On the blog today, I’m excited to be interviewing one of my Critique Partners, the fabulous SL [Samantha] Saboviec, whom I met via Absolute Write. As a critic, she has a great eye for both detail and the bigger picture of a novel; as a writer, she can balance the creative prose with the depth of a storyline unravelling.
And, somehow, my 10 questions managed to morph into 12!
Her latest novel, REAPING ANGEL, is out now:
After the battle at the Bastille, the Council of Seraphim offers reluctant demons Enael and Kaspen a chance to return to Heaven—but only after they’ve completed sufficient penance. Ready to move past the ugly chapter in their lives, they settle into their assignments.
Until Enael’s former lover, Voctic, a powerful demon, interferes.
Voctic seduces and demeans, taunts and entices Enael, stirring centuries-old longing in her while infuriating Kaspen. Caught up in the demands of their duties, Kaspen and Enael drift apart until she finds herself isolated.
Fed up with Voctic’s harassment, Enael prepares to fight back. When he targets the new human she’s responsible for protecting, she creates her own plan. His self-proclaimed “gala of the century” will be the perfect cover for her revenge. But will a hasty decision cost her Kaspen—or even her spot in Heaven?
- Hi, Samantha! Firstly, tell us a bit about your new book and how it fits in with the other books you’ve published.
My second book, Reaping Angel, is the sequel to my first book, Guarding Angel. The main character, Enael, helped win the big battle at the end of the book against a demon; however, the Council of Seraphim, Heaven’s governing body, is unhappy with her—go figure. This book is about her trying to do what the Council asks, but she’s got some, well, philosophical disagreements with what they’re asking her to do. Oh, and there’s another demon to harass her, of course. This time, it’s her former lover from centuries ago.
- What first inspired you to write this series?
I was first inspired to write this series from two angles. The first was the idea of guardian angels and wondering what they were like—how their lives intersected ours, what they think when they disagree with what we’re doing, and how we might make it difficult for them to do their jobs.
The second was the idea for the second book (which, yes, came first!): what would an “avenging angel” be like? Stories out of the Bible like Sodom and Gomorrah talk about angels who were specifically tasked to raze entire cities. They’re supposed to be God’s warriors. So… What’s that about? What’s their story? How can what we assume to be loving, reasonable beings take on such a brutal task?
- Tell us a bit about your journey from idea to published novel.
When I first had the idea for this series, I wasn’t really writing. I’d written lots of short stories as a kid, but growing up, I never considered trying to become a novelist. I wanted to do something sensible and wise, and we all know what people think about the sensibility and wisdom of being a starving artist.
I started writing Guarding Angel longhand in a notebook while I was commuting on the train to work. I set it aside. Then in the fall of 2013, I started doing some soul-searching and I came to realize that I was missing something in my life. That something was writing.
I finished and revised the book several times. I queried it, but the minimal feedback I received was that angels were overdone and not selling. But I really believed in Guarding Angel, so I found myself editors, a fabulous cover designer, and a book formatting teacher. Along the way, I improved my writing immensely, and now I’m working on book #3 in the series and book #6 that I’ve written total (not counting the one novel I wrote when I was 12).
Wow, that’s amazing: writing what you believe in, rather than what is the trend. 4. Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route?
Several factors weighed in my decision to self-publish. For one thing, I wanted to learn what it meant to publish a novel, and I definitely did. I also feel strongly about the underlying message, and I think that people connect well with the story. It doesn’t fit in the marketplace that well because most of the angel stories are paranormal romance. Mine’s more about the condition of the human race and questions we all face, like: Why are we here? What’s the point of life? Why did this horrible thing happen to me? It’s not religious fiction because it’s not set against a single religious set of beliefs, but it is spiritual/philosophical because it’s meant to provoke thought.
All of those factors led to the realization that it would be hard to find a publisher for this. And waiting for my second, third, fourth, fourteenth book to be finished and find a publisher would mean that I set myself back in the learning curve. Working directly with an editor that I hired taught me things that have improved my writing tremendously.
It also gave me a dose of reality about the publishing business, while giving me the encouragement to continue. People I’ve never met have read my book. Some of those people like it. That keeps me going.
- What was the biggest issue/problem you encountered when writing and publishing REAPING ANGEL?
Lack of motivation to write when I was pregnant. I wanted to write Reaping Angel before Guarding Angel came out; however, when GA released, I was already five months pregnant. I’ve heard stories that pregnancy makes people super creative. Unfortunately, for me, pregnancy made me super bloated, grumpy, and tired. Then there was, of course, a newborn to take care of.
On the other hand, I’m glad that I was the one who set my own pace, worked when I could, and forgave myself the stretches of time when I was focused on something else. I’m very driven—I’m always urging myself to write more, write more, write more, get it out there, that’s the only way you’re gonna make—so I have to remind myself that it takes as long as it takes. Especially when it comes to producing something of a quality I can be proud of.
- What’s your favourite part of self-publishing novels?
The control. I seriously love how much control I have over things. I can’t help myself. 😀
- Who is your favourite character and why?
In Reaping Angel, my favourite character is Jacqueline, whom you meet about halfway through. She’s a complex human who’s reincarnated almost one hundred times and loves to be a healer and help other people. She chooses to become what’s termed a Victimizer—someone who brings spiritual growth to others by causing them pain. In this instance she’s… Do I want to give away too much? Well, I’ll just say she’s a serial killer in the late 1800s and leave it at that.
Ooh, sounds…creepy, but in a totally artistic way! 🙂 8. What’s next for the characters in REAPING ANGEL? Are you writing another book to be published?
Yes, definitely! As with the first, I had really wanted to have the final book, Warring Angel, written before Reaping Angel was published, but life got in the way. At the time of doing this interview, I have the first act (about 20% written), and I’m tentatively setting to publish it in summer/fall 2017 after several rounds of critiques and edits. The plot is pretty much written, and I’ve done research on the historical events I’m portraying, and now all I have to do is… write.
Haha, yeah, I know the feeling. The writing is, in some ways, both the best and hardest part. 9. Has Fantasy always been your favourite genre to write, or do you habour a secret love for any other genres? 😉
Anything science fiction or fantasy was my thing growing up. I’ve started to move away from writing fantasy in my novels, although more of my short stories are fantasy than science fiction. I’m about 20% into a science fiction novel that I’m setting aside for Warring Angel, and I’m burning to write more space-based sci-fi in the future. I’m sure I’ll eventually come back to fantasy, but the other side is calling to me!
- Do you feel that having a degree in Physics has enhanced your Science Fiction-Fantasy?
I think it helps my science fiction. I’ve only recently put that onto my bio because before, it didn’t seem to matter much when I was only writing fantasy. The thing is does for me is lays a foundation for my sci-fi stories. I know what’s possible and what’s not, but there’s an element of “fantasy” to my world-building since I include faster-than-light-speed travel and completely made up substances that do things I know probably will never happen. Then I put in a little bit about the substance being discovered outside the solar system despite all scientific beliefs prior…
There you go. I know how to cheat. That’s what it’s done for me!
Hehe, got to have a bit of realism science in fiction! 11. What are your plans for the future of your writing?
I’m planning on publishing a contemporary urban fantasy loosely based on the Fallen Redemption world, which I wrote in between Guarding Angel and Reaping Angel, either October 2016 or February 2017—depending on how things go as I get it ready. Then, of course, I’m going to publish Warring Angel summer/fall 2017. After that, I have a ton of story ideas. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with all of them yet, but I love that we’re in this new time for publishing. If I can’t find a publisher, then I’m going to self-publish them. I have faith that I’m slowly building a fan base, and hopefully will continue to!
- What advice would you give to writers struggling to make the leap from idea to novel?
Read craft books. Critique other writers’ writing. Write short stories.
For me, it was learning how a plot works that really made me feel like I was getting the hang of this writing thing. I mold my stories around the three-act structure, with some beats thrown in. And I practice it by picking apart movies and novels. Almost always, if a story feels “off,” it’s because it deviated from the three-act-and-additional-beats structure. Save the Cat! (Blake Synder) was an all right read for me, but some of the formulaic junk he has in there is just, well, yuck. I like to think we can do better than that.
I also recently read a couple of Donald Maass books about the finer points of the craft that I love. Some of it I already knew (write interesting characters!) but some of it gave me an “aha!” moment that took my writing to the next level. For instance, microtension is used all over the place—and now I pick it out when I see it and work hard at including it. For the record, those books are Writing 21st Century Fiction and The Fire in Fiction, although everything he writes is gold.
Don’t stop learning and reading and growing. The three things I listed—read craft books, critique others’ stories, and write short stories—is what helps you move beyond trying to force words onto paper in a novel format and into really becoming a storyteller. At least, in my humble opinion.
That’s great advice; there’s something for everyone to take from that. Thanks for talking, Samantha!
About the author:
S. L. Saboviec grew up in a small town in Iowa but became an expat for her Canadian husband, whom she met in the Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Star Wars: Galaxies (before the NGE, of course). She holds a B.S. in Physics, which qualifies her to B.S. about physics and occasionally do some math for the sci-fi stories she concocts. Her dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo.
Her short fiction is forthcoming from AE and has appeared in the weekly webzine Grievous Angel. Her debut novel, Guarding Angel, received an honorable mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. The sequel, Reaping Angel, is out now.