Hi, I’m Sarah Haven. I used to be an English teacher and now I’m a writer. I have to be really, because I have an overactive imagination! My books are sometimes about animals, real and fantastic, sometimes about people, but always about facing up to challenges, overcoming fear and becoming strong. Blood, Water and Lies is about a boy, deprived of love and kindness, who sets out to find his true identity and to become the person he wants to be.
I live on the edge of the Cotswolds in a converted barn [I like the old-farm feel of it] with my husband and my Tibetan terrier, Charley. He’s a very thoughtful dog, and likes to meditate. He’s very zen.
Words are my thing. I like them, love them, collect them and use them and I hope my readers might like what I’ve done with them.
When did you realise that you wanted to write and publish a book?
I started to write fiction with serious intent several years ago. My job involved a lot of writing anyway, school plays and so on, but it was when I hit a difficult patch with my health that I immersed myself in writing. I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. I coped with the illness but some of the treatment was tough and I took refuge in the fictional worlds I created. Pure escapism! It must have helped because I am now much better. The decision to pursue publication is more recent.
Okay, so you have decided to write a book, where did you start? Research? A single idea? Tell us what got the ball rolling.
Probably the most powerful factor was a childhood experience. I was nine and we were going to visit my uncle’s coastal farm. I’d never heard of this uncle before and when we arrived late at night in the pouring rain, he was out and the huge old farmhouse was in total darkness. It was a truly gothic place. That house became The Pinnacle, the house Ethan runs away to.
A second experience happened much later and was the one that triggered the book. One night I took a wrong turn on my way home and strayed into a local housing estate. A car had been set alight, and there were rowdy, drunken groups hanging about. That estate had a tragic, overwhelming sense of hopelessness.It set me thinking about the hidden, despairing lives that people have… and that led me to Ethan, so deprived and lonely. I knew right away that he was going to run away, and I wanted a location that would draw him with an image of freedom; the sea seemed the obvious choice.
After that, I chased a lot of questions… who was Ethan…? What would finally make him run away? Oh, yeah… and how do you sail an ocean-going yacht?!
Once you had started, how long did the process take?
I write quite rapidly, and then seem to lose momentum and leave it alone for a while. Then I come back, read what I’ve got, look out my notes, decide it’s not so bad after all and write some more. This book took about a year to write and edit… but it’s been languishing on my computer for at least two years!
What were the things along the way that both helped and hindered you during the writing of this book?
I am very lucky that my daughter, Dr Georgina Green [George], is a trained Book Coach and working with her has been very, very helpful and inspiring. We talk about the book but also about the practice of writing, and that really makes me want to develop and craft my skills.
If I get stuck, I find research really helpful. For example, finding out more about sailing helped me move forward in this story. Sometimes, if it’s not coming easily, I role play the characters in my head, changing POV. And I’m a great one for diagrams!
Why did I just leave the book on the computer? I started writing others, and got distracted! That imagination of mine…
Did the process of writing this book come naturally to you? Did it run smoothly? Or was it an uphill battle?
The writing itself always seems to flow and when it doesn’t, I stop. It doesn’t sound natural to me if I have to battle for it. That said, I do believe in crafting, polishing and will really work at that, once I have that first, fluent draft. I see it as two stages, the exciting whoosh of the first draft and then the enjoyable crafting in the editing process.
Set the scene. When you sat down to write, where were you? What did you need to help you? Did you have a routine with your writing? Tell us what was conducive to a successful writing session.
I tend to write on the sofa, with the laptop on my knee. I don’t need silence, and this is a busy household, so I have people around me quite often or the telly will be on. I don’t have a disciplined timetable. I’ll think the scene through the day before, telling it to myself, a bit like an audio book. Then next day, I write it. Interruptions are common, and that’s fine. Sometimes I leave myself a quick note. ‘Go on to talk about Ethan’s feelings about…’
Did you enjoy the process and is it something that you plan to do again?
Writing is a compulsion. I love it, and miss it if I go too long without some. I definitely plan to do more.
Now the book is written, finished and published, is there anything looking back that you would have done differently?
I would give it the time it deserved once it was finished, and really work at publication stages instead of leaving it as a file on my computer.
Did you find the cover design part of the process difficult or enjoyable? And what were the feelings and emotions of handing your creation over to someone else to have the cover designed?
Getting the cover designed was a brilliant, collaborative experience, and really boosted my confidence in myself and in the book. It’s one reason why I regret leaving it so long to get started. I would definitely ask Tim to design for me in the future. He encouraged me to give him detailed information about the book, and the kinds of covers that appeal to me. He was patient, thoughtful and insightful. I lacked confidence about the publishing stage and I needed the support of a sympathetic and skilled designer, and I found one in Tim! I was very impressed by how well he understood the protagonist of my book, and my instincts about it so I had no doubts about handing the book over to him. We entered into a dialogue about our ideas and he produced a fantastic cover, very striking and perfect for the target audience. I think his cover adds a powerful dimension to the book. I love it.
Is there any advice that you would like to offer anybody reading this who is currently writing, or thinking of writing a book?
Just do it. Live inside the book. Know that the first draft is clay on the wheel, and your editing is equally important and creative. Enjoy the whole process.
Blood Water and Lies will be out on Amazon very soon.
Sarah would love to hear from you. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover designed by DISSECT DESIGNS
Thank you for reading this fascinating interview. Please check back often for more from the 'Meet the Authors' series of interviews.
If you require a book cover created for your novel, contact me now and we can talk through ideas.