Now, you can go ahead and call me biased, but I think Sara M. Harvey, author of A Year and A Day and the brand new The Convent of the Pure, is awesome. She's a costume-crafting, mind-molding, tale-telling weaver of wonders, and I'm not just saying that cause we've been buddies ever since A Year and a Day was short stories on an Angelfire website. Sara has generously granted me an interview (LSL's first!), and I hope you enjoy it!
1. The Convent of the Pure is both familiar territory and a surprising departure from your body of writing. What inspired this particular mix in your latest novel?
I really love angel myths, and readers of my previous book, A Year and a Day, saw the lighter side of angels. The Convent of the Pure mixed in some of the old myths with a dark, Steampunk bent. I was drawing from my magic-reality, urban-fantasy well but tilting it towards a horror market. And as much as I have always loved to read horror, this is my first time attempting to write it. The crux of this plot came from a dream I had- I always keep a dream diary and write down the gems my sleeping brain comes up with. Sometimes I feel like that's cheating, but it is still my brain and my ideas, just done while sleeping (one of my favorite pastimes!).
Biblical myth, historical fiction, horror, with a good dose of a weird dream, and a touch of female-female love story just seemed perfectly natural to me. ^_^
2. Lots of writers are talking about the advantage of a small, dedicated publisher in current economic climes. Tell us about your experience with Apex Book Company.
My experience with Apex has been nothing short of wonderful! I really feel like I am part of the family, we take care of one another. I don't have the same nationwide distribution that I did with my previous mass-market publisher, but I feel that I MATTER to the company. The people there care about me specifically and I have been allowed a lot of creative freedom in how my book looks, feels, and is marketed. And with the smaller scale of production, I get to have a hand in cover art, back blurb copy, etc. And small publishers can really feel niches in the book world, allowing for more specialized writing to reach its target audience. And with digital print-on-demand technology there is no difference between a small publisher and the big houses, especially when the small publisher is Jason Sizemore who is committed to having a book that is top quality- inside and out.
3. Steampunk, as a genre, is well known for its comics and movies, but not so much written works. What steampunk-flavored lit would you recommend?
My obsession with Steampunk started at a very young age with the classics, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. There has been a rise in Steampunky literature in the past few years from Circlet Press's Steampunk erotica anthologies (Like a Wisp of Steam and Like Clockwork) to YA fiction (His Dark Materials- The Golden Compass trilogy and to some extent, A Series of Unfortunate Events) to mainstream stuff (The Court of Air) to fantasy (Palimpsest).
A quick search of Amazon.com of items under the tag "Steampunk" reveals a wide variety of music, literature, films, and graphic novels- there seems to be a little flavor of Steampunk for every taste!
4. You're a Renaissance woman--a ghost tour guide, a college professor, a costume historian and designer. Do your other pursuits ever flavor your writing, and vice versa?
Everything is a tapestry for me. The theatre background led to the costuming and the teaching and the touring. And the history thing, oh, that flavors everything. It is one defining thread through my life- I love things that are old, I hunger for nostalgia.That love of history is where the ghost stories come in- it is history directly interacting with the here and now! I love to read and write historical fiction for a variety of reasons, but the clothing is a lot of it for me. I just adore describing costumes! It rally adds so much to the character- the colors they choose, the textures, how free or restrictive the clothes are, etc. It is just the same for theatrical costume design as well. Clothing says a lot about our personalities and reveals a lot of secrets that most people don't even realize. I love to use this to my advantage!
5.What is your advice for other writers that consider genre merely a set of nice suggestions to be politely ignored?
As someone who floats free on the genre sea, I can tell you that your fans will love you for your complexity and your uniqueness, but larger publishers will make you want to cry because you don't fit neatly into pre-determined categories. But that is another place where small publishers really help to fill in the gaps for readers and for writers- they allow for a lot more grey areas between genres that most readers really desire. And the bigger publishers are starting to come around and pick up books that cross a lot of genres and eschew boundaries. But fairly warned be ye says I, it is not an easy road, but ultimately one that is, for me, the most rewarding. I have got to be me and if I can't hit the broad side of a genre barn, but my readership continues to increase, well that just tells me that I am not doing anything wrong and maybe it's the world that needs to change!
But then again, I am the instigating type.
Intrigued? I knew you would be. Catch her all over the WWW, at her Official Website, her blog Charmed and Dangerous, and over on Livejournal and Twitter. If that hasn't sold you, we'll have to have words--preferably words about her 10 Days of Amanda Palmer interview over at Apex's blog.