What could you create if you fell in love with a Muse? As the alluring Muse, Vincent shows musician, Sylvia, how she is connected to the world of the Muses – mystical beings that inspire artists to create art – a war between the traditional and modern Muses puts her music, her love, her very life at stake.
Will Sylvia be able to survive the war with her music, love and life intact? Sara Crawford, author of ‘We Own the Sky’ has put her life at stake to join me today to investigate Sylvia’s survival chances. Sara, thanks for sitting down with me today to explore the first instalment in the Muse Chronicles series. Let’s start with Sylvia, what lured you to write her story?
I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and this idea of the epic poets calling out to the Muse at the beginning of poems, and I’ve always been a person who is deeply in love with art. I wanted to tell a story representing this idea with a girl who literally falls in love with the personification of art – a Muse.
Today we don’t see many people talking about muses as the personification of art, and instead, it’s used more as inspiration which is slightly different. How did you go about developing that strong personification of art? Was there a lot of research required, or did you inject aspects of your own life to reach your goal?
Yes, I did some research about the Muses and Greek mythology and I drew on some of my own experiences as a music lover and a musician. I drew on my own epic romance with my husband, and I based the story in the area I have lived in all my life (Marietta, Georgia).
Not many people refer to the romances in their own lives as epic, so I find it very interesting that you describe your relationships with such emotion. Have you also used this emotion to form the central characters of ‘We Own the Sky’?
In 2006, I wrote a play called Painted. I actually reference the plot of this play in the book. The characters of Vincent and Izabella and the idea of the Muses came out of that play.
As you took these characters from this play and put them with pieces from your own life and research, how did you find it affected the personalities? Did you find that the personalities of your characters were formed by the plot, or was it the other way around?
A little bit of both. I had an idea of the larger plot – the traditional versus the modern in the creation of art and how that is represented in the conflict between some of the Original Greek Muses and the modern Earthly Muses – and that informed the personalities of all of the Original Muses, but the personalities of Sylvia, Vincent, all of her friends at school, and her father informed some of her story.
What did you love most about getting the contrast between traditional and the modern onto paper?
When I was writing this book, everything felt magical. I could imagine this world of the Muses really did exist and that I had my own Muse that was helping me to write the book.
Did your Muse help you share a central message that you wanted readers to remember after they finished the novel?
I wanted to inspire everyone to get in touch with the artist within and create their own art – whether that’s writing a novel, singing karaoke, coloring in a coloring book, acting in a play, making a short film, or any other way people express their creativity.
What have you learnt through your expression of creativity in the pages of ‘We Own the Sky’?
I have had a lot of learning experiences during the writing, editing, and publishing process of this book. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that for all artists – writers, musicians, actors, painters, etc. – the creation of art should be the most important thing.
Would you change your approach to the creation of this art if you could do it over?
I started writing this book back in 2012. After I got a literary agent in 2013 and it was on submission with publishers off and on for two and a half years, I finally made the decision to self-publish. If I could do it all over again, I would have self-published sooner.
I imagine during this period of messing around with publishers you continue your art, and set about working on the next book in the series. Where are you currently at with regards to the status of the Muse Chronicles series?
Because I did wait five years to publish the book, I already had book 2 in The Muse Chronicles written before I even published We Own the Sky. It’s called Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and I’m currently having it edited. I’m hoping to have it out in November of 2017.
Good luck with the editing, I hope that it goes smoothly. Has your previous editing experiences been smooth?
I work as a freelance editor, and I sometimes teach a class at SNHU about editing so I feel pretty confident doing the first few rounds of edits myself. I always send my writing to critique partners or beta readers, though, and I always hire a freelance editor for copy edits/proofreading. Even though I’m experienced with editing, it’s important to have outside feedback because as a writer, sometimes you are much too close to your own work to step back and look at it objectively.
Having that background as a freelance editor has obviously given you a solid writing foundation. Are there any practices from that foundation that has really pushed your writing progress?
I try to write every day though sometimes it’s more erratic. Sometimes I might go a week without writing, and then I’ll have an all-night writing session. Lately, I’ve been writing at least for an hour in the mornings every day, though. Sometimes I feel more inspired at my local coffee shop, Cool Beans, which is actually a big setting in We Own the Sky. But I can write anywhere. (Then again, I also work as a freelance writer and a creative writing professor at Southern New Hampshire University, so in that sense, I do write quite a bit every day. It just isn’t always my creative work.)
So you’re not only an editor but also a professor. Just so we’re not missing any of your professional talents, can you list them for us? And do they all contribute to your career as a novelist?
My occupation is freelance writer/editor and adjunct creative writing professor. This greatly influences my writing because I am always writing something, thinking about writing, or helping others with aspects of writing. In my freelance work, I’m mostly writing web content, but I have to think about the most effective ways to communicate to the target audience for whoever my client is.
That is a lot of writing. What do you love about writing that you want to make it such a large part of your working days?
I write because it’s in my bones. I’ve been writing ever since I learned how. When I was seven, I used to write little plays and make my neighbors perform them in the driveway. Ever since I learned what art was, I have been in love with it in all forms, but I am in love with storytelling above all. I write because it is who I am. I write because I want to make others feel what I feel when I read a great book or watch an amazing film.
Could you see yourself applying those storytelling skills in another career which is not directly related to writing?
It’s hard for me to not think of myself as doing something that’s not directly artistic or creative, but I’ve always thought I would be a good counselor, particularly in the fields of addiction and substance abuse. While I don’t have a personal history of addiction, a lot of people that are close to me do, and I have a real passion for helping them.
I’m sure you’d be able to intertwine that love of stories and writing into counselling if you ever wanted a change of career one day. If nothing else you’d get exposure to a vast number of new stories and life paths. But I imagine as a writer you already have more writing ideas than you know what to do with right?
Yes, I have a million ideas written all over the place. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more organized about it with one document on my computer with a ton of ideas for stories.
When you’re thinking of a new writing project do you like to pick ideas from that document and plan everything out so you know where it will end, or do you like to take an idea and just start writing?
It’s a bit of both. Usually, I know how I want a book or a play or a screenplay to end, but sometimes when I am in the writing process, it will change midway. I want to stay open to inspiration and let the characters surprise me if they need to. I don’t like to feel like I’m forcing them to do things because I want the book to end a certain way.
Do you find that music during the writing process helps you stay open to inspiration?
Music is always a big part of my writing process. I have different playlists for every book/play/project. I actually made Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon Music versions of the We Own the Sky playlist that I link to in the back of the book. (Here’s the YouTube one – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-cqq0cHrPPPwbmliMuTC2Pjl78Mv-axd)
With all of that musical inspiration, do you ever find yourself running out of steam and into writer’s block?
I don’t want to be one of those people who says “oh, I never get writer’s block” but I don’t, really. There’s always something I can be writing. Sometimes I get blocked with certain projects, but I always just switch to another project, which I find usually helps me get unblocked with the original project. I think every writer can be like this. You can always just sit down at your keyboard or with your pen and make words come out. They may not be great words or words you can use, but eventually, you will get some words out that you can use.
Have you also objectively looked at the final words that come together to see how you can use them to create an author brand?
Yes, I have thought a great deal about this. I have tried to create my own brand as a musician, as a playwright, and as an author. Nowadays, I kind of just combine all of that into one brand. I have a YouTube channel that has helped. I used to host a writing blog and be pretty active on Twitter. Over the past year, I’ve been so busy with freelance work that I haven’t had as much time for these things as I’ve wanted to, but I am always open to trying new things and learning new things.
As you’ve kept yourself open to many new things I’m sure you’ve learnt a tonne of helpful and not so helpful things. What are the most helpful tips you can share for other authors looking to embark on the challenges of self-publishing?
I think the biggest tip that I have is to not get bogged down with social media and marketing. Don’t get caught up in obsessively checking your reviews or refreshing your inbox to see if those book bloggers wrote you back. Focus on writing. That is the part that brings you the most joy, and that should be the most important thing.
Writing is so important for novelists, but I do love to see joy being found in other places outside of the strokes of a pen. Like for instance, the fun that can be found by answering our quick fire questions. Let’s see if we can find fun today with some curly questions to close the interview with. And we’ll start with do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Art belongs to everyone… and no one. We are all connected. I want to always help other people in the best way that I can and be a vessel for love, peace, gratitude, and inspiration.
What is your favourite quote?
“Don’t forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life.” – Morrissey/The Smiths
What is your zodiac sign?
Who decides what morality is?
I think inside of everyone is an inner wisdom – a part of us that is connected to God or the Universe or whatever you want to call it – that always knows what is right and what is wrong.
What is your favourite ocean?
I love the Atlantic Ocean.
Where is the line between insanity and creativity?
I kind of think everyone is insane but also creative.
You’ve mentioned serval times that you are a creative person, which to me signals that you’ve become well acquainted with glue at some point in time. So, why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Because the bottle is made of materials that it doesn’t stick to?
Yeah, they might apply a coating to the inside surface of the bottle to reduce that stickiness. Have you tangoed in the snow?
No, I’m from Georgia. I can’t handle cold.
Okay, no snow but can you handle monsters? If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
I think it would be really small and look kind of like my cat, except green. I would call it Fred. Fred, the green monster.
Is Fred fluffy too? Fluffy and green would make a very cute monster. But what kind of monstrous reaction might we expect if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
He becomes a zombie.
Batman must have weird blood to turn into a zombie after being bitten by a vampire. Maybe that’s the real reason he lives in the Batcave. Are you left or right handed?
Right – though once I got paranoid that I might break my right hand or something and I tried to teach myself how to write with the left. It didn’t last very long.
It is hard to keep that motivation up to train the other hand when these days most of the writing is done on keyboards. Maybe you could get more traction training the left hand if you taught yourself to type with one hand. If all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
On stage. It’s meta.
Very meta. But I’m glad you picked the stage because if we’re going to talk about acting, let’s talk about who you would cast to play your characters. Who are your top picks?
There is a singer/drummer named Scarlett Stevens who really reminds me of Sylvia, and I sometimes picture Game of Thrones Season 1 Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) when I think of Vincent. I actually have a Pinterest board with pictures that remind me of the characters and aspects of the book. https://www.pinterest.com/saraecrawford/the-muse-chronicles/
How are the colours in rainbows made?
By a unicorn.
I knew they existed! What happens when you get scared half to death twice?
You fall asleep.
Well, at least it’s not as fatal as I thought. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A giraffe turkey.
I have no idea what that would look like. Short and spotty or tall and feathered. Either way, I think it needs to be added to the top of the new animal creation list. On the topic of awesome creations, what is your favourite flavour of ice-cream?
I love the Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked.
And if we wanted to add a little more sugar to this confection, what jelly bean flavour would improve the concoction?
I like the red ones.
Swirling the red ones through ice-cream would certainly make it look very pretty. What is your favourite word?
Let’s put your eloquence to the test for our final question, what is your favourite, and hopefully, most eloquence line from ‘We Own the Sky’ that will tempt readers without giving too much away?
“We are two spirits consuming each other—and the realization hits me that I am kissing music. I am kissing Art. And we are unlimited.”
Sara, unfortunately, we’ve reached the limit of today’s interview, but thanks to your spirit I think that we’ve effectively and eloquently shared the artists’ connections in ‘We Own The Sky’ for readers looking to explore their creative mind.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘We Own the Sky ( ASIN: B073T2JK2L )‘.
Want to find out more about Sara Crawford? Connect here!