Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I've always been a storyteller, driving my family crazy with long stories on car trips. I wrote my first fantasy story -- with pictures of dinosaurs -- when I was seven. I didn't get serious about it until my late twenties, when I published my first novel WILD CARD RUN.
What makes writing your passion?
I love to dive into the complications and possibilities of places and situations and relationships, and then spin out stories. My novels are often triggered by exciting places where I've lived or traveled, featuring traditional beliefs or mythology. And they always involve some kind of central ethical or environmental issue that matters to me and my characters. But I like to make the reading fun and exciting, so there's plenty of action and "visual" appeal.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was seven years old.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
When I got a call from my New York editor at Berkley Publishing, saying that they wanted to publish WILD CARD RUN, my early science fiction novel, I didn't need a rocket ship to fly over the moon!
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Some of my characters are inspired by people I've known or even encountered briefly, but they always become their own distinct selves as they fit into the fictional situations and conflicts. Some are completely figments of my imagination who come alive. And they do sometimes tell me what they are going to do, regardless of my plans....
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Marketing and promotion is stressful and takes time away from my creative immersion in writing, but the opportunities now available for writers to promote their own careers makes it worthwhile.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Sometimes "life" just interferes, and that's the way it goes. I follow advice I gave my writing students while I was teaching: Just sit down and write "crap." Don't stop to look at it or edit, and just let it flow. That can start the engine.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I'm an introvert, so the solitary work as a writer suits me. And immersion in my fictional worlds is fulfilling in itself. But then the reward when readers contact me or give reviews saying that they loved my stories really gives me -- as with any writer -- a tremendous boost.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Stay true to yourself and your vision of what's important.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read them, though I know that some writers prefer not to do so. Most of them have been positive, which as I said above is a lovely boost, to know that you've reached readers. I see if there's anything to learn from a bad review, then let it go if it seems like the reader just didn't "get it."
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
It's like receiving a lovely compliment, and a validation. "Yes!" I've connected with that reader, and hopefully others.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes, many times. I was once told by a psychologist acquaintance that I had a "Hemingway Complex," in that I sought out adventures so I could write about them. I've had a very active life with outdoors pursuits, travel, and living in foreign countries, and often those experiences (modified, or course, to fit the plot) flesh out and hopefully enliven my novels. An example is my time as a Scuba divemaster on various Caribbean islands -- a shark attack, underwater treasure hunting, and more found their way into my novel ISLANDS.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
My most recent novel, PAUSE, is very different from my previous work. I can't deny that the character Lindsey is based on my own experiences, but she was shaped to fit the needs of the story and conflicts.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
As a writer, I believe the story is by far the most important aspect. But for marketing and selling, the cover is very important to catch the eye of potential readers.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love to hear from readers via email (easy through my website), but would prefer that to a phone call. I do enjoy live events such as a book release, when I can chat and answer questions, and actually meet readers.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
It's an honor, much appreciated.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
So many! Some early influences were Ursula K. LeGuin and Roger Zelazny for science fiction, Mary Stewart for suspense. And Shakespeare for the way he could combine comedy and tragedy, and reach all classes of people. For fun historical mysteries set in Egypt, I really enjoy the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I've had a very full life and fulfilled many of my dreams, especially being published and respected as a novelist. I'm not eager for huge fame, as I'd hate being recognized as I travel or go about life -- but most writers, even successful, aren't exactly celebrities! My media agents are working on a couple of film/streaming possibilities from my novels, so that would be a wonderful thing to see.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I've released, with my current cooperative publishing group Book View Cafe, new editions of my early science fiction series, not changing anything major, but smoothing out some awkwardness of my younger writing. I believe early works should retain their authenticity within the context of their time.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
No plans to switch!
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I believe that trolls in all aspects of our lives now are a terribly destructive influence. I find it hard to understand why some people delight in tearing down and injuring others. I'm hoping that new developments toward reining in that sort of thing on social media might help promote healthier public discourse.
What would you say to your readers?
Dive in and enjoy the ride! And let me know about your experiences, please.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I'm fourth-generation in the "far corner" of the Pacific Northwest, though have spent a lot of time traveling and living in various countries. I'm happily married to my personal "god" Thor, a paleontologist who advises me on scientific aspects of my novels. Bear dog and Turtle cat are my "kids." Most anything outdoors and active gets me going -- hiking, swimming, snorkeling, bicycling, snowshoeing in our beautiful mountains, ziplining.... you name it.
What is your day job if you have one?
I'm retired from teaching creative writing at Western Washington University, and did a lot of freelance editing for fiction writers. I had a whole string of jobs before the teaching gig, reflecting my restless earlier life.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I play piano, putter in my garden, and enjoy writing blog posts for my Rambling Writer site (www.sarastamey.com) -- plus all of the above outdoor activities.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Mixed. My sisters and I were lucky to grow up before development and constant monitoring of children, so we ran wild on our horses through the woods and fields surrounding our small town. My mother was loving, but my father was abusive, so I have great empathy with all those (human and animal) who suffer abuse. Some of that legacy finally found its way into my novel PAUSE.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I think it was always what I wanted to do, but playing, at an early age, the card game "Authors" with my Grandma Sara, excited me to be an author, too.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Sure -- several half-finished manuscripts. Some are waiting to be finished, and some maybe will just be left as is. I maybe tackle my half-written novel inspired by my experiences homesteading in remote Southern Chile.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
We desperately need to teach children digital selection, the ability to analyze digital messaging for authenticity, and understand ways to confirm information that is supported by real data. And, from my experiences with university students, I concluded that schools need to get back to actually teaching grammar and writing.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. Humans would stop polluting our planet and destroying other species.
2. Humans would accept social controls to avoid war and a host of other destructive activities.
3. Humans would institute population control and stabilize the planet at a manageable stage in which everyone had rights and food and shelter, living in balance with other species.
What is your favorite music?
I tend to favor Classical.
Share a secret with us 🙂
Then it wouldn't be secret ;)