Interview with Sarah Cawkwell

Author Sarah Cawkwell found some time in her crazy busy schedule to talk about the writing process.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

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.

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

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).

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

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!

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

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.

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.

Interview with Fox Spirit Books

I admit, it took some work to get this fox out of her den. But today, we’ve managed to land an interview with Adele Wearing, hetwoman* of Fox Spirit Books. Fresh off the release of their new anthology Piracy, Adele is here today to discuss some tips and details from the angle of a publisher.

Crafty Adele of Fox Spirit Books.

Crafty Adele of Fox Spirit Books.

He2etic: I usually start with a qualifier. Can you tell us how many years experience you’ve had, what you’ve published and what publishing companies/free lance work you’ve done?

Adele: Ah, the CV.

Okay, let’s be honest. The reason the people who like me, like me is because I can easily be persuaded to jump feet first into something I have no knowledge about just for fun. So I started Fox Spirit last May with the following credentials… I am a professional project manager, I ran a review website successfully for about four years, and I really, really, really like books and stuff.

When you work in project management, you learn that the secret of doing something well is often finding the right people to do stuff that you can’t do and then we all, you know, do stuff. All the books are listed on the website, but we’ve published novels, novellas, anthologies and one non-fiction in our first year.


“How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?”


He2etic: What are story ideas that are just too common? Stuff that, even if well written, is pending rejecting just because it’s overdone?

Oasis by Joan De La Hoya

Oasis by Joan De La Hoya

Adele: None. Seriously, what’s original anymore? It’s all about a new twist or a new voice. Zombies have been done to rotting corpsified death? Not so much. In Oasis, Joan De La Haye finds a new perspective and freshens it up.

He2etic: What’s your opinion on the value of literary clichés versus something that’s too original (ie, kind of out there)?  Any advice on striking a balance?

Adele: Fox Spirit is all about what’s a little unusual. I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘too out there’ but at the end of the day, you will always be dealing with someone else’s taste and preferences. I am not going to publish a story I don’t enjoy. How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?

A commissioning editor at the big five will have to stand up for a book in front of the marketing department and sell the book to them before they will even consider trying to sell it to the public. All I can tell you is any editor, even one who has the freedom to publish whatever they want, should be asking themselves ‘Could I argue for this book/story/author if I had to?’


“Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.”


My advice to everyone is keep writing what you want to write, keep honing your work and keep pitching. If you are good AND lucky (no doubt timing and luck have their part to play), you will get picked up.

If not, you might still get valuable feedback. If you decide to self publish, use an editor who doesn’t care if they hurt your feelings and make sure you get the story as good as you can.

He2etic: What’s the single biggest mistake most budding authors make in your opinion?

Adele: Hmm, my advice. Certainly not the first to say it and I won’t be the last. Don’t be an ass. Be respectful, follow the submission guidelines. If a publisher says they don’t publish X or they only want Y, you are not the exception to that. It’s really that simple.

Spares by Alec McQuay

Spares by Alec McQuay

Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business. If you turned up anywhere else and asked for a job that wasn’t being advertised and wasn’t needed, you’d get no where. Which actually leads on to another point. Your query letter is a job application, treat it seriously.

The very lovely Jon Weir once made this point about reviewers, when you are asking a publisher to send you free stuff on the off-chance you like it and get around to telling people you have to give them a bit of background.

As a reviewer, I sent proper formal printed letters to publishers to ask to be on their lists. I treated it like a covering letter and CV. As a writer you should take your approach no less seriously. In fact somewhere in UBVE#1, Lee Harris covers query letters and how not to do it.


“Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business.”


He2etic: Some of our readers are actually working on their first novel. Do you have any advice to offer them?

Piracy, the first of the Fox Pocket Series

Piracy, the first of the Fox Pocket Series

Adele: Hmm, I’m sure my writers would have better advice than I do, but from what I understand the best process is along the lines of: Write it, finish it, put it aside. Read it again. Edit it again. Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.

Then put it aside and start another one. Chances are when you’ve been through that process with the second one, you go back to the first you’ll be glad you didn’t send it out. Of course all this is based on what I hear from the author side of things.

He2etic: What are your favourite stories from Fox Spirit?

Adele: Oh, it’s a total cop out I know, but I love them all. I feel emotionally invested in everything I publish so I really can’t pick. Sorry. I love the variety we’ve done and the fun we’ve all had. 🙂

He2etic: Finally, any general tips or suggestions for getting ahead?

Adele: Ah if I had those, I would be rich. Sorry, it’s hard work, ability and a dose of good luck. 😉

So there you have it folks! And be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of Fox Spirit’s new flash fiction series, Fox Pockets! Coming over the next few months, and available on Lulu.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and news about upcoming releases. The author can be followed @He2etic, or on his blog.

*- Ask Sarah Cawkwell. Or just read her book.

November Artwork Roundup

November has come and gone, and with it we have been treated to a host of wonderful artwork from Black Library, whether it is for the novels or the audio dramas. All of Black Library’s artists, everyone from Neil Roberts and Jon Sullivan to Cheoljoo Lee and Winona and many others have done some great work this year and they seem set to deliver even better for next year.

So withour further ado, here is some of the Black Library artwork for the month of November for some of 2012’s most anticipated releases.

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Author Interview – Sarah Cawkwell

Morning! As promised, we have an interview with Sarah Cawkwell, triumphant author of The Gildar Rift, which if you haven’t read it already, you should have!

Sarah Cawkwell is actually pretty important to us in the Bolthole – she founded the original forum after the sad demise of the “Official” Black Library forums, and some of us can still remember her early fan fiction efforts – which were very good, as it happens – the fact she has gone from writing fan fiction to becoming a fully fledged Black Library author, with numerous short stories and a novel already in print and one on the way is nothing short of inspirational. So, without further ado…

Hi Sarah, how are you today? What have you been doing?

I got up. I went to work. I worked. Someone in the car park dented my car (the CADS). I came home. I stared at the computer for a while, then slid onto World of Warcraft (one of my guilty pleasures). Then, somehow, HOURS had passed and with no small amount of guilt I got back to editing ‘Valkia the Bloody’. Then someone distracted me with an interview email.

These people can’t be trusted! Lets talk about the Bolthole – it has had a few incarnations since you started it – is this what you envisioned when you set it up?

I didn’t envision the incarnations although it’s great now that the site has its own home.What I envisioned when I set up the Black Library Bolthole was a forum for readers and writers of Black Library fiction to post and critique one another’s work, to read reviews of their favourite books and to have old-fashioned conversations about the minutiae of the novels… in an environment where positivity was the buzz word. There are plenty of other forums out there where bitterness reins supreme – and it has its place, certainly. The Bolthole has always been one of the more polite and friendly forums out there. It’s stayed small and manageable and in that regard… yes. It’s what I envisioned.

How does it feel to have handed over the Bolthole reins? Do you like what we’ve done with the place?

It feels kind of strange, but also a relief. Due to commitments (you know… work, life, writing, not necessarily in that order), my time has been very limited. I’m glad that it’s been taken over by a team of people who enjoy Black Library stuff just as much as I do. It’s also nice to see the development of assorted social networking additions (blog, Twitter etc…) I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Hopefully we are going in the right direction! What got you into Warhammer? Were you a gamer? And if not, do you find yourself trawling through rulebooks to make sure you don’t upset any hardcore fans by blowing up a landraider with a laspistol?

I came into the Warhammer universes through reading Black Library fiction first. The gaming element is coming along incredibly slowly. Fortunately, Not So Small Anymore Son and Dearly Beloved are both gamers. They are also both bottomless pits of 40k and Fantasy lore. Whilst I have a pile of rulebooks, codices and army books forming a small pillar beside me, it’s frequently quicker to turn to one of them and ask them ‘What Would Sanguinius Do’?Well, maybe not that question exactly, but you get the point.I trawl the rulebooks regularly because research Is Your Friend.

We all know about your work for the Black Library – have you got ambitions to write your own, original fiction?

Ambitions, certainly. Time? Not so much. I have something that I refer to as Project: Backburner which is my original urban fantasy story. Every now and again I’ll fire it up and toss a few more words into it. For now, given the fact I have to keep a full time job on the go, it’s something which will have to wait.

Have you got any tips for us budding authors still clamouring at the editors door with the hope of getting picked up?

The usual, really. Read, read, read some more. Write as much as you can. The more you write, the better you get at it. Also, for Warhammer specifically… remember the tone of the two universes. That’s actually harder for WHF than it is for 40k. You have a broader remit in WHF and whilst you’re still bound by the lore of the universe, it doesn’t feel quite as restrictive as 40k. That sentence may not make sense. I’m tired. 🙂

When you’re not writing, how do you keep yourself entertained?

Reading! (Books, not the town to paraphrase Sir Terence of Pratchett). Also, I write non-work related stuff to relax. I know, it’s sad. Also, watching DVDs and playing WoW. I’d dearly love to have some sort of massively creative hobby, like being able to sculpt perfect representations of the Thinker out of chocolate, but I have the world’s shortest attention span.

When can I read Valkia the Bloody?

I believe you will find that this lovely, well-tempered lady will hit the bookshelves in the sunny month of July 2012.

Have you got any more signings coming up?

Indeed I do: at Warhammer World on 19th November during the Warhammer Doubles Tournament.

Either or… candy floss or brighton rock?

Candy floss. It’s like eating clouds. Eating rock is like eating… well, rock.

Brilliant – I cant be dealing with brighton rock either! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions.

The Gildar Rift is officially released in December, but you can preorder it NOW from the Black Library website, or you can pop along to Warhammer World on Saturday, buy a copy and get it signed by the author herself. There may even be haribo.

You can follow Sarah’s daily thoughts on twitter @pyroriffic and she has an entertaining blog

Thanks for stopping by. The next interview in the pipeline is with Laurie Goulding, submissions editor for the Black Library, and a man with knowledge. We also have an interesting article by Jon Schafer where he tries to “justify Warhammer”… you will have to come back and read it!