Welcome to Lavender Lass Books, S.R. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Sherrie Cronin is the author of a collection of six speculative fiction novels known as 46. Ascending and is now in the process of publishing a historical fantasy series called The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters. A quick look at the synopses of her books makes it obvious she is fascinated by people achieving the astonishing by developing abilities they barely knew they had.
She’s made a lot of stops along the way to writing these novels. She’s lived in seven cities, visited forty-six countries, and worked as a waitress, technical writer, and geophysicist. Now she answers a hot-line. Along the way, she’s lost several cats but acquired a husband who still loves her and three kids who’ve grown up just fine, both despite how odd she is.
All her life she has wanted to either tell these kinds of stories or be Chief Science Officer on the Starship Enterprise. She now lives and writes in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where she admits to occasionally checking her phone for a message from Captain Picard, just in case.
As you can see from this photo, Sherrie goes above and beyond when researching her books.
Do you know what your problem is? Ryalgar knows hers. People have been telling this over-educated 13th-century woman for years. So when an equally intellectual prince decides he loves her, it looks like everyone was wrong and her dreams have come true. Except, this prince is obligated to marry another. He is leading the army training to defend their tiny realm against an expected Mongol invasion. And he is considering sacrificing Ryalgar’s home nichna by abandoning it’s rich farmlands to their foes. If only he wasn’t such a nice guy. Another woman would ….. Ryalgar has no idea what another would do. All she knows is she has a multitude of university intellectuals and a family of tough farmers behind her, and a newfound connection with the witches in the forest. Why not devise her own strategy to keep the invaders from destroying her home? Then she can figure out what to do about this problem prince. It’s just the sort of thing that happens when a woman thinks too much.
And now to the interview:
1. What do you want to share with us about this story? What really stands out about it and made you want to write it?
The idea that even the most reliable narrator influences how a reader sees an event fascinates me. My book She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much is written in first person and is one of seven tales about the most catastrophic two years the hidden realm of Ilari has faced. The main character Ryalgar takes a fairly analytical approach to the news of impending doom because that is what comes naturally to her. She sets about trying to solve the problem using her brain and I hope my reader can enjoy devising strategies to win a hopeless battle as they walk in Ryalgar’s shoes. Of course, Ryalgar also struggles with a difficult romance and with major life changes as she joins the women of the forest to hone her nascent magical skills.
Her story is only a fraction of the total tale, however. Each of her six sisters views the world differently, and each reacts to Ryalgar’s plans in her own way. The six remaining companion novels cover the same period as this first book (more or less) but each one lets the reader learn more about Ilari and the pending invasion, and lets the reader see a few key events through other sets of eyes. It doesn’t all repeat of course, as each sister also has unique adventures as she faces the issues in her own life and as she contributes to the defense in her specific way.
I think any one of the seven books will be enjoyable if read alone, but the over-arching theme that compelled me to write this story will only shine through after reading two or more of the books. It has to do with how different we all are, how different women all are, and how well-meaning humans will still interpret and react to the same events in dissimilar ways.
2. Why do you write in this genre? What makes this genre particularly appealing to you?
I consider this collection of books historical fantasy though others might think alternate history is more apt. Either way, the story takes place in far eastern Europe in the 1200s. The existence of a small hidden land called Ilari, where low magic remains common, is the only difference between this world and ours.
I chose the historical part because I love research and have a partner who does as well. He became fascinated by the Mongols, who remain largely offstage as the boogeyman through most of the story but their culture and beliefs play a major role. I got swept up by all of the 1200s. (So much cool stuff was happening then – why didn’t I learn about this in school!) Also, I’m a second and third-generation descendant of wheat farmers from Russia, so a renewed interest in my roots fueled Ilari’s location.
As to the fantasy part, I love the idea of magic growing out of our everyday lives, in subtle ways that feel like they could happen in the real world at any time. The idea that people can discover the magic inside themselves when they need it most appeals to me. I also love creating imaginary worlds. Fleshing out the details of Ilari got me through a lot of the first part of this pandemic.
3. What made you decide to become an author? Can you tell us a little about that journey?
I’ve always wanted to tell stories, not about my world, but other worlds. My younger sister claims I made up the best bedtime stories. (She’s nice like that.)
I remember the first time I heard the story of Scheherazade and, with the innocence of a ten-year-old, I thought that’s amazing. I bet I could keep myself alive by telling stories just like she did. As an adult I let the practicalities of life keep me from doing what I loved for many years. But now that I’ve gotten started, I can’t imagine life without writing.
4. Why did you choose to self-publish? Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I struggle to be more patient in all aspects of my life and I mostly fail. One of the things that kept me from finishing that first book for years was my dread of what came next. I’d studied the typical timeline for a first-time author (and the horrible odds involved) and I knew that years of rejections, revisions, and waiting would drain every drop of joy from this for me. (Obviously not for others, but as I said, I’m poorly suited to the traditional process.)
The truth is I didn’t start to write regularly until I heard about self-publishing. Then, knowing I had another viable choice, I started writing in all my spare time and couldn’t wait to finish my first book. So I knew self-publishing was for me.
I think the biggest advantage is the ability to get those stories out there. I also like having a hand in choosing the title, working with the cover, and writing the blurb.
The biggest disadvantage is that I hate marketing my books. I’ve had to face the fact that it needs to be done and I’m the only one who can do it.
5. Where do you get ideas for your stories? Do they come to you over time, or do you suddenly think of an idea and realize it would make a great story?
I tend to get “great ideas” way too often. Most turn out not to be so great upon closer examination, but both of my collections (46 Ascending and The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters) came from such sparks.
The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters happened while I enjoyed the gift of a day at a spa. It got me thinking about how different women are from each other, and yet so often, in the past at least, fantasy and science fiction have failed to reflect this. I started making up my imaginary family and by the time I got the cucumber gunk taken off of my face, I knew something about all seven sisters.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Sort of. The next thing I want to do is write a single SFF book with no sequel, prequel, or follow-up of any kind. After that, I’m working on an idea for a crime/SFF hybrid series that has got me quite excited.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in your genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, research, etc.?)
I’m big on the theme and on ideas that make you think. I know that may sound odd for a lover of speculative fiction, but every book has a premise, whether it intends to or not. I want food for thought, and most importantly a message that I’m glad I took the time to get. It doesn’t have to be hopeful (although I do prefer hope to despair) but if all the author has to say in the end is that life is miserable or random or both, well, I’ve heard it already, thanks. Give me a story that lets me view the universe in a way I’ve never quite seen before and I’ll sing its praises on every review site I can find.
8. What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
If you really want to do this, start writing and don’t stop.
(I suppose I should add that if you don’t really want to do this, don’t. There are much easier ways to make money, get famous, have a creative outlet, and/or impress people.)
9. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Book six of The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters will be out in July and I’m finishing it up now. Book seven is partly written and I’ll finish it next.
10. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish?
Don’t we all? 😊
I’d start with “You need lots of beta readers and proofreaders, way more than you think. Find people who will tell you the worst things about your book. Listen when two or more say the same thing and fix it. Most fixes are easier than you think.”
You can find S.R. Cronin’s book at Amazon and many other retailers! https://books2read.com/u/braVwY
Thank you so much for sharing all this with us, S.R. You can find out more about S.R.’s books, including the latest release in the The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters series (and the pre-order for the next book) at the links below:
Website – https://troublesome7sisters.xyz/
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