First time novelist, E.A. Saraby is a teacher and a mother of three. Her debut novel, The Light of Pensieri (Lulu, 2006) centres around Elie, whose quest leads her into the Pensieri Mountains, where malignant spirits drive people to madness and despair.
In a recent interview, E.A. Saraby spoke about her writing.
What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to write and being able to clear my mind enough to do so. I am a full-time teacher and mother to three small children. I have maybe one or two hours to myself during the day, and often that time is taken with preparing for the next day's class lessons. Often I'll get ideas as I stand in the shower or drive to work – I try to outline them as soon as I can, but often I'm interrupted before that's possible.
Luckily, my husband is a saint. When I get in 'the zone' and actually have some time, he will do what he can to take care of the kids and allow me an hour or two to write. He's often gone to bed alone on the weekend because I'll burn the midnight oil writing and sleep the next day, leaving him to fend for the kids again. He was quite glad when Pensieri was finished (as was I) because I could have weekend time with the kids again. I also carry a small journal with me to jot down ideas by hand (normally I write on a laptop), so if something comes to me when I'm on the go, at least I have a chance to catch it.
How many books have you written so far?
I've written several short stories and poems. Pensieri is my first full-length novel. I published it via Lulu in August of 2006.
Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?
In addition to the time factor, there were bits and pieces where I really had to delve deep into myself and confront my own demons for a scene. I'd close my eyes, feel the tears and just type. The book was a safe way for me to confront a few of my demons in a creative, hidden sort of way.
Which did you enjoy most?
There were characters I absolutely loved writing. They literally made me laugh. I really don't know where half of the book came from, so when inspiration hit to write certain parts I laughed out loud or rubbed my hands together ruefully.
What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?
Pensieri is more fictional, more fantasy. My other works tend to be more obviously personal and nonfiction. Pensieri is much longer, with a much richer plot-line. It took a lot more research to write it and I needed the assistance of others to ensure that my storyline was consistent and solid.
It is similar to the other things that I have written in that there is still a great deal of personal material buried within the fantasy in Pensieri. The writing style itself is similar as well.
What is your latest book about?
Currently I'm working on the sequel to Pensieri, which has a working title of Strega's Crown Prince. It investigates the spiritual concept that demons exist in all of us; how we react to their temptations determines who we are.
Do you write every day?
As my life is pretty full without writing, I'm unable to write every day. I write when I have the time and when inspiration strikes. Pensieri took three and a half years to complete. My other works are usually completed in one sitting. Ideally, I'd love to be able to write every day.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I don't think I "decided" to "be" a writer. I'm a teacher by profession. I've enjoyed writing for years, ever since I was a child. It's an outlet; a way to safely express many different feelings deep in my soul with the twist of creativity. It is almost like a recreational activity for me… just as others might choose to go golfing or read to relief stress … one of the activities I choose is to write.
Who would you say has influenced you the most?
God, by far. He's given me the confidence to just let the words flow and not concern myself with what others might think. As for other authors… Hemingway comes to mind, with his simple word choice yet deep symbolism. J. K. Rowling has an amazing ability to keep a multitude of characters straight throughout her stories, something I'm trying to work on. She also has an uncanny ability to suck a reader in and not let go, which I aim for. Dan Brown uses an incredible amount of religious symbolism in his work and adds twists and turns… I enjoy that academic approach. J.K.R. uses it as well. I'm an academic at heart, and in everything I write I like to learn more myself.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
I'd probably say my main concern is that readers find deeper meaning in something I write. Whether they find the meaning I intended is irrelevant, but I do hope they find something in my writing that touches them at a deeper level.
How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?
They are the direction of my writing. Everything I've written is in some way a manifestation of what's in my own soul, and that is based on my personal experiences. I don't write specifically about any event that happened in my life; rather, I write about the feelings inside that resulted from the events.