Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sarah K. Stephens Talks Writing With Me

Last week I had the opportunity to interview the lovely Sarah K. Stephens, author of A Flash of Red,  "a powerful glimpse at the destructive effects of mental illness and an online addiction on an already broken relationship.” 

Me - To start off, tell me about your books.
Sarah K. - I write literary thrillers. My debut, A flash of red, is coming out winter 2016 from Pandamoon publishing. It's a psychological thriller examining the intersecting lives of three main characters; a husband-wife pair and a university student. All three are losing their connection to reality, in differing ways.
Me - Interesting! How did you get into writing?
Sarah K. - I’m a developmental psychologist by training and a full time university lecturer, but writing has always been a passion for me since I was in elementary school, even.  I walk to work each day, and these story ideas kept popping into my head during my commute. Finally I decided I just needed to find time in my life to write them down.
Me - Lovely. I get a lot of ideas on my morning commute to work as well.
Sarah K. - It's really great to be able to have that time just for thinking
Me - Definitely. What kind of books do you read? Favorite authors?
Sarah K. - Oh my gosh--P.D. James is a favorite of mine.  I've read every single thing she's written. I love her mysteries, but Children of Men is my favorite. Then there is Jessica Francis Kane-- the report was a masterpiece and her short stories just won't leave me after I read them. And of course-- Gillian Flynn is a favorite too. I could go on and on. Tana French too! See--I just keep wanting to add names.
Me - What's your writing routine like?
Sarah K. - I can only listen to instrumental music when I'm writing, so intern towards a lot of Beethoven. And Mozart's requiem, which has words but since they're in Latin I guess it doesn't mix up my writing brain. I prefer to write in the morning if my schedule allows--we have thee children and I try to write while they are at school.  Overall, I've learned over time that even 20-30 min of devoted time is better than nothing. I have to grab the little pockets of time that life as a professional woman and mom gives me.
Me - I can't imagine trying to write with kids. I have a hard enough time writing around my dog.
Sarah K. - We have a pit bull too--and I agree, he takes up a lot of time too
Me - What's your experience with your publisher been? I've seen Pandamoon around quite a bit lately!
Sarah K. - They are incredible! They have done an amazing job creating a community amongst their authors. I've developed strong professional friendships with my fellow 'Pandas' (as we call ourselves)-- I've never felt so supported and encouraged as an author in my life.  I truly feel Pandamoon is my advocate and will do everything to help achieve success for myself and its other authors.
Me - That's beautiful. Is there anything about your books you want future readers to know?
Sarah K. - In my writing, both within my books and my short stories, I strive to try and reveal aspects of our human natures that might otherwise go unnoticed or unremarked.  We are complex creatures, and when we connect via intimate relationships, platonic or romantic, the intricacies become ever more difficult to disentangle and view with clarity. My goal as an author is to try and reveal through my characters the tenuous nature of human connection and, often, how it can go awry.
Me - Well, you've sold me on it. I'll be reading something of yours for sure now. Any last words for our readers?
Sarah K. - I wrote a short story titled Boys. I wrote it in response to the student-led movement to @ endrapeoncampus and my own connections with students in my classes who are survivors of SA.  Many universities, including my own, instituted an emergency alert system where all subscribers would receive messages of emergencies in campus.  I signed up assuming it would be used in the case of campus threats, but from 2012 on it primarily became a medium for the university to notify subscribers that a SA had occurred on campus.  Not what was being done to address sexual violence on campus. Just a reporting tool.  And as the messages piled up in my inbox, I started to worry, first, about the victims and what was being done to prevent SA and to help survivors, but also about the potential for these messages to desensitize subscribers to the issue of SA.  It felt like a superficial attempt to address a very serious issue of safety for students. My story is in direct reaction to this reporting system and its potential for harming the cause of ending rape on campus. It examines three young men who proceed to kidnap a woman walking home from campus who they believe  witnessed them committing a minor traffic crime.  It proceeds from there, the alert system playing a major role throughout the story.
Me - Awesome. What an important topic. Thanks so much for spending this time with me.

Later on, Sarah K. Stephens and I also had a short discussion about Lady Gaga’s powerful performance at the Oscars, so I wanted to include this link to the video because if you haven’t seen it, you must.

Sarah K. Stephens can be found on Twitter @skstephenswrite and on her blog.

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