Personal

Sara’s Bio: 2005

Sara Douglass not my birth name – I’m actually Sara Warneke, but if I’d been a boy I would have been called Douglass … so when my first publisher HarperCollins Australia insisted I choose a different surname to get me off the lowest shelves in bookshops, I went with ‘Douglass’ with the double ‘ss’ to feminize it.

I was born in 1957 in Penola, a small town in the south-east of South Australia. My parents, two older sisters and older brother lived on a farm called Gundealga (look out for the name in the Axis books) where Dad and Mum farmed sheep and a lot of hope. I loved the farm, and hated leaving it to go to school and, eventually, to move to the capital city of South Australia, Adelaide, when I was about seven. We moved to Fisher Street in Malvern, a southern suburb, living in an old and gently decaying bluestone Victorian house (which I still dream of regularly … it was the house where I did most of my growing up). I was packed off to school, Methodist Ladies College, which was gentle, gentile and caring, and totally oblivious to the social revolutions of the ‘sixties.

I loved school, adored it (probably because it was a wonderful escape from family life). I had a terrific group of friends there as well – hello to Robyn, Trish, Ingrid and Cathy. I had a mad, insane crush on Cat Stevens. I developed a mad, insane passion for horse riding. And I did a little writing – not much, but a little … coming second in a national essay competition on the life of horses in the circus, the rodeo and racing (I am convinced I would have won if my essay had been more politically sound). And eventually I finished school, and passed into the great wide open world.

My father Bob, and my stepmum Joan, had been gently insisting for many years that I take up the female family tradition of nursing. Oh God, I loathed it. I loathed it, and yet it took me 17 years to escape. I loathed the stress, the anxious watching of patients in bed lest they do something silly like burst an aneurysm or have a cardiac arrest, the hours. I finished my training when I was 20, and took off with a friend to Europe for about 6 months. This trip was another of the great milestones of my life. Never had I felt so free – free from family expectations, free to be myself. It was brilliant, liberating, eye-opening. When I came home I managed to find a position as a Registered Nurse (‘Sister’ here in Australia); I was Sister Sara for many, many years in a small, bizarre private hospital on East Terrace in Adelaide. While I was there I started a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide.

This BA changed my life (again!). I was amazed that people actually took my thoughts seriously, and I adored the study. To cut a long story short I completed the BA, and then did a PhD in early modern (16th century) English history. I loved and still love the University of Adelaide, not only for the people, but for its remarkable library – the Barr-Smith library. Many of my manuscripts reside there in their special collection, if you ever want to see them (and if they’ll let you). The staff club of the university remains, I swear, my spiritual home. All this time I was still working the odd weekend as a nurse to supplement my scholarships and grants, but in 1992, a year after I’d completed my PhD, I finally abandoned nursing and took a position as lecturer in medieval history in La Trobe University, Bendigo, which is in central Victoria, Australia.

I’d jumped from the frying pan into the fire. This job was the most stressful I have ever held. The interdepartmental politics, the teaching, the emphasis on research even though you never had enough time or the facilities to do it. And the house I lived in … awful. So in an effort to find a way out of that job I began writing again, seriously (very seriously, this was the only thing I could think of to save me), wrote several really awful novels, a couple of not bad ones, and then one day, sat down to begin BattleAxe. I knew by the time I was about 100 pages in that this was the novel that was going to do it for me, if any novel was. So when I was done I wrapped it up in brown paper, picked out a literary agent’s name from the Yellow Pages (Australian Literary Management), and dropped it off into the nearby postbox. Instantly I knew I had made a terrible mistake. This novel was laughable! No one would ever take it up! And the agency took 6 months of umming and ahhing before they decided to accept me. Within 6 weeks HarperCollins had picked me up … and Sara Douglass was born and the land of Tencendor took off into the stratosphere.

Since then, as of early 2005, I have written 15 novels. I have moved from Bendigo in Victoria to the house of Nonsuch in Cornelian Bay in Tasmania. I have discovered a passion or gardening, and seem to collect a few too many cats. Occasionally I write, often I haunt ebay, many days you can find me in some online forum or another, but mostly I am engaged in some fruitless endeavour to stop Nonsuch crumbling away completely into the water. What can I say? It keeps me happy.

©2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises

Frequently Asked Questions: 2005

Please note, none of these questions are in any particular order, just as they occurred to me as I was typing!


When will ‘X’ book be released in ‘X’ country?

Believe it or not, authors are the worst people to ask! I have so many different release dates for different books around the world I tend to get confused, and I am also often the last person to be told, so I have given up trying to answer this question. Please contact Tor in the USA, and HarperCollins in Australia and New Zealand for details.

When is the next book going to be released? I throw my hands up! I have no idea! *grin*

What books of yours are available in America?

As of early 2005, most of them are, or will shortly be.

As from 2007 my books will be published world wide (English speaking rights) by HarperCollins Publishers, which will make things a little easier.

Why did I change my name from Warneke to Douglass?

I had no intention of using a pseudonym when I was first accepted by HarperCollins Publishers in Australia, but they asked me (for ‘asked’, read ‘insisted’) to change my surname because a book by Warneke would go on the lowest shelves in bookshops. Only dwarves who fell over ever bought books by “W’s”. They asked me to pick a surname between D and M (go check the bookshops and see what percentage of authors are ‘strangely’ in the D-M bracket!) because this was the surname range most likely to be on the eye-level shelves. So I picked ‘Douglass’ because, had I been a boy, that would have been my name. (I added the extra ‘s’ to feminise it, but Douglass with the double ss is a fairly common name anyway.) So, if you think about it, ‘Douglass’ isn’t a pseudonym at all.

Will I continue the Tencendor series?

2005 update: Yes! No one has asked for at least 3 years, and that meant I have now been energised into actually signing a contract with HarperCollins (a world wide deal) which will see a new trilogy coming out from 2007. I’ll add details once everything is more finalised. Stardrifter and Axis will be back … (but none of the ladies, we’ll have several new femme fatales). I’ll also be incorporating Maxmilian from Beyond the Hanging Wall, and Boaz and Tirzah’s (from Threshold) descendents will be back (as the bad guys!). The trilogy is called Darkglass Mountain.

In the glossary of Enchanter under the name Moonwalker it states that this is the name Rivkah adopted when she went to live with the Icarii, there is no listing of Goldfeather. Is Moonwalker the name you were going to call Rivkah or just a mistake?

Moonwalker was Rivkah’s original name, but HarperCollins Publishers Australia (original publishers) didn’t like it, so it was changed to Goldfeather (more in keeping with the Icarii way of naming people). It was changed in BattleAxe’s glossary, but not in Enchanter, and I’ve left it there through countless editions simply because it amuses me! Not one single publisher or editor around the world has picked up on it.

Is there going to be a sequel to Threshold?

Sort of. I am combining the sequels to the Tencendor series with a sequel to Threshold. StarDrifter meets Boaz. Should be interesting. You can check out the new page for Darkglass Mountain. While you won’t see Boaz and Tirzah again, if you hang around long enough you’ll meet their son, and the Goblet of the Frogs is right back in there. I’m still not sure about Fetizzah. The jury is out on her returning.

Which is my favourite of my own books?

Threshold, because it was a special book (hard to define why – but one of the reasons was because it was such a relief to get away from High Heroic Fantasy and do something very different; also the characters were particularly wonderful to work with). I loved doing The Crucible, though, as I could indulge my love of medieval history, and I’m looking forward to The Troy Game so much you wouldn’t believe.

The violence against women (almost domestic violence romanticised) in Threshold doesn’t bother you?

No, actually. It was needed for the plot, and I think it works. No one ever comments on the violence against babies in the book (the scene of infanticide at the beginning of the book … and, may I add, a particularly gruesome form of infanticide!), so I guess the violence against women must be the ‘in’ thing to get all huffy about. Besides, the woman who is so violated is less concerned about the physical violence, as the fact that her tormentor forces her to learn to read and write – an abhorrent act in her culture, and one she interprets as a violent rape. Violence in our present society is endemic – I don’t shy away from it, whether against men, women or children.

And the theme of incest in the Tencendor books?

Oh come on, that was just plain fun! *grin* I really do like taking some of the sacred cows in modern western culture and turning them on their heads. I’m too old and tired to be consistently politically correct.

Are there any books I regret writing?

Noooo. There are a couple I might not do again if I had my time over because of the length of research that went into them versus the actual sales meant they weren’t worthwhile spending so much time on, but I’m not unhappy about any of my books circulating out there.

Do you have any say in the covers?

Yes and no. In Australia I generally work closely with the artist. For overseas publications I don’t have any say at all, although both Tor and HCP UK (for The Crucible series, at least) have commissioned wonderful covers.

Can I base an online game (MUD, MOO, whatever) on your characters and worlds?

Only if you purchase the rights to do so. Unfortunately, if you don’t purchase the games rights, then you’re breaking copyright.

Where do I get my ideas from? Where does my inspiration come from? How do I write?

See my page on my Businesslike Approach to Baths to get full details on 1) how I write and 2) where I get my ideas/inspiration from. ‘Ideas’ are the result of many months of hard work. They just don’t ‘pop up’!

Is it difficult working out the plot for a trilogy?

Writing a series can be tiring, mainly because my enthusiasm only seems to last the first two books! By the third book not only has my enthusiasm dimmed somewhat, but I am thinking ahead to my next series, and can’t wait to finish the current one to start work on the next series. Frankly, I’d like to write more stand alones, but they are not as commercially viable in the fantasy genre (apart from one or two notable exceptions) as series – readers want series not stand alones, which don’t seem to sell as well. The Troy Game, my current project, extends over 4 books, but I think I’ve solved the enthusiasm problem as there are going to be four very different books, involving different research and approaches, and that will keep the enthusiasm up. Besides, the final book, set in London during the Blitz of World War Two, is the one I’m really looking forward to!

Plotting for traditional fantasy series tends to be dense and complex, which is something I am trying now to get away from. In the Tencendor books there were plots over plots over plots and a cast of thousands to support them. I now prefer to write books and series with only one main plot, but with a few thousand red herrings thrown in to keep the surprises fresh.

Do you always know the plot for an entire series before you begin work on it?

I always know where I am starting, and I know where I will finish, but the middle book(s) are often a mystery to me to be discovered when I get there. So, I know the starting point, and I know where the series will end, but writing the bit between is a journey of discovery for me.

When is the next book coming out?

I have little to no control over this; sorry, but authors don’t control this aspect of the process.

If I send you books, will you sign them?

It’s way too cumbersome for me to do that: postage costs far too much, and I’d be constantly wandering to and from the post office. I do signings around both Australia and America from time to time, so try and catch me at one of those.

If you write snail mail to me I will generally send back signed bookmarks.

Can you interview me, or have me appear at your function?

Requests for appearances and interviews in Australia can be made through HarperCollins publicity department or through Tor in America (phone number unknown as I never ring them!). But be prepared for a “I’m sorry”. I have a heavy schedule for the next couple of years, and my spare moments are very precious (I also loathe travelling like you wouldn’t believe). I do very little promotional or appearance work compared to some authors, partly because I guard my private time very jealously, and partly because I have a wide (and widening) range of business and gardening interests that just keep me too busy (I won’t travel through the six months of the Australian summer and autumn, for example, as I need to nurse my garden too closely then). I find literary events highly tedious (why in the world so authors spend so much time talking about themselves when they are writers?), speaking engagements too difficult to get to (thank God I live in relative isolation in rural Australia!) and, basically, I prefer to concentrate on my writing, which I enjoy, and my gardening, which I enjoy even more. I don’t think much of the goings on in Constantinople at all (read Voltaire’s Candide to work out what I mean! *grin*).

Am I a witch? A Neo-Pagan? A New Ager?

No. No. No. I am a perfectly ordinary person. I will not join your coven, and I will not be your Messiah. I am distinct from my books (most authors are) and my books offer few doorways into my personal life and beliefs. I am very down to earth, very practical, too lazy to think about the greater issues of life, death and the universe, and don’t have no truck with no nonsense. *smile*

How can people from overseas get my books?

Contact Bob Hoffman at the Australian Online Bookshop if you have difficulties finding my books in your country. HarperCollins in the UK, Ernst Kabel Verlag in Germany, and Tor in the USA all have various contracts to publish my books – but I have no idea on the publication schedules, so ask them, not me!

Can you write faster?

No. I write as fast as I am able, as fast as enables me to retain my sanity, and as fast as enables me to maintain a life. I’m actually slowing down my writing – for 4 or 5 years I put out two books a year, and that’s too much. I need to slow down. From now on it will be one book a year.

Why are my books now coming out in trade paperbacks/hardback first, rather than mass market paperbacks?

Again, this is a publisher’s decision based on marketing research. Authors have no say, so ring or write to HarperCollins or Tor about it. But as to why they do it … well, it is a marketing decision, and it means a bit more money for both publisher, book seller and author. *grin*

What about that interview where you said you were thinking of moving on from writing?

Ah, the panic I caused with that! But I also stick by it – basically the interviewer noted the many changes of career I’d had in my life (nurse to medieval academic to fantasy author) and wondered what I’d do next. I said I had no idea, but that I couldn’t see myself writing for the rest of my life. That got interpreted as “Douglass is going to give up writing!”. Well … one day I will give up writing, but I don’t know when that will be – only when it no longer gets to be any fun or the ‘expectations’ start to get too onerous. At the moment I am very seriously thinking of taking a long (and maybe permanent) break from writing after The Troy Game. By then I will produced 16 novels in under 10 years, and I think I’ll be ready for the scrap heap! I am very very tired of the promotional work and the media demands, and more than anything else the degree to which I am sick to death of those two things will determine when I stop writing.

Where do the names for characters come from?

From several sources: I either make them up, or find them in medieval poetry or other source material, or even from the Bible and classical literature. For the Tencendor books many of the characters’ names came from a wonderful medieval poem called The Song of Roland – Belial, Magariz, Belaguez among others (so, no, I didn’t realise Belial was supposed to be a devil!). If I am writing in a particular ‘culture’ then I will glance at the literature from that culture: for instance, in Threshold I got names from the Bible and sundry books on Egyptology, and others I just made up on the spot.

Why did I kill/maim/be cruel to ‘x’ character?

I am going to use Ray Feist’s answer here: “Because I bloody well could”. Because I’m the author and because it felt good for me and for the integrity of the novel at the time. I don’t particularly like happy endings, and novels where no-one gets hurt occasionally makes for bland reading. Tension requires that the characters which readers get emotionally sympathetic with must occasionally die. Badly.

Recently one of my fans (Hello SinnerStar!) labeled the various nasty ends of my characters as a “Sara Fate: TM”. I rather like that! I often imagine my characters sitting in a tea room somewhere behind the scenes thinking, “Oh God, she’s running out of uses for me, I’m going to die badly very soon!”.

Sometimes a Sara Fate:TM is simply because I’m having a very, very bad day – in the initial scene in BattleAxe where the woman gives birth … well, that was supposed to be a normal birth, but I’d had SUCH a bad day at work, and by the time I got home and wrote that scene … well …

Is Faraday ever going to have a happy ending?

I would dearly like to squash her under a huge pumpkin studded with rusty twelve-inch nails so that she dies a lingering, painful death from blood poisoning and a badly leaking belly, and I reserve the right to do so any time I feel like it. (Of course, by the time you get to the end of Crusader you’ll see that that is not quite the fate I’ve given her … nevertheless, I’ve been nasty enough …)

2005 update: Faraday will not, never, no way José, ever appear in the new Tencendor series, Darkglass Mountain.

Do I like my characters?

Sometimes, sometimes not. As is apparent in the above question, I have never liked Faraday very much, and other characters I get seriously annoyed with when they won’t do what I want them to do. Basically my favourite characters are the secondary characters in any novel: Belial in The Axis Trilogy, Zabrze and Isphet in Threshold, and Baron Raby in The Crucible.

What are you going to write next?

Whatever takes my fancy, and whatever I think I might be able to sell. My mind changes from week to week about what I’ll do next. At the moment (2001-2002) I have jut completed a historical fantasy – a trilogy based around the adventures of Henry V and Joan of Arc (The Crucible). I’m currently working on the research for The Troy Game, which series should take me at least four years to write. After that … well, after that I can seriously see a life beyond writing.

2005 update: The next few years will be taken up with Darkglass Mountain.

Why are so many facts wrong in The Crucible?

Because it amused me! *grin* The Crucible is based in an alternate world and I had a huge amount of fun doing what I wanted with the characters and events, and not what I was restricted to by the dry facts of history.

Are you aware that John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford had four children and not two? This is a terrible error!

The fuss over my giving Gaunt and Swynford only two children instead of four has caused me the greatest astonishment. So many die-hard romantics have written to me telling me I had it all wrong. I think there must be a Gaunt/Swynford Appreciation Society out there somewhere. So, yes, I am and have been always very well aware that they had four children instead of two, but I had no role for four children – I only needed two. The number of semi-hysterical people who have demanded I correct this has amazed me – why is it so important? There are so many other deviations from fact in The Crucible (most far far worse than eliminating two children for the sake of plot), yet this is the only one that seems to bother people. Heck, I have Christ clambering down from his cross and having sex in an alleyway off Cheapside, but no one cares about that … no, I must give John and Katherine the correct number of children, and I must do it now!

Is there going to be a film version of …’whatever’?

I am not particularly concerned about seeing my books turned into films and don’t chase the possibility down. I have no desire to sell the film rights of a novel to see it be massacred for the sake of Hollywood and for zilch returns (authors do badly out of film rights). I’ve had some discussions with directors/producers, but nothing has come of it.

Why don’t I try and get my initial unpublished novels published?

Because I know they’re awful. They were my ‘learning pieces’ and every writer needs them – but not to try to get published. Garth Nix once described the early novels that every writer need to write (and which will never get published) as the booster rockets/stages for space craft. They’re critical for getting you into space, but you never reuse them. Once written, they’ve served their purpose and are never looked at again.

Who do I most like reading? (Who is my favourite author?)

I don’t read much fantasy (many SF and fantasy authors never read in their genre). I honestly have no idea what’s out there at the moment, or know what today’s ‘trends’ are. I sat on a panel with 2 international fantasy authors recently, and they also sat bewildered when asked what fantasy they liked. They just don’t read it. Of fantasy authors, I have enjoyed Tad Williams and some of Ray Feist’s books the most. It would be easier for me to say who I didn’t like … but that wouldn’t be diplomatic!

As far as relaxation goes, I read a great deal of nonfiction (mainly in historical or archeological fields) and I’m only now beginning to appreciate crime writing – Ruth Rendell in her guise as Barbara Vine is one of my favourite fiction authors, but Elizabeth George is also a favourite, as is Laurie R King. I can see myself taking up crime writing one day …

Which authors most influenced me as a writer?

Again, this one always stumps me. I am not aware of any one or any several authors influencing me. I read everything I could get my hands on for the first half of my life, and I guess most of it influenced me in some manner, but I can’t think of a single major one.

What are my hobbies?

Well … gardening and books, really. I also enjoy playing about on the computer a fair bit. Gardening is a fairly new love, one I learned when I brought my first house (with the aid of the advance from the Australian edition of The Wayfarer Redemption) in 1996. For the past 4 or 5 years I have spent just about every spare moment digging up flower beds, and re-digging up flower beds, and cornering fellow-fantasy authors in dark corners at conventions and discussing composting in great detail (some people now run whenever they see me). Gardening is my greatest love. You can follow my gardening adventures at Nonsuch Garden.

But then books have always been a great love as well. With the success of my own books I can now afford to collect in a way I never could previously. At the moment I am building up a library on medieval London. My growing library is also one of my biggest headaches – where do they all go? I desperately need more wall space for more bookcases … (Update on the desperate need for bookcases: Sept. 2001 – I have finally contacted a local cabinet maker and he is to build for me a fully installed library – 9 foot high glass fronted book cases in gothic style – I can’t wait until they’re in!).

How does someone become a writer?

Through very hard work and through years of practice. Writing is a craft as much as dentistry is, or as much as carpentry is, but many would-be authors simply think it is a matter of throwing words on to a page. People are prepared to train as a carpenter, or a dentist, but think they can instantly become a writer. Writing is many, many years of solitary writing and many more years of disappointments. Mostly, is it about learning the craft of grammar and style, and learning how to distance yourself from your work so you can learn from your mistakes. Novice or amateur writers tend to think of writing as an emotional experience, a talent that simply bubbles to the surface. It’s nothing like that at all. Writing is as mundane a job, and as hard and as sometimes even as boring, as going in to the office every morning. If you’re in love with the romantic idea of being a writer, then get over it! It is hard grinding work most of the time. See my pages on Writing for more details.

Should I approach a publisher directly, or should I get an agent?

Tough question, and it will differ from situation to situation and from country to country. Authors always get asked this, and every author will give you a different answer. Publishing is a tough industry to crack, but the best way is to a) be professional and b) be good (and that means the hard years put in learning skills). Some people succeed without an agent, some with. See my section on Publishing and Writing for details on agents and more …

If you don’t have an agent then it is always a good idea to get someone ( a professional, please, not your best friend!) to look over your contract for you or give you some advice on it (a contract lawyer would be your best bet). I know a well known fantasy author who has never had an agent or a lawyer – she told me she trusts her publishers implicitly. She shouldn’t – from what she’s told me of her contracts she’s been taken for a long and appalling ride. Publishers will try and get the best contract possible – for them. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. I also know a first time author, no agent, who has by herself negotiated with a major publisher a contract that many authors with agents would be envious of.

How do I get an agent?

Get lists from writer’s societies, or search the WWW for lists (search for ‘literary agents’ on a search engine … I’ve seen the lists out there, but can’t remember where they are). Some agents are now so overwhelmed by manuscripts that they don’t advertise by traditional means (e.g. phone books). They know that if a writer is professional enough, they will find the agent, and agents don’t want to know about the unprofessional. Whatever, pick an agent who is still taking on clients and who likes to work in your area. Agents generally charge between 15% to 25% commission.

What’s better to write, short stories or novels?

Whichever takes your fancy. Most writers tend to start out writing short stories and then slowly graduate on to novels. This is a good idea for one major reason: if you are writing short stories, you’ll have the benefit of finishing a piece, learning from it, then going on to the next piece and doing better. Novice writers who start out on a trilogy first are probably never going to make it because they will never finish, learn, move on. I started my fantasy writing on a trilogy, true, but I was also a professional writer beforehand with numerous published and non-published works (including seven or eight novels). My first published fiction book, BattleAxe, was the result of fifteen years of practice. Short stories are a very good way to get that practice. Fantasy and SF magazines in Australia and overseas are fairly far and far between. Try Eidolon and Aurealis (both of which have web sites – I can’t remember where they are now, but if you do a search you’re bound to find them), but be aware that they get many thousands of stories a year, it takes them ages to get through, and they’ll probably only take 20 of the three or four thousand they get.

What’s the best way to succeed as a writer?

1. Be professional in everything you do. No-one needs to deal with enthusiastic amateurs when there are heaps of professional writers around.

2. Know how to write. Learn your craft. Don’t just throw words on a page and think they look cute and that because your husband/sister/best friend also thinks they look cute that you don’t need to do any more work. Family and friends are the very worst critics you will ever have. Be prepared to write 3 or 5 novels before you get to something that might be worth something.

3. Find a genre that suits your skills: your favourite genre may not be the best one for you to actually work in. For instance, I adore military adventure, thrillers, but I can’t write them. On the other hand, fantasy is only of mild interest for me, but I know how to write it well. Experiment a bit.

4. Research your market. For instance, what are the current trends in fantasy? What publishers in what country publish what kind of material? What do they look for? A hint: if you have a dragon, a dark lord or a bevy of gnomes, elves and dwarves, you might not have much of a chance. Most editors right now are sick to death of hackneyed fantasy characters and plots. Dragons will almost certainly get you rejected every time. Tolkien may have been the master, but editors hate hopeful writers who can’t think out something original for themselves (and Tolkien-imitations are now so numerous and so boring that no-one wants to read them). Also, make sure your women characters are very strong: most editors in the field are women, and if they see simpering, shallow female characters you’ll never make it to the short list! Don’t write in clichés, unless you know what you are doing and you are very good.

See also my section of Writing and The Publishing World for some other advice. That’s about all the advice I can give you – if you want more, most areas in the western world (as the Internet) are overpopulated with writing courses, associations, groups etc. and any one of those would be glad to help.

Will you read my book/chapter/short story/poem?

No, for varying reasons. Legally, it is a minefield for me to do so because it could easily open me to charges of plagiarism at a later date. Reading someone else’s novel takes a lot of time as well – I simply don’t have the time to take a week off to read and comment on your work. Be professional, send it to an agent, writer’s society, freelance editor etc. for comment. I receive many requests to read material, and while I wish you all the best of luck and appreciate how hard it can be to ‘break through’, I can’t do it for you.

Why don’t I put up reviews?

Because I just don’t have the time to type them up, because some reviewers have objected, but largely because I don’t have time to read reviews. I don’t think I’ve read one of them in 2 or 3 years.

How do I feel about reviews?

I don’t feel much about them at all. Good reviews are fine, and so are bad ones. I often have a good laugh at the motives reviewers attribute to me (reviewers write for themselves more than for anyone else). Genre readers generally don’t read reviews, so they make little to no difference to sales. The reviews that do matter to me are those that are passed down the 9 am tram: “What did you do over the weekend, Jim?” “Well, I read this great book …” My agent once told me that word of mouth sold more books than anything else, and she was right.

©2000-2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises

Sara’s Bio: 2001

Sara Douglass is not my birth name – I’m actually Sara Warneke, but if I’d been a boy I would have been called Douglass … so when my first publisher HarperCollins Australia insisted I choose a different surname to get me off the lowest shelves in bookshops, I went with ‘Douglass’ with the double ‘ss’ to feminise it.

I was born on the 2nd June 1957 in Penola, a small town in the south-east of South Australia. My parents, two older sisters and older brother lived on a farm called Gundealga (look out for the name in the Axis books) where Dad and Mum farmed sheep and a lot of hope. I loved the farm, and hated leaving it to go to school and, eventually, to move to the capital city of South Australia , Adelaide, when I was about seven. We moved to Fisher Street in Malvern, a southern suburb, living in an old and gently decaying bluestone Victorian house (which I still dream of regularly … it was the house where I did most of my growing up). I was packed off to school, Methodist Ladies College, which was gentle, gentile and caring, and totally oblivious to the social revolutions of the ‘sixties.

I came home one day to find Mum complaining of stomach cramps, saying she was off to the doctor. I can still remember that day, and even the dress Mum wore. It was the start of the bleakest 3 years of my life as Mum unsuccessfully battle ovarian cancer. Watching her die, and watching a family disintegrate under the strain (while grimly clinging to that old Victorian value of there being no strain, and nothing is wrong dear, it is just your imagination). When I wrote Enchanter, and did the scene where Azhure finally relives the horror of her mother’s death, it was, for me, a cathartic experience. Immediately after that scene Axis, in order to save Azhure from whatever bleak hell she’d gone into, has to apologise to her on behalf of the entire world for all the wrongs of the world. For me, that was even more cathartic: I’d needed someone to apologise for the living hell that my childhood had been – even though there was no one to blame, and no one who should have been blamed. Immediately after writing those two scenes I went and lay down on my bed and cried for 3 hours. Even though so many years have passed, Mum’s sickness and eventual death remains one of the pivotal experiences of my life (although I carry no chip on my shoulder over it … I’ve only talked about it here because a very insightful journalist probed me about those two scenes, and eventually their genesis made it into national print here in Australia).

Back to school and growing up. I loved school, adored it (probably because it was a wonderful escape from family life). I had a terrific group of friends there as well – hello to Robyn, Trish, Ingrid and Cathy. I had a mad, insane crush on Cat Stevens. I developed a mad, insane passion for horse riding. And I did a little writing – not much, but a little … coming second in a national essay competition on the life of horses in the circus, the rodeo and racing (I am convinced I would have won if my essay had been more politically sound). And eventually I finished school, and passed into the great wide open world.

My father Bob, and my stepmum Joan, had been gently insisting for many years that I take up the female family tradition of nursing. Oh God, I loathed it. I loathed it, and yet it took me 17 years to escape. I loathed the stress, the anxious watching of patients in bed lest they do something silly like burst an aneurysm or have a cardiac arrest, the arrogance of the doctors (as the bio in front of so many of my books attest – and yes, I’ve had arrogant emails from doctors about that, as well!). I finished my training when I was 20, and took off with a friend to Europe for about 6 months. This trip was another of the great milestones of my life. Never had I felt so free – free from family expectations, free to be myself. It was brilliant, liberating, eye-opening. When I came home I managed to find a position as a registered Nurse (‘sister’ here in Australia … I was Sister Sara for many, many years … wasn’t that Clint Eastwood film as well??) in a small, bizarre private hospital on East Terrace in Adelaide. When I say bizarre, I mean bizarre. This was a place which hadn’t evolved since the 1920s – all us sisters had to wear long starched veils – this in the ’80s and 90s! This was a place where the housekeeper carefully collected blood from the operating theatres and poured it over the garden at night (“It helps the camellias, dear.”) And this was the place where a manic possum stole the keys to the dangerous drugs cabinet (please don’t ask me how the possum got the keys, that is SO bizarre you would never believe me) and ran off with them to the highest gum tree it could find – it took the military might of the SA police’s Star Force (the elite anti-terrorist squad … it was a slow night when the sister in charge rang the police to help in apprehending the possum, and they police sent the anti-terrorist squad!) to get those keys back. I don’t think the possum survived. (Can you imagine? The search lights, the guys in their bulletproof jackets and helmets, the guns, all trained on this gum tree and the little possum’s face, blinking way up high with the blue velvet ribbon of the dangerous drugs keys in his cute little paws.) I think I’ve said enough about this hospital for you to get the picture … anyway, while I was there I started a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide.

This BA changed my life (again!). I was amazed that people actually took my thoughts seriously, and I adored the study. To cut a long story short I completed the BA, and then did a PhD in early modern (16th century) English history. I loved and still love the University of Adelaide, not only for the people, but for its remarkable library – the Barr-Smith library. All my manuscripts reside there in their special collection, if you ever want to see them (and if they’ll let you). The staff club of the university remains, I swear, my spiritual home. All this time I was still working the odd weekend as a nurse to supplement my scholarships and grants, but in 1992, a year after I’d completed my PhD, I finally abandoned nursing and took a position as lecturer in medieval history in La Trobe University, Bendigo, which is in central Victoria, Australia.

I’d jumped from the frying pan into the fire. This job was the most stressful I have ever held. The interdepartmental politics, the teaching, the emphasis on research even though you never had enough time or the facilities to do it. And the house I lived in … (see the first house link). So in an effort to find a way out of that job I began writing again, seriously (very seriously, this was the only thing I could think of to save me), wrote several really awful novels, a couple of not bad ones, and then one day, sat down to begin BattleAxe. I knew by the time I was about 100 pages in that this was the novel that was going to do it for me, if any novel was. So when I was done I wrapped it up in brown paper, picked out a literary agent’s name from the Yellow Pages (Australian Literary Management), and dropped it off into the nearby postbox. Instantly I knew I had made a terrible mistake. This novel was laughable! No one would ever take it up! And the agency took 6 months of umming and ahhing before they decided to accept me. Within 6 weeks HarperCollins had picked me up … and Sara Douglass was born and the land of Tencendor took off into the stratosphere.

Finally I saved enough to buy my beloved Ashcotte (which ties me to Bendigo … I mean, if I wanted to sell the prospective new owners would have to be interviewed by the ghost) and to leave academia to concentrate on … well … on my gardening and maintaining of web pages … and a bit of writing!

And here I lie still.

2001 Women in Fantasy Tour: USA & Canada

Juliet Marillier, Jacqueline Carey & Sara Douglass
28th May to 16th June

women-in-fantasy-tour-map1. Los Angeles – start and finish
2. Dallas Forth-Worth, Texas
3. Chicago
4. Ann Arbor
5. Cleveland
6. New York
7. Washington D.C.
8. Toronto, Canada
9. Seattle
10. San Francisco
11. San Diego

Sorry about the map – it looks dreadful, but it was the best that I could do in a short time. Some of the cities are not in quite as precise a location as they could be, but you’ll get the general idea. Also sorry for any spelling errors, typos in this page – I’m too tired to go through with a fine tooth comb.

OK, Juliet and I left Australia on May 28th, heading with Qantas to Los Angeles. Should I say, we only just left. Tor’s travel agency had a small bit of trouble getting our flight tickets to us … basically, until about half an hour before the flight both Juliet and myself thought we weren’t going to go … and then finally the tickets came through. Those two sentences don’t convey the stress that we both went through – international calls, a huge effort on the part of Qantas staff and the desk staff of Melbourne Airport Hilton (both sets of staff went out of their way to help us, so thanks, guys)… both Juliet and myself think the whole thing could have been organised a little better – it was a foul way to start the trip.

But, hey, it just got worse! The Qantas flight was spectacular (we flew business class) … and then we landed in Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which is one of the hugest airports in the world. At that point Juliet and I had to make a connecting flight with American Airlines to Chicago … simple, you think? Not when American Airlines have recently earned themselves the ire of the travelling public by cancelling flights willy nilly. Juliet and I discovered that our flight had been cancelled, we were passed through several very uncaring American Airlines desk clerks who really couldn’t care less about whether we got to our destination or not, put on another flight, turned up at the gate for that flight, told it was full and we’d have to wait hours for another one (bear in mind that by this stage neither Juliet or I had had any sleep for over 28 hours), then, in the next breath told we could fly to Texas, Dallas Fort Worth, and catch a plane to Chicago from there, but that we’d have to leave NOW (the aircraft doors were about to close). Snap decision, Juliet and I both hated LAX so much by this stage that the prospect of different scenery seemed better than sitting around for yet another flight to be cancelled under us, so we grabbed the boarding passes and ran.

More drama. To put us on the flight to Texas American Airlines had pinched seats from a couple of other passengers who had just gone to the bathroom before their flight (never ever do that, better to go on the plane!). So we were pushed on the plane, and I was sat next to a very good looking woman who stared at me. “You’re not my husband,” she growled (yes, her husband was one of the unfortunates still in the bathroom and now seatless!). So here I was, sitting next to a woman whose husband had lost his seat to me, she was flying home to Texas but her car and house keys were stuck in the back pocket of her husband’s jeans (still in the bathroom!), and man was she angry! The entire plane heard about it, but once she had voiced her feelings she turned to me, smiled, patted my arm, and said, “I don’t blame you at all.” Which was lovely, because I thought she was just about to kill me!

So at least I didn’t get killed by the irate wife (who then proceeded to feed me sweets for the rest of the flight), but I was so stressed. Juliet and I were now well over 36 hours with no sleep (we’d both had a very early morning in Australia before the Qantas flight trying to work the damn tickets out of the uncaring travel agency … as also trying to reach our contacts in Tor to explain the dilemma … only to discover that it was Memorial Day in the USA and no one was answering their phones), we were heading to Texas when we should have been going to Chicago, and we had no idea if we were ever going to get OUT of Texas! Our opinion of American Airlines was now at an all-time low (I must hasten to add here that, with one extraordinary exception, every other airline we travelled on within the USA and Canada was fine, if not brilliant) , and the prospect of our hotel room in Chicago had become the shining unobtainable Grail. We finally landed in Texas and, amazingly, managed to catch a plane out of Texas to Chicago within an hour. We finally struggled into our hotel late that night and got into bed 42 hours after we’d both last slept.

It was an incredibly bad start to the trip, and consequently both Juliet and myself were stressed and jet-lagged for almost a week. We got one day to recover, and then were launched into Book Expo America. (Jacqueline Carey arrived in Chicago the day after us.)

Breathless silence. The BEA is massive – second only in size to Frankfurt book fair. It the publishing industry’s annual get together – a huge fair showcasing authors, books, products etc. The three of us were there for some 3 days, launching into Tor’s promotional “Women in Fantasy Tour” 2001, which was meant to showcase women writing fantasy, and Jacqueline, Juliet and myself in particular. At the BEA we did book signings, met and talked with a large number of book sellers (the tour was mainly aimed at introducing us to booksellers, some of whom have massive buying power), had many late night dinners (Juliet and I almost always nodding off over desert). Chicago remains a bit of a blur to me …

Having survived Chicago and BEA, and just managing to finally crawl out of jet-lag, we flew out of Chicago on Tuesday June 5th to Ann Arbor, Michigan, just a ways out of Detroit (the home of Borders Books).

We almost didn’t survive this flight. (Sara grins, remembering.) We were loaded onto the airplane, waiting to taxi off, when there was a bit of a noise from the back of the plane. The cockpit door opens and the first officer strides down the aisle to have a look-see. He was the Great American God in looks – all muscle, tanned skin, blue eyes, blond hair, perfect white teeth and a uniform to die for – and he strode down that aisle as if to set the world to rights.

We waited a few minutes. The First Officer suddenly hurries back down to aisle towards the cockpit, his face all white, his uniform all sweaty and creased. The cockpit door slams. Silence. Then the captain comes on the intercom (please imagine a southern drawl here). “UM, ladies and gentlemen … um … ah … I am afraid there will be a slight delay as … um … as we attempt to put the back door back on the aircraft.”

!! To cut a long story short we sat on the tarmac for at least an hour as various engineers and sundry airport staff put the door back on again (with lots of welding and cursing). To be honest, most of the people on the plane were terrified, not of the door falling off in flight, but that we’d be asked to change planes. The American domestic airline industry is in huge strife at the moment (and to support my case I cite all the articles that appeared in the American press while I was over there) – huge delays, and having a ticket does not necessarily mean you’re going to get a seat. We were on a plane, we had seats, and damned if any of us were going to relinquish them!

Finally the back door was nailed/welded/gummed on to everyone’s satisfaction, and we took off. Most of us had our belts adjusted real tight … just in case the thing blew off again. (I’ve since talked to a friend, who claims that she had a friend who had the same experience in Russia – except that then they couldn’t get the back door on again … they took off anyway, but they flew real low, everyone dressed up in as many woollies as they could find.)

We finally arrived in Detroit (thence to Ann Arbor) safely! At Ann Arbor we were to spend less than 24 hours, the main purpose of our visit to have a dinner with book buyers from the Borders and Waldenbooks chains (we’re talking people with the ability to purchases tens of thousands of copies of our books here!). That was actually a very enjoyable dinner, and we all fell into our beds happy little authors … only to face a 4.30 am rise the next morning to fly into Cleveland … and to discover that our Ann Arbor hotel was unable to supply coffee that early in the morning. We were 3 very cranky authors on the drive to the airport (where we finally managed to get some coffee – thank God for Starbucks!).

Cleveland was Wednesday June 6th, and here we had a lovely evening talking and signing books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a lovely shop, and even lovelier staff!

Next morning it was off to New York and a couple of very full days. On the day we arrived we had lunch with Jim Killen, who was the fantasy buyer for Barnes and Noble Bookstores (another 20,000 sales, please God!), and then the three of us went in turn to a New York apartment where a film crew shot short clips of us doing talks about ourselves and our books. These clips will (eventually) appear on sites like Amazon.com etc. as clips next to our books, so you’ll get to see them eventually. It’s a very new service, and authors are in the process of being filmed around America – Juliet and I were lucky we were there at the right time. We were filmed in an apartment so it looked ‘homely’ rather than a tv studio … and what I remember most about that experience was that the owner of the apartment had a pet tortoise that wandered about the apartment – most people were terrified they were going to step on it at some stage! Always in the background would be this ‘click click click’, as if a woman’s high heels on the wood floor – it was the tortoise scurrying around (or as fast as a tortoise can scurry).

That took up most of the afternoon – and that evening Tom Doherty of Tor books took us out to dinner on top of the World Trade Centre – what a view!! A third of a mile up (your ears pop in the elevator). Fabulous meal, and afterward Tom took us on one of his famous walks (Tom loves to suddenly spring walks on people) along the New York harbour-front. It was spectacular – I remember standing on the banks of the Hudson River, staring down the waterfront to the Statue of Liberty … it was a clear night, and overhead you could see jet aircraft lined up for 30-40 miles on their approach route past the Statue of Liberty to La Guadia Airport. It reminded me of the immigration ships that used to pass the statue on their way in to Ellis Island (or where-ever) – now was the same, save instead of sailing ships there were aircraft lined up high above the Hudson River.

Next day (I’m leaving out all the physical and mental exhaustion here, but please imagine it) we headed off to Tor’s offices in the Flat Iron Building on Fifth Avenue for a morning tea and heaps of signings, before we headed off to Washington DC where we did an event at Borders books – a lovely night, and I should be getting a great snap of the 3 of us through at some stage.

Next day we stayed in the same city for a change! Amazing! We did a single function at Books-a-Million, and thus managed to do a bit of sightseeing either side of the function. I joined the crowds outside the White House … and was amazed at how small it was. I’m not too sure what I was expecting … but the overall concept of the White House is of world power – the actuality was a little disappointing (and George didn’t invite me in for a cuppa, I felt quite snubbed).

Next day (Sunday June 10) we were off to Toronto! Arrived early, and feeling OK for a change, so did a harbour cruise … then back to the hotel for a snooze. I should explain that the 3 of us were so mentally and physicaly tired throughout this tour that even when we had a free afternoon or evening we tended to snooze rather than sightsee. We’d struggle into some hotel, put our bags down, look out the windows, say “Yeah, yeah, so that’s Chicago/Cleveland/San Francisco,” and then head straight to bed.

In Toronto we did interviews for Space Television, and did a reading at Toronto university (where I met fang). Next day, having read in the morning newspaper that Canadian Air pilots tend to fall asleep at the controls an awful lot because of their heavy schedules, we flew off to Seattle in north-west USA. This is where Sara stupidly lost her US visa! We went through US Immigration in Toronto, where I had to endure a grilling by the Immigration Officer on the nature of my work and morals. Being a fantasy author didn’t appeal to him at all! He wanted to know what kind of fantasy I wrote, and how notorious I was. Finally he gave me another visa and I was off (I found the original one a couple of hours later, so if anyone wants a spare US visa, current through to September of this year …).

Seattle was gorgeous – we flew in during a long long northern summer’s evening – it was still light at about 10 at night, and the air had a beautiful quality about it. My main memory of Seattle (where we did another talk/signing at University bookstore) was stumbling across the quilt store and finding the Amish quilt that hopefully will be arriving in Australia any day soon.

Then down to San Francisco next day, and one of the highlights of the trip – Alaskan Airlines and Greg, the flight attendant. Anyone who has done a reasonable amount of flying will know the aircraft voiceovers almost by heart – the safety procedures, the collecting of baggage procedures. They hardly differ from airline to airline … save for Alaskan airlines. It’s going to be difficult to get across the actual hilarity of this, because it was done in such a bored deadpan voice that itincreased its effectiveness ten-fold, but here goes. This is Greg, the cabin crew member from Alaskan Airlines.

Greg on smoking in the toilets: (this is the first indication that he was about to depart from the usual voice over) “If we find anyone smoking in the toilets, and we’d truly hate to do this, we’ll have to ask you to step outside.”

People slowly looked up from magazines, wondering if they’d heard aright.

Then Greg launched into a description of the food about to be served: “The flight attendants will shortly serve you a snack. Alaskan Airlines have asked us to call this a breakfast snack, but I’m not going to insult your intelligence by doing so. We know what you think of airline food, and we agree with you. If it is any consolation, we’ll be bringing the beverage cart along right after the food so you can wash it down as quickly as you can.”

Greg serving me my ‘snack’: “Here is madam’s cinnamon roll. If madam doesn’t want to eat it she can always use it as a weapon.”

Greg on the coffee: “Alaskan Airlines has spared no expense in ensuring that you have the widest selection of coffee available. We have black, we have black with cream, we have black with sugar, and we have black with cream and sugar. We also have decaf black, decaf black with cream, decaf black with sugar, and decaf black with cream and sugar.”

Greg on the extensive range of wines available during the fight: “We have red and we have white. If you want blush, then you may have one glass of red, one of white, and one empty glass for mixing.”

Greg on landing: “If you were silly enough to check in baggage, you may collect your bags from the baggage claim, carousel 14, in 15-20 business days.”

“Thank you for flying Alaskan Airlines – it’s been our pleasure to take you for a ride. We like taking your money, so fly with us again soon. May I remind you that California is a non-smoking state, so if you want to light up you’ll have to go to Nevada.”

Greg on taxi-ing to the terminal: “Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened until we have docked and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. Please don’t stand while taxi-ing as this aircraft has an unfortunate habit of coming to sudden stops, and we’d hate for any one of you to reach the terminal before the rest of us.”

As the plane docks and people’s hands creep to their seatbelt catches: “Don’t even THINK about it!”

As the seatbelt sign is switched off: “Go! Go! Go!”

As we’re waiting to file off: “Please check your seat and overhead locker for personal belongings. If you don’t want them, there’s no reason to suppose that we do.”

On explaining that the flight is to continue on to Mexico: “This flight continues on to Mexico. It is a customs requirement that, even if you are continuing on this flight, you must take all personal belongings off the plane so that customs can inspect the plane. Anything left behind will be confiscated by customs and disposed of. Please resist the temptation to leave behind your unwanted children.”

I suppose you had to be there, but it was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I love Alaskan Airlines!

In San Francisco (hot!) we did an event at a bookstore called Borderlands books then, next morning, flew into San Diego for the last few events! yeah! Our very last event was at a delightful shop called Mysterious Galaxy (where I met Teal and avoided telling my tasteless sheep joke for the sake of her children). Then Juliet and I flew to LAX once more (Jacqueline to Michigan), then on to Melbourne, it was so good to get home!

All in all, I made two great new friends (Juliet and Jacqueline) without whom I doubt I would have survived. All three of us found it totally exhausting – and we weren’t wimps! Our escort for the San Diego part of the trip told us that she’d recently escorted a rock star (his name escapes me now, but it was one that I recognised) on a book tour recently. He’d said that he loved doing rock tours, but found the book tour unbelievably exhausting. I feel vindicated. I was so tired during the tour, in fact, that even though I had taken my camera with me, I took not one picture!

Now, I must crawl off to bed and try to get rid of this terrible throat infection that I picked up on the way home.

©2001 Sara Douglass Enterprises

Frequently Asked Questions: 2000

Editors note: this FAQ was posted on Sara’s website in 2000, and much of the information is no longer current.


Will I continue the Tencendor series?

Big breath – probably not. Seven books (if you include “Beyond the Hanging Wall”) is enough. I know there is an opening left at the end of “Crusader”, and I left it there deliberately in case I did want to go back, but at the moment (2000) I am so ‘Tencendored-out’ that I couldn’t write another word on the land, and probably won’t be able to for 10 years at least. Sorry. I have heaps of exciting plans for new trilogies, so I hope they’ll keep you satisfied.

As a reader I’ve always been disappointed when the lure of big money has kept authors continuing on with a series to the detriment of story and characters, and as a writer I’ve vowed always to make a clean break and move on to something else once I’ve lost the fascination with a particular tale, so for both those reasons it will be a long, long time before you learn what fate I have for StarDrifter!

Hint: the more people beg me to go on with the land and people of Tencendor, the more I dig my heels in and shake my head!

Why the sudden increase in swearing from Pilgrim?

Well … it wasn’t that much!! Just the odd word here and there (in fact, three, I think for 160,000 words)! But basically what happened was that I had a change in editor from Pilgrim onwards who didn’t mind the occasional swear word here and there. Previously, I’d been forced to cut them out. So the odd swear word had been present in the previous books … it is just that they’d never made it to print. (That rape scene had been cut out of previous books as well.) Some people have commented that using profanities out of character for the fantasy genre – I disagree entirely. One of the huge problems I’ve always had with fantasy is that characters get sent on long and incredibly dangerous missions, they often find themselves in terrifying danger, and they just stand there and blink? I mean … come on! Everyone is going to swear occasionally when they drop that sword on their foot or the demon suddenly appears out of nowhere. It is just making fantasy more realistic and more fun.

In the glossary of Enchanter under the name Moonwalker it states that this is the name Rivkah adopted when she went to live with the Icarri, there is no listing of Goldfeather. Is Moonwalker the name you were going to call Rivkah or just a mistake?

Moonwalker was Rivkah’s original name, but HarperCollins Publishers Australia (original publishers) didn’t like it, so it was changed to Goldfeather (more in keeping with the Icarii way of naming people). It was changed in BattleAxe’s glossary, but not in Enchanter, and I’ve left it there through countless editions simply because it amuses me! Go figure …

Is there going to be a sequel to Threshold?

No. As far as I am concerned the story is ended, and the characters dead (metaphorically speaking, of course!). However … I did like that novel and world so much that there is a possibility I will go back to it, or a very similar world, for a trilogy one day. It won’t involve any of the characters from Threshold, however.

Which is my favourite of my own books?

Threshold, because it was a special book (hard to define why – but one of the reasons was because it was such a relief to get away from High Heroic Fantasy and do something very different; also the characters were particularly wonderful to work with).

Are there any books I regret writing?

Noooo. There are a couple I might not do again if I had my time over because of the length of research that went into them, but I’m not unhappy about any of my books circulating out there.

Where do I get my ideas from? How do I write?

See my page on my Businesslike Approach to Baths to get full details on 1) how I write and 2) where I get my ideas from.

When is the next book coming out?

I have little to no control over this; sorry, but authors don’t control this aspect of the process. HarperCollins publish me in Australia and the United Kingdom, and Tor in the USA. Contact them for details if you wish.

Can you write faster?

No. I write as fast as I am able, as fast as enables me to retain my sanity, and as fast as enables me to maintain a life. I’m actually slowing down my writing – for 4 or 5 years I put out two books a year, and that’s too much. I need to slow down. From now on it will be one book a year.

Why are my books now coming out in trade paperbacks/hardback first, rather than mass market paperbacks?

Again, this is a publisher’s decision based on marketing research. Authors have no say, so ring or write to HarperCollins about it. Unfortunately, as of 2000, it is going to get worse, as in Australia and the USA the books will be coming out in Hardback first. (Yah! I am a hardback author!!)

What about that interview where you said you were thinking of moving on from writing?

Ah, the panic I caused with that! But I also stick by it – basically the interviewer noted the many changes of career I’d had in my life (nurse to medieval academic to fantasy author) and wondered what I’d do next. I said I had no idea, but that I couldn’t see myself writing for the rest of my life. That got interpreted as “Douglass is going to give up writing!”. Well … one day I will give up writing, but I don’t know when that will be – only when it no longer gets to be any fun or the ‘expectations’ start to get too onerous. And, of course, when I find another source of income as good!

Where do the names for characters come from?

From several sources: I either make them up, or find them in medieval poetry or other source material, or even from the Bible and classical literature. If I am writing in a particular ‘culture’ then I will glance at the literature from that culture: for instance, in Threshold I got names from the Bible and sundry books on Egyptology, and others I just made up on the spot.

Why did I kill/maim/be cruel to ‘x’ character?

I am going to use Ray Feist’s answer here: “Because I bloody well could”. Because I’m the author and because it felt good for me and for the integrity of the novel at the time. I don’t particularly like happy endings, and novels where no-one gets hurt occasionally makes for bland reading. Tension requires that the characters which readers get emotionally sympathetic with must occasionally die. Badly.

Recently one of my fans (Hello SinnerStar!) labeled the various nasty ends of my characters as a “Sara Fate: TM”. I rather like that! I often imagine my characters sitting in a tea room somewhere behind the scenes thinking, “Oh God, she’s running out of uses for me, I’m going to die badly very soon!”.

Sometimes a Sara Fate:TM is simply because I’m having a very, very bad day – in the initial scene in BattleAxe where the woman gives birth … well, that was supposed to be a normal birth, but I’d had SUCH a bad day at work, and by the time I got home and wrote that scene … well …

Is Faraday ever going to have a happy ending?

I would dearly like to squash her under a huge pumpkin studded with rusty twelve-inch nails so that she dies a lingering, painful death from blood poisoning and a badly leaking belly, and I reserve the right to do so any time I feel like it. (Of course, by the time you get to the end of “Crusader” you’ll see that that is not quite the fate I’ve given her … nevertheless, I’ve been nasty enough …)

Do I like my characters?

Sometimes, sometimes not. As is apparent in the above question, I have never liked Faraday very much, and other characters I get seriously annoyed with when they won’t do what I want them to do. Basically my favourite characters are the secondary characters in any novel: Belial in “The Axis Trilogy”, Zabrze and Isphet in “Threshold”, and Baron Raby in “The Crucible”.

What are you going to write next?

Whatever takes my fancy, and whatever I think I might be able to sell. My mind changes from week to week about what I’ll do next. At the moment (2000) I am deep in historical fantasy – working on a trilogy based around the adventure of Henry V and Joan of Arc (“The Crucible”) and beyond that … well, there’s always another mathematical, middle-eastern trilogy in me, or perhaps another historical fantasy, or something biblical (“The Crucible” is going to condemn me to hell anyway, so I might as well risk it …), or whatever strikes my wine-addled mind when my publisher takes me out to dinner and whips out a blank contract halfway through it.

Is there going to be a film version of …’whatever’?

I am not particularly concerned about seeing my books turned into films and don’t chase the possibility down. I have no desire to sell the film rights of a novel to see it be massacred for the sake of Hollywood and for zilch returns (authors do badly out of film rights). I’ve had some discussions with directors/producers, but nothing has come of it.

Why don’t I try and get my initial unpublished novels published?

Because I know they’re awful. They were my ‘learning pieces’ and every writer needs them – but not to try to get published.

Who do I most like reading? (Who is my favourite author?)

I don’t read much fantasy (many SF and fantasy authors never read in their genre). I honestly have no idea what’s out there at the moment, or know what today’s ‘trends’ are. I sat on a panel with 2 international fantasy authors recently, and they also sat bewildered when asked what fantasy they liked. They just don’t read it. Of fantasy authors, I have enjoyed Tad Williams and some of Ray Feist’s books the most. It would be easier for me to say who I didn’t like … but that wouldn’t be diplomatic!

As far as relaxation goes, I read a great deal of nonfiction (mainly in historical or archeological fields) and I’m only now beginning to appreciate crime writing – Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite fiction authors.

Which authors most influenced me as a writer?

Again, this one always stumps me. I am not aware of any one or any several authors influencing me. I read everything I could get my hands on for the first half of my life, and I guess most of it influenced me in some manner, but I can’t think of a single major one.

What are my hobbies?

Well … gardening and books, really. I also enjoy playing about on the computer a fair bit. Gardening is a fairly new love, one I learned when I brought my first house (with the aid of the advance from “The Wayfarer Redemption”) in 1996. For the past 4 or 5 years I have spent just about every spare moment digging up flower beds, and re-digging up flower beds, and cornering fellow-fantasy authors in dark corners at conventions and discussing composting in great detail (some people now run whenever they see me).

Books have always been my greatest love. With the success of my own books I can now afford to collect in a way I never could previously. At the moment I am building up a library on medieval London (for a new and fascinating project that I’m not prepared to discuss with anyone yet!). My growing library is also one of my biggest headaches – where do they all go? I desperately need more wall space for more bookcases …

How does someone become a writer?

Through very hard work and through years of practice. Writing is a craft as much as dentistry is, or as much as carpentry is, but many would-be authors simply think it is a matter of throwing words on to a page. People are prepared to train as a carpenter, or a dentist, but think they can instantly become a writer. Writing is many, many years of solitary writing and many more years of disappointments. Mostly, is it about learning the craft of grammar and style, and learning how to distance yourself from your work so you can learn from your mistakes. Novice or amateur writers tend to think of writing as an emotional experience, a talent that simply bubbles to the surface. It’s nothing like that at all. Writing is as mundane a job, and as hard and as sometimes even as boring, as going in to the office every morning. See my pages on Writing for more details.

Should I approach a publisher directly, or should I get an agent?

Tough question, and it will differ from situation to situation and from country to country. Authors always get asked this, and every author will give you a different answer. Publishing is a tough industry to crack, but the best way is to a) be professional and b) be good (and that means the hard years put in learning skills). Some people succeed without an agent, some with. See my section on Publishing and Writing for details on agents and more …

How do I get an agent?

Get lists from writer’s societies, or search the WWW for lists (search for ‘literary agents’ on a search engine … I’ve seen the lists out there, but can’t remember where they are). Some agents are now so overwhelmed by manuscripts that they don’t advertise by traditional means (e.g. phone books). They know that if a writer is professional enough, they will find the agent, and agents don’t want to know about the unprofessional. Whatever, pick an agent who is still taking on clients and who likes to work in your area.

What’s better to write, short stories or novels?

Whichever takes your fancy. Most writers tend to start out writing short stories and then slowly graduate on to novels. This is a good idea for one major reason: if you are writing short stories, you’ll have the benefit of finishing a piece, learning from it, then going on to the next piece and doing better. Novice writers who start out on a trilogy first are probably never going to make it because they will never finish, learn, move on. I started my fantasy writing on a trilogy, true, but I was also a professional writer beforehand with numerous published and non-published works (including seven or eight novels). My first published fiction book, BattleAxe, was the result of fifteen years of practice. Short stories are a very good way to get that practice. Fantasy and SF magazines in Australia and overseas are fairly far and far between. Try Eidolon and Aurealis (both of which have web sites – I can’t remember where they are now, but if you do a search you’re bound to find them), but be aware that they get many thousands of stories a year, it takes them ages to get through, and they’ll probably only take 20 of the three or four thousand they get.

What’s the best way to succeed as a writer?
  1. Be professional in everything you do. No-one needs to deal with enthusiastic amateurs when there are heaps of professional writers around.
  2. Know how to write. Learn your craft. Don’t just throw words on a page and think they look cute and that because your husband/sister/best friend also thinks they look cute that you don’t need to do any more work. Family and friends are the very worst critics you will ever have. Be prepared to write 3 or 5 novels before you get to something that might be worth something.
  3. Find a genre that suits your skills: your favourite genre may not be the best one for you to actually work in. For instance, I adore military adventure, thrillers, but I can’t write them. On the other hand, fantasy is only of mild interest for me, but I know how to write it well. Experiment a bit.
  4. Research your market. For instance, what are the current trends in fantasy? What publishers in what country publish what kind of material? What do they look for? A hint: if you have a dragon, a dark lord or a bevy of gnomes, elves and dwarves, you might not have much of a chance. Most editors right now are sick to death of hackneyed fantasy characters and plots. Dragons will almost certainly get you rejected every time. Tolkien may have been the master, but editors hate hopeful writers who can’t think out something original for themselves (and Tolkien-imitations are now so numerous and so boring that no-one wants to read them). Also, make sure your women characters are very strong: most editors in the field are women, and if they see simpering, shallow female characters you’ll never make it to the short list! Don’t write in clichés, unless you know what you are doing and you are very good.

See also my section of Writing and The Publishing World for some other advice.

Can I read your book/chapter/short story?

No, for varying reasons. Legally, it is a minefield for me to do so because it could easily open me to charges of plagiarism at a later date. Be professional, send it to an agent, writer’s society, freelance editor etc. for comment. I receive many requests for me to read material, and while I wish you all the best of luck and appreciate how hard it can be to ‘break through’, I can’t do it for you.

Why don’t I put up more reviews?

Because I just don’t have the time to type them up, and because some reviewers have objected.

How do I feel about reviews?

I don’t feel much about them at all. Good reviews are fine, and so are bad ones. I often have a good laugh at the motives reviewers attribute to me (reviewers write for themselves more than for anyone else). Genre readers generally don’t read reviews, so they make little to no difference to sales. The reviews that do matter to me are those that are passed down the 9 am tram: “What did you do over the weekend, Jim?” “Well, I read this great book …” My agent once told me that word of mouth sold more books than anything else, and she’s right.

If I send you books, will you sign them?

It’s way too cumbersome for me to do that: postage costs far too much, and I’d be constantly wandering to and fro the post office. I do signings around the country, so try and catch me at one of those. (Contact HarperCollins for details on 02 9952 5000.)

Can you interview me, or have me appear at your function?

Requests for appearances and interviews in Australia can be made through HarperCollins publicity department (02 9952 5000 ) or via my agent Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management (02 9818 8557) . But be prepared for a “I’m sorry”. I have a heavy schedule for the next couple of years, and my spare moments are very precious. I do very little promotional or appearance work compared to some authors, partly because I guard my private time very jealously, and partly because I have a wide (and widening) range of business interests that just keep me too busy.

How can people from overseas get my books?

Contact Bob Hoffman at the Australian Online Bookshop if you have difficulties finding my books in your country. HarperCollins in the UK, Ernst Kabel Verlag in Germany, and Tor in the USA all have various contracts to publish my books – but I have no idea on the publication shcedules, so ask them, not me!

©2000 Sara Douglass

Sara’s Bio: 2000 (Harper Collins)

I can’t remember learning to read, or picking up my first book. I have always read, and I have always loved books. I was born on a small farm some twenty-five miles out of Penola in South Australia. It was called Gundealga, ‘peaceful watering hole’, and its names, and its woods and deer, are remembered in The Axis Trilogy. The farm had no electricity, so I remember reading my first books by the gentle glow of kerosene lamps, hiding behind the living room couch so my parents would think me already in bed.

When I was about seven we moved to Adelaide, and somehow the household books bred in the process. Our house was stuffed with books — even the toilet lobby had bookcases, and I remember my father nonchalantly propping up a bucket to catch the drips from a leaking roof with seventeenth-century volumes that he said were so mouldy anyway they wouldn’t mind a bit of extra dampness (I was horrified. I rescued them and carefully dried them out and now they rest, splotched and blotched but still readable, on the mantelpiece above the fire in my writing room). I read night and day, anything I could get my hands on. I started writing as soon as I felt competent, about nine or ten, and produced a small novelette about the discovery of the eighth sea of the world which my teachers and parents regarded indulgently, looking over my head and nodding as if to say, “She’ll grow out of it”.

But I didn’t. I kept writing. When I was about fourteen I received second prize in a nation wide essay competition on the treatment of horses in circuses (I missed out on first, I am convinced, because my views were not politically correct). When I left school my writing ceased for some six to seven years as I got involved in the world of work during the day and, I hate to admit it, the flashing nights of discos at night. My first career was as a nurse, something my father thought fitting for a girl. I loathed it … but it took me many years to escape.

An escape finally presented itself when I applied to do a Bachelor of Arts at Adelaide University. Suddenly I found myself back in a world that encouraged creative thinking and processes. I was enthralled. I started writing again by keeping a detailed diary (great fat volumes that cover about six years and that I will burn before letting anyone else read them) and then by writing my first novel, The Judgement of Jerusalem. I was thrilled. So thrilled, I did it all wrong, sent it off cold to several publishers, and received polite rejection letters: “We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.”

I wiped away my tears and resolved never to write again. And for another six or seven years that was it as far as my writing was concerned. In the meantime I found myself a new career as an academic, teaching medieval history at La Trobe University, Bendigo. This new job I found incredibly stressful, and so, just for myself, no-one else, I began to write in the evening and weekends. I loved it! Writing became for me the perfect way to relax and escape the stressful world of academia. I wrote and wrote and wrote-probably about eight or nine novels, some of which are truly awful. But I didn’t care. I was learning with each novel, and enjoying each one more. None of these are fantasy; they are adventure stories, thrillers, romances, horror. I did try to send several to Mills and Boon, but their initial rejection letters finally became stern letters imploring me to never contact them again as my writing was so ‘dark’. Well, that was no surprise, I have a very dark mind.

I never thought of writing fantasy until one day … one day when I just sat down and started writing BattleAxe. I knew almost immediately that this was going to be my best chance at getting published. I wrote virtually the entire trilogy, thought about it, and then sent BattleAxe off one day — this time to an agent, because I thought I would try to do it properly and I knew that I would have my best chance with an agent. I picked up the Melbourne Yellow Pages, and looked under agents. My face fell — there were modelling agencies, bloodstock agencies, agencies for toothbrush inventors … but where were the literary agencies? Aha! There! Just one — Australian Literary Management, picked because they had the magical word ‘literary’ in their name (and, as fate would have it, one of the only literary agencies in Australia who would even consent to read fantasy). And so off it went and here I am, all due to the intervention of a tiny iron axe that gave me the idea for BattleAxe and the help of the Melbourne Yellow Pages.

Sara’s Bio: 2000 (MUP)

sara-2000-bioThis is an updated biography taken from The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Sara Douglass is the pseudonym of Sara (Mary) Warneke (1957 – ). Warneke was born in Penola, South Australia, of a farming family, but was mostly raised in Adelaide. She was educated at Methodist Ladies College (now Annesley College), and matriculated in 1974. She entered nursing school at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, graduating in 1978 as a registered nurse, and in 1982 began a BA degree at the University of Adelaide. In 1986 she obtained an Honours Degree (majoring in history), and in 1987, having been awarded a Commonwealth postgraduate scholarship, began a PhD in the Department of History. In 1988 she bcame a tutor and research officer in history at the University of Adelaide and worked there until late 1991. She was awarded her doctorate in 1991.

Warneke says she owes most of her writing skills to her time at Adelaide University; her ten years spent there were the most formative period of her life and her ‘spiritual home remains the University of Adelaide Club’. In 1992 she obtained a position as senior lecturer in Medieval European history at La Trobe University, Bendigo; in 1999 she left academia to concentrate on her garden and writing.

Currently Sara lives in Bendigo, in the state of Victoria, Australia.

©2000 Sara Douglass Enterprises

Sara’s Bio: 1999

Let me see. I was born in Penola District Hospital, last child of four. My parents were farmers, and for the first seven years of my life I lived on their property outside Penola – Gundealga. We had sheep, lots of scrub, and a fairly carefree existence.

When I was school age we moved to Adelaide, South Australia, where I commenced some eleven years of education at Methodist Ladies College. Post education, lacking any clear direction in life, I became a nurse …..

There are some years here best forgotten. I toiled away on the wards, hating every moment of it. although there is one amusing story I can tell. I worked for many years at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, eventually becoming what was then known as The Ward Sister (actually, I was filling in, but I did fill that exalted position for some months). I was working on an orthopaedic ward, and orthopaedic wards were always half full of old ladies who had fallen over and broken their hips, and half full of young bikers, who had fallen off their bikes and broken one, or two, legs (the nurses could never work out which half was worse). There was one young man who annoyed me incessantly about a pain in his belly. He was constipated, but did Sr Warneke tell him that? No! Her creative imagination remembered a horror story she’d read many years ago, and from that, she ‘rearranged’ the poor chap’s diagnosis:

“Well,” she said, sitting on the side of his bed and staring sympathetically at both his legs in plaster, and privately wondering how in the world he would manage to balance on a bedpan while all his leather-clad cronies waited just beyond the curtain, “I hear you’ve just come back from a holiday in northern Queensland.” He nodded. “Yes.”

“Hmm. Well, ” Sr Warneke leaned conspiratorially closer, as if she had something of great import to impart. Actually, she didn’t want any of the other staff to overhead. She did have her reputation as The Ward Sister to protect, after all. “A pain running about your abdomen, you say?”

“Yes, Sister! It shifts all the time!”

“Ah …”

“What is it?”

“Well …”

“Tell me!”

“Well … I was reading this medical journal the other day, and it reported a strange diagnosis made on the west coast of America.”

“Yes?”

“It appears a young man, much like yourself, was swimming in tropical waters –”

“– I went swimming in Queensland!”

“– and it appears he unwittingly swallowed the eggs of an octopus.”

At this the poor man had nothing to say, and merely stared at the Revered Ward Sister, whom he trusted implicitly.

Sr Warneke continued, her voice now the merest whisper. “The eggs hatched! Inside his bowel!”

“Oh!” The man laid his hands over his stomach: they clenched compulsively, rumpling the bedsheet into horrible creases.

“Then,” Sr Warneke continued, now thoroughly enjoying herself, “the tiny octopusses — or octopii, I’m not sure of the correct –”

“Get on with it!”

“Well, then the tiny octopussies started to swim about his abdominal spaces, growing larger on the fluids there. The poor man complained incessently of pains, always shifting direction, and although the doctors did X-rays, nothing showed up.”

“An octopus has no bones, or cartilage.”

“Quite right. So … eventually the poor chap died, and it was only when they were doing the autopsy, and they opened his belly, and all these octopussies swept out over the cold stone floor that they realised what had happened.”

“Oh my God!”

“But I’m sure that’s not what’s wrong with you,” Sr Warneke said soothingly, and then left the poor sod and went home. She thought no more of the matter, because what kind of fool could have believed that?

Two days later was the Grand Ward Round. Only if you have ever seen Doctor in the House can you imagine the Grand Ward Round. I always enjoyed them immensely, because all the sirs and professors where kind and charming to the ward sister, while they were hateful and horrible to all the interns and registrars, who drove Ward Sisters crazy.

And Sr Warneke loved to see those interns and registrars squirm.

And didn’t those interns and registrars know it.

So, to cut a long story short, the Grand Ward Round progressed in its stately fashion about the ward with about 25 young interns and registrars, the Ward Sister, and six or seven assorted sirs and professors (always known as the Gods). Whenever it got to a bed. the assorted six or seven Gods stood about the inner row of the patients’ bed, the Ward Sister among them, the rabble of hateful young doctors squeezed about in a circle some five or six deep.

As you can guess, eventually we get to the young broken-legged and horribly constipated man. Sr Warneke had forgotten all about the tale she’d spun the man 2 days earlier. For a while the discussion ranged about the issue of the broken legs, and then one of the Gods asked the man if there was anything he’d like to ask.

So the chappie mentioned these roving pains and, just as one of the Gods was about to cheerfully diagnose constipation, the man hurried on and, word for word, told the story that Sr Warneke had spun him. He did it excellently, quoting the medical references she’d made up and all.

Sr Warneke was horrified. Worse, she was mortified. Even worse, she knew that any moment she was about to be exposed. She started to fidget and wriggle about as if she had just realised she’d forgotten to order the cream cakes for the Gods’ Grand Morning Tea in half an hour.

The hateful rabble of young doctors realised there was something wrong, and closed in for the kill. She couldn’t escape. Then …

“And where did you learn all this, young man?” asked one of the Gods.

“She told me!” the man said, a finger stabbing in my direction.

As one every eye turned towards Sr Warneke. Sister heard one of the hateful young doctors snigger. She started to compose her resignation letter in her head. Then one of the Gods spoke.

“Well,” he said, “We shall all have to read those journals, won’t we? In the meantime, perhaps Ward Sister can ask one of her probationers to give the patient an enema and see what comes out.”

And he smiled at Sr Warneke, then waved over to the next bed. “Shall we move on?”

As one the hateful young doctors hissed in frustration, Sr Warneke collapsed in relief, and the Ward Round continued in its stately fashion through to the cream cakes and a very relieved Sister serving the Gods tea in the isolation of her office.

“You owe us one, Sister,” said the God who had saved me, and Sister nodded gratefully.

Gods, I’ve never forgotten that day, and that patient stabbing his finger in my direction. “She told me!”

I punctuated my nursing career with a trip abroad, spending time in England and Europe … best time of my younger life (I avoided tropical waters!). Then, back in Adelaide, I became more and more bored and frustrated with nursing, and eventually commenced a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide. I liked it so much I stayed to do a PhD, then the only place offering a job in history and an escape from nursing was Bendigo, so I grabbed it and ran.

In early 1999 I abandoned my academic career and all my fussing academic colleagues to concentrate on tending my garden and developing my writing. And so here I am at Ashcotte, full of hopes for the future, at least 6 books whizzing about my head, a garden pond to dig out and three garden beds to dig and lay out for spring (how shall I do it?), and now it’s time for a hot bath and a glass of wine, and so I shall have to leave you. As I think of more amusing stories from my varied past I shall put them up.


Editors note: This bio was taken from Sara’s website circa 1999.

Sara’s Bio: 1998

Let me see. I was born in Penola District Hospital, last child of four. My parents were farmers, and for the first seven years of my life I lived on their property outside Penola – Gundealga. We had sheep, lots of scrub, and a fairly carefree existence.

When I was school age we moved to Adelaide, South Australia, where I commenced some eleven years of education at Methodist Ladies College. Post education, lacking any clear direction in life, I became a nurse …..

There are some years here best forgotten. I toiled away on the wards, hating every moment of it. I punctuated my nursing career with a trip abroad, spending time in England and Europe … best time of my younger life. Then, back in Adelaide, I became more and more bored and frustrated with nursing, and eventually commenced a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide. I liked it so much I stayed to do a PhD, then the only place offering a job in history and an escape from nursing was Bendigo, so I grabbed it and ran.

I’ve been in Bendigo some five years now, and am slowly learning to call it home. I’m fortunate, not only to have finally achieved some publishing success, but to be working in an incredible programme at La Trobe University here in Bendigo called Western Traditions. If you like the mystery and romance of a bygone era, then check this programme out. It’s unique in Australia and one of only a handful in the world. You can also check out my ‘other life’ as a lecturer at my Alter Ego’s Home Site. (used to link to La Trobe University in Bendigo web site)

I’ve just purchased a house (very definitely ‘The House That Axis Bought’) and so I guess I’ll be here a while longer yet …. writing assiduously to pay the thing off!


Editors note: This bio was taken from Sara’s website circa 1998. The house that Sara is referring to above is Ashcotte.

Cultivate Your Own Garden

Why inquire after the doings at Constantinople,
When I might cultivate contentment in my own garden?

bogpiccie

The paraphrase at the head of the page comes from Voltaire’s Candide, an eighteenth-century philosophical novel that nevertheless remains highly relevant today. The ‘hero’ of the novel, Candide, goes through incredible adventure after incredible adventure, seeking, as it were, after the doings at Constantinople, only to discover right at the end (after being shot, flayed, drowned, burned alive, and enduring shipwrecks and earthquakes, as well numerous bloody battles) that the only thing in life that truly matters is to cultivate your own garden. Seek contentment within yourself (using the metaphor of working in your own garden and ignoring the high life and clamorous glamour of Constantinople just down the road), and not to chase around trying to find ‘the meaning of life’. Trying to save the world is reckless and egotistical and accomplishes nothing save disaster. Save yourself instead by cultivating contentment with who or what you are. You’ll find this idea permeating Crusader as well.

©1999 Sara Douglass


Editors note: the above was an excerpt from Sara’s news page that she entitled The Garden Page from her website circa 1999. The image was from the bog garden at Nonsuch in Tasmania, circa 2007.