Patrice Sarath is an author and editor living in Austin, Texas. Her novels include the fantasy books The Sisters Mederos and Fog Season (Books I and II of the Tales of Port Saint Frey), the series Books of the Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) and the romance The Unexpected Miss Bennet.
Patrice is the author of numerous short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Weird Tales, Black Gate, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and many others. Her short story “A Prayer for Captain La Hire” was included in Year’s Best Fantasy of 2003 compiled by David Hartwell and Katherine Cramer. Her story “Pigs and Feaches,” originally published in Apex Digest, was reprinted in 2013 in Best Tales of the Apocalypse by Permuted Press.
Fog Season, has been released this week by Angry Robot Books, UK
After the shocking events of last summer, the high society of Port Saint Frey has plenty to gossip about. Who was the Gentleman Bandit? Why hasn’t he been captured? And what really happened that night when the Guildmaster disappeared? When the Guild hires Abel Fresnel, a detective with special powers of his own, to find the answers, Tesara and Yvienne Mederos have to avoid his probing questions and keep mum about their role in the events of that dark night. Everything’s more or less under control until a dead man turns up in the dumbwaiter…
Today I’ve asked Patrice to stop by and answer some questins about her writing. And here is what I’ve learned:
Q: What do you like most about worldbuilding? What are your biggest challenges?
A: I think every fantasy and science fiction writer gets in the game for the worldbuilding. I mean, it’s the most fun, right? My goal with worldbuilding is to make the created world feel as lived in as our own. I focus on character interaction with their world in the same way we interact with ours. I don’t write paragraphs of long detail but instead provide my worldbuilding in small, concrete illustrations of how the world feels, smells, looks, and impacts the character.
In the Tales of Port Saint Frey (The Sisters Mederos and Fog Season), the world is a secondary fantasy world that is an analogue to a late Regency/early Victorian timeframe. Therefore the science and technology are roughly the same as that time period. Even though automobiles and trains don’t appear in the world, they are about 30 to 40 years in the future. If I get to keep writing stories in this world, this level of technology will appear.
There are other little tidbits of information about the world that I keep to myself. I know what the wider world is like, but the characters are focused on their lives and their problems in their own port city, hence the title, The Tales of Port Saint Frey. With each successive novel, however, this wider world will impinge upon the characters.
This is what I love about worldbuilding, to create this lived-in, three-dimensional setting, that gives the reader a sense that the world carries on when they close the book. It’s also the hardest to get right. When writing fantasy we have to describe something the character takes for granted to a reader who has never encountered it before. It’s a puzzle, and I love when I nail it, because when you can make a reader feel as if they’ve been somewhere before, no matter how fantastic — or conversely, make them want to go there — you’ve provided an excellent reader experience. And that’s what it’s all about.
Q: Do you write your novels by outlines and in sequence of events? Or, do you jump around?
A: I am so not an outliner. I have a writing friend who creates these elaborate, multipage outlines before she writes a single word of the story, and I Just. Can’t. Do it. That said, I actually do outline. I outline as I go. When I finish a writing session, I jot out what has to happen next, and even fill that out as I go along, and build the novel out. I don’t always adhere to that outline, but it gives me guidelines of where roughly the story has to go. The characters don’t always listen to the outline, so I trust what they have to say, and I’m flexible.
I used to not outline at all, and as a result I would end up cutting anywhere from 20,000 words to 40,000 words when the novel took a turn that didn’t work. I haven’t done that in a while, which is a good thing.
I do write out of sequence often, and that can be quite fun. If I am writing toward an impactful scene, one that will drive a reversal in the book or change the course of my characters’ lives, I’ll go ahead and write that scene and then write toward it. It’s a great feeling to meet up with it — it’s like there’s a palpable click as the two parts of the manuscript meet.
Q: What are the benefits and challenges of incorporating romance subplots into your fantasy?
I love romance so much, and there are romantic elements in every book that I write. Connection is important, emotional journeys are important, and love gives meaning to everyone’s lives. Love stories inside fantasy stories are a perfect fit, because we are writing these larger-than-life characters in larger-than-life settings, with magic and mayhem and adventure–of course there should be romantic intrigue. Now, having said all that I prefer that my characters not get hitched to the first person they kiss, especially if they are young, like the sisters in The Sisters Mederos, so I don’t take my romance all the way to a romance HEA. I let them have plenty of kissing though, even unsuitable boys. But that’s just me.