I’m Sara Bain, journalist, photographer, graphic designer, media and marketing advisor, publisher and one of those authors who can’t write to formula.
I don’t harbour a rebellious personality disorder and I’m not unreasonably obstinate by nature. The reason’s simple: I just like to write what I would like to read.
If this means that my protagonists appear flawed, my villains not evil enough, or my heroes fail to boot their enemies into the Eoarchean era, then that’s the way it is.
I don’t plan a story, I don’t write notes and I don’t draw character maps. I begin with a personality and the setting appears around them. That person meets another and the tale unfolds from there through dialogue. Like the reader, I never know where it’s going to take me until I get there.
I’ve always loved the fantasy genre and the definitive hero for me was never the reluctant one. Heroes know who they are and why they are admired for their outstanding qualities, such as power, physical prowess, fortitude and achievement. For me, intelligence is the ultimate quality of the true hero: he’s the one who doesn’t flex his strength or test his sword on an inferior enemy and knows when to hold his punches, only delivering the killer blow to those who truly deserve it. He is not an indiscriminate murderer but rather a cleanser of evil and wrongdoing. His fierceness in battle is only matched by his ferocity in love.
I met my true hero when I started writing my fantasy series, The Scrolls of Deyesto, over eighteen years ago. He began as a secondary character, but it soon became obvious that he was the pivotal force of the entire story.
Like most authors when first starting out in fiction, my writing was raw, rambling and overly-enthusiastic. I tended to write great swathes of florid exposition in a poor attempt to mimic my favourite authors like Laurie Lee, Thomas Hardy, Coleridge and the Brontes, fanned by the flames of a 19th century poet-esque passion – see what I mean? This resulted in a wonderful intro that lasted for at least the first 70,000 words. By the time the action really started, I’d forgotten what the story was about and left my heroes and villains running around the vast panorama of my medieval-style world not knowing what to do with themselves!
In consequence, I am in the throes of a complete re-write of the first book – which is an epic effort in itself. In the meantime, last year I decided to write a contemporary crime thriller that would stay true to my favourite genre, so wove a very subtle fantasy element into the narrative.
I took the hero from my big book and wondered what would happen to him if I lobbed him into the mayhem of modern-day London. The result was The Sleeping Warrior which I published last year under my imprint Ivy Moon Press.
The Sleeping Warrior has been described as ‘remarkable’; ‘an edge of the seat suspense from beginning to end’; ‘atmospheric and captivating’; ‘interesting, different, gripping’; and ‘breathtaking’. Conversely, some reviewers dropped a few stars saying it ‘leaves so many questions’, and for having a ‘perceivable breach in the plot-line’. One reviewer didn’t like the characters at all.
Every reader gets something different from what they read and one perception is never the same as the other. I like layers to a story: underlying themes; subtle enigmas; small red herrings; whispered suggestions. Some people will get them immediately; others will skim the surface; and a few will never notice they’re there in the first place.
I have never yet been disappointed with a review (famous last words) as I have never been criticised for being a poor writer. Quality of writing is extremely important to me and I tend to spend a lot of time on the editing process, getting it right.
My second favourite genre is paranormal fiction. As a child, I was always mesmerised by tales of the supernatural and, as an adult, fascinated with the philosophical and scientific rationale of it. Is there a spirit world and, if so, can it be explained by logical theory?
I am a journalist, so research and facts are part of the job. I came across the tale of the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist when researching haunted houses in my locality for a running feature in the newspaper I was working for. The terrifying tale of a malevolent spirit that haunted a stone mason and his family for a number of months in 1695 proved even more chilling when I read the ‘true’ account of the two-week-long exorcism, witnessed and signed by fifteen members of the clergy and upstanding residents of the Rerrick community. You can see the full transcript HERE.
A decade later, I revisited the tale as the perfect sequel to The Sleeping Warrior: the human reaction to an ancient spirit returning to haunt a modern-day residence in Southern Scotland. I’ve called it The Ghost Tree. You’ll find the reason for that HERE.
The hero of The Ghost Tree is a practical Sutherland man, MacAoidh Armstrong, who moves into a house which was built on the haunted steading. The Ghost Tree is dying and strange things are happening in MacAoidh’s house but, despite all the warnings and the inexplicable phenomena taking place around him, he doesn’t believe in ghosts.
All the edits are done but I’m in two minds whether to publish it myself or find a publisher for it. Time alone will tell.
In the meantime, I can tell you that, like The Sleeping Warrior, The Ghost Tree is not formulaic. Frightening in places and humorous in others, it is again a story of real people and a true hero forced face the surreal and conquer it.