Sarah J. Daley is joining us today to talk about her novel, Obsidian. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.
Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.
To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.
Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.
What’s Sarah’s favorite bit?
SARAH J. DALEY
I had to think for a while to figure out my favorite bit from my debut fantasy novel OBSIDIAN. Was it the gemstone blades my bloodwizards carry? A lethal rainbow of power? Was it the elaborate tattoos they wear with unabashed pride? I’ve always been a little obsessed with tattoos; I think they’re glorious. Maybe my favorite bit was developing the relationships between some of my key characters? Bringing them together then dropping them into chaos? Don’t we all love to see our characters suffer? So, I thought about it, and it finally came to me: My favorite bit is a scene that didn’t even exist until the cover reveal.
My cover is fabulous, of course (I mean, look at it!), and it captures the red horror of the Wastes perfectly, in my humble opinion. But there was something about it that stood out to me, something unexpected: Birds. The ominous, dark silhouettes of swooping birds. I loved it. They inspired me, and from the moment I saw the cover, I was determined to set those birds free in the story itself.
When I received my very first editorial letter, a joy and a trauma all on its own, my wise editor, Simon Spanton, pointed out a problematic element of my worldbuilding. Correcting it became the chance to rework a set piece, which led to a major plot point, which landed like a ticking bomb at my main character’s feet. In retrospect, I had to ask – why hadn’t I thought of this before? Readers might think a writer knows everything about their own book ahead of time, and maybe some writers do, but I sure don’t. I’m a pantster to the bone. I plot while I write, and I plot while I rewrite, and sometimes unexpected things arise from a stray thought, or a line of music, or a compelling image – such as a fantastic rendering of swooping birds. As I worked through the problem my editor had pointed out, suddenly I had a chance to bring in those awful, beautiful birds.
One of the horrors of my world, and the reason most of Malavita outside the protective Veils is a desolate wasteland, are the dreaded Blackstorms. I mentioned them in early drafts but never had the chance to show one. Well, a question from my editor about the mechanics of the Wastes provided me the opportunity. Though dangerous and destructive, the Blackstorms are predictable, thankfully, and those living outside the Veils merely avoid them. However, while Shade is meeting with her golondrina (which means ‘swallow’, by the way; I had birds in there all along!) allies in the Wastes, a Blackstorm arises unexpectedly. There is nowhere to run for the helpless trading clan, and no one to protect them except Shade Nox. Also there is the Imperial emissary, Raiden Mad, and I wanted this scene to introduce Shade’s awesome power as well as Raiden’s incredible skill with his sword.
As the raging Blackstorm descends, Shade rises like a vengeful angel to fight the hordes of Waste Beasts the storm has driven into a murderous frenzy. But even her power is no match for wave upon wave of creatures. From the boiling skies comes a thunderous flock of black-winged birds, talons extended and shrieking for her blood. She is overwhelmed and Raiden arrives to save her, slicing through the creatures and sending them fleeing. It’s an exciting scene and one I loved writing. Not only did I get my birds, but I got to showcase Shade’s ability, introduce a major plot point (the Wastes are tipping out of balance, threatening all life in Malavita), and illustrate Raiden’s skill and innate desire to protect those around him. Honestly, wanting to add a few birds to my story allowed me to bring forth several important elements. In the end, a compelling image made my story better. I’m grateful for the artist, Mark Ecob, who designed my cover, and not just for the stunning beauty of it. It inspired me to create one of my favorite bits in my debut. Thank you.
SARAH J DALEY is a former chef who lives and writes in the Chicago Metropolitan area with her husband and teenaged son. She earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though she still enjoys the heat and chaos of a professional kitchen, she is now writing full-time. She enjoys traveling, creating costumes for comic con, riding the occasional horse, and streaming old sitcoms for background noise.