Our Book Club has grown significantly, drawing in authors and poets from all walks of the writerly life. Some are already published, and some, like today’s author, are emerging authors with completed works, waiting to be published. It is our honor to cast our spotlight on the talented Sarah Cushaway today.
Name: Sarah R. Cushaway
Latest Release: Salt in the Water: A Lesser Dark Book I (fall 2016)
Ghosts in the Glass: A Lesser Dark Book II ( spring-summer 2017)
Genre: Sci-fi fantasy western
Sarah R. Cushaway current resides in the frozen wastes of northern Michigan. When not writing or dabbling in other creative pursuits, she spends her time with her husband (and co-author) and her three-year-old daughter.
- Do you use a pen name? Why or why not?
I do not use a pen name, though I considered it at first. I may for future series.
- Describe your writing style in three words.
Blunt, gritty, vivid.
- How long have you been writing?
Since I was in grade school. I had a poem published by a local small press when I was twelve, and was active in my high school literary magazine. However, I only started my attempt at a “real novel” a year and a half ago. I now have two manuscripts nearly ready for publication. They’re part of a planned four book series I’m working on, and it has been quite the learning process.
- Which type of writing challenges inspire you the most?
I don’t participate often in writing challenges or contests – I tend to put all my focus and effort into one project at a time. Some authors are energized by multiple projects, but I find I work best keeping all the attention on my “main” task.
- Describe one way in which you could improve your writing.
There are so many things about my writing I’d love to improve, but if I had to choose one – I’d say I’d like to write stronger action sequences. I’m getting better, but those are difficult for me.
- What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Like most authors, I’ve been given so much advice it’s hard to pinpoint which has been the best or worst. However, I think a quote by John Steinbeck really encouraged me at a point where I was feeling a bit down about my writing.
“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that make a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”
- Who is your favorite author?
I have so, so many “favorite authors”. I’d have to say any story that has impacted me on a personal level quickly becomes a favorite, so it’s hard to choose just one. However, the story that has stuck with me most in the past two or three years is “The Stars Look Down” by A.J. Cronin.Any story that has impacted me on a personal level quickly becomes a favorite #interview… Click To Tweet
- How do you make time to write?
My husband and co-author (he’s helped with every aspect of the story, from plots to world building to characterization – except for the actual “sit down and write” part – that’s solely my job) watches our three year old daughter for a few hours every day before he goes to work so I can get some writing done. If it weren’t for his help, I’d be having a much more difficult time pumping out finished manuscripts.
- When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend it with my husband and daughter, doing the usual family stuff – taking walks, listening to endless toddler songs, cleaning up messes. All the fun stuff that comes with having a young child. When I’m in the mood, I also dabble in art and music.
- How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I read few ebooks. I tend to buy paperback copies if they’re available – but generally I just search genres and categories I know I enjoy and check out previews of the story. If the author can hook me in the first few pages (and I’m admittedly hard to hook), I’ll probably pick the book up.
I do. It was a story about a fox chasing a rabbit. Turns out the rabbit was actually the antagonist, and all the fox wanted to do was keep from starving. I’ve always had a “thing” for switching the roles of protagonist and antagonist, I suppose.
- Do you have an experience with the publishing world? Tell us about it.
I was contracted for about 10 months with a small publisher. I can’t say the experience was very pleasant, though it was definitely an eye-opener as to what NOT to look for in a publisher. The experience started out fine, but as time progressed, I found myself less and less excited about the prospect of this particular publisher handling my work. Fortunately, I was given my rights back and my contract terminated. The whole ordeal has left me leery of small publishers. I know there are good, solid ones out there, and I may seek to publish traditionally in the future, but I’ll be self-publishing this series.
- Describe your desk/writing space:
Pens and notes piled up around me, as well as a hard copy of my manuscript. It’s kind of a disorganized mess most times, which is ironic since I keep my actual writing pretty well outlined and organized.
- Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a very small (less than 500 people), very poor rural town. The upside was I was surrounded by miles of nature just a quick bike-ride down the road, and understanding how to incorporate scenery, nature and animals (both fictional and real) into my current series is very important. The setting of the series plays as much an antagonistic role in many scenes, and often serves as a symbolic motif. Also, growing up where I did definitely helped me capture an authenticity of “voice” that many authors struggle with. I’ve been told none of my characters seem like stereotypes or caricatures – and that could be due to the fact I base their mannerisms and speech on the way people I grew up around actually talked and acted, as opposed to basing them off what I’ve seen in film or on television.
- When did you first start writing?
When I was four or five. As soon as I could string together a few words, I was writing stories.
- Do you prefer to write long stories, short, flash? What is easiest for you?
Short stories and flash fiction are not my thing. I always write full novels. I believe that short stories, novellas and flash fiction are a very different skillset than writing full/long length novels – and being able to do one doesn’t necessarily mean you can automatically jump into the other.
- Share one writing goal you have yet to meet.
Actually getting my first book out there to the public. I’m very close, and would have been there already if the publishing company I signed with had worked out the way I had hoped. However, I feel this way, even if it’s taking a little longer, will result in a much better book all around.
- What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When a scene comes together better than I had hoped, and when all the little complexities and symbolism line up to a coherent whole that makes me go “Wow. I wrote that? I came up with that idea?”. Just gives me the biggest thrill ever.“Wow. I wrote that? I came up with that idea?” @SRCushaway #interview #amreading #ourwriteside Click To Tweet
- What do your fans mean to you?
When people get excited about what I’ve written, I get more excited to keep writing. The encouragement of fans – be it a beta reader or someone who has read an excerpt of my work on a social media site and wants to read more – really helps me keep focus. The depth of the series I’m trying to attempt is a little daunting at times – I often wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew – but when someone tells me “I loved this, when can I read more?” I feel every moment of frustration and doubt has been worth the effort of pushing past.
- What are you working on next?
Once Salt in the Water is out, I’ll be doing a final sweep of the sequel (I’m on my 3rd draft and am about 95% done with it, I only need to revise a few closing scenes/chapters) Ghosts in the Glass. Then, I’ll be starting work on the third book in the Lesser Dark series, which I don’t have a title for as of yet. I hope to get Salt in the Water out before Christmas – an editor I’ve hired will begin working on it early September, and want to follow up with Ghosts in the Glass by next summer.
Thank you for the interview!