Once again, we’re back! I know, you weren’t expecting an author interview so late in the month, but here I am, barely making it. I’ll be honest, I got a little carried away with this interview, so it stretched ridiculously long. Still, hope you all enjoy it!
Aden: Hello everybody! It’s me, Aden, again. We’re back with another interview, where I sit down with indie authors and speak to them about their books and stories, along with two of their characters which they decide to bring along for the write. This time, I’m with Sarah Kelly, author of The Shadow of the Sun at JukePop Serials. At her sides are Kendra Richards and Annabelle Shi-how-yay…ay…hay…-Annabelle Shoosh! How are all of you? Obligatory introduction time, please!
Ann: Oh, just call me Wilson. Everyone else does.
Kendra: What, you haven’t taken Emily’s last name yet?
Ann: Emily’s going to take my last name. At least, I’m pretty sure she will.
Kendra: You haven’t popped the question yet? What are you waiting for?
Ann: Don’t pretend as if you haven’t all been betting.
Kendra: Exactly! I want to win, and I bet that you’d ask before the end of the year!
Sarah: Anyway! I’m sure we’re all doing well and glad to be here.
Aden: I am glad to have all of you here, ladies. Now, let’s dive in with some quick simple questions. Do you want to give a quick background on yourselves? And Sarah, maybe tell us what the story of The Shadow of the Sun is about?
Sarah: So what is The Shadow of the Sun about? In short, a whole lot. Because I’ve been writing it for such a long time – earliest doc on my drive is from 2012, each year’s resolution is to finally finish the beast, so maybe this year! – a lot of the ideas have expanded and matured. Honestly, I’m glad for that. I think it’s only made my story more interesting and more well-written.
But because it’s taken so long, The Shadow of the Sun talks about a lot of things. It deals with climate change, child abuse, access to contraception, education, censorship, corruption in the media and the government, LGBT+ rights, classism, racism, and extremism. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten a dozen more.
As for myself, personally, I have a variety of different interests. I like gaming, hiking, reading – anything that gets my mind or my body moving. My favorite game is probably either Half-Life 2 or Metro: Last Light. They’re both amazing and I recommend them to everyone. My favorite book tends to change from day to day. Sometimes it’s Good Omens, sometimes it’s Several Short Sentences About Writing. Still others it’s 1984. I am the proud mother of a neurotic Siamese cat who’s terrified of the outdoors and vacuum cleaners.
Kendra: Well, I used to be a boring person, but I’ve recently acquired a few new hobbies. I like to ditch class, run from the cops, and… I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing this right, I got it from Emily, but I think it’s pronounced “fucking shit up.”
Ann: Technically, it’s fucking up shit.
Kendra: If I want my prepositions to dangle, dangle they shall! Give me liberty or screw off or something.
Ann: I’ll give you a grammar lesson. How’s that?
Kendra: Just answer the question.
Ann: As you can probably tell, I grew up in England, where I learned proper English. My hobbies include going to museums, learning about history, and corrupting American youth.
Sarah: The Shadow of the Sun is roughly about Emily Frost’s personal journey. You see her ignorant and sheltered in the beginning, and you get to watch how she learns more and more of the truth, ultimately deciding to overthrow the government.
Aden: Aren’t all of you just interesting individuals. I’m just a boring guy with boring taste, so, you know, boring me. Hah! Let’s see, this question is for Sarah. Like you said, Shadow of the Sun touches on varied subjects, none of them particularly light in terms of our current society’s policy and culture. What made you want to write about them in the first place? Life experience or otherwise?
Sarah: I would definitely say life experience. Though current events provide more than enough inspiration, my own life was what made me put pen to paper. My own childhood and adolescence wasn’t the worst, but that’s what scares me. I’ve had severe problems with depression and anxiety just from the stuff that I experienced. I can’t imagine how I would’ve survived had it been worse. And I know that right now, kids are going through much worse. They’re being abused, neglected, and trafficked and there’s still severe gaps in society that allow that to continue.
Specifically, I wanted to talk about fear. I feel like that’s been a recurring motif or emotion in TSotS, and it was definitely a recurring one as I was growing up. After my parents split up, I felt obligated to continue to visit my dad. A few times a week I would be stuck in a car, and stuck in an apartment, with a deeply homophobic man. As he would call my mother a dyke, call my 13 or 14-year-old sister a slut, or say other awful things, I was just forced to deal with it. I had no way to mitigate the danger, no way to leave a moving car. Choosing to stop visiting him was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because I knew even then that I was attracted to women. What would he do if he knew I was bisexual? Either I kept myself safe, or I followed society’s expectations.
So it was important to me to write a story about a girl who happened to like other girls, and I wanted to portray her in a kickass, empowered way. Emily isn’t just a box on a checklist to mark off, nor is she a “token” character to convince you that the author is ~so progressive~. She’s her own person and writing her journey from powerless to powerful has helped me immensely. Hopefully it helps others, too.
Aden: Oh, wow. That’s some heavy stuff. Good thing readers of my website would be pretty accustomed to it by now. (Hint* Hint* Shameless plug*) That’s certainly the feel I get from reading the story. Heavy in terms of experience and even more so in message. That said, Ann, Kendra, what’s it like living within this version of a future? I understand both of you came from different parts of the world?
Ann: It’s been really hard to see the different standards of living between England and America. I went from rolling hills and sparse cities to just… a factory. That’s what New Cali feels like to me.
Kendra: I would say you’re being uncharitable if I hadn’t spent the better part of my life in said factory.
Ann: I would apologize if I didn’t think it was the truth. Even the technology feels barbaric. I had to get used to a security camera locked around my wrist. It all feels like it’s stuck in the early 2000s or something.
Sarah: You guys never had to deal with the horrors of dial-up, so be glad.
Kendra: You’re going to give me nightmares!
Sarah: Dial-up woooooh! CRT monitors wooooh! Always online DRM wooooooh!
Kendra: Anyway, I used to think there was nothing better. Sound-proof classrooms and bracenets were just a fact of life. Before I became friends with Ann and Trevor, I hadn’t really thought about other countries. We’re not taught about other countries, unless it’s something negative. My other concerns were too big to leave much space for daydreaming. But now that I’m out, now that I’m in Canada, I think I’d like to see a forest.
Ann: And isn’t that so weird? I grew up feeding squirrels and birds. One time I was even reprimanded by my parents for luring bears into our garage.
Kendra: Really? What were you trying to do?
Ann: It was raining! They looked cold! Trevor and I put out some trash, since we heard that bears are always getting into bins, and left the garage door open. We had three in there before my parents came home and called animal control.
Kendra: I might have to test that.
Sarah: It’s a really bad idea to lure wildlife with trash, Kendra.
Kendra: I promised Josh a moose ride. Are you going to disappoint him?
Aden: I want to ride a moose… What a polarized lifestyle though. Next question is for Sarah, and it’s one I’ve been wanting to ask for quite a while. When you first started Shadow of the Sun, did you have any idea how much it would actually mimic the next to insane election that is happening in America right now? With all the racism and violence at rallies? Or did the idea for your story take place because the world you lived in reflected that possibility?
Sarah: I think the idea started because the world I live in reflected that possibility. I know I especially wanted to talk about extremism, and that every political ideology can be extreme. What I really hate seeing is this blocking of free speech. The best argument I can make against an idiot is to let them speak, and then thoroughly debunk their argument.
Blocking free speech, however unpleasant, is a slippery slope. So today, I understand but I don’t 100% agree with blocking the speech of a person advocating for the third reich-like treatment of muslims, but tomorrow, what’s going to be excused under that umbrella, that concept of blocking unpleasant speech because it’s unpleasant? And who gets to control the definition of “unpleasant” in the first place? I’m starting to see this on the internet more and more. Youtubers are swatted and their channels are taken down merely for expressing opinions, and not for violating hate speech laws.
I feel like sometimes my identity is erased because media outlets love pretending that a woman is incapable of disagreeing with another woman; any criticism a woman gets must not be from any logical or ethical place, but of course a misogynistic conspiracy. Because that makes sense, right?
This started out just as me taking possibilities to extremes, but now real life is starting to resemble my story, and it’s actually pretty scary for me. Hahaha! I want to shake reality and say, “Bad reality! Bad! Stop copying! This isn’t supposed to be an instruction manual!”
Aden: Oh, trust me. I’m on the other side of the globe and it looks scary to me too. You mentioned you were bisexual earlier, and Ann is also not of straight sexuality. Can the two of you compare what’s life like between our lovely planet and the lovely world of The Shadow of the Sun? I presume there is a stark difference, but also, striking similarities.
Ann: Well, I grew up just… me. I never had to declare myself or come out to my parents or friends. My parents told me once – I don’t know how old I was, maybe four? – that after I watched a princess movie with my brother, both of us got into a fight over who was going to marry the princess. That’s how they knew I liked girls. Learning that there are kids who have to declare themselves, like Emily, like Hunter, was odd. It’s still really odd. To me, it’s like telling my parents I have black hair. They already know, and why would they hate me for something so obvious and so… a part of me?
Sarah: Of course Ann’s experience is the goal. I would like people to be able to date whoever they’d like, whether that person is of a different sex or gender identity or not. I think secrecy is still a large factor in the lives of LGBT+ individuals, especially when you grow up in a country like Emily’s. Of course, my experience hasn’t been as bad as Emily’s, but nor has it been as good as Ann’s. We’re still dealing with high LGBT+ suicide rates, hate crimes, and gay conversion therapies that are being defended by politicians.
Kendra: I would have liked to learn about BLTs or whatever-
Kendra: -before I was a legal adult. How long have my friends been hurting? I feel like I could have prevented that, but I didn’t even know it was possible to like the same sex. How could I have known it was a possibility?
Sarah: I think that’s a big contributing factor of tolerance. If you educate kids about what’s possible, if you teach them about brain sex or different kinds of attraction, when they encounter it in real life, I think they’ll be more likely to be tolerant. Or at least not outwardly bigoted. As Emma Goldman once said, “The most violent element in society is ignorance.’
Aden: That’s a very open outlook on the world. One that I definitely share. The world is small if you are brought up to think you are big, that’s my take on it, anyway. Kendra, I know it’s a touchy subject, but I feel the entire book is pretty touchy, so I’m just going to ask it. You’ve been in an abusive family for most of your young life. Can you help people like me, who have not experienced the full brunt of it understand why do you not just leave? And Sarah, do you think there are any differences between her experience in the world of TSotS and our reality?
Kendra: My parents’ apartment was a known evil. I knew the patterns, was intimately familiar with them, and was able to eke out an illusion of stability while walking on eggshells. I had a shower and a place to wash my clothes, after all. I wasn’t sure the streets could offer me something better. And how was I supposed to leave my siblings? I didn’t have a guarantee that the cops wouldn’t drag me back, either. Getting my education and keeping my siblings safe until we could move out was too important for me to risk it.
Sarah: Especially for children, who don’t have jobs, who don’t have much ability to get out of an abusive home, economic and other factors might force them to stay. Then, they’re completely reliant on adults doing their job and keeping them safe. Of course, in The Shadow of the Sun, anything like shelters or social services have been defunded to the point of non-existence. So Kendra couldn’t call social services to take her and her siblings away.
Kendra: I’ve seen my dad and mom come back from jail so many times. They spend a day or two in a cell, then come back and apologize and hug me, saying how much they love me and promising that it’ll never happen again. I eventually learned to shut myself off from them. I came to realize that their apologies were absolutely meaningless.
Sarah: One of the hardest things, in my opinion, for people to understand is the cyclical nature of abuse. Abuse is insidious; it creeps up, and up, and up, and explodes. People often mistake a calm period as reassurance that it’ll never happen again. Because of that, it’s harder to make sure the abuser and any victims get help.
Kendra: When Emily came in and… was Emily, I could leave. I finally had… I guess a support system. And with the Frost’s help, with the help of the Wilson’s, I didn’t have to choose between homelessness and an abusive home.
Aden: Okay, I won’t lie, it’s getting a little too heavy here, even for me. So let’s lighten up the mood with a fun question! It’s something I as everyone I interview. What do the three of you think of each other? Thoughts? Feelings? B.O?
Sarah: I like this question! Even if it breaks the fourth wall a bit.
Aden: Oh, breaking the fourth wall is my thing. I do it all the time.
Sarah: I like both Kendra and Ann, obviously. I think Ann can be a little headstrong, a little bit arrogant, but I don’t necessarily blame her for that. I’d be arrogant too if I moved from an HDC to an LDC that was devoted to taking away my rights. Kendra… I’d like to see more of her. And hopefully she gets that chance in part three.
Kendra: When I first saw Ann… I don’t know how to explain it, but I both groaned and laughed in relief. Watching her and Emily’s friendship evolve has been fantastic. I know Emily’s so much happier, and so much healthier for it. Though I feel like Ann’s gotten her into trouble a lot, gotten all of us into trouble, it’s been worth it. It was necessary trouble.
Ann: And it was fun.
Kendra: That too.
Ann: I guess I was a bit snooty in the beginning and it skewed my perceptions of everyone I met. I didn’t really like anyone. I just wanted to go home.
Aden: ‘Snooty’ is a big understatement. ‘Oozing pompousness’ is more accurate.
Ann: But, Emily intrigued me, and through that, I started to see people differently. If Emily was awesome and was hanging out with these people, then they can’t be that bad. Except for Cassie.
Kendra: Except for Cassie.
Aden: Anyway, we’re reaching the end of our interview. Just a couple of questions more. You mentioned a ‘part three’ just then. How much longer do you think The Shadow of the Sun will go on for? Ever thought of a sequel?
Sarah: Hah! I agree. Part three is the last section of the book, but like the other two parts it’s probably going to be a beast of a thing. I am not currently planning a sequel. I have other projects that I need to start once I finish TSotS. However, this story was also just supposed to be one part, so the characters might surprise me again.
Aden: There’s plenty more question I want to ask, but if we kept going, this interview will end in a hundred years. So, last question, and I’ll make it a good one. It’s no secret TSotS has loads of heavy subjects it touches on, and I don’t feel that you’ve made an attempt to hide it. So, for all three of you, is there a message or reason you want to get across through the telling of this story?
Kendra: I want to show people how terrible child abuse is, but also that you can survive terrible things. With the help of my friends, I’ve survived and my siblings have survived. I focus on that when things get tough.
Ann: For me, it’s about how important education is. History, science, humanities – all of it. There’s really no reason we shouldn’t have good education, and there’s every reason in the world why we should.
Sarah: I personally want to show people the dangers of extremism. That extremism can come from anywhere. All it takes is free speech to be unacceptable and you have a recipe for extremism.
Aden: Wow. Okay, those are mantras if I’ve ever heard them. But with that, we’ve come to the end of the interview. Thanks all three of you ladies for your time. Any last words to the readers?
Sarah: Thank you, Aden! This has been really fun. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s read the story, and everyone who has given me valuable criticism. I can’t get better if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, after all. My readers have really kept me going, kept me coming back to the story and inspiring me to write more.
Kendra: Take care of each other, and keep safe. Thanks for reading my adventures!
Ann: Make sure to read books and give hell!
Kendra: All of the hell!
Aden: And with that, we have come to the end of the interview! The Shadow of the Sun is currently serializing its final part on JukePop Serials. Go check it out!
(Sarah Kelly is an online hermit. So go to her profile page on JukePop to see her new updates!)