Sarah Key’s first novel, Tangled Weeds, debuted in 2014. Since then, this author of crime thrillers has written three other books, all part of The Sisters of Light trilogy. Kwarts Publishers asked her a few questions about herself and her writing:
How would you define a successful writer?
That’s a tough one! Success is such a personal thing and this, like many creative ones, is a tough one. A successful writer is driven by the dogged desire to complete the work they start. They have passion, but they also exhibit discipline and commitment, sitting at the keypad and slogging away, if only for themselves. Diligence and fortitude are important qualities because, at low and lonely points, you will need to draw on these traits.
To me, writing success can be defined as accomplishing what you set out to do, and doing it to the best of your ability (and yes, that may mean staggering through 18 edits!).
What is the first book that made an impression on you?
Probably The Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton. I must have been about three or four, and my mother read it onto a reel-to-reel player. I’m giving away my age now. My brother and I would listen to it, in our beds every night, transported to magical worlds. The imaginative scope and enchanting characters left a lasting impression that contributed to me writing.
What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
My first novel focused on the lives of four young men. It was not difficult, at all, for me to create the characters. I drew from attributes and back stories of men I’d known, and this helped greatly.
I write dark, gritty psychological thrillers and, although I’ve created some frightening female villains, I enjoy sculpting evil, brooding men with lots of testosterone. I studied psychology and have always been fascinated by the aberrant human mind. I have also always read true crime books and watched crime channel shows, and this probably feeds into building male psyches.
Where is your favourite place to write?
At my dining room table, with a dog on my lap and another at my feet. The table was the one I grew up sitting around with my parents and brother. If it could talk, it would have many stories to regale about dinner parties, conversation and excellent food. It also makes me feel close to my late dad who died nearly 20 years and would approve of the fact that I have become a writer.
How does writing change a writer?
I think that writers are born a little differently wired. We love words and stories. We eavesdrop on conversations and try to guess strangers’ circumstances. We can be alone with our imaginations for hours on end. Although I vehemently object to being called ‘eccentric,’ people seem to perceive me as unconventional and perhaps, as writers, we need to be different to do what we do.
Writing is, like most jobs in these times, not easy. Writing teaches you grit and requires guts. There’s no one to complain to or blame, but yourself. Writing can, at stages, leave you ecstatic, yet it can cause crippling self-doubt. It shouldn’t change you; it should improve you. Writing is like being given really difficult homework, every day of the week, for the rest of your life. It’s not for sissies.
What is the role of a publisher for an indie author?
I am four times published by my American press, Rebele, but for marketing purposes, I operate in South Africa in an indie capacity. I am very grateful to my publisher. They have provided me with a stellar editor who has greatly improved my books. They have also designed my covers and put my e-books onto platforms.
What marketing tips do you have for aspiring and perspiring writers?
Perspiring indeed. Market while you write, every day. Build a brand that extends further than your books. Readers are difficult to accumulate. Show people who you are – this doesn’t need to be overly personal, but you need to build a following. People love knowing you’re a cat person, for example. Promote aspects of your life you enjoy such as the city you live in, or your love of craft beer.
Do not over promote, especially by continuously splashing the only book cover you have out there. People tire of seeing the same thing and getting the hard sell with links to Amazon.
Use social media platforms regularly and keep it going with original, authentic posts.
Is being a writer a blessing or a curse?
If your name was a verb, what would it mean?
I was given a Zulu nickname many years ago when I worked, for a decade, as a waitress. It was ‘ijika-jika’ which means to rotate or turnaround. It referred to how I would work my section of tables non-stop. When I trained in HIV/AIDS, my participants laughed heartily and stated it still applied to how active I was. I have lots of energy, am time urgent and prefer to move quickly.
What work have you done with Kwarts Publishers?
I was a contributing writer to the Christmas anthology, Happy Holidays, a Kwarts Publishers / Books & Everything initiative in November 2017. Kwarts prints three books for me whenever I need them. I have always been delighted by the quality and impressed with the service.
To get in contact with Sarah, email her at [email protected] or visit her Goodreads profile