Today I have Sarah Pennington here, author of Blood in the Snow. Isn’t that cover beyond gorgeous?
Her destiny is decided — but betrayal breaks even the best-laid plans. Baili, the princess of the Kingdom of Seven Rivers, has always known what her future holds. Declared the fairest of all by the fabled Dragonglass, she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy and unite her homeland with its long-time enemy, the Kingdom of Three Peaks. And in doing so, she may save her country from death and ruin. In order to fulfill her destiny, Baili must travel to the Kingdom of Three Peaks and marry its prince, Liu Xiang. But all Baili’s plans and expectations are turned upside-down when her servants and soldiers, acting on her stepmother’s orders, turn against her on the road. Baili narrowly escapes with her life, but she’s left alone and adrift among strangers. Fortunately, Baili finds refuge in the home of seven animal keepers: servants and slaves to the emperor of Three Peaks. Yet time is running out. Her servants’ rebellion was only a small part of a much larger plot. Within weeks, her stepmother plans to unite the two kingdoms, not by contract, but by conquest. Baili must reclaim her rightful place and unite not just two kingdoms but many peoples in order to stop the plan. And if she fails, two kingdoms will be plunged into ruin. Sure to delight lovers of fantasy and fairy tales, this rich and magical Asian-inspired adventure combines Snow White and The Goose Girl in a way you’ve never seen before.
Now Sarah is popping in for a brief interview to talk about herself and her story, Blood in the Snow. Hello, Sarah!
How did you come up with the idea for Blood in the Snow?
Basically, I was looking for a reason for the villain’s obsession with being the fairest, or at least for wanting Snow White dead. I bounced a few different ideas off my sister, then came up with the idea of a prophecy centered on the fairest. Then she and I kept bouncing ideas back and forth until I knew that it was going to be set in an Asia-esque worlds (to justify Snow White’s description; it is quite in line with ideals of beauty in several East Asian countries) and that I was going to combine the story with that of The Goose Girl (because it filled in some space in the plot and the two meshed well together).
Can you recommend any authors/books that have inspired you and your style of writing?
Sure! My three favorite authors and biggest inspirations are J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson probably has the biggest influence on how I think about magic in my stories (even though I don’t do a lot of hard magic) and connections between storyworlds. Stengl’s writing style and character treatment have a pretty significant effect on my own voice (especially in Blood in the Snow) and characters, especially when it comes to dialogue. I think the best way I can describe it is that Stengl gives us very human characters in a very magical world, and that’s what I try to do as well, in my own way. And all three authors — Tolkien, Stengl, and Sanderson — give us stories of broken, imperfect people who nonetheless choose to fight for what’s good in the world, and again, I try to do the same.
What is your writing process like?
Time-consuming, and involving a great deal of rewriting and retyping the same scenes. I start with a very basic outline, some rough character profiles, and the essential features of my storyworld. Then I write the first draft of my novel by hand — I like to do this part during a NaNoWriMo event so I have a little extra pressure to push through the tough sections. I’ll let that draft sit for a few weeks, a month, or even longer in some cases, and then I’ll start transcribing it into a Word Doc, making edits as I go. After that, I might retype the whole thing again, making more changes, or I might go straight to editing in-document until I’m satisfied with the story.
Are there any characters in Blood in the Snow that you DID NOT get along with while writing this story?
Not really. Honestly, the cast of Blood in the Snow were some of the most cooperative characters I’ve ever worked with. The only real character trouble I had was keeping certain non-main characters from taking over the story.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from this book?
Good question. I don’t write books intending to convey specific messages, but there were certain things that I was thinking about a lot while writing Blood in the Snow. And one of those ideas is the need to hear others, to understand where they’re coming from and what they’re dealing with that you might not have realized, so you can speak well on their behalf in places where they ordinarily might not have a chance to be heard. But that’s definitely not the only thing you can take away from the book, or the only thing you should. When I was working with my beta readers, I asked most of them what they thought the theme of Blood in the Snow is, and I found it very interesting how they all came at the answer a bit differently.
What’s your next project?
More fairy tale retellings! Right now, I’m editing Mechanical Heart, a steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. I hope to have it ready for the Golden Braids release next year, but we’ll see if that works out. After that, we’ll have to see.
Bonus: A dragon invites you over for dinner–what do you do?
I’d start by making sure that I wasn’t going to be dinner. Once I knew that it was safe, I’d happily accept, then start coming up with a list of potential conversation topics to make the most of my opportunity (and to ensure that my awe and excitement didn’t completely steal my words away).
Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres. Sarah’s first published work, Blood in the Snow, received a perfect score and Special Unicorn status in Rooglewood Press’s Five Poisoned Apples contest. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list.