Five Golden Braids Blog Tour: an Interview with Sarah Pennington

MechanicalHeartPromo

Earlier this year I had the honour and pleasure of beta-reading Sarah Pennington’s Rapunzel retelling, Mechanical Heart.  This steampunk novella is being released today!  To celebrate, I am interviewing the author.  Please welcome Sarah Pennington…

43407030_497763937368798_3651564736744521728_o

Do you have a creative mission statement?

I don’t have a formally defined one, but in general, my goal is to write stories that reflect the truth, that don’t shy away from difficult questions just because they don’t have solid answers, and that remind readers of the Light in the darkness of life. In addition, I want what I write to be focused on people and relationships, to reflect our intrinsic need for community, and to recognize that there are many kinds of strength.

How long have you been writing, and who are some of your greatest creative influences?

Well, I’ve dabbled in creative writing since I learned how to write, and I’ve always had a tendency towards storytelling, but I started thinking of myself as a writer (and put more effort into writing often and writing well) when I was about eleven or twelve. Interestingly, the project that led to that shift in thought was also a fairy tale retelling! As far as creative influences go, they’ve shifted over time, but J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis make the list pretty consistently. Recently, I draw a lot on the writings of Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Brandon Sanderson, Bryan Davis, and D. Barkley Briggs for examples of how to tell a story well. I’d also say that the music I listen to is a pretty big creative influence — any time I listen to music, I’m looking for something that will help me understand my world, characters, and plot better.

What do your writing sessions look like?  Do you have a particular place to do it?  Do you supply yourself with snacks, drinks, or music?  Do you have a writing mascot?

It honestly depends — I like variety, and my schedule changes from semester to semester and season to season. And I’ve put some effort into making my writing as portable as possible — I draft in a notebook, I can edit on my tablet, and I almost always have my phone and headphones on hand — so I can literally write anywhere and anywhen. I actually rather like writing in the car on long trips; it eliminates a lot of distractions! But when I’m at home, I do a lot of writing in a particular blue armchair. It’s pleasantly square and solid and large enough to accommodate a variety of positions. And when I’m at college, I tend to write a lot at my desk or in computer labs, but if it’s a nice day, I’ll sit on the steps of our Bible department building by the lake and write there. Snacks and drinks are variable, but I do try to have water on hand, or tea if it’s early in the morning or I’m settling in for a long-haul session. Music is a must, though! Lately, I’ve tried harder to match my music to the culture I’m writing about, so my current WIP means I’m listening to a lot of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese music.

And no, I don’t have a writing mascot anymore, but I used to — I’d alternate between two stuffed dragons and a fox that I’d set on my desk while I was working. I have considered doing that again, though for a different reason: so I can see if rubber duck debugging works for stories as well! (For the uninformed: rubber duck debugging is a reported practice among computer programmers in which a programmer who’s experiencing code issues will explain those issues to the duck and, in doing so, recognize the problem. The advantage of the duck, obviously, is that it doesn’t interrupt you and won’t tell you if it’s not interested in what you have to say.)

 Aside from the story of Rapunzel—of course—what gave you the idea for this story?

Heh. Mechanical Heart didn’t actually start as a Rapunzel retelling. It started with a Lindsey Stirling song, “Shatter Me,” and the idea of a girl living in the top of a clockwork tower, trapped there by the programming in her mechanical heart and by her own fear. I actually wrote what would become the first chapter a couple years before I wrote the rest of the book (on my phone at an amusement park, of all places!). Then, during the gap year between Rooglewood Press’s Sleeping Beauty and Snow White contests, I decided to try to guess the next year’s fairy tale and write a retelling of it that I could have ready to edit when the contest opened. I (incorrectly) guessed Rapunzel, remembered the idea I’d had earlier, and decided to expand that concept into a whole story.

I remember being impressed with the worldbuilding, such as how the magic system impacted the politics.  Were there any elements from our world that inspired the world of Mechanical Heart?

Mechanical Heart, like Blood in the Snow, is set in a world that’s similar to, but not the same as, our own at some point in history. In Mechanical Heart, of course, that point in history is London during the Victorian Era. “Inspired by” is a loose term, though; Victorian London served as a jumping-off point and as a basis for answering questions like “How much money would this character reasonably earn?” and “What kind of food might these people eat?” One of Luis’s inventions that comes up towards the end of the book is based on a real device, though, so that’s fun.

I would also like to note that, while the problem of blood alchemy deals with a lot of the same moral, ethical, and philosophical issues that are involved in certain real-world political problems, blood alchemy is not intended as a stand-in for any of those problems. Mechanical Heart is its own story in its own world, not a political allegory.

Who was the easiest Mechanical Heart character to work with?  Who was the hardest?

Luis Kronos was, by far, the easiest character to work with — and, wonderfully, he made anyone who was in the scene with him easier to work with as well. (That said, he fits into a character type that I generally find easy to work with.) He’s sensible, a bit sarcastic, and super excited about what he does. Plus, his and Josiah’s friendship is really enjoyable for me. They’re a bit of an unlikely pair — a prince and the son of a clockmaker — but they complement each other really well.

The hardest character to write, though? That’s a tie between Josiah and Weston for roughly the same reasons. They’re the least straightforward characters in the book, and they’re both politicians who tend to weigh every word even as they say a lot of words. Of course, part of the problem is also that their scenes tended to be the Senate scenes, which were pretty exhausting to write. Political debate is not my forte.

What would you do if you found yourself within the world of Mechanical Heart?  What would happen if the cast of Mechanical Heart found themselves in our world?

Oooh. Good question. If I found myself in Rivenford, my course of action would depend somewhat on when I showed up, but I’d probably start by finding Kronos Clocks and Gadgetry, the shop where Luis works. I’d talk to Luis, explain who I was and where I was from (possibly leaving out the fact that I’m his author), and see how he reacted. Thankfully, the presence of magic in his world means he’d probably believe me more readily than someone from our world would. After that, I’d try to befriend the main cast and hang about, providing useful information when I could do so without breaking the story, the world, or the fourth wall. I’d also probably try to get a job at a newspaper, even though I generally have no interest in journalism — after all, if I’m the author of the world, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting my facts wrong (as long as they were consistent with what I’d already established). I mean, yes, Josiah and Grace would probably put me up, but I have to do something to keep busy and give me an excuse to explore the city while I figure out how to get home.

On the other hand, if the cast of Mechanical Heart ended up in our world? Luis and Breen would both be amazed by a lot of our technology and innovations, and they’d spend a lot of time trying to reverse-engineer the more interesting stuff they can get their hands on. They’d be so busy with that, they wouldn’t have time to be overwhelmed. Josiah would be mildly overwhelmed by how much bigger and busier everything is compared to what he’s used to . . . and then he’d read or watch the news and be so infuriated that he wouldn’t have any energy to be overwhelmed. And Grace would be frustrated that, despite all the apparent advances, accommodations for deaf people aren’t significantly better than they are in her world — though she would also love the enormous amount of fiction reading material. Leave her here long enough and she’d probably hole up in a library and start four different book clubs. Overall, they’d find it interesting, but they’d be eager to get back home as soon as possible.

 

Thank you, Sarah!  For more about Mechanical Heart, as well as other books in the Five Golden Braids collection, see the links below for the Five Golden Braids blog tour:

(Click the covers to preorder now on Amazon!)

Coming August 5th!
Add to Goodreads
Still reeling from recent trauma, Robin and Eric agree to help some friends. But can healing be found when people refuse to communicate?

Knitted By God’s Plan – Five Reasons To Read
Light and Shadows – Five Reasons To Read
Reviews
Christina and Camera + Mini interview!
The Language of Writing
The Labyrinth + Mini interview!
The World of a Writer
Interviews
Reality Reflected – Robin
The Rambling Rose – Rapunzel
Dreams and Dragons – Eric+Lukas


Coming August 6th
Add to Goodreads
A witch, a pirate, a lighthouse, and … seaweed?

Knitted By God’s Plan – Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows – Five Reasons to Read
Reviews:
Reality Reflected
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing
Interviews
Unicorn Quester – Annie
Dreams and Dragons – Molly


Coming August 7th
Add to Goodreads
Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Knitted By God’s Plan – Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows – Five Reasons to Read
Dreams and Dragons – Writing Deaf Characters
Reviews
Reality Reflected + Mini Interview!
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing
The Labyrinth + Mini Interview!
The World of a Writer
Interviews
To be a Shennachie – Sarah
Guest Posts
Dragonpen Press – Why Nomances


Coming August 8th
Add to Goodreads
Above all, never, ever allow your hair to be cut.

Knitted By God’s Plan – Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows – Five Reasons to Read
Reviews
The Language of Writing
Interviews
Dreams and Dragons – Meredith
Character Spotlights
Reality Reflected – Rebekah
The Labyrinth – Martha
Dragonpen Press – Frederick


Coming August 9th
Add to Goodreads
Can the imprisoned princess and the exiled samurai save the seven kingdoms from ruin?

Knitted By God’s Plan – Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows – Five Reasons to Read
Reviews
Unicorn Quester
The Language of Writing
Interviews
Safe Return Doubtful – Shichiro
Dreams and Dragons – Wyn
Guest Posts
Reality Reflected – Rapunzel and Ancient Japan

2 thoughts on “Five Golden Braids Blog Tour: an Interview with Sarah Pennington

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s