It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. Some people also have a book in outer space.
Last week, we interviewed Miladysa, and discovered the facts behind her haunting serial Refuge of Delayed Souls.
This week it’s the turn of author Sharon T. Rose, whose online work is showcased over at LilyFields Entertaintment.
Tea? Yes. Interview time!
AMH: You have two ongoing serials: Space & Time, and Swords and Sigils. Which of the two are you currently more passionate about, and why?
STR: I would have to say that Space & Time takes up the most room in my head and heart. I’ve had this story for many years, and the upcoming page 100 introduces some characters near and dear to my heart. They’re some of the first characters I ever created, so I’ve been working on them for over 15 years.
Swords and Sigils is far newer, so I’ve had less time to build up the excitement for it.
AMH: Alright then. Give us the elevator speech for Space & Time. Why should people read it?
STR: Space & Time has a lot of relevant things in it. The main character is struggling to not merely stay alive, but to live her life. We all have to figure out who we are and who we want to be, and we all have to fit within our social context.
Life is a big, intricate, messy, glorious thing, with lots of adventures in every day. Space & Time gives us the chance to see that in a different context than what we’re used to, and perhaps we will find some things in it that will help us in our situations. Plus, there are lots of fun characters, some exciting (forthcoming!) events, and very different cultures. Not to mention unpronounceable names.
AMH: Speaking of unusual contexts and unpronounceable names, I’m curious to learn more about your alien character Jregli. How do Yerbrans compare to humans?
STR: Both are bipedal with two arms, and that’s about all the similarity. The short version is that Yerbrans are reptilian, average about 12′ in height, have long tails, and are strict herbivores. The full description is in the bonus materials section of Space & Time.
Socially, they are very Machiavellian; they look after themselves first and always. Other people are tools to be used to further one’s own power and prominence. The exception to that generalization is the group called the Children of the Wind. They reject traditional Yerbran culture and live both outside it and alongside it, espousing the ideals of freedom, equality, and unconditional love & acceptance.
AMH: Writing about alien worlds must require a lot of imagination. Where do you draw your ideas from? Is anything based on real people or settings?
STR: I get ideas from everywhere and everything; the world is my inspiration! I try to not base my characters on any real people other than myself, but sometimes minor characters will be loosely based on someone I know. One of the waiters in the Pub, for example, is based on my brother, who is a waiter in real life.
I do draw characteristics, situations, and responses from reality, though, and occasionally physical aspects. I work very hard to create unique characters, so anything I do take from RL gets changed up a lot. I will say that I usually start a story from a book, show, or movie I came across, but then I make it my own.
AMH: What about Space & Time specifically – how did you come up with the idea for the story?
STR: Haha! I do have to confess that the setting is pulled almost entirely from a popular TV show. Originally, Jregli was one of a Race found on that space station, but I came up with a different physique and tweaked the culture just a bit. The plot for Space & Time ORIGINALLY revolved around the characters coming up on page 100 (have I pimped this enough yet?) and the situation they’re involved in.
Jregli was supposed to be a supporting character, not the main one. But how can you resist such a cute kid? I can’t say too much here, since that would be a spoiler, but there’s a big problem that the people in Jregli’s space are only vaguely aware of, and the people about to crash the party are going to fix it their way, with no regard for what the Mutuality wants.
AMH: While we’re on topic, this week’s reader-submitted question, from Lyn Thorne-Alder, is: “When world (and race-)-building, is there a process you use, or is it organic/random?”
STR: It’s really a combination of the two. Nearly all of my MCs are organically inspired; I suddenly get s brilliant idea (I say). The MC goes on adventures in my head for a while until I decide that I want to make a real story out of it.
Then comes the process: what is this story about? What is the outcome, and how do we get there? If this event is going to happen, what has to precede it? If the MC is going to do this, then what has to happen in the world (or Race) in order for that to work? What particulars of the Race (or world) will impact how the MC operates?
These are the types of questions I ask myself in the process, and I let the answers flow organically from the events. I’ve learned that I can’t take too strong a hand in the flow; I have to let the worlds and Races (and especially characters!) develop themselves to a large degree. Once they’re born, so to speak, I can train them in the way they should go. And train myself to not get too exasperated when they do their own thing.
AMH: Backing up a bit, why did you chose the webfiction route, rather than aiming for traditional publication?
STR: Many reasons, the primary of which I think is that it forces me to write consistently. I tried writing my novels before and would always give up before I got very far into it. This forces me to discipline myself, knowing that there are people counting on being able to read updates (even if they refuse to show themselves).
Another is because seeing my work online makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something; I can track my progress over the weeks and months and see it happening. Traditional publishing requires newbies to have a completed work before anyone will look at it, and that really discouraged me. I still want to be published on paper, though.
AMH: All your online work is published under the umbrella brand of LilyFields Entertainment. Why?
STR: I wanted to create a brand that didn’t limit the scope of my offerings. At the moment, I write fiction. Occasionally, I draw some pictures to support those stories. In the future, however, there will hopefully be many more types of entertainment for audiences.
I’d love to do a comic someday, and I’m open to partnering with others to create art in many forms. Perhaps someday there will be music, or podcasts, or, or, or. Naming my site after just one story or one type of entertainment would not have allowed me to grow over time.
It also makes it easier to manage income tax reporting in that far-future day when I actually make a living off of this.
AMH: Onto your website itself. You’re the second author on Digital Novelists to be interviewed here on the caf. Can you give me one strength and one weakness of DN as a platform?
STR: Only one? Wow; that will be a challenge. I’d say the biggest strength of using digitalnovelists.com is how easy it is. The basics of the Drupal interface aren’t too hard to figure out, so we get to focus on creating our worlds, not fiddling with obscure technology.
On the other hand, Drupal isn’t 100% customizable, so no one theme is perfect. I would love to keep the overall colors and design of my current theme, just change some of the column arrangement and fonts. But I can’t do that without a lot more techie know-how than I care to acquire. You’re at the mercy of others to design your themes, most of whom have no idea what you want or need. So, you get a ready-made theme that you can fiddle with a little bit, but you can’t have both cake and eating.
AMH: Great – that’s it from me. Any last words?
STR:I write because I love telling stories. I’ve been creating stories since I was a small child, and I’ve never been able to stop.
While being able to make a living from telling stories or having a large, devoted fanbase is appealing, I would write whether or not anyone read it. I’ve been accused of preferring fantasy over reality before, and it’s true… to an extent. I find that seeing things, people, and situations in a fictional setting actually helps me understand reality better. I live in reality, not any fantasy world. Yet I think that the ability to dream, to step outside of the ordinary, is integral to life.
Everyone needs to get away for a little while, and I want LilyFields Entertainment to be a place you enjoy visiting.
And don’t forget to come back next week for an awesome interview with a mystery guest (yes, I’m not telling you).
If you have any questions of your own for Sharon, leave them in a comment below.