by Ducky Smith, July 11, 2016 http://scifiroundtable.org/duckysquill.html
Before we start your interview, I want to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe. I know a little of the mythology and it was fun to follow how you incorporated it into your modern story.
In another interview, you said you write Young Adult novels. I did not get the sense that Shining Ones was for that age group specifically. What makes you, the author, classify it as Young Adult?
Sanna: I think YA involves discovery—particularly self-discovery—and the fact that life decisions are yet to be made. Tessa begins her journey steeped in the beliefs she learned as a child. After new experiences, she questions those Rules, begins to think for herself. It’s a mental Coming of Age.
All my books (two more out soon, I hope) take place during a short period of time: a pivotal moment. I think this fits with Young Adult, too. You won’t see me writing whole lifespans or multi-generational sagas; I’m too impatient!
Now, I do defy convention by mixing adults, younger adults and teens. Most YA stories eliminate anyone who might be considered an authority figure, but I think there’s a place for adults, particularly when travel is involved. In the U.K., for instance, no one under age eighteen can drive. A character list made up entirely of teens would have a lot of train travel and hiking to do. There would be issues, too, about lodging, money, even being under-aged kids on their own. Adults have their uses.
Ducky: Your location detail was very good. Have you traveled to all the places you mentioned in Shining Ones? If yes, what was your favorite place to visit?
Sanna: I visited Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland, but not all the areas in the story. To write the book, I researched every step of the journey from posted pictures and travelers’ accounts. Lots of map work involved, too. I have been to ancient places in other parts of Europe, so the sense of awe they inspire is part of my personal experience.
Ducky: I was shocked to learn you are from the Midwest, USA. Your knowledge of the ancient places of Ireland, Wales and Britain made me believe you were from there. What sparked your interest in the Tuatha Dé Danann and the legends of the Sidhe?
Sanna: As a graduate student, I studied the nineteenth-century art movement called the Celtic Revival. Artists in Ireland and the U.K. drew their inspiration from Irish legends. I loved reading those stories, thinking they were pure fiction. As I wrote the book, I began to see them as history, embellished perhaps over the 700+ generations they were told and retold before being set down in writing. Clearly, the stories were more than fireside entertainment. They formed the basis of the Irish culture and have impact even today.
Ducky: Shining Ones deals with traditions, legacies, family, and enmities. What do you hope your reader takes to heart about your book?
Sanna: Experience creates understanding. Before going to Ireland, Tessa sees the world in black and white: Dananns=good, Formorians=bad, mortals=danger. She realizes that mortals like Maggie are essential to her people’s future, that Formorians aren’t crazed psychos but people with a different ethical code, that Dananns may have their dark side, too. Most bigotry derives from lack of personal experience—too narrow a worldview.
Ducky: Share with us what you like to read. What authors have written books that just capture your imagination?
Sanna: I discovered a contemporary fantasy called Half Magic when I was a child. Loved, loved, loved the concept of magic in the ordinary world. When I exhausted my library’s supply of what I call magic realism (there are a lot of definitions), I went on to mythology, SFF, paranormals and mystery. Most recently, I’ve been reading other writers who touch on Irish myth: Shannon Barnsley, A.M.H. Johnson, Pat McDermott, and Christy Nicholas. In the mystery genre, I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth Horton-Newton, Brian O’Hare and Georgann Prochaska.
Ducky: Tell us about your processes. Do you have rituals? How about specific steps? How do you go about writing your books?
Sanna: My background in business communications taught me how to produce materials on demand. (“You want your paycheck? Write!”) Never met a Muse, but I’ve met many deadlines. When I start a new project, I outline the basics of what each chapter should achieve. Of course, the story takes on more dimension as it fills in, sometimes going in an unexpected direction, but always working toward the ending. To stay in the spirit of the story, I listen to music—one album played over and over. This works even after a lot of time has passed. Just play the music, and I’m back in those characters, that world again.
Ducky: Shining Ones is a mixture of practical and fanciful. The characters are going through some insanely wild adventures, yet they solve them and stay safe through the basic skills that any “non-magical” person might have, such as martial arts. How did you reconcile the mundane with the magical in your story?
Sanna: Dananns have Talents, not magic. Each person has one inborn ability. Tessa can change shape, but she can’t turn invisible or heal or see the future. In this way, Dananns are like everyone else. Sports stars, for instance, don’t wake up each morning dazed and thrilled by their own abilities. They’re used to being who they are; they take their skills in stride. I love writing about the ordinariness of extraordinary lives.
Ducky: Thank you for your time, Sanna, and I hope to see many more of your novels out there soon.
Sanna: Thank you, Ducky.
Sci-Fi Roundtable is a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/scifiroundtable and website http://scifiroundtable.org/ for Sci Fi and Fantasy writers to discuss writing. Hosts Eric Michael Craig and Ducky Smith encourage participation of writers in other closely related genres (such as splatterpunk, steampunk, spec-fiction, etc.). They also welcome readers “who want to hang with authors and perhaps put in their two coppers on discussion topics about writing (or reading … reviewing is a great way for readers to contribute too!” Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SciFiRoundtable.