Author Spotlight – Patrice Sarath
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Patrice Sarath!
Patrice Sarath is an author and editor living in Austin, Texas. Her novels include the fantasy books The Sisters Mederos and Fog Season (Books I and II of the Tales of Port Saint Frey), the Books of the Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) and the romance The Unexpected Miss Bennet.
Patrice is the author of numerous short stories that have appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Weird Tales, Black Gate, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and many others. Her short story “A Prayer for Captain La Hire” was included in Year’s Best Fantasy of 2003 compiled by David Hartwell and Katherine Cramer. Her story “Pigs and Feaches,” originally published in Apex Digest, was reprinted in 2013 in Best Tales of the Apocalypse by Permuted Press.
Patrice is an avid horsewoman. She also enjoys bike-riding and hiking the woods and trails outside Austin.
Thanks for joining us, Patrice. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I recently read Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, a retelling of Beowulf in the modern day. It’s unexpected and gripping. Dahvana-Headley’s version is the best kind of retelling, as it deepened my understanding of the poem along with telling a great story.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m a big believer in found weapons for defense. So I’ll be the meek cleric, and I will distract the orcs by throwing my pack, the firewood, small rocks, window fittings, bedclothes (this is a fully kitted out dungeon), the iron skillet on the stove, baseball bats, and my companions all in their direction.
Love it! When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type, but considering the pile of blank notebooks I have, you’d think it’d be the other way around. Although, I guess that’s why they are blank.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
The damned souls of shrimp are too high-pitched to hear, so I prefer the screams of fossilized snails buried in limestone in the creekbeds surrounding Austin. They resonate.
Sounds sublime! Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
Pantster. I have a friend who is a solid-gold plotter, and just listening to her discuss her process makes me want to unzip my skin and run away.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Album: Jethro Tull, Songs From the Wood.
Movie: The Empire Strikes Back
Television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess
Art: The Pre-Raphaelites
Opera: La Boheme
Theater: Dracula (I saw this with Frank Langella in the original production on Broadway, and Langella legit smoldered on stage.)
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
An Icelandic movie called Just Breathe Normally, about two women whose lives intersect in an interesting way, and how they end up helping each other. It’s a quietly powerful movie about women’s strength, and it’s full of great examples of women choosing to help each other, not just the main characters. And no one is punished for it either, a message that Hollywood doesn’t seem to get. I chose to watch it because I lived in Iceland for a year during college and I still love the country and I wanted to see what I recognized of it in the film.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Hmmm, an extra day? If I could, I’d like to spend it hiking or bike riding, ideally on a trail where I’ve never been. I’d take a camera with me, not just my phone, and just try to see the world around me.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
The m-dash because I overuse it. It’s like the semi-colon doesn’t even exist.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Two princesses — one throne. The future of Iberre is at stake. If Ephenie can’t wrest the crown from her half-sister, the kingdom will fall under the rule of a despotic priest class.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I don’t tend to play well with others, but I’d love to work with Marti Noxon (Buffy) or Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad, Anne with an E).
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I think I’ve forgotten any bad advice I’ve been given, but the best advice is Shitty First Drafts.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Rouen, France, May 1431. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on May 30, so I would need to get there, set up my operation. I’d find Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy (her mates) and Captain La Hire, and maybe even d’Aulon, and get the gang back together. In my clumsy medieval French over bad wine in a smoky tavern, I’d lay out the plan. We wouldn’t be able to storm the dungeon, but I would sneak in and distract the guards, d’Aulon would say something suave, La Hire would blow the op by getting impatient, and I’d throw everything at the guards (see my dungeon m.o.).
We’d get Joan out though, and with the squires waiting with the horses, we’d ride south. We wouldn’t be able to return to Domremy, so I think we’d hole up in Gilles de Rais’ castle in Brittany, which would be awesome, because Joan would probably talk him out of the whole necromancy and pedophilia thing.
So yeah. That.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Remember how Bruce Banner said, “I’m always angry?” Well, I never really want to write. I’m just compelled to. So yeah, I get stuck and I get scared and worried that I will suck and then I get very avoidant, but I’m used to it. Things either resolve or they don’t. A lot of the time, when there is a block, it means that the book has taken the wrong turn, so I just cut the bad part, stick it in the cut file that I keep for each book, and move on.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I don’t think Austen’s contemporaries liked it, and it’s certainly been misunderstood by today’s readers. But it’s surprisingly funny and deep, and I love it very much.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Do you like Jane Austen? Do you like magic? My Port Saint Frey books are like if you smushed magic into Jane Austen.
Thanks again for joining us, Patrice, and good luck with your latest release!
Patrice Sarath is the author of the GORDATH trilogy and the TALES OF PORT SAINT FREY series. Her latest novel, FOG SEASON, is out now with Angry Robot Books.