Amazing Stories: So tell us a little Bit about yourself?
Sarah Hoyt: I grew up in Porto, Portugal, where most of my family still lives. I decided to be a writer at six, and a science fiction writer at 14. Fourteen was also when I first learned English. So, you see, it was fate. It only took me mumble years to become a published author. I have now published 25 novels and I THINK 120 short stories, some of them under deep cover (yes, your suspicions are correct, I AM George R.R. Martin. Those pictures are just the guy I hired to play him), in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and historical.
AS: Tell us about your books
SH: Which of them? Right now the “running hot” series (seriai? Cereals?) are The Shifters series, which I’m writing for Baen, and which is about … young people running a diner and negotiating the initial phases of a relationship. The facts that he’s a shifter dragon and she a shifter panther, that there are secret organizations of shifters out to get them, and a potential invasion of Earth by alien shifters just make the whole “first house/pets/money” thing more complex. I’m also working through the Darkship Series and its allied series, the Earth Revolution. These are part of my future history, and it’s a time when the rather sophisticated dictatorship of a class of bio-engineered humans who call themselves Good Men is falling apart… or being torn apart by my characters both on Earth and in space. Meanwhile the minimal government society in space is testing its on limits. Both of these series deal with “being human” and what human means and can be. I’m also publishing indie through Goldport Press, which is bringing out all my backlist. So far I have No Will But His (the story of Kathryn Howard) out, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to write the other Henry VIII queens (fortunately I have them outline and half written from years ago) because it sells really well. I also have my Magical Shakespeare trilogy, which is a little … uh… more literary than my other stuff. And I have my Musketeers’ Mysteries under Sarah D’Almeida.
I’m about to release my first totally indie novel Witchfinder, a novel set in an alternate regency, in a magical world. Lost princesses, dragons, and a reluctant elf prince! (I couldn’t figure out a way to squeeze a thousand elephants in.)
AS: What is your favorite genre to write in?
SH: Science fiction. But my big issue is that I can’t stick only to it. I get a wild idea, and have to try it out.
AS: Are any of your characters in the books like you?
SH: Good heavens, NO. THEY’re interesting.
AS: What is your next book?
SH: Through Fire — book two of the Earth Revolution.
AS: Can we get a sneak peek?
SH: When men forged weapons of metal, they did it by putting them through fire repeatedly then beating them almost to the breaking point, then putting them through the fire again and again. There are times I wonder if that’s what’s been done to me. Not that I think this is true precisely. It’s just that we, humans, tend to think of ways to justify the weird turns of our destiny. Since mine is odder than most, I often try to find a reason and a purpose for it. It would be easier, I think, if I could believe in any divinity or even a pre-ordained destiny. Since I don’t, I’m not absolutely sure how to start this story. I could start with that moment when I stood in front of the mirror, trying to find a way to disfigure myself, or to make myself look, at best, average, and the armed man by the door said, “You’re going about it all wrong.” Or I could start when I left the small and forgotten colony planet where everyone knew me, and where everyone thought they knew what to to expect of me. Or I could start when I shot my husband. But no. That last still makes my heart turn within me, with thoughts of what might have been. So I’ll start with the ball. It was the first ball I attended and, though I might be wrong, likely the last. The place where I grew up, an asteroid colony started by refuges from Earth, had never run to balls or grand state occasions. Oh, we had a cultural center and sometimes there were dances there. But it’s not the same. You see, we had no government. At least we had no official government. And for the sort of ball that starts this story, a government is needed – something that controls central resources and can do things in style. I’d say more than that was needed too: a sense of hereditary splendor, of being the last of a line entitled and accustomed to this sort of thing. Perhaps even more. Perhaps for the grandeur and pomp of that first and last ball, a sense is needed of decadence and falling glory. That ball had all of them. It took place in the ballroom of what used to be the palace of the Good Men of Liberte Seacity: a glittering room formed of molded dimatough from its glistening black floor to its softly shining white walls. Within it, enough people assembled to form a hundred couples, all of them dressed in fantastical finery. There were outfits that seemed to be spun of butterfly wings, and those that seemed to defy the shape of the human body. And there was clothing that harked back to the fantastical age of empires almost seven hundred years before – long, sweeping dresses and molding outfits in things that were better than velvet and silk. My own dress was made – I understood – of a form of ceramic. Though it felt like satin to the touch, its dull black glimmer shone with pinpoints of light, as if stars were caught in its depths. Liberte Seacity had been formed by a banker’s consortium at the close of the twenty first century, and like the other seacities it was supposed to be a refuge from high taxes and excessive government controls. Unlike other seacities, it had never been designed to have any industry, any useful output. Instead, it owned other seacities – Shangri-la, Xanadu and, later, several European territories – where the workday business took place. Liberte itself had been designed as a resort for those at the pinnacle of that long-vanished world. It was built in terraces, all carefully landscaped gardens and idyllic beaches, like a dream of an Arcadia that never was. Its inevitable utilitarian levels, where valets and maids, law enforcers and garbage collectors lived were hidden, out of sight. Approaching Liberte from the air, as I’d first seen it, one saw it only as a sort of white and green confection, something like an idealized wedding cake. The palace of the Good Men was the topping on the cake: white and full of columns and terraces, built with an airy grace that would have been impossible without poured dimatough and sculpted ceramite, it might have fit a previous age’s dream of a fairy palace, an immortal fantasy. The ballroom sat at the very top, and its walls alternated with vast panels of transparent dimatough, through which – as the night fell – you could see the sea, glistening in every direction, all around us, blue and still like a perfect mirror. You could also see the troop transports moored in that sea, the vast, dark menace that encircled us metaphorically as well as in reality. “Why are you looking out the window?” Simon St. Cyr, ci-devant Good Man of Liberty seacity, who, by a stroke of the pen, had made himself “Protector of the People and Head of the Glorious Revolution,” just a day ago. I turned. Simon – who has at least another dozen given names to his credit – stood just behind me. He was slightly shorter than I, had brown hair, brown eyes and looked unremarkable. Which I’d come to believe was protective coloring to stop people wondering what he might be plotting. He put a hand out and rested it on my waist. “I’m looking at those troop carriers,” I said. “Oh, that,” he said, contriving to give the impression the glistening transports, each of them able to carry more than a thousand armed men, were a negligible detail like a spec of dust on the floor of his polished ballroom. “Don’t worry, ma petite.” I’d not yet decided if Simon’s habit of larding his speech with archaic French words annoyed me or amused me, but calling me “little” was beyond reason, since I had at least two inches on him. Impatience colored my tone, as I said, “But shouldn’t you be worried? These people depend on you for their safety.”
AS: Do you need special conditions to write?
SH: I prefer writing when the sons or the husband aren’t babbling at me, but this is very rare. I mean they’re always somewhere “Mom, do you know where this or that is?” “Mom, shouldn’t you eat?” “Sweetie, you should sleep once in a while” “Hon, have you considered maybe getting out of the desk chair once a week?” “Mom, the house is on fire.” Very distracting. Seriously — they do tend to talk at me a lot, usually silly stuff, and that makes it hard to write. I prefer they don’t do that, but I’ve been a mom and a writer for twenty two years, and a wife and a writer for twenty nine. At this point dividing the mind into talking and writing is second nature. I still prefer silence or decent music. but you know, I can’t have everything I want. Where would I put it? Who would dust it?
AS: Are you a typer or longhand writer?
SH: Typer. I sometimes write a few lines long hand when they come to me in the night, but that’s it.
AS: Who inspires you?
SH: In terms of people I admire? My paternal grandmother. I spent my first six years of life following her around: she cleaned, she cooked, she looked after half the village, she knew everything, and she made up stories to tell me. I still want to be like her when I grow up. Also, my husband, who sacrificed his own ambitions to make a living for us, while I made it in writing, and who never complains or regrets what might have been. My older son who writes, draws a comic, and is taking more courses than humans should while maintaining an A average in pre-med. My friend Dave Freer, who is… well… the world’s most interesting man. He used to be a shark cuddler, and now he manages to fish, hunt, cook, raise chickens and write incredibly layered novels — all while being an exemplary father and husband, and moving from one continent to the other. Oh, yes, he’s also incredibly learned in just about everything, though his degree is in biology.
AS: Favorite authors?
SH: In no particular order and all jumbled together? Robert A. Heinlein, Georgette Heyer, Clifford Simak, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Terry Prachett, F. Paul Wilson, Diana Wynne Jones, Jorge Luis Borges, Giovanni Guareschi, Ray Bradbury, Madeleine Hunter, Leslie Charteris… and a dozen others I can’t think of right now, but if you mentioned them I’d go “Duh, how could I have forgotten?”
AS: Authors who influence your writing?
SH: All of them. Though probably these days mostly Robert A. Heinlein, just because I’m writing — or aspiring to write — his type of science fiction. I study other people for technique, right now mostly Terry Pratchett, but that will move on, eventually. (He has SO MUCH technique.)
Favorite color? Red
Favorite food? Broa (this incredibly dense corn/rye bread from the region of Portugal I come from. I technically can’t have it now, because carbs make my eczema break out, but I still do when I visit, because… broa.)
Favorite writing snack? Peanuts.
Favorite Song? Right now? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsYd08wQGiI
Favorite vacation spot? Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Favorite beverage? Again, right now? I’ve been on THIS kick http://www.jimbeam.com/devils-cut
Favorite books? The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, The Door Into Summer, Puppet Masters, The Hollow, Murder in Retrospect, The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice, A Little Princess, Murder is Easy, Venetia, Sylvester– or the Wicked Uncle, An Infamous Army, Our Bones Are Scattered, Hosts, Night Watch, Witches Abroad, Monstrous Regiment.
Favorite Movies? Sliding Doors, The Patriot, Independence Day, Galaxy Quest.
Favorite TV Show? Would you believe Columbo? But I enjoyed Foyle’s War recently. My TV viewing is erratic and usually via Amazon prime.
Excellent interview! I always enjoy her sense of humor, thanks for this, Adam.