Sarina Langer is a dark fantasy author of both epic and urban paranormal novels.
She’s as obsessed with books and stationery now as she was as a child, when she drowned her box of colour pencils in water so they wouldn’t die and scribbled her first stories on corridor walls.
(‘A first sign of things to come’, according to her mother. ‘Normal toddler behaviour’, according to Sarina.)
In her free time, she usually reads one audiobook, one ebook, and one paperback (one for every occasion), plays video games, and obsesses over mythology.
She has a weakness for books on writing and pretty words. (Specificity, anyone? Or perhaps nebulous?)
Sarina lives with her partner and daughter (read: their cat) in the south of England.
Genre: dark epic fantasy
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest is Blood Song, the second book in the Blood Wisp trilogy. I barely touched on Midoka in the Relics of Ar’Zac series and felt that the country had a lot more story in it, so I wanted to give it its own series. With Blood Song, I really wanted to explore the Mists. My main character Yua is in a unique position to explore what’s beyond that forbidden veil and my curiosity was too strong. I couldn’t resist.
Q2: What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?
My favourite part is the initial plotting, worldbuilding, getting to know the characters—all that fun stuff! My other favourite part is writing the first draft. It can be such a rush to surrender to the words and see where they take me, to set my characters onto their journeys and see how they cope.
My least favourite part usually sets in some time during my own edits. I reach a point where I’ve worked on it so much that I begin to change things around just for the sake of it, not because they need changing. It gets harder to see what needs doing, and to be honest, I get tired of my own books after a while. You can only spend so much time in the same story before you’ve read it all too often and none of the plot twists have any effect on you anymore. This becomes my least favourite part when it’s also too early to send the book to my critique partners—I really need someone else’s feedback, but it’s not ready just yet. It can be difficult to push through that.
Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?
I believe that every book we read influences us on some level. We learn something from every book, even if it’s only something small like ‘huh, I don’t like love triangles!’ But there was one book that made me realise I wanted to be an author, and that’s Empress by Karen Miller. It had my first anti-hero, the worldbuilding was phenomenal, and it was the first time I felt betrayed by a main character. Because Empress showed me that I wanted to write and be an author, it’ll forever have a special place in my heart. I’m sure another book would have done this eventually, but it was Empress for me. It was like it had whacked me over the head with a table and screamed, ‘This! This is what you’re meant to do!’
I don’t see enough love for Karen Miller’s books. Please check them out.
Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?
It depends on the time of year. I work term-time in a university library, so my time during term-time is very limited. I get up extra early so I can write or edit at least a little before work. There’s never time for much, but it gets it done, albeit slowly. It can be frustrating when the words are flowing and everything is going so smoothly, and then I have to stop because I’ll be late for work otherwise. I imagine lots of authors who have to fit writing around day jobs have the same problem. I’ve had to jump up and get ready now many times because I forgot the time.
Term breaks are another story. I get to work from home full-time for two and a half months, so I focus on new-WIP-writing during my summers. I get two shorter term breaks, too (Christmas and Easter), but I’m often too busy catching up on everything else I didn’t have time for during the term to get much writing done then. My summer break is a fantastic time to get all the writing done.
I’ve also been able to edit at work on occasion when it’s been quiet enough. I’m extremely lucky to work with such supportive colleagues and managers! That doesn’t work for writing though. I need the peace and quiet of my home study for that or else I’m pulled out of ‘the zone’ every time a student has a question. That’s its own kind of frustrating. I need to be able to surrender to the writing, if that makes sense, and I can’t do that at work.
Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
This is a huge learning curve, so be patient and be kind to yourself. Don’t worry about getting it right from your first draft. Perfection is an illusion—you can totally strive for it, but only if you can accept that you’ll never reach it. Your first book will likely be the messiest because you’re at the very beginning of your writing journey. Everything you learn from this first book will flow into your second book, and so on. It will get easier if you keep at it and learn on the way. Your writing approach will adjust and change as you go. That’s fine and completely normal. It’s a fluid process.
And, perhaps most important of all: persevere. Your first book is very unlikely to make you rich. Your second and third book are also unlikely to pay your bills. They say that overnight success takes ten years, so stick with it, learn, and you’ll be a stronger writer for it. Don’t give up if you can’t quit your day job right away. This stuff takes time and a commitment to learning.
Q6: What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
This may be unpopular, but there’s no such thing. I believe that writers use writer’s block either to blame something they have no control over and therefore it’s not their responsibility, or as an excuse because it’s easier than admitting that they’re scared of other people reading their book, of this book not being as good as their last, of everyone hating it, of not being good enough in general—lots of things.
Writer’s block itself—being physically unable to write because the muse isn’t talking to you today—isn’t a thing. Inspiration comes as you write. If you’re waiting for the muse to come to you, you’ll be waiting for a long time. Instead, show the muse that you’re serious and get writing.
If you’re staring at the screen or your notebook and feel drained, you may have burned out. Take a break. If you’re staring at the screen or your notebook and can’t think of what to write, move on to another project. It may not be this book’s time. If you can’t get excited about your book, you can’t expect your readers to be excited either.
If you’re a pantser and swear by winging the whole book, then that’s great if it works for you. If you tend to get stuck and don’t know how to move on, just do a tiny bit of plotting. I don’t mean the ‘plan every single chapter in extreme detail’ kind of plotting, just enough to give you a road map. Give yourself somewhere to go.
As an editor, I often see writers frustrated because they can’t figure out what their characters should do next. They’re thinking about what the character should do or what would be most exciting for the story when they should consider what the character would do. It’s not really up to the writer to decide. It’s up to the character—all you need to do is listen and let them act as they would according to their nature. Think of them as real people. When you really know your characters, you’ll never wonder what they would do again, because there’s only one option. When you ask yourself ‘what would my best friend do?’, you don’t think about what would be most exiting for your situation. You know what they would do, because that’s just who they are. It’s the same with your characters.
Instead of blaming something that doesn’t exist, figure out what exactly is stopping you from writing—fear, burnout, a lacking understanding of your characters, not enough direction, a lack of excitement for this particular project, etc—and address that issue.
If you want to write a book, it’s your responsibility to make it happen. Blaming writer’s block takes at least some, if not all, of that responsibility away from you.
Q7: What part of the book was the most fun to write?
I had a great time exploring the Mists and seeing how Yua and her Shadow grew closer! I wasn’t sure what to expect from either—Yua and her Shadow weren’t off to the warmest start in Blood Wisp, and the Mists have always been a taboo subject—so it was really fun to see Yua explore both.
Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
Oh boy. This is a harder question than it should be.
The Blood Wisp trilogy is very dark, and a little bit witchy because it plays with shadow work. Yua’s Shadow is a real demon living inside her and trying to control her. So, if shadow work and/or the shadow from Jungian psychology are your thing, I think you’ll love this. This book focusses on what some might call dark magic as Yua slowly builds an accepting relationship with her Shadow and explores dangerous, forbidden places (the Mists). It’s also very LGBTQ-positive as Yua and Aza’s relationship develops.
So, the short answer is that my ideal reader for this book is someone who likes all of those things!
Q9: What are you working on now?
My summer break is just starting, so I have a lot of plans.
I’m doing the First Big Edit of Blood Vow, the final book in this trilogy. Once that’s done, I’ll send it to my critique partners. It’ll be great to get the first feedback on it. I love Yua and this world, which started with Riseof the Sparrows, but I’ve spent so much time here that I’m excited to go somewhere else and let someone else do the thinking.
My editor and I are currently working on Book 10 (title and cover reveal pending – I may have announced them by the time this interview goes live, but I’m unsure right now), the first book in my dark paranormal urban fantasy romance. I loved writing this book so much and the first feedback I’ve had has been incredible, so I can’t wait to share it later this summer. We’re getting close to wrapping it up, so I can focus on plotting and writing the first sequel. It looks like it’ll be a decology, so I’ll be here a while!
I’m also working on my contribution to the Twice Upon a Name charity anthology. The first edition was a big success, and by the time this interview goes live, I’m hoping to have the first draft of my story written.
Then there’s Shores of Bone, my Patreon exclusive novel. I’m hoping to get the whole thing finished this summer so I can start scheduling new chapters every two weeks rather than once a month. I’m having a lot of fun with this one. It’s great to be back with Reeve and Ludo, for Aza to have her own POV, and to see how Yua is getting on after the trilogy. There’s a new character, too, whom I love writing.
My next epic fantasy series will start with The Silence of Magic. I had this one benched for a while, but I figured out what was missing (multiple POVs; I only had one, and this world is too big for just the one view.) and I’m slowly coming back to it now. I have a lot of worldbuilding and character meeting to do, and I’m excited for both. I love seeing a new world come to life and how my characters navigate it.
More long-term I have my mythology project. It’s very early days, and with all the above projects, I’m letting it grow in its own time. Mythology is one of my favourite things, so I’m really excited to learn more about all the different pantheons and consider which stories and deities I might include in this novel. I’m in the early stages of the discovery phase, so I’m really just having fun with it right now.
Q10: What are you currently reading?
I like to have a book on the go for every part of my day, so I can read no matter what I do.
My current paperback is The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu. I fell in love with The Three-Body Problem (book one in this series) last year, and I’m enjoying this one too! The science gets pretty heavy at times, but surprisingly, I don’t feel lost. I failed all scientific subjects in High School, but these novels are doing what my teachers never could: they make me want to study Physics. It’s also making me realise that I don’t read enough sci-fi.
My current ebook is the Adamant Spirits charity anthology. Reading these short stories is motivating me to write my own, which is a nice feeling. I know I’m not the only writer who finds writing short stories much harder than writing full-length novels, so it’s great to have this boost!
I’m also listening to The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I liked his Percy Jackson series but I’m more of an Egyptian-mytholgy girl. It’s possibly my favourite pantheon, so I’m enjoying it a lot!Blood Song, Book 2 of the Blood Wisp trilogy, is available on July 8th. Here is a sneak peek:
‘We’re not planning an invasion, if that’s what you’re worried about,’ Shizue said. ‘The Mists are unknown. Much of our fear comes from that lack of knowledge.’
Yua didn’t agree. Previous failed attempts were plenty of knowledge, as far as she was concerned. The whole country of Ar’Sanciond was dust because someone had thought they could research the Mists. She knew better than to say anything, though. Shizue didn’t need her agreement, just her co-operation, and Yua wasn’t about to give it.
‘We weren’t there,’ Yua said, ‘but I still know what happened in Rifarne not that long ago. What do you call that if not knowledge?’
‘A misguided attempt by a naïve and arrogant run-away. We could do better, Yua. You could do better. We’ve never had this opportunity before.’
‘And if it goes wrong? Would you leave me in there to be torn apart, make a note that I died tragically during your experiment, and move on? Or would you pretend it never happened and I just ran away, under too much pressure from my new responsibilities? And just so we’re perfectly clear, this is not one of my responsibilities.’
At least, she didn’t think so. Eventual war with other countries was. Learning to control her powers was. Maybe, one day, serving at court was.
But going for a stroll through the Mists was not.