Today we are excited to welcome Sarah L. King to The Contents Page. Sarah is from West Lothian in Scotland, where she lives with her husband and young children. She is the author of three books: two historical fiction novels set during the Lancashire witch trials in the seventeenth century and a contemporary novel set in Scotland during the 2014 independence referendum. Sarah is here to tell us all about her writing process, her contemporary novel, Ethersay (http://amzn.to/2sGKWPx), and her upcoming short story anthology, Words and Deeds: Stories of a Woman’s Right to Vote, for which Sarah would love you to submit a short story.
The blurb of Ethersay (http://amzn.to/2sGKWPx):
“The day after the referendum, my life fell apart…”
The day after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, Glaswegian Yes activist Rebecca Owen decides to run away. After being involved in a car accident she is knocked unconscious and when she wakes, she finds herself inexplicably marooned on an isolated Scottish island, Ethersay.
Suffering from memory loss, Rebecca finds herself drawn into the island’s mysteries, particularly those surrounding the strange disappearance of a young woman, Delilah Berry, whose fate seems to be inextricably intertwined with her own. As Rebecca draws closer to the truth about Delilah, she is forced to confront what happened to her in Glasgow, and everything she lost, with devastating consequences…
A stirring tale of passion, loss and betrayal, Ethersay is a novel about the search for truth, but also the pain of remembering.
Welcome Sarah, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a thirty-something mum of two living in central Scotland with my husband, children and a handful of colourful fish. I was born in Nottingham, grew up in Lancashire and settled in Scotland just over a decade ago. In essence my life has been a gradual journey north! As well as being a writer I am also a Councillor, which for those less familiar with UK politics is an elected member of local government.
I write contemporary and historical fiction and it’s fair to say that I am a bit of a history buff! I studied history at university, gaining my degree from Lancaster University in 2006. In my free time I love to take my kids around ruined castles, making up ghost stories as we go along.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve actually just started reading an ARC (advanced reading copy) for a forthcoming novel, A Case of Serendipity, by K.J Farnham. K.J is an author of contemporary fiction for women and young adults whose work I have got to know and love over the past few years, so I’m really enjoying getting stuck into her latest book. My reading choices are very eclectic – I love everything from historical fiction and historical fantasy right through to contemporary women’s fiction, romance, mystery, and even the occasional crime thriller.
What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve been writing in some form or another for as long as I can remember. For me writing is a creative outlet, at once a form of self-expression and escapism, and the opportunity to allow my imagination to run wild! I wrote poetry throughout my teens and always had a vague aim to write a novel one day. However, I never seemed to be able to carve out the time and space to craft something. A few years ago I decided to stop procrastinating and I set myself a goal to publish my first novel before I turned thirty. I published The Gisburn Witch two months after my thirtieth birthday, so I nearly made it!
What inspires you to write?
I’ve always been drawn to writing stories about ordinary people who lived through big events and turbulent times – how they felt, what they went through, and so on. My first two novels, The Gisburn Witch and A Woman Named Sellers, are historical novels set during the Lancashire witch trials in the seventeenth century. When I wrote these books I was really motivated by the idea of writing stories which filled in gaps which history, for the most part, can’t address. I wanted to get to the heart of the human experience, to convey how utterly bewildering, terrifying and traumatic it must have been to be caught up in those trials. I suppose when it came to writing my latest novel, Ethersay, my motivation was somewhat similar as I really wanted to explore the impact of that momentous, exciting, watershed moment in Scotland’s history on ordinary lives.
What brought you to write Ethersay?
Ethersay represents quite a change in direction for me and is my first contemporary novel. The initial inspiration actually came from a dream I had, about a woman finding herself on a beach with no recollection of how she got there. I remember waking and immediately jotting down the idea and as I thought about it, I started to ask myself questions: who is she? How did she get there? What is it that she can’t remember? I have a keen interest in politics and like a lot of people in Scotland I got very involved in the independence campaign in 2014. After it was over I did have a notion of writing something set during that time tucked away at the back of my mind. And so, a couple more questions came to the fore and I started to wonder, what if this woman was a Yes campaigner? What if the referendum had irrevocably changed her life?
What was the hardest part about writing Ethersay?
For someone whose first foray into writing novels had been through writing historical fiction, I had grown used to the history providing a framework for my story, including key characters and key plot points. With my Witches of Pendle novels, my job as the writer was to reimagine the story and its characters and to fill in the parts which history doesn’t tell. In many ways, the history was my guide – it was the thing which my characters participated in and reacted to.
With Ethersay, however, aside from the references to events at large during the referendum campaign or perhaps mentions of particular streets in Glasgow’s west end, the story itself was entirely my creation, as were the characters whose story I was telling. So, whilst the national events existed, the characters’ individual experiences and responses had to come completely from my imagination. That was quite liberating but it was also pretty scary as the challenge to create something convincing and engaging felt much greater.
What is Ethersay about?
Ethersay is the story of Rebecca, a woman in her mid-twenties who lives in Glasgow and, like many people at that time, becomes active in the campaign for Scottish Independence. The book begins the day after the referendum when, for reasons the reader discovers during the novel, Rebecca gets in her car and drives away – basically she is running away from everything. She has a car accident and when she wakes up, she finds herself on a mysterious island called Ethersay, with no memory of how she got there or, indeed, of the preceding three or so years of her life. On Ethersay, Rebecca meets some pretty enigmatic characters and finds herself drawn into the mystery of what happened to another young woman, Delilah Berry, who seems to have disappeared from the island years earlier.
The story is a dual narrative as each chapter alternates between telling Rebecca’s story on Ethersay as she attempts unravel its mysteries and also telling the story of what happened in Rebecca’s life in the six months leading up to the Referendum vote. The two stories then converge at the end as everything falls into place. And I won’t say much more than that, otherwise I will spoil the ending!
What is your favourite part of Ethersay?
That’s quite a tough question to answer without giving too much away! I actually still love the beginning. When I go to events and do readings from the book I tend to read the first chapter, partly because I always worry that reading from later in the book will give the ending away, but partly because I love it. I like the way it throws the reader straight into the action and lays bare Rebecca’s despair, capturing a lot of what it felt like to be living in Scotland at that time. For me it gives the right amount of energy to push the rest of the story forward and I’m very proud of it.
What’s next? What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing the third instalment in my Witches of Pendle series; a novella which focuses on the childhood story of Jennet Device, the girl who gave damning evidence against her family in the 1612 witch trials. This story links in with both The Gisburn Witch and A Woman Named Sellers and rounds off the series nicely – for now.
I’m also venturing into new territory this year with an anthology in recognition of the British centenary of women’s suffrage. I’m currently seeking short story submissions which address the theme of women and the vote. The anthology is called Words and Deeds: Stories of a Woman’s Right to Vote. The deadline for submissions is 30th April, 2018, and full details and guidelines are available on my website (www.sarahlking.com) for anyone who wishes to make a submission.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah. It has been a pleasure to hear about your books and your writing. I hope that you get lots of fabulous submissions for your short story anthology and look forward to hearing from you again soon.
You can contact/connect with Sarah here:
You can find Sarah’s novels here:
The Witches of Pendle Series
The Gisburn Witch: http://amzn.to/2Hw7kOT
A Woman Named Sellers: http://amzn.to/2Hy7PrU
Would you like to submit a story to Sarah’s anthology, Words and Deeds: Stories of a Woman’s Right to Vote?
It should be short story that addresses the theme of women and the vote, from any genre and set in any time or place, up to a maximum of 4,000 words.
Find out more (including the terms and condition) here: http://www.sarahlking.com/?page_id=622.
The deadline for applications is the 30th April, 2018. Good luck!
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