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Interview: Sherry Thompson

Today we're visiting with fantasy writer, and Broad Universe member, Sherry Thompson. Sherry is the author of the fantasy novels, “Seabird” and “Earthbow”. In Sherry's words, "both straddle the cusp between older YA and adult books. Seabird tips more toward YA. Technically, writing is my second career—I worked at the University of Delaware Library before retiring."

A little about Sherry: "I have two cats, named Khiva and Vartha. I’m interested in folk, filk, and world music. I love studying trees and plants although I have virtually no knowledge of botany. And I walk labyrinths and facilitate at a labyrinth installation. (Labyrinths are not mazes. They are used for meditation, prayer and centering."

**When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’m not sure when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’ve been a storyteller since I was in elementary school, beginning by telling myself stories late at night. I asked my parents for a typewriter and used it to start a time travel adventure tale. One of my teachers found out about this and asked me to read to the class for five minutes every day during homeroom.

Much later, in 1979, I began writing the first drafts of Seabird, Earthbow, and two or three other books. I was very naïve at the time, believing that you finished writing a book and it was automatically published.

**What is your writing process? When do you write? Any rituals?

When I have a chance, I prefer writing late in the evening and into the wee hours of the morning—this corresponds with when I used to tell myself stories as a child. I am still at my most creative very late at night.

When I start a new project, I work on the plot & setting until I have some idea where the book will begin & finish and how it will get from point A to point B. Next is the most important stage—I create appropriate characters and do my best to learn all about them before I begin any serious writing. Sometimes characters “speak to me”—telling me new bits about their personalities or their motives—during the creation process or even later once I’m actively writing.
No, I’m not nuts. Why do you ask? ;-P

**What is you most current project?

I’m doing final revisions on “Earthbow, Volume 2”. Both “Seabird” & “Earthbow” fall into the broad category of high fantasy. However, “Earthbow” has strong elements of sword-and-sorcery as well. I used ensemble casting and wove the story in several threads because no one character witnesses all that happens in the land of Latimus during one horrifying and portentous month.

When I wrote the first drafts of “Seabird” and “Earthbow”, both were approximately the same length. Gryphonwood Press published “Seabird” as one book, but they chose to divide “Earthbow” into two when the draft proved to be about 20,000 words longer than “Seabird”. In other words, the manuscript was literally split in half for publication purposes.

“Earthbow, Volume 1” was published in late March 2010. “Earthbow, Volume 2” will be out in the next couple of months.

**What was the inspiration for the book?

Oh, wow! You have to go back to 1979 through maybe 1982 for that. As hard as it is to believe, I was running out of fantasy to read back then, so I decided to write some.

I had been working my way through the British Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. I liked virtually everything that they wrote but one thing that intrigued me in particular was having a normal human being kidnapped and mysteriously transported to an alien world. Lewis did this at the beginning of his Space Trilogy & in most of the Narnia books.

Essentially, I decided to write fantasy books with the Narnia-type trip between worlds but for an older audience. I was an adult by then and still longed to jump from Earth to an alien environment. Well, if you’re going to have people traveling around like that, then you need a reason for them doing so—a crisis of country-wide if not planet-wide proportions. I created the Narentan “Tumults” as times of disruption, danger and the chance for heroism and redemption. And as an excuse for an Earthling to get involved.
“Seabird” is the story of the first Tumult, while “Earthbow” is the tale of the second Tumult.

**Who is your favorite character, and why?

In Earthbow? I like both Harone who is an enchanter-initiate initially matched against a force too strong and wily for him, and Coris who is a young knight torn between doing what is right and exacting long-awaited vengeance on certain people of his acquaintance.
However, my favorite character is probably Khiva (long “I”) the stoah. She entered the story as comic relief and then refused to leave it. In fact, she already has a part in the tale of the third Tumult. Stoahs are part cat, squirrel, and monkey—and all inquisitive mischief. Being befriended by one is…a mixed blessing.

**Tell us one thing about yourself people would be surprised to learn?

I’m fairly unconventional, compared to much of American society. Most of it is not intentional—things just sort of happened over the years with the result that a lot of assumptions people make about 21st Century women (or men) don’t apply to me.

**What one book would you save from a burning fire, and why?

No fair! We need to negotiate about the situation. For instance, is this a fire in the Library at Alexandria or in my home or in a Borders or Barnes & Noble?
Okay, I’ll assume my home. The first thing I would grab would be the thumb drive with my manuscripts on it. Next because they are virtually irreplaceable would be Charles Williams’ Arthurian poems.

**Are there any writers (living or dead) that are influencing you right now?

Yes! The Inklings as I already said, plus George MacDonald, a precursor to the Inklings. Barbara Hambly wrote superb fantasy before she began the Benjamin January mystery series. I love the way she handles romance and the nasty implacability of evil. Madeleine l’Engle and Susan Cooper. The Bible for its truths and also for its numinous quality—something that Williams, l’Engle and Lewis all managed to capture for a few fleeting seconds here and there. Katherine Kurtz for her dedication to research. Many others.

**Favorite bookstore/library?

My favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore is Ninth Street Books in Wilmington Delaware. I’ve gotten to know the people over the years, so this isn’t just a matter of book selection. I like chatting with the staff about events—world all the way down to events in Wilmington.

I worked at the University of Delaware Library for 35 years but my favorite library is probably the Newark Free Library. Oh, and the Library of Congress!

**Favorite planet or fantasy world you'd like to live in?

I write about terrible dangers in my world of Narenta, and I am quite certain I wouldn’t survive one day in a Tumult there without armed guards and maybe a couple of full enchanters at my back. Granted those, then I’d choose Narenta.

Otherwise, Middle-Earth in selected places and times (ex. not the Helm’s Deep siege or on Mt Doom), or else Narnia especially during a visit by Alphesis. Oh! Wait! Lewis’ “Perelandra” would be the best of all.

**Give me one thing you want readers to remember after they finish this blog?

Where to buy the books. ;-P
Seriously, I have been working on my manuscripts and my world of Narenta since 1979. It’s a labor of love during which I’ve accumulated close to a million words of narrative fiction. Very little of it is in print yet, but I long to chat about what I’ve written with readers, discussing all of the fiddly bits of Narenta.

Book Links: Seabird --- http://tinyurl.com/273duq3
Earthbow, Volume 1 --- http://tinyurl.com/2886tvw