Sarah Fine Author of Sanctum has agreed to answer a few questions for ReadingTeen. I am personally excited, considering Sanctum was one of my favorite books of this year.
RT: Could you tell me how you were inspired to create such a unique hellish world as Sanctum?
SF: I started with the idea that death isn’t the end of each person’s personal journey. If you’re generally at peace with yourself, you go to the Countryside. If you’ve still got major issues to work out … you go somewhere else. But really, the idea of “hell” in the Shadowlands is kind of a misnomer. In each place (because the dark city where most of the story is set isn’t the only city where you could end up!), there can be redemption. There’s a way out, a path to happiness if you choose to walk it. After I latched onto that concept, I just mused about how to take all that psychological stuff and make it tangible—something people could see and feel and taste. Everything in the dark city came from that.
RT: I read in your bio that you are a child psychologist. Does that help your creativity in writing this book? Does it help you understand suicide thoughts more?
SF: At some point, I lost track of what about my psychology background affects me when I write. It’s kinda just the way I think. I do have a solid understanding of suicide and the different reasons people decide to take their own lives. I hope I’ve been able to tell a tale that’s satisfying in both its emotional complexity and its ability to entertain. But the readers get to judge that for themselves.
RT: It was so interesting how in Sanctum you could be fully redeemed, just by no longer needing anything it had to offer. The scene where the girl sat sadly next to a pile of stilettos, while more kept appearing on her feet, then she would just toss them in the pile, while more were growing on her feet. Such an interesting take on greed. Is there something you cannot get enough of, something in Sanctum that you would need over and over?
SF: Ah, here’s the thing: I don’t think that woman who was growing herself a bunch of shoes is greedy [possibly this is a spoiler, but I’ll say it anyway: there’s actually a special place in the afterlife for the greedy, and it makes an appearance later in the series.]
But, back to the woman with the stilettos: In the dark city, the place for those who’ve committed suicide, the souls are lost, trying hard to comfort themselves or numb their sorrow. That woman is desperately trying to make herself whole again, just like everyone else in the city. Many of them try to do it with things. Material goods. Food. Drugs. Shoes. Television. [Er … quite like many people in life do, right?] As Lela muses, they’re trying to fill an empty space inside themselves. Of course, it isn’t until they can be satisfied with just themselves, enough to shed that need for stuff, that they can recover and find their way out of the city.
As for something I can’t get enough of … honestly? Writing. When I’m stressed, or full of energy, or angry or happy or whatever, I want to write. A lot. Sometimes I kind of ignore the people around me so I can do it, which I admit isn’t the best thing to do! So if I were in the dark city, I’d probably be holed up in an apartment, typing away
RT: Malachi is probably one of my favorite leads of all time. Could you tell us something interesting about him? Maybe where he learned to fight so well, or how he could have been so kind and passionate to Lela after being in Sanctum for so long.
SF: Malachi learned to fight when he was alive, and under very dire circumstances. In the book, he actually mentions a person from real life who taught him—it’s easy enough to figure out who that person is if you are a master of Google-fu. And if you do figure it out, you’ll know a lot more about Malachi’s fight style!
Malachi is one of my favorite characters that I’ve created, so I’m glad you like him! When he meets Lela, it completely throws him for a loop, one he has yet to recover from. I have a few treats in the works for people who are interested in what goes on inside his head. I’m currently working on a fun (free!) Malachi project that will kick off before the end of the year, so stay tuned …
RT: Did you listen to a certain soundtrack or music while writing Sanctum? What is your favorite color M&M's?
SF: I did listen to a soundtrack of sorts (the playlist is on my website, so you can listen to it, too!).
My favorite color of M&M’s … red? Truly, I don’t pay attention. I just stuff them in my mouth, where they all taste equally delicious.
RT: Have you started the sequel to Sanctum yet, and do you have a name for it?
SF: The sequel is written and going through edits. No title yet—we have to choose the right one!
Thank you Sarah for a wonderful interview!
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