I’m so pleased to welcome Sarah Kozloff to the ball today! Sarah and I met through our editor at Tor and I was amazed at her journey — from film & TV professor to fantasy author, with her entire series released earlier this year by Tor! That’s right, Sarah debuted with FOUR books! THE NINE REALMS series, beginning with A QUEEN IN HIDING, is the kind of epic fantasy fans have been waiting for, and I loved being able to gobble down Cerulia’s journey one after another. It’s such a fabulous series and it’s perfect for people who want their fantasy queens smart, daring, and bold.
About Sarah Kozloff:
Sarah has spent her life immersed in literature, narrative, and film.
After a degree in English at Dartmouth she worked in film production in NYC. She earned a Ph.D. from an interdisciplinary program at Stanford University, joining the Film Department of Vassar College in 1988. In 2009 she was awarded the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowed Chair.
In 2012, while teaching a senior seminar on American Women Directors, she realized that neither the books nor films of Lord of the Rings could pass the Bechdel Test. That summer, she grabbed her laptop and started imagining a world that awaited the return of the queen.
She didn’t know then that this leap into creative writing would spark a new career. Her epic fantasy quartet, The Nine Realms, is forthcoming from TOR. All four books, A Queen in Hiding, The Queen of Raiders, A Broken Queen, and The Cerulean Queen, will be published in monthly installments.
She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and a shifting menagerie of pets, who mistakenly believe they are suitable replacements for grown sons.
What do you like about writing?
I like that the whole process is about discovery. What genre do I want to attempt and which conventions do I want to follow or deviate from? What point of view is right for this action? What’s the deal with this minor character and why are they grabbing all my attention? Can I make this thread more meaningful, weave it into other places? What research do I need to do? What does the location look like and is the world consistent?
Every time I sit at the computer is a new adventure.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I wish I were a decent speller. Seriously. First of all, I find it embarrassing that I make so many mistakes. But second of all, my weak spelling is tied to the pace at which I read, which is lickety-split. I don’t see the letters as separate and don’t sound out syllables. I don’t really see the words as words, I just inhale their meaning.
I recognize characters by the first letter and length of their names. If a book has two characters whose made-up three-syllable names start with “J,” I’m lost from the start.
I think this habit started early. I remember that as a child I was talking about E.B. White’s book, Stuart Little, in which the tiny mouse-boy had a bird friend. Her name (I just looked it up), is “Margalo.” But I called her “Mumbo”! Hey, my version started with an “M” and ended with an “o”. My brother laughed and laughed.
The road to publication is twisty at best—tell us about some of your twists.
One of the things that happened was I didn’t know that when authors write series they generally write the first book, sell it, and then move on with the next installments. I wrote the whole four volumes before I even approached an agent. In the end, this turned out to work in my favor (everyone knew the series had an ending). But my ignorance led to a sizeable investment of time and energy and a big risk.
Another twist is that the agent I found after about 30-some queries retired before The Nine Realms went into production. Losing the first professional who believed in you feels a little like being orphaned. In the end, I moved to another agent at Sterling Lord Literistic and everything turned out well.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
Sort of. For The Nine Realms, the only person who stuck with me through the first draft of all four books was my best friend for thirty years, Dawn Freer. (That’s why the series is dedicated to her.) When I read acknowledgment pages, I’m very jealous of writers who have family members who accompany them every step of the way, reading and rereading.
In recent years I’ve found another writer, James E. Graham, and we exchange drafts. This works well because we pay each other back the favor. Also, our strengths and weaknesses complement each other.
At two stages of the process, I’m desperate for feedback: at the beginning, when I’m so proud of getting something down on paper and crave to hear I’ve got a promising start, and near the end, when I’ve done everything I can do on my own and need suggestions on how to make it better. The intermediate
drafts—according to Scrivener I edited a random chapter of A Queen in Hiding 67 times—I can handle on my own.
Though thank God Tor does a super job of copy-editing. You won’t be surprised to hear that I sometimes
misspelled my own character’s names.
Tell us about one of your writing disappointments or failures.
This goes back to my academic career. I had successfully written two books of film history and theory: Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film and Overhearing Film Dialogue. I’d written smaller chapters, articles, and monographs but for my third major publication I was casting around. Eventually, I decided I wanted to write about three of my favorite directors of different generations: William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives, Roman Holiday), Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Serpico), and John Sayles (Matewan, Lone Star). What tied them together for me was their serious approach to social problems and their avoidance of fashionable postmodern irony. I thought I’d title the book “The Cinema of Sincerity.”
After years of watching all their films, traveling to archives, reading everything about them, and drafting
chapters . . . I lost steam. I knew that my central argument, that narrative cinema can be a force for social
progress or at least humanistic empathy, was hopelessly out of touch in a climate where casual viewers
worshipped Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers and other academics valorized avant-garde experiments.
I re-used some of the material I’d gathered in smaller publications, such as a BFI Classics on Best Years and a chapter on social problem films, but I never found the energy to make the broader argument.
If I’d finished and published that academic book, would I have stayed in academia longer? Or was that failure one of the reasons I started trying to write fiction?
Debut author Sarah Kozloff offers a breathtaking and cinematic epic fantasy of a ruler coming of age in A Queen in Hiding first in the quartet of The Nine Realms series.
Four books. Four months. Nine Realms.
Readers will be able to binge this amazing fantasy series with beautiful interlocking art across the spines of all four books.
Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cerulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.
But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.