Born and raised in Atlanta, Sara is a southern tall-tale teller with a terrible poker face. So, she writes fiction to better conceal the difference between truth and imagination. After dabbling in careers in academia, politics, and even a lucrative job in high-end fashion, she always found her way back to writing.
Sara lives with her husband and two children, who think communication is best achieved through volume, repetition, and pure conviction.
Q: What inspired you to write Gravity’s Heir?
A: In the early 2000s there was a brilliant, short-lived science fiction show created by Joss Whedon, who also did Buffy, Angel, and the first two Avengers movies. That show, Firefly, was funny, heart-wrenching, and featured a small cast of characters who made their living on a decrepit old spaceship called Firefly. The show was about this very diverse group of characters who made a family and the challenges they faced as they made a living smuggling. As distant as the concept was, the show was incredibly relevant, because the characters dealt with over-reaching governments, unforgiving class structures, and lingering personal traumas.
I’ve watched the show at least once a year since it released, and I really wanted to create my own story about a found family struggling to make ends meet and deal with their own internal demons while sailing amongst the stars. As my book found its footing, it veered into some unexpected directions, but at its core, it’s still a story about negotiating one’s own identity in a universe that may or may not be hostile to that journey.
Q: Did you have to do any particular research for this book?
A: Quite a bit. I wanted to have a war that threw my characters’ lives into upheaval, one that touched them personally and provided a huge existential threat. I wanted it to feel real and inevitable and deeply political. So I researched World War I, how it started, how the basic conflict spun out of control and threatened people’s entire concepts of who they were as members of communities, as citizens, and as people. I probably spent two or three months reading WWI histories and first-person accounts. While not all of the research made it into the final draft, it underlies most of the story.
I also wanted my science to be as real as possible, so I spent several months more learning about different theories of gravity, space time, and quantum mechanics. My system of flight is based on an idea of controlling gravitational forces in a precise way. There’s a little bit of hand-waving to bring the theories to life when there’s a lot we don’t understand about how gravity warps space around it, but I did my best to make it read real. I also had a friend with a background in physics check it over and confirm I wasn’t making too many mistakes.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: Currently like many Americans this month, I’m isolating at home with my family. I have two kids, a one-year-old daughter and a five-year old son. Learning how to homeschool and still keep an eye on the one-year old has been quite the challenge. There are a lot of breaks to enjoy the good weather outside, lots of Disney+ on rainy days, and we’re playing a lot of Uno, Yahtzee, and video games.
I’m also trying to step up my craft cocktail game. I run a blog series on my website where I pair book reviews with a carefully selected cocktail. Sometimes I go with traditional cocktails that help evoke a certain feel found in the book I’ve read. For others, I make up my own cocktail and name it just for the book. I enjoy the creativity of coming up with a drink that captures a certain character or mood, and I’ve been known to spend an entire week driving all over Atlanta to get just the right ingredient for a drink. It’s a lot of fun to combine my love of cocktails and love of great books. I’m trying to get through as many of the 2020 Debuts as I can, but with two kids, it’s sometimes a struggle.
When I can leave the house again, though, one of the first things I’m going to do is hit up a karaoke bar. I love singing, I love performing, and I love getting to make a fool out of myself on stage with my friends. I even have my own Spotify playlist where I collect new songs to sing, and while I don’t have the best voice, I make up for it with enthusiasm and unabashed enjoyment in the whole thing.
Q: What does your writing routine look like?
A: I like to write out in public, around people. My favorite place is a bar near my house, where I can post up with my laptop, a snack, and a cocktail. It gets super loud in there, and they even have a DJ who comes in to spin old school hip hop and dance music on Friday nights. Other people might find all of that too distracting, but I find it helps me focus on what is in front of me. All of the stimulus around me fades away, becomes white noise, and while I can step out of my groove to order another drink or answer yet another question that “Yes, I am working on a Friday. At a bar. No, I’m not distracted until I have to answer questions.” *pointed stare*, I am usually quite productive.
While I’ve been stuck at home with the kids, I’ve made do with some improvisations. I turn on a DJ set on Spotify and combine it with an ambient noise generator. My favorites include Coffitivity which provides coffee shop sounds, or Ambient Mixer. Ambient Mixer offers hundreds of background noises generated by users, and can be as general as a coffee shop or nightclub or as specific as The Gryffindor Common Room. Give me some noise to tune out, lower the lights, and give me a cocktail, and it’s almost like I’m out and about, getting words on the page.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
A: Though I had been thinking about the idea and researching elements of it for years, I actually started writing Gravity’s Heir in 2014, after my son was born. I finished a first draft about a year later, and started shopping it around to agents in 2016. In late 2016, I entered it into an online mentoring contest PitchWars. Though I didn’t get picked for the chance to work with one of the mentors, I did get some great feedback and gained a group of critique partners that worked with me to improve my book. Rather painfully, I deleted the first 50,000 words of my book and completely rewrote it.
When I finished again in late 2017, I started querying again, hoping for a literary agent with whom I could build a career. Though I got a lot of interest, I ultimately didn’t sign with anyone. After I exhausted my list of agents, I was ready to shelve the book and get to work on the next one. My critique partners refused to let me give up. They believed in my book and convinced me to try my luck with some small publishers who didn’t require representation. At the end of 2018, I queried about a dozen publishers, and got immediate interest. Within a few months, I had an offer with Black Rose Writing. They gave me an accelerated publication schedule, and within nine months, my book was out in the world. It was a crazy fast publication schedule, but it’s gorgeous, it’s done, and it’s not just on my shelf, it’s on others’ too!
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From the publisher, Black Rose Writing
“Legacy is nothing but history, if it doesn’t have a future.”
When her father threw her out, sacrificing his only living daughter for the good of his shipping conglomerate, Lena Lomasky swore she could make it on her own. But now she’s broke and desperate, and pride won’t fuel her spaceship. Her latest job is simple: carry a datastick of state secrets home to her father. The same man who cut her off without a cent. Whatever. She can do this. Pass the whiskey.
An ill-timed royal assassination ignites a war and Lena’s crew is blamed. When she thinks to use her cache of state secrets to save them, Lena discovers she’s actually smuggling the only known plans for her father’s invention: a gravity bomb that can vaporize entire cities.
Lena must decide: continue on and hope her father can design a defense to save millions of lives, or leverage the plans to save the only people who really matter.