For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.
Today’s interview is with Cedar Sanderson. Cedar is one of the first people who read my stuff. She and her husband read A Lake Most Deep and told me how much they liked the story. And how much they didn’t like the cover. Oh, the art was fine, but man, I had a lot to learn about title treatments and such-like things. She was very patient with me and has helped me a ton. That’s one reason I was so pleased to ask her if she wanted to be a part of When Valor Must Hold.
Another reason is that I’ve enjoyed reading her stuff. So, I was not surprised that I loved her story Goddess’s Tears. It’s an origin story of her Blood of Frost universe, where the hero pays a higher price than one expects to fight the evils around her.
Interview: Cedar Sanderson
Why are you here?
I started writing back when I was a teenager. I had actually forgotten about that until I found a partial manuscript – and house plans for the story! – recently. It’s pretty horrible. I think I was channeling Jo from Little Women. I know I started writing for two reasons: one, I ran out of reading material. Two, I’d always had worlds in my head and I was slowly convinced that other people would enjoy reading about them, too.
I started to read at a very tender age, so I don’t remember the first book I read. I can’t really choose a favorite author, either, because it changes so frequently, based on my moods. But I can say that I imprinted early on Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dorothy Sayers, and Louis L’Amour. Also, I happen to be named for a character in a novel, so I guess you could say that reading is in the blood. I write because I love to read.
I find myself drawn to, and writing, a lot of fantasy, which I find weird. I loved Tolkein and CS Lewis. Still do, for that matter. But I also find most modern High Fantasy almost intolerable with the tropes and the clichés and the stale pastiches, oh my. Urban Fantasy – Butcher, Correia, Briggs – can be very very good, but I had actually started to write it on my own before I was even introduced to them. I still find it weird, because all my life I wanted to be a scientist. So I should be writing science fiction. I do, and even my fantasy tends to have strong science elements in it. Still, fantasy is what calls the muse most strongly.
Describe your great Lab of Creation?
I work at home these days. For a year, I had a writing office where I went and there were no children, no distractions, just quiet and minimal writing supplies. I didn’t get a lot done there. I felt guilty not being at home taking care of the family. On the other hand, I tried putting my office out in the main part of the house in the theory that my family (three teens, a husband, and a dog) would not be constantly interrupting me if they had open access to me. That was a disaster. I stopped writing for months. It wasn’t until I started taking refuge in my bedroom with the door closed that I was able to focus and write again.
I use music to create mood. When I was writing Goddess’s Tears, I spent more time than I ought putting together the perfect playlist for it. If you’re curious, you can find that here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3V5Zg2dwDACe-V99XtclfNBqC4Fhkapf the title for the playlist is my working title for the story. Sometimes I can’t use music – recently when I have been bored at work I’ve been writing longhand in a notebook (shh… actually, no one cares. I’m still training in a new role and they know I’m unoccupied for a time). This seems to be working. The one creative nut I am trying to crack is dictation. I have an hour plus commute, and it seems I should use that time creatively but I get very self-conscious trying to speak the story aloud and compose on the fly. I’ll keep trying.
What are your superpowers?
I like to explore what it is to be human, and how far you can stretch that definition before it snaps. I really enjoy developing characters, and forging them in fires to bring out the true metal of their souls. Hence the working title of Goddess’s Tears, I was writing a story where the dross was driven out of a woman’s soul in the fires of hell itself. I’m told by reviewers and fans I do character driven stories very well. I’ve wondered at times if this means I don’t do action well, but I have also been told that in a couple of my books my pacing is ‘breathless’ which is, ok? I hope?
I rarely rewrite. I did with Goddess because Rob thought the story had some dross, and it was a great experience to go hammer and tongs with him on it. I think what we wrought is better than my first draft, and I’m delighted he spent the time on it with me. It was a learning experience. Rob’s Note: The story was always good, but I wanted more. And I got it.
What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?
Oof. This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not going to get too deep with it.
The biggest challenge for me is that I have a career I enjoy very much, on top of the writing, and being an active artist. I’m busy – often too busy – and it’s frustrating to have ideas but no time to bring them to life. When I was still in college (the second time, almost 20 years after the first attempt) I was able to juggle classes, and write. But now that I’m a full time chemist, I come home drained. That, and teenagers are almost as hard as toddlers. I thought they’d be more independent, but nope!
I have several manuscripts in various states of completion. I’m struggling to finish any of them. The problem with some is that it’s been too long since I worked on it last, and I’d have to re-read it before I could start fresh. With 70,000 words on one (another Underhill book) that’s a daunting task. And I blocked on it for a reason, so I have to unpick where I went wrong and correct that. I’m a pantser. If I try to outline, I lose the story. So my recommendation is to plow ahead on a project and finish it. Don’t set it aside and come back months later scratching your head and wondering where you were going with that. Or abandon it entirely and call it practice. I’m too stubborn to do that last.
- Favorite Muppet? Beaker
- Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Dead South
- Favorite Superhero? Captain America
- Favorite 1970s TV show? I grew up without television. I’m not sure what was on in the 70s.
- Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
- Favorite Sports Team? I don’t watch sports?
- Best Game Ever? Oh, I really like Fluxx, with all the variations. There’s a Chemistry version!
- Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
- Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A friend and fan sent me several fountain pens. So wonderful for drawing!
- What Cartoon Character Are You? Jessica Rabbit
- Your Wrestler Name? La Bunuela!
- Your Signature Wrestling Move? Boiling oil pour
- What Do You Secretly Plot? How to go back to graduate school.
- How Will You Conquer the World? Bake it cookies and lull it before… but I say too much.
- Best Thing From the 80s? Die Hard
- Favorite Historical Period? 1940s (WWII era)
- Most Interesting Person In History? Dmitri Mendeleev
- Steak Temperature? Blue
- Favorite Chip Dip? Bacon Horseradish
- Favorite Cereal? Steel-cut Oats
- What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Chicken and Dumplings
- Beverage(s) of Choice? Soda? Diet Dr. Pepper. Stimulant? Mead, preferably cherry mead.
- Do You Have Pets? We have a dog, Tricksy, and two cats who are living with our daughter but were my office cats, Addie and Evie.
- What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Scarlett Johansson
- What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Ask about favorite food or thing to cook!
What question(s) would you like to ask me?
So other than Butter Tarts, what are your favorite foods?
Rob’s Answer: Steak (medium rare, blackened, with garlic butter), Butter Chicken, fresh bread with butter and honey, biscuits and gravy (having already buttered the biscuits), and, uhhhh, butter, I guess?
When you write, do you share the story with anyone? I often use alpha readers when I get stuck on something.
Rob’s Answer: I think you have to at some point. It’s almost impossible for me to really judge what I’m writing. I mean, I know I like it, but I don’t know if anyone else will. I will say one of the best compliments I’ve ever had is when James Young said something like, “I know it’ll be good. It’s you.” That’s an awesome thing to hear, but I don’t believe it until someone else has given me honest input.
When you get discouraged, how do you cheer yourself up?
Rob’s Answer: Hmmm. This is a tough one, because I don’t always have a good answer here. I feel better anytime I complete something, even if it’s just the dishes. Procrasticleaning is a thing, y’all. It’s the days I go to bed having not accomplished anything that bug me, so I guess my answer is to finish a thing. Oddly, I can say that here, but I don’t necessarily think about it when I need to.
Tell me again where we can find your stuff?
- My website is www.cedarwrites.com
- My amazon page is: https://www.amazon.com/Cedar-Sanderson/e/B006WFPHO6
- My latest novel is Possum Creek Massacre, a paranormal police procedural set in the Appalachians. The stories are drawn from family and true crime and my own forensic studies. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SQNLMPP
- I’m working with my writing group on a weekly prompt challenge. You give a prompt, and are randomly assigned one in return. It’s a ton of fun, and a great way to get writing if you are having trouble gaining momentum. I started doing the group, and the challenge, as a way to give back to the community. Paying it forward for all those who have encouraged me or poked and prodded me along the way. If anyone wants to play along, check it out here: https://moreoddsthanends.home.blog/
And where can we find you?
I’m not planning any event appearances in 2020. I’ll be attending MarCon as a guest, incognito with family. I’ll be taking my kids to GemCity ComicCon, and probably the same for CincyComiCon as well. Happy to meet up if you happen to be there!
Do you have a creator biography?
Cedar Sanderson is an author, artist, and a scientist. Her varied career lends extra flavor to her works of art, and her insatiable reading appetite once led her to run out of reading material and start writing her own. She hasn’t stopped yet. Perennially inquisitive, she wants to know more about everything and will ask strange questions if you stand still long enough to let her. Works in print include her popular urban fantasy (with very little urban) Pixie for Hire series, her space opera Tanager’s Fledglings, and her young Adult series Children of Myth, as well as a couple dozen shorter works that would make this bio too long to name them. Her cover art and design grace the covers of other authors as well as her own, and her cute dragon character appears in his own coloring book, Inktail & Friends.
Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?
You should have asked me what inspired me to write Goddess’s Tears?
Reading Jirel of Joiry. I hadn’t read it until about a year ago, and I promptly fell in love with it. The character really connected with me – I don’t want to spoil it, but the character falls in love with someone you really don’t expect and in a way you don’t see coming. But it wasn’t that. It was the chin up and face forward into the darkness. Do your duty if it sees you walk through hell. I lived that. I wanted to capture a little of that sheer chutzpah in a story of my own. I hope I succeeded in even a very small way.
Thanks to Cedar for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.
Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.
Have a great day.
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
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