Welcome to my first author Q&A. I have been wanting to do them for quite some time but couldn’t since I’m a big procrastinator. Nevertheless, let’s dive into this feature.
Today, I’m interviewing indie author Sacha T.Y. Fortuné. I liked her debut contemporary romance novel, Climbing The Walls, very much. Her characters and their struggles are still deeply entrenched in my mind.
Please feel free to check out my review of Climbing The Walls here.
Let’s get started with the interview.
- The first thing that resonated with me was Nicole’s struggles. She is a workaholic, but she also loves her family. She struggles to achieve a balance between these two. What inspired you to write about Nicole?
The first rough draft of Climbing The Walls emerged over 15 years ago, when I was on the cusp of starting university abroad, and I saw this whole world of possibilities blossoming before me. I was bubbling with emotion and ambition. That was the first concrete feeling about Nicole: AMBITION.
And then came the questions;
–What if you find your dream career?
–What if you meet the love of your life?
–What if you ACTUALLY get everything you’ve ever wanted?
…And what if it’s STILL not enough?
And voilà… Nicole. She has it all. The gorgeous, successful husband who adores her; the adorable kids; the day job she loves with the boss who finds her brilliant; the moonlighting job that propels her into even more success. Picture-perfect. But with so much casual damage and neglect in her past, she’s still destined to mess it up and repeat that cycle.
2. Kris, on the other hand, is a loving husband, doting father, and is willing to sacrifice an hour or two off his work. Was Kris supposedly a supportive character from the beginning, or did he morph into one by the final draft?
Nicole was running the show for the most part, but Kris was always there. Those first two scenes originally came just like that — the aftermath of the big fight; their daughter crawling all over him and the two of them (Kris and his daughter, Kiki) romping through the house; Nicole outside listening in and angry at herself because: “Kiki doesn’t romp with Mommy”.
If you’ve got this tough-to-love woman, I imagined — what kind of guy would put up with this? Yes, the sexiness factor is important, but you must have a saviour complex to want to be with someone who you know is damaged.
…And that’s Kris. He’s the ANTI-toxic-male.
Having had struggles with his own father, he’s given himself a pedestal of manhood to prove he could do it a zillion times better. He’s built his life around being “Mr. Perfect”/”Mr. Fix-it”… he’s the swoon-worthy guy that jumps in to save everyone, particularly women. In the present it’s Carrina and her bookstore, and in the past, he protected his sister, and even nudged Nicole into her eventual career.
I imagine part of his initial attraction to Nicole was that he saw her home life was a mess, and he believed his love would change her into the woman he wanted her to be.
3. Who was more difficult to write – Nicole or Kris?
That’s tough to say, but I’d go with Kris. Nicole’s selfish nature and lack of maternal warmth makes readers uncomfortable… but she was always a train wreck, which I knew going in, so it was easier for me to bang out her bad decisions and stay somewhat emotionally detached.
Kris, on the other hand… he’d been quietly going mad for years even before Nicole’s friendship with Darren (her boss) started to blossom… and he goes from “perfection” to “self-destruction” so swiftly – destroying everything all at once.
Kris is a man who loves, supports and always sacrifices for his wife, and he’s crazy-proud of her. So, it was tough to bring it to that point where he zips into that typical “male” moment of bitterness that surprised even him!
I’m beholden to the direction my characters lead me, and Kris’ direction went darker, for me.
4. What drew into writing in the first place?
As a child, I always had stories to tell… sometimes, quite dark ones.
Once, in high school, a teacher asked me for a “sample” short story to represent my grade’s writing ability. When I gave it to her, she complimented my writing, but admitted she simply couldn’t use it. The topic – a girl who accidentally kills her drunk, abusive father (this story is posted on my writing website)– just wasn’t a comfortable “sample” for my age. She then asked me several pointed questions about my home life, encouraging me to speak to the school counselor if needed, and I quickly had to assure her that I had no such experiences in my own normal, nuclear family life… it was “just” a story!
I also once had another experience where I felt possessed to write a story, and to this day the first draft was its final. And when I shared it at my Writers’ Guild and they all guessed the back-story as to why the man was killed, I didn’t even have a definite answer!
So, like in these two instances, I sometimes feel there’s a story or a character inside me, and I have to write to get them out. Even now, as a more mature writer, I find myself struggling to edit out some of the darker parts of my stories… my characters just won’t let me!
5. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I really love writing male characters, but there’s far too much SELF-CONTROL with Kris. But I did get to go there with the continuation of this series in Pandora’s Poison & Pandora’s Price. Nicole’s dilemma of “womanhood”/”motherhood” overpowers the first book, but the next two are centred on “manhood”/”masculinity”.
I LOVE writing my men! The only difficult part is perhaps the switching from one viewpoint to the next between genders, and being mindful of nuances in dialogue, especially when it comes to topics such as sex and intimacy.
6. As an indie author, what challenges have you faced and are still facing?
Not having that powerhouse of a traditional publisher to get you in front of the right readers has been a challenge for me, particularly because of the stories I write. Their uniqueness means it’s often difficult to find a place for them among their genres among trope-driven novels which seem to be the expectation.
Also, traditional book length varies drastically, but nowadays self-publishing leans towards shorter, bite-sized chunks… that’s just what readers expect. I did get some feedback on length (including a blogger who gave a hard “no” without reading a word! So, I must thank you a million times over for giving my book a chance in the first place!!!).
Overall, the feedback ended up being a growing moment for me as a newbie self-published writer, and I eventually changed later books to edit them a LOT more, and to “break them up” so they’ll each be significantly shorter.
Apart from that, it’s been a matter of trying to learn everything all at once. I did the cardinal sin for an indie writer – published first, then tried to figure out the marketing. I’m STILL trying to figure out the marketing! These days there are so many free book options, so while I love being a writer, it’ll always be an uphill battle to balance my love for writing with the actual reality of the possibility to do it as a full-time career.
7. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
In my teens, I did a series similar to Sweet Valley High, and I also have a few standalone novels from even earlier than that. I’d love to do something with them but reading them now, I’m cringing at the immaturity! My writing style has evolved drastically since then, so I’ve considered putting them under another name. So, it’s more of a practical consideration for wanting a pseudonym.
…But having a pseudonym means having entirely different social media channels, another website, recalibrating my efforts to reach another fan base, etc…. not to mention another Amazon author account. I can barely manage my CURRENT author footprint as it is! So, for now, no pseudonym!
8. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
One of my favorite books is by a Trinidadian author Roslyn Carrington, called A Thirst For Rain. It was one of the first novels by a Caribbean author that I read NOT because my school curriculum required it. This book managed to cross that fine balance for me where it felt just the right amount of heart against a cultural background that I could connect with, and the story is timeless. That book will always hold a special place in my heart.
9. Your house is on fire. What is that one book you will save?
At university, I was in the Lancaster University Writers’ Guild and every year, we published a Guild Anthology. The 2006 edition is entitled Will Write For Food. Both my aforementioned Third World Courtroom and Accidents stories, as well as a handful of my other stories and poems, were included.
I have no idea how to even get another copy of it, and honestly another copy won’t be the same. It was the first time, I saw my name in print, in an actual book. Not to mention, my fellow Guild authors also have such amazing works of writing in there! In participating in it, I was part of something much bigger than me, and part of a world of fledgling writers. So, if there’s a fire, that’s my top grab before I run!
Thanks for the answers, Sacha!
What did you think about Sacha’s answers? Have you read any of her works? Let me know in the comments below.