Her great-grandfather was court psychic to Queen Victoria. A tetchy ghost haunts her house. And she produces blockbustersSara Douglass full of spells and charms and mystical derring-do set in medieval realms. Welcome to the territory of a paranormal partisan? Not so. At 42, Bendigo-based Sara Douglass may be the hottest fantasy writer in the country, outselling international big-guns like Raymond E. Feist and Stephen Donaldson here and poised to gatecrash their multi-million-dollar territory in the US, but she’s definitely a feet-firmly-planted, success-through-adversity achiever.
In bottom-line literary terms, she’s a genuine high-flier – since her first book in 1995, her Axis Trilogy has sold more than 150,000 copies. Her second trilogy, The Wayfarer Redemption (with the third title, Crusader, released mid-1999), is already touching the 100,000 mark. Then there’s her stand-alone fantasy title, Threshold, her young adult novel, The Hanging Wall, and this year’s non-fiction work, The Betrayal of Arthur. And she’s just finished the first book of her third trilogy, The Crucible, with The Nameless Day scheduled for release in May.
Astonishing productivity, with an even more astonishing readership – nine books in five years, some 300,000 copies sold. In Australia alone. Factor in last year’s British releases and her upcoming European translations and the potential expands. Exponentially, really, given she has just been wooed by Tor Books for a seven-book back-list deal. This promotionally-minded publisher is co-ordinating a full-on campaign this year: with the American fantasy market so voracious and its readership so mammoth, the buzz is strong that her high six-figure sign-on is a bargain deal.
Aficionados probably know that Sara Douglass is the pen-name of Dr Sara Warneke. They may not realise her surname change came not from academic niceties but through marketing tactics: “HarperCollins thought Warneke was too far down the alphabet and thence too low down on the shelves. They asked me to choose a name between D and M …” Between deep and meaningful? I ask. “If only,” she laughs. “I chose it because Douglas is what I would have been called if I had been a boy. I added the extra ‘s’ because that spelling is the feminized form and was used a lot in medieval times – it suited my medieval bent.”
This article by Murray Waldren was first published in The Australian Magazine, 22 January 2000. To read the full interview on the Murray Waldren’s personal website please click on this link.