Author Interview: Sonja Foust

In Sonja Foust's debut short story, _Love in Shadow_, a tomboyish fairy named Shadow realizes she loves her boss, Lon.  Five years ago, Lon's wife was killed by a band of fairies.  Shadow feels immense guilt for what her people did, and has trouble reconciling her guilt and her love.  (Read the full-length review.)  NOTE: "Love in Shadow" is an adult romance, with content that would earn it a movie rating of PG.  Language and sexuality are both less intense than in many YA novels, such as Holly Black's Tithe.  I would be comfortable recommending this story to any reader age 14 or up, and mature readers younger than that.

Sonja recently joined me for my very first author interview here at lectitans.

What's the first story you remember ever writing?

I think I've been writing stories since I learned how to write. To me, it always seemed like a practical application of that whole writing thing. Probably the earliest things I wrote were these epic poems in iambic pentameter (before I had any idea what iambic pentameter was) all about our Barbies. My sister and my two brothers and I would set them all up in the living room and write a long 30-verse or so poem about what they all were doing and then perform it for my parents or whatever other victims might have been around. My mom STILL thinks it's hilarious and she'll tell anyone who will listen all about her children's elaborate playtime.

Why did you decide to make the fairies in "Love in Shadow" wingless?

Originally, there were no fairies in "Love In Shadow." In fact, "Love In Shadow" was a futuristic sci-fi at its birth. That wasn't working for the story, so I put it in a historical setting. As I'm lazy and don't like being historically accurate, I eventually decided it would be a fantasy instead. Since it was a fantasy, Shadow had to be a fairy, duh. (I don't know exactly why. She just did.) But I didn't want to do the same-old same-old fairy thing, and I needed another device to add conflict in the story, so the wingless fairy seemed like the way to go.

Shadow is a fish-out-of-water in two ways: she's a fairy among humans and a tomboyish woman in "proper society."  Would you describe a time when you felt out of place?

Um, how about most of my life? Seriously though, I've had quite a lot of experience feeling out of place. I won't even mention the hell that was middle school, because I'm pretty sure middle school just sucks for everyone.

Right after middle school, the summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved from one coast (California) to another (North Carolina). The culture shock was something, especially for a socially inept 14-year-old. But I decided that 9th grade was my opportunity for a fresh start, and that idea was my life preserver.  I held onto it with all my might. When I'd come home after a tough day feeling like I'd never ever make any friends, I'd remind myself that this was my new beginning and I could be whoever I wanted to be and I would be that person again tomorrow. It was tough that first year, but eventually I found a lovely group of friends and began to feel like I had a place again. The last two or three years of high school were awesome because of those great friends. I made a lot of happy memories in those years.

Having a place is wonderful, but the lesson I learned was that sometimes it's GOOD to be out of place, because then you get to make a new and better place for yourself.

Let's play Casting Director.  If "Love in Shadow" were being made into a movie, what actress would you cast as Shadow?  Who would you want to play Lon?

Hands down, no question, Julia Roberts would be Shadow. I've had her in mind since the very beginning. She's one of my favorite actresses, and she does "spitfire" so well.

Lon's a toughie though. There aren't a whole lot of "tall, dark, and handsome" types in Hollywood right at the moment. Colin Farrell might be a good match, if he could manage not to be so smarmy for a while. 

The whole time I was reading "Love in Shadow" I imagined Nathan Fillion as Lon.

Nathan Fillion would indeed make a good Lon. Good call.

The prejudice Lon's relatives have against fairies is similar to many prejudices apparent in the modern world.  How do you think fantasy settings affect authors' and readers' interactions with universal themes like prejudice?

I think fantasy is a great way to explore touchy issues in our society. One of my favorite examples of this is Star Trek: The Next Generation. That series touched on so many modern issues like sexism (including GLBT issues), abortion, racism, war, and capitalism, and since they did it in a fantasy setting, they could get away with saying a lot of things no one else would say. Some episodes were VERY thinly veiled allegories for current events. The fantasy setting gives a little bit of distance from the actual situations and lets you think about the issues themselves without all the baggage from the specifics. It's a great vehicle for expanding your universe to include ideas you might not have thought of if they hadn't been presented in such a clean, unattached way.

Can you tell us more about your other works?

Both Lying Eyes and Home are "finished" manuscripts. Both need quite a bit of editing before I send them on their next set of rounds to editors.

Lying Eyes is a story I wrote last year about a student learning to use her psychic abilities, with the help of a local (super sexy) police officer. It's a romantic suspense, which is my all-time favorite genre to read AND write. I'm working on tightening up the characters' motivations to make them more believable and to ratchet up the tension.

Home is actually the first full-length manuscript I ever completed. It's about a pair of high school sweethearts who find their lives colliding again in their early thirties. I'm fascinated by reunion stories, probably because I feel like I've changed so much since my younger years, and I wonder how my old friends who haven't seen me in a long time would feel about me now. The manuscript needs a fairly major rewrite which will affect plot points, so it'll be a while before it sees the light of day again!

Writing is so much about editing, and that's something I'm learning the hard way. "Love In Shadow" sat in my unfinished manuscript drawer for years before I gained the right set of skills to turn it into something publishable. I hope it won't take years for these other two manuscripts, but I'm beginning to accept the fact that editing is a LONG process!

My next story, which isn't up on my website yet because I haven't written a blurb for it yet, is an 11,000 word short story, tentatively called "In a Cat's Eye." It's a paranormal romantic suspense set in my old home town of Redlands, California and it involves a sexy shape-shifting were-cougar. I'm going to start pitching it around to some editors this week, so I've got my fingers crossed that it will get picked up and into the pipeline really soon! Keep checking my website for details.

Do you feel like your degree in English prepared you to be a romance writer?  If so, how?

My knee-jerk response is, "Ha!" I had to overcome a lot of English-degree-induced prejudices about the romance genre in order to become a romance READER, let alone a romance writer. For some reason, English professors as a whole seem to think that anything with a happy ending does not count as literature. In fact, they claim, anything with a happy ending turns the reader's brain into a silly, sentimental pile of mush. Well, I'm here to tell you it's not true. My brain is significantly less mush-like since I started reading romance novels because, oh my, I've discovered that I actually ENJOY reading again! So hooray for romance novels and boo for uppity types who scoff at the romance genre as a whole.

That said, my English degree DID give me a base of knowledge that has been most helpful in my writing. It's hard to be deep and meaningful if you've missed some of the classics like Homer and cummings and Hemingway and Shakespeare and, yes, even the Bible.

Plus, now I can claim that I am actually using my degree, unlike so many liberal arts survivors.

What are some of your favorite books?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. If you're looking for a tear-jerker (and I mean soul-clenching sobs tear-jerker), go with The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. If, like me, you can only handle about one of those tear-jerkers every year or so and you've hit your quota, anything by Sabrina Jeffries is a sure-fire winner. My most recent favorite of hers is Only a Duke Will Do, but when her next one comes out, that one will probably be my new favorite because I fall in love with all of her books as soon as I read them. If you're looking for a good, old-fashioned, whodunit suspense with a heavy dose of romance, try Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts. The one and only Nora is my favorite suspense writer, but then, she does EVERYTHING really well.

Your birthday is coming up in just two weeks.  How will you celebrate your first birthday as a published author?

Wow, thanks for remembering! I'm going to be 26 this year. I'm sure I will spend a great deal of my day marveling at how lucky I am to be doing what I love to do (WRITING!) at such a young age. Sure, I've got a long way to go-- someday, I want this writing thing to be a full time gig-- but I'm on my way and I feel so blessed!

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