch over the heir on his confirmation journey, she has no illusions about a pleasant trip. A prophecy concerning the heir's death, ominous dreams of a mysterious city, and the certainty one of the heir's companions will betray him all weigh heavily on her.

Unfortunately, the discovery of the assassin in their midst is only the beginning. His menace pales in comparison to the ancient evil lurking in the mountain city. When Marya and her party are trapped and the men with her enslaved, she is forced into a battle of wills and hearts with two remaining choices: give in to the alien being who offers her power and prestige, or join forces with the same handsome assassin she sought to thwart. Lives are at stake and so are her heart and her honor - how can she choose?

8 comments:

Sandra said...

Thank you, Kealie and Co for having me here today! I am finally in one spot this afternoon with a good connection. *whew*

Kealie Shay said...

You're welcome, it was fun doing your interview. I know how it is when you can't seem to get access to your internet... I start to get a bit twitchy when that happens, lol. Glad you could make it, today!

Sandra said...

Twitchy *eyelid jumps* yes, you could say that... We're away from home and it's just never a guarantee. The things we've come to depend on, tech-wise, lol

Kealie Shay said...

Yeah, I'm not a happy camper...literally... whenever we go camping I suffer withdrawals from my tech-stuff. Much to my hubby and in-laws' chagrin. I'm the one who checks when we are booking a hotel if it has high-speed or wireless internet access, lol.

ParaNovelGirl said...

EGGGCELLENT trailer, excerpt and blurb. The interview was fascinating. You're really going places, my friend.

Hugs
Franny

Sandra said...

So long as no one's planning on telling me where to go...

Thank you so much, Franny! And thanks for stopping by. This was a fun trailer to make - and my production partner makes it so painless (thank you, Catherine!)

Catherine Bybee said...

*snort. You make trailers easy, Sandra. I love the American Mutt... I've used that term for years. It's good to know that I'm not the only one out there!

April Dawn said...

That is a beautiful cover. Congrats on your upcoming release.
April