Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar is elated to have Sarah L. King–author of The Gisburn Witch and A Woman Named Sellers–in the virtual studio.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Argh, a question I always agonize over! The beauty of being a writer is getting to make up characters, thus avoiding talking about myself but here goes… I’m a thirty-something mum of two living in West Lothian, Scotland, with my husband, children and a number of fish. I’m originally from Nottinghamshire but grew up in Lancashire in the north-west of England, before moving to Scotland ten years ago. As well as being a writer, I am also a Councillor, which for those less familiar with UK politics is an elected member of local government.
I write historical fiction and as my choice of genre suggests, I am a bit of a history buff! I studied history at university, gaining my degree from Lancaster in 2006. In my free time I love to take my kids around castles and stately homes, making up ghost stories as we go along.
2. When did you start writing?
I started writing poetry in my teens, in a little notebook with the works of Paul Cezanne printed through it. I still have that notebook, and my husband is always trying to persuade me to publish the poems within it. So far, he hasn’t been successful! Writing a story is something which I came to much later – I had a number of false starts in my twenties, always able to get a story off the ground but never managing to keep the momentum going. Finally, I set myself a goal to publish my first novel before I turned thirty. I published The Gisburn Witch two months after my thirtieth birthday, so I nearly made it!
3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novels?
The idea for my second novel, A Woman Named Sellers, came to me during the research for my first. The Gisburn Witch focusses on the first and most infamous witch trials in Lancashire, which took place in 1612. Whilst researching I found myself drawn to the second and lesser-known trials of 1634, and the links between those trials and the ones twenty years earlier. There were so many irresistible parallels between the two trials: far-fetched accusations of witchcraft, child witnesses, and crucially, the potential that one person found herself entangled in both. The result is that both books form part of a series of Witches of Pendle novels and there are links between them, but A Woman Named Sellers is a story in its own right and it isn’t dependent on the reader having read The Gisburn Witch first.
4. Does your latest release, A Woman Named Sellers, have a moral?
I’m not sure that there is a moral as such, since A Woman Named Sellers reflects seventeenth century morals, attitudes and society. However, the story does hinge on some major themes: love, forgiveness and atonement. Essentially it is about committing a terrible deed and living with the knowledge of it, about forgiving yourself and atoning for the wrongs you have done to others. It is also a love story, although you will have to read the story to find out whether or not there is a happy ending!
5. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
That’s a tough question. Characters are like your children; you love them no matter what! If I had to choose I would probably say that my favourite character is William Braithwaite from A Woman Named Sellers – he’s such a good guy and such a radical in his time! He’s rootless, refreshing and brimming with conviction. He was a pleasure to create.
6. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Generally I write at my kitchen table during the day, or sitting in bed if I’m writing in the evening. A writing session can be anything from several hours on a Sunday afternoon, to a snatched half an hour during the week. I have another job, a family and a home to run so the formidable foe for me is time! Whenever I write, I am always armed with a cup of tea (preferably earl grey) and some good, evocative music – anything with a melancholic edge is usually best.
7. What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory, who is one of my favourite writers. It’s a fantastic story about Henry VIII’s sixth and final queen, Katherine Parr. I’m really enjoying it, even if the image of an aged, rotting Henry licking his lips at his much younger bride does give me the creeps a little bit!
8. What is your favorite book?
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. I utterly adore that book; it is so evocative of the Great War period and so laden with love and loss. I’m also a huge fan of war poetry, so I love how Faulks worked some echoes of war poets like Wilfred Owen into his narrative. Naming a favourite is always so difficult, as like most readers I have favoured a number of different books at different stages of my life. Nonetheless, Birdsong is always the story which stays with me.
9. Any project in the works?
I have a couple of projects which I’m working on at the moment. One is a novella; it’s a work of historical fiction and will complete the Witches of Pendle series (for now) but I’m saying no more as it’s a surprise for my readers! My other project is a complete departure from anything I’ve done so far; it is a contemporary novel, set during and immediately after the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. The story will be one of love, passion, regret and a little bit of mystery thrown into the mix. But you’ll have to read it to find out more!
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Dogs or cats?
2. Summer or winter?
3. Cake or ice-cream?
4. Ebook or physical book?
5. Nights out or nights in?
6. Living in the city or living in the country?
Living in the country
7. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
8. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
9. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Only quotes from Austen’s books
10. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Every language known to humankind
11. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
Walking for twenty four hours
12. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film
13. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane or finding yourself caught in the middle of a snowstorm? (Note: in both scenarios, you’d be outdoors and have no access to shelter.)
14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?