BookView Interview with Author Eva Sandor

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Eva Sandor, Longtime illustrator and author, about her writing and recently released fantasy Power’s Play (The Heart of Stone Adventures). (Review coming soon.)

evasandor.com
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Facebook: facebook.com/eva.sandor.author
Instagram: evasandor_books
Twitter: @evasandor
Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/show/20506109.Eva_Sandor

Longtime illustrator Eva Sandor is now painting with words! She’s building a world of magical technology, luscious language and characters meant to make you think as well as laugh.

Eva is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, where she learned to work and play hard in equal proportion, and of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the perfect environment for her alternately wry and ridiculous sense of humor. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, their horse and a constant stream of creative projects.

From the Blurb: Power’s Play (The Heart of Stone Adventures)

Revisit the characters from Eva Sandor’s first novel as their story deepens, darkens and expands to include more of their mildly magical fantasy world…

A year after saving the lives of the Royal Family and the future of the Kingdom’s most modern country, Malfred Murd is no longer a Fool, royal or otherwise. He’s a newly minted nobleman— who can’t help plunging back into his own special brew of trouble. This time he’s taken on a task that’s outrageous even for him: becoming an undercover officer, out to bust the biggest crime boss in a vast and decadent city.

After three generations of estrangement, Dame Elsebet is the first de Whellen to meet her King and Queen. She welcomes them joyfully to the modern land Fred helped save from destruction— only to discover that none of that may have mattered.

With her shy but lovable new husband at her side, the magnificent, ever-composed Ata Maroo finally reaches her homeland in the Peaceful Ocean and confronts a fearsome force of nature: her mother.

Intelligent magpie Corvinalias takes wing on the adventure to begin all adventures…

…and the mind-meltingly wealthy de Brewels push decadent, obtuse cluelessness to stratospheric levels before learning a lesson they— or anyone— could never forget.

POWER’S PLAY blends equal parts comedy, crime novel and adventure as four plot lines diverge, then surge back together to reach a powerful— yet playful— conclusion.

  • Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Well, of course they could! Not all writing has emotion in it: technical manuals and legal documents don’t write themselves!

Even if we restrict ourselves to fiction, is feeling strongly guaranteed to translate into writing well? Maybe people who go around with their emotions constantly cranked into overdrive get dull to them. What’s far more important, I think, is for a writer to feel emotions clearly.

Writing is the act of choosing specific words and entrusting them to carry your message into another person’s mind. It’s the clarity of the inward senses, not their intensity, that enable a writer to freeze the action in her imagination, zoom in on it, examine its details from various angles, and decide whether the words she’s putting on the page are the right ones for the job.

  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Two things: a very lightweight laptop (MacBook Air) and a program called Scrivener. Could I write without these? Sure. I could also wash clothes by hand in a river!

Having a lightweight computer means I can easily take it on the road with me— in fact, a lot of my first novel was written on a commuter train. And those who’ve used Scrivener know it’s really an incredible tool, designed specifically for building the structure of a written work. 

Neither of these were expensive. I bought the computer used from a friend of my husband’s, and recently refreshed it by changing the battery. Scrivener cost about $50 and I’m still using the second-to-last version. I might upgrade or I might not!

Another excellent piece of software, if you have the budget, is a called Dramatica. This one serves a completely different function than does Scrivener: it asks you a series of increasingly fine-grained questions about your story, forcing you to refine and clarify your thinking until “the story writes itself”. It’s about $150, but I think  that’s a good price for something that helps shine a light into the unexamined recesses of the thought process. There could be gold in there.

  • What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Oh, boy, research! For me, this is crucial. Have you ever read a book that gets something really obvious wrong about one of your hobbies, or a place you know well, or some element of your culture? Before the internet, that might have been forgivable. But today, it’s easy to get the details right.

So even though my books take place in an imaginary setting, I make an effort to learn as much as I can about whatever I put in them. For example, I have a character in FOOL’S PROOF who drives oxen. So I joined an online group for ox trainers and offered them my manuscript to fact-check. They’ve turned out to be some of my most engaged readers, and now I’m hooked on their incredible photos and updates.

The thing about all this research, though, is that very little of it is complete before I begin writing. Obsessive research is a very common form of procrastination!  Instead I just start, and write until I reach a point where I feel that I’m getting out of my depth. Then I stop,  learn just enough about the subject where I feel like I could have an intelligent conversation about it, and then move ahead. Or, if the research involves waiting for someone else— perhaps I want to interview them or have them read the manuscript— I put the time to good use by continuing to write some other part of the book. After all, I have a deadline!

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’m an outliner. I find a wealth of similarities between writing and visual art, and for me the outline is literally that: a simple sketch that I’ll reshape, resize, cut chunks off of and put back in elsewhere (or not). As I work, I use this outline as an underlying guide to be sure that all parts of the story are present, properly connected to one another, and in the correct proportion.

For me, the change between novels 1 and 2 involved how my outline was constructed— both conceptually and in terms of its organization in Scrivener.

The way I wrote FOOL’S PROOF, I went up a lot of blind alleys— twelve drafts’ worth! That number didn’t alarm me. I’ve had enough experience learning new stuff to know that the first time you do something, you’ll zigzag a lot on the way to the goal. Some people think of all those zigzags as wasted time— they’re not, if they teach you what to avoid in the future.

I built my second attempt, POWER’S PLAY, for maximum efficiency, set myself a deadline and beat it by a month. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do the same thing with the two other books I have planned in this series, but I’m going to continue using my process and improving it as I go.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

Now, this question has a lot more to it than people might think! I don’t just pull them out of a hat (even a fancy, embroidered one like Fred’s)!

Years ago, a friend lent me the A Song of Ice And Fire series on Kindle. I couldn’t see their covers and had barely heard of A Game of Thrones— but on the very first page, where a knight was referred to as “Ser” and not “Sir”, I understood the mood JRR Martin was trying to create. Changing that one letter warned me: this isn’t the Round Table or Ivanhoe. It’s an alternative Earth.

I liked the idea of something being just familiar enough to highlight its strangeness, so I populated my alternative Mediterranean Basin with Doktors and Prophessors and nullicorns, and gave my human characters mostly classic European names, with the exception of a letter or two— Elsebet, Alvert, Malfred, Lorenz… even Dame Irona is a change of one letter (this time from a Hungarian name).

The magpie names, though, obey a formula:  a word for a bird in the crow family + a word that means “name”. Our main magpie’s name is Corvin+alias, and his surnames— he has two, in the Spanish style— are Elster+nom e Ro(o)k+onoma. Etymology fans, enjoy!

Last but perhaps slickest is the name of the villain in FOOL’S PROOF. There’s an anagram in there that should delight those who actually find it 😉

  • How did you decide on the title?

This is another seemingly simple question that has more to it. The original title of the first book was “Nobody’s Fool”, which made perfect sense in that Fred was out of a job and thus, was nobody’s. But it turned out to have been used by 85 other books! Even my second choice, “Fool’s Errand”, had too many competitors by the same name. I was annoyed—I wanted a unique name (this was before I learned that people are now choosing titles to take advantage of search term trends).

I searched on “Fool Proof” and found it maddeningly taken; I complained about it to my husband; and— you know how people ask, “Where were you when [important thing] happened?”

I was standing in my kitchen, making a ham sandwich, when my honey bunch said: “How about adding an apostrophe-S? Fool‘S Proof.”

By jove, that was it! I loved it! I loved it so much that I came up with three more unique, wordplay titles featuring apostrophe-S. The second book is called POWER’S PLAY. You’ll have to wait for the next two, but they’re great titles, I guarantee it. The books will have to live up to them!

  • What sort of a relationship exists between you and the characters you created in this book?

A fascinating one, I think, in that they’re my imaginary creations but the goal is to get them to “belong” to others.

By belonging, I’m not even talking about the obvious extreme of writing fanfiction. You don’t have to imagine the characters doing anything new to get a sense that they’ve become part of your mind. It happens because, when you consume a book, movie or show, you gain memories of what its characters did. These created memories of imaginary people take their places alongside your experienced memories of flesh-and-blood humans— at least, they do if they’re interesting enough.

That’s why every writer is seeking to create “memorable characters”: if they’re memorable, in a sense they’re “real”. If any of my characters stick in your mind, then I’ve given you an experience. I’ve added to your life.

  • What’s next for you?

You can’t see me, but here I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on a wooden tabletop: I’m planning to record FOOL’S PROOF as an audiobook! If the experience is fairly painless and the result is good, I’ll do the same for POWER’S PLAY. These days people want to be able to consume books “eyes-free” and I have to say the idea is starting to appeal more and more to me as the years go on.

I’m planning two more books in the series I’m calling THE HEART OF STONE ADVENTURES, and then after that— who knows? I might go into a different genre altogether, or set myself to the task of adapting the Adventures for other media. One thing is for certain: I’m not going to stop writing. It’s too late for that— I’m hooked!

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