It’s an absolute delight to introduce my next guest to the blog today as she is a popular figure in the blogging community, ‘Boss Lady’ of the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and recently published author of the brilliant 13 Steps to Evil writing craft book (you can read my review of the book HERE).
So, without any more waffle, allow me to introduce the very lovely, Sacha Black.
The Fun Stuff:
What part of the world do you come from?
I was born in London. But spent most of my youth growing up in the countryside a couple of hours north. I went to university in Hertfordshire, and have stayed here ever since. That was 12 years ago, and now Hertfordshire feels like home.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be all the things. Quite literally. I can remember wanting to be a vet, an astronaut, an actress, a lawyer, and just about every other job you can think of.
For the most part, my childhood was spent wanting to be an actress. I got myself an agent and even starred in a CBBC TV show called Face At The Window. I was the lead actress, and it was on for a little over six weeks. Unfortunately, the kids at school weren’t very nice afterward, and I stopped acting. But as much as I resented them at the time, it’s turned out for the best because now I write, and I think deep down, that was always my dream.
List three words to describe yourself.
Conniption, juxtaposition and relentless.
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Argh, that’s a really hard question. I don’t know. The prettiest girl? Ha, okay seriously now… I like Ellen Page as an actress; she played Juno in Juno. But I feel like I’m just clutching at that because she’s the first one to pop to mind.
What’s your favourite snack food when writing?
My favourite food is chocolate. I would literally eat it morning noon and night if I could. There is never a time when I feel sick. I don’t understand how people get queasy after too much sugar! I’m also partial to salt and vinegar Pringles!
If you had a super power, what would it be?
I mean, if we’re practical, I’d say mastering Dragon dictation so that I can write at the speed of light and publish more books. But that’s a little boring so, I’d love to fly, or maybe see the future/the past because I think I’d like to write a time travelling book one day. I’ve been reading some of Stephen Hawking’s lectures on Imaginary Time but trying to wrap my head around it makes my brain ache.
The Sensible Side:
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I started writing when I was really young; so young, I can’t tell you exactly when. Writing has always been in my life. I think my very first diary/journal was dated 1993 and I was only four then. I learned to read before school and English was always my favourite subject at school too so it meant by the time I’d reached year two in school I’d read the entire school library and needed to go to another one for my books! To say I was prolific was an understatement. But it wasn’t until I had a bit of a life crisis at 25 and started blogging that I really realised that this is what I should have been doing this whole time.
That’s why I’m so grateful to blogging and one of the reasons I continue to arrange the Bloggers Bash every year. It’s my way of saying thank you to blogging and to the community for helping me realise my dream.
Usually, when I’m not writing, I exercise. But I recently decided to stop in order to write faster and publish quicker as that’s what I want to do full-time. A bit of a difficult one, because I’ve put on a lot of weight as a result, but likewise, I finally published a book. I guess it’s all about priorities.
Where did the inspiration for 13 Steps to Evil come from? And did you always know you wanted to write a non-fiction book aimed at writers?
13 steps to evil was a total accident. Like most things on my blog, I ranted. This time, about female villains and the lack of good ones. It just so happened that that post got seen 50,000 times in just a couple of months. That made me realise I wasn’t the only one that thought villains were often substandard. I then wrote a short series of posts about villains which also got a lot of traction. That’s when I knew I had to turn it into a book.
Call it serendipity, but I never intended to write a book about villains let alone publish it before I published Keepers my fiction series.
So, no, I didn’t know I wanted to do this. I certainly hadn’t planned it. But aren’t the best things in life unplanned? Interestingly, I think the book turned out better than even I imagined. Without knowing it, I’d spent years developing my non-fiction writing voice through my blog. Most writers spend dedicated hard graft and years working on crafting their voice, and I did mine by accident. I feel a bit guilty that this all happened by accident! Especially when I think about how much harder Keepers has been to finish!
The book is packed full of useful references from well-known films and books. How did you begin to compile the research for 13 Steps to Evil?
I started out doing a survey of writers; I wanted to make sure that the book delivered what writers wanted and needed rather than creating something that wasn’t going to be useful. I already had a background in psychology, so that came in handy for the mental health sections as well as the character psychology sections. As for the rest of it like most writers, I spend a lot of time reading and watching films. I know ironically, in your tips on my blog you said you don’t deconstruct any more, but I still do! And that’s where I got most of the examples and lessons.
After that, it was a process of trying to put together the most logical order and structure for the book. Unlike fiction which follows a story arc and a progressive chronological journey, non-fiction doesn’t do that; you have to pull the reader through the journey of solving the problem the book was created for, which is why the contents page and the structure is so essential.
Can you give us a brief excerpt from 13 Steps to Evil?
Why Writers Fudge Up Their Villains
Villains are like newborn infants. So much glorious potential. Until we writers get our grubby mitts on them and balls it up. With the careless flick of a pen, we can turn a finely sculpted baby villain into a cringe-worthy cliché because we didn’t make him bad enough, or we create something so heinously evil it’s unrealistic.
A villain might be a plot device, but he still needs a purpose and a goal, or he’s unworthy as an opponent for your hero (See STEP 3 for motives and goals).
While researching this book, writers told me all kinds of problems they encountered while creating their villains. From getting the dialogue right and avoiding clichés, to knowing how evil to make a villain, to how to reveal her motives without using blatant exposition.
Behind all these issues lie two basic barriers that are the Achilles in every writer’s villainous heel:
- Depending on the point of view (POV) the book’s written in, the villain is usually seen through the eyes of your hero.
A solitary POV gives you a page-limited amount of time to show your villain’s best, most authentic and devilishly evil side. Page-limited to the point it makes it eye-wateringly difficult to convey her backstory effectively without information dumping. You have to be better, clearer, more tactical and more concise with your words to create superbad villains.
- Writers are hero worshippers.
We love our heroes and protagonists more than our spouses. And as a result, we spend shameful amounts of time honing our protagonist’s muscular heroics into shape. But that relegates our villain (the plot-driving conflict-creator) to the corner of our book, complete with a nobody-loves-you-anyway hat. In other words, writers don’t pay enough attention to their villain.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Now I’ve started writing non-fiction, I can’t really stop. I absolutely adore deconstructing books, film and anything else that can teach me things. I spent my whole blogging career writing up the lessons I’ve learnt, both selfishly so that I had a log of them and also altruistically in order to help others. It’s led to 13 Steps and I’ve no doubt it will lead to more.
I’m in the process now trying to decide what non-fiction book to work on. Part of me thinks it will be a hero’s companion book, but I’m not really sure, either way, I won’t be working on it until later in the year. In the more immediate future I’ll be publishing a workbook companion for 13 Steps To Evil, as well as my first book in a young adult fantasy series called Keepers in the autumn.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
You can buy 13 Steps To Evil –How To Craft A Superbad Villain from all good retailers, here. Just click your reading device or bookshop logo to be taken to the right place.
I’m also giving away a free 17-page cheat sheet to help you master your villain fast. You can get that here.
Connect with Sacha here:
Goodreads non-fiction: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16173650.Sacha_Black
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacha-Black/e/B072BQ2MP7/
Sacha Black Author Bio
Sacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills.
Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.
When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.
Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Connect with me here: Twitter @ShelleyWilson72, Instagram or check out my Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson and http://www.facebook.com/MotivateMeBlog. You can also find me on Pinterest