Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sara M. Harvey-An Author Poised to Stay in Fashion

Anyone out on the Con circuit who has met Sara M. Harvey, attended a panel with her on it, or has participated in a workshop with her, can vouch for her enthusiasm, savvy, and creative insights. I first encountered Sara a couple of years ago in precisely such a setting, at the 2008 version of Hypericon. That is where I was introduced to Sara's writing as well, as I picked up a copy of A Year and A Day, a wonderful tale about angels living among humans in New York City.

Sara is a hard-working writer, who has a number of things released and in the works, from short fiction in anthologies to her gothic steampunk fantasy trilogy, which currently included Convent of the Pure, and the new release Labyrinth of the Dead, released by the award-winning Apex Book Company, one of the highest regarded small press publishers in the USA.

Without a doubt, Sara is an author on the rise, with a growing readership, and an increasing popularity on the Con circuit. I have always wanted to ask Sara a few questions, so I thought I'd visit with her on the heels of the release of Labyrinth of the Dead.

I think the answers bring forth her infectious personality, and I whole-heartedly recommend her to readers of speculative fiction.

-Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog, August 17, 2010

SZ: What were the foundational ideas and inspirations for your steampunk fantasy series?

SH: A dream I had many years ago.

It was a neat concept that needed a larger world to support it and it sat in my what-if file on my hard drove for years and finally found a great outlet!
I tied my initial dream about a creepy boarding school full of magic users (this was pre-Harry Potter) and blended in some Biblical myth and set it in a really fun universe that I feel is just a step away from our own and about 100 years in the past.

SZ: All authors have a certain bonding to their characters, but are there any characters in particular that you have especially bonded with in this series, and why?

SH: I really love Portia. I think an author has to be a little in love with their protagonist to really made him or her shine on the page. I have ended up drawing some from some game characters I have played in the past to give her a certain dimension and details. She is a lot of fun.

This also means I have to be a little in love with Imogen, too, I suppose. But the character that stole my heart the most was Kitty Insinori who initially appears in the short story "Prelude to Penemue." Of course I couldn't just leave her there so look for our plucky engineer to make another appearance in book 3, THE TOWER OF THE FORGOTTEN!

SZ: The Nephilim, offspring of celestial beings and mortals who appear in biblical and other ancient lore, are a significant part of this series. What was your approach to their legends, in terms of deciding how to portray them in your series?

SH: I did a lot of reading of some fascinating essays and online articles that dealt with the Nephilim from both a scholarly standpoint as well as a spiritual one. So between reading all the Biblical accounts I could scrounge up in all the versions available, coupling with some books on demonology and the online information, I felt really confident in putting my own spin on it as well as adding in a dash of Anne Rice's Talamasca and Whedonverse Watchers with a dose of White Wolf's old vampire clan system. I think the amalgam really works for what I was trying to create: a secret society of supernatural creatures broken off into distinct houses with specific powers and responsibilities. The house we get to see believe their job is to guard humanity from the evils of the unseen world. But other houses may have slight different interpretations on their responsibilities.

SZ: Have you enjoyed working in the arena of steampunk fantasy? What things about it in particular appeal to you, in terms of setting a story in a steampunk type of environment.

SH: Oh I LOVE it! I love everything Steampunk and have since I was a kid.
People think it's odd that a costume historian is into this kind of alternate and fantastical version of history but to me, this is the Good Parts!

There is a lot to love in the genre- the ability to make the history we know and tweak it (much less than one might think!) to fit events plotted in the story. It serves as a great jumping-off point to give a great foundation that the reader will find just familiar enough but allows for addition of fantastical elements.

SZ: It would seem that a dark, gothic, steampunk fantasy series would be very attractive to an author who is also happens to be a superb costume designer. Tell us about drawing off of your costume design background in your approach on the imagery of characters depicted in the story. Has your story inspired or spurred some new ideas and explorations in the area of costume design for you?

SH: The very best part about Steampunk is the clothes, I think! And I wanted to make sure the clothing was authentic and made sense for each character. Coming from a background in theatrical costume design, I love to use clothing to help define my characters. For example, Portia always wears sensible shoes. She's a fighter and her clothes have to reflect that. Not as "fun" as the fancy stuff, but she has to be dressed true to her character.

I definitely sketch and carefully consider clothing options for characters like Portia who end up developing a rather...peculiar... body type.

SZ: What were some of the things about Apex Publications that motivated you to bring your series to them in particular? (and tell us a little about your process in getting it published by Apex)

SH: I LOVE Apex and I have for years, even since discovering them when I moved to Nashville in 2005. My goal for years had been to get something published with them. Trouble is, what I write was never really on-theme enough for the magazine (this is back before the Cat Valente days when the magazine was in print and more strictly sci-fi/horror). But my work didn't go unnoticed and at Chattancon in Chattanooga, TN a few years ago Jason Sizemore, the big boss, approached me to pitch him a book for his budding novella line.

On a Friday I told him he'd have the proposal in his inbox on Monday. I spent the weekend busting my shapely behind to come up with something worthy to bear the Apex name.

I'd like to think I did right by them.

SZ: How has the response been from readers and reviewers on The Labyrinth of the Dead (and especially those that had given you positive feedback on the first book)

SH: Second books are always the toughest to sell and this one isn't any different. The start has been slow but I can see the momentum gathering as fall arrives. Reviews are getting out there and the fans are starting to take notice. THE CONVENT OF THE PURE debuted to mixed reviews, but I think people will really come away from this installment feeling a much stronger connection to the characters and the world. Overall I think this is the next step up from CONVENT in many ways and that readers are going to love it! I have heard from reviewers that one can hop right in at this book and still have a marvelous time enjoying the story.

SZ: Tell us a little about the cover art for both books, The Convent of the Pure and The Labyrinth of the Dead, which are both fantastic. Did you have input regarding the selection of the artist, and the images developed for the covers?

SH: I had the very best luck with the covers. Apex likes to have author feedback on covers and they employ a fantastic stable of artists from the Bielaczyc boys of Aradani Studios to my artist, Melissa Gay. I was familiar with Melissa's art style and have been a fan for years. I asked her if she would be interested in taking on the project and she said she'd like to look at the book first. The next time I spoke to her, not only was she done with the book, she already had a bunch of sketches done already! She was, and still is, SO EXCITED to be working with me on this. She lives about 10 minutes away and we get to meet up for consultations (and chit-chat!) if need be. I love being able to work with another artistic professional who is not only a friend but a big fan of my work. My favorite thing is getting to tell people all about her at cons because her work is so lovely and I am so very proud that my books bear her art!

SZ: Do you have these titles out in any of the eBook formats?

SH: Yes! All of my Apex titles are out in various eBook formats from Kindle through Amazon to various platforms through Fictionwise and DriveThruSciFi.com and of course through the Apex bookshop: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/apex-store/ebooks/

SZ: When is the next book in the series coming out?

SH: THE TOWER OF THE FORGOTTEN is just getting finished up currently and will be out in Spring of 2011

SZ: What else might you working on right now?

SH: Too many things!

I have an urban fantasy that takes place in Nashville and has been so much fun to write! The second project is a YA fantasy that has some Steamy leanings and has also been a blast! Not to mention the usual array of short works for anthologies (DREAMS OF STEAM from Kerlak is out now and I anticipate DARK FUTURES from Dark Quest Books pretty soon. Later this year find me in TRAFFICKING IN MAGIC/MAGICKING IN TRAFFIC from Drollerie Press).

SZ: On a fun note, what was your reaction when you first found out that your friend and fellow author Elizabeth Donald had named a main character Sara Harvey in her book The Cold Ones?

SH: I was honored! Elizabeth asked me first and wanted to immortalize my name in print (something she is fond of doing) because she thought very highly of me, my writing, my work ethic, and my fashion sense (I am the official fashionista of the Literary Underworld and do a lot of fashion styling for my fellow authors!). I love to give Elizabeth a hard time about all the terrible things she's doing to "me" in the book. Thusfar, Major Sara Harvey is alive and well. But she is working on a sequel....

SZ: How can readers connect with you online?

SH: I am everywhere online!

My website is www.saramharvey.com. You can find me on Facebook under Sara M. Harvey and on Livejournal and Twitter as saraphina_marie. I love to hear from fans of my work, so please ping me!

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