Author Sarah Cawkwell found some time in her crazy busy schedule to talk about the writing process.
He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?
Sarah: One word… hmm. It’d be a toss-up between ‘exhilarating’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘fun’. Because it’s all three of these things at once.
For me, the writing process consists largely of finding time to do any at all around a full-time job and running a full-time family.
The life of the full-time writer is not mine, alas, and so I have to find those spare hours in a day that already could do with having twenty seven in it!
“Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes.”
He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?
Sarah: Anything without lyrics. Usually, I tune in and turn on to Streaming Soundtracks or listen to film music. If I listen to something with lyrics, I end up accidentally typing them in.
He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?
Sarah: I have quite a few favourite characters in literature in general. In my own stuff, the hapless hero Gilrain, from The Ballad of Gilrain in the Tales from the Nun and Dragon anthology published by Fox Spirit is probably at the top of the list. Correlan, the Techmarine from The Gildar Rift is also rather fun to write, being decidedly sarcastic.
I love Garro and James Swallow’s Garro audio dramas are utterly wonderful.
He2etic: What are your strongest influences when it comes to character creation?
Sarah: Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes. Where’s the scope for learning? Where’s the room for improvement?
I like to at least try to create characters people care about. Even if it’s just to say ‘I hate him. I hope he dies in a gory manner whilst people point and laugh.’
He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Not just those in the Warhammer universes, but in other franchises or even of your own make?
Sarah: Star Wars. I’d love to write something in the Star Wars EU. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since the age of about seven years old and it’s never quite gone away. I have written a few little stories in the Doctor Who universe as well.
“My advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!”
He2etic: What are your favourite drinks, both alcoholic and not? Do you occasionally partake while writing?
Sarah: I’m not much of a one for alcohol. Generally if I go out anywhere, I drive, so I don’t drink at all. If I do, it’s usually wine of some description. (I prefer red over white, and for a change of pace, I *love* real ales).
He2etic: What is it about Warhammer and its 40k brother that you love the most?
Sarah: The hopelessness of it all. The lack of happy endings.
The background itself is so richly detailed and utterly enjoyable to work within that I frequently feel remarkably honoured to be allowed to build my tiny sandcastles in the Black Library sandbox.
He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?
Sarah: Nobody. Absolutely nobody.
I really don’t like the idea of casting people from my books. Weird, perhaps? Yes. But I much, much prefer the pictures I have in my head as to how people look. There’s nothing worse than seeing a film adaptation of a book and going ‘but that’s not how xxxx looks in my head!’ It’d be so horribly disappointing.
He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?
Sarah: I have a few ‘back burner’ projects going on in my own universes, but I only add to them when I have yet another half hour in my by-now thirty hour days.
He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading?
Sarah: I have a few favourite books that I consider to have great re-read value. They are The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas (my favourite book of all time), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, American Gods by Neil Gaiman… actually, my advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!
He2etic: Are you working on a new novel for the Black Library? More Silver Skulls perhaps?
Sarah: As ever, I’m not allowed to discuss Current Projects [tm]. Suffice it to say that something of a silver nature may be floating somewhere in the system…
He2etic: On writing Space Marines, what runs through your head when you have moments where a Marine interacts with a human? What defines the dynamic for you?
Sarah: Awe. Absolute, incredible awe. If it was me meeting a Space Marine, I’d be completely blown away by the majesty of them.
He2etic: Do you find yourself preferring to write in Warhammer or 40k more? And why? Or what aspects do you prefer about either universe from a writing standpoint?
Sarah: I have no real preference. As a long-time fantasy reader, I think that WHF gets a massively raw deal in terms of readership. There’s some pretty quality stuff in that universe, but it gets shoved aside in favour of the big lads.