Featured Author Interview: Sarah Pennington


Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres.  When she isn't writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Sure thing! I'm a self-published fantasy author who primarily writes fairy tale retellings in a variety of subgenres — everything from steampunk to epics to Wonderland/portal fantasy. My first published book, Blood in the Snow, a retelling of Snow White mixed with The Goose Girl, released back in 2018, after winning Special Unicorn status in Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Five Poisoned Apples contest. Since then I've published six other books and one short story, mostly with Kendra E. Ardnek's Arista Challenge. While my books vary greatly in terms of style, setting, and tone, there are a few common threads in all of them: emphasis on family and friendships (not just romance), magic-filled settings, and themes of responsibility (especially in terms of having power and choosing what to do with it), redemption and healing, truth, and hope. Oh, and one last thing — food descriptions that make it very clear how much time I spent reading Redwall during some of my formative years!

Outside of writing, I have a day job as a print/media assistant at a mid-sized church near my house, which I love (though not as much as I love writing), and I'm taking online grad school classes towards a Master's in Professional Writing. I also have a slew of hobbies including, but not limited to, knitting, crochet, embroidery, baking, and photography. And, like most authors, I love to read, and I make sure to get in at least a few chapters every evening.

What first inspired you to start writing?

I've always loved words and stories, and I dabbled in writing pretty much my whole childhood. My parents (an engineer and a mathematician) say they don't know where I got the tendency, but I'm fairly certain that the fact that they kept me well-supplied with books had something to do with it. Besides that, though, my reaction to finding something I love — whether that’s a food, a craft, or a good story — has pretty much always been to try to figure out if I can recreate it myself. That said, my writing back then was mostly an on-and-off sort of thing until the summer of 2010, when I finished reading Ella Enchanted and found in the back of the book a prompt to try retelling a fairy tale myself. I decided to give it a shot by fixing everything I disliked about Snow White. The result, Rosa, was cliche in pretty much every possible way . . . but it was the first story I wrote that was long enough to have chapters, it was the first story I'd been really consistent with writing over multiple days, and it was the story that made me realize that writing was something I really loved and wanted to do a lot more. 

Your book Through A Shattered Glass was chosen for our Fellowship Of Fantasy book club in January! What is it about?

Through a Shattered Glass is a meeting of three of my favorite things: fairy tales, Lewis Carroll's Alice books, and the question of what happens after the portal closes — and what happens when it opens again. 

More specifically, Through a Shattered Glass is a remix of The Snow Queen with Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Alys left Wonderland behind after a traumatic event that killed her best friend, Kai, and left her with a shard of enchanted mirror in her eye. Now she's in college and doing her best to have a normal life . . . until the portal opens and she's called back to Wonderland. The land she finds isn't the same as the one she left, though, and it's up to her to set things right. The trouble is, the mirror shard in her eye means she just might destroy Wonderland instead. And to complicate things still more, Kai is less dead than Alys thought — though he still might be past saving.

What inspired you to write this book?

The initial inspiration came from a song, "Hey Alice" by Rachel Rose Mitchell. The song addresses an older Alice looking back on Wonderland, an Alice caught between two worlds. "Are you happy to be home?" the song asks. "Would you dare to go back?" And, in the chorus, there’s an intriguing question: "Did you do as the queen asked? Did you see through the looking glass?" I wondered about the significance of this, why the queen wanted Alice to see through the looking glass and what Alice might have seen on the other side, for a few years. Then, Kendra E. Ardnek announced that the 2022 Arista Challenge fairy tale would be the Snow Queen, a fairy tale that also famously featured a magical mirror. I realized that the two stories had enough overlap to combine well, and so Through a Shattered Glass came about.

What is the main theme of your book? What message do you want the readers to get from it?

I don't write for theme — I just write, and themes show up as I tell the story. I also believe that what readers bring with them to a book has as much to do with what they get out of that book as the actual text does. That said, I do hope that Through a Shattered Glass reminds people of two things in particular: that love conquers all and that nothing and no one is ever too broken to be healed. 

What is the most fun part about writing this book? The most difficult?

I had so much fun with this book — out of all my books, it's probably one of the ones I most enjoyed writing. My favorite part of the writing process, though, was squeezing in as many elements from Wonderland and Looking Glass as I could and coming up with my own twists on classic characters, scenes, and locations like the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter's tea party, and the garden of talking flowers. As far as the most difficult part . . . that was probably figuring out how to get the ending right. That's not because of anything inherent to Through a Shattered Glass, though; I just have trouble with endings in general.

Are you more of a planner or a discovery writer? Do you write an outline before you start or do you like to see where the ideas lead you?

I used to be strictly a discovery writer, but these days, I fall somewhere in between the two. I typically outline my stories — and those outlines have gotten more detailed in the last couple four years or so since I started writing mysteries — but I’m not afraid to diverge from my outline if I come up with something better. For Through a Shattered Glass, I stuck pretty close to my original plan; the only major changes I made were replacing one scene and cutting another. But in the last project I drafted, I changed my plans for the climax and wrap-up four or five times before I was done, and in my current WIP, I finished the outline and realized within a few days that I was going to need to add four or five new scenes and two extra subplots to the plan. (And then I didn’t put those scenes in my outline because I wasn’t exactly sure where in the timeline they fit. But they’re going to go in there!)

Who are your favorite authors? Who are you inspired by?

I have a long, long list of favorite authors, but a few of the highlights are J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Brandon Sanderson, W.R. Gingell, Diana Wynn Jones, Margaret Rogerson, and Wyn Estelle Owens. I take inspiration wherever I can find it (and that includes many, many sources), but Through a Shattered Glass draws a great deal of stylistic and thematic inspiration from Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood. (That’s true of most of my writing, actually, but it’s especially the case for this particular book.)

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

The best way to learn a thing is to do it, and that’s especially true of writing. Reading craft books or blogs or watching videos about how to tell a story is good, but the only way to really grow is to start writing and figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. Keep in mind, too, that your process will change over time. Don’t be afraid to switch things up based on your season of life! Maybe, like me, you start as a discovery writer, but you start planning more and more over time — or maybe you usually plan your books, but you find you need to lighten up on the prep and just see where the story goes. Either way, it’s ok. Finally, find friends you can trust to read your stories and tell you what’s working and what needs to be better. Even if you’re nowhere near ready to publish anything, good beta readers are worth their weight in gold, and I know I wouldn’t be half as good a writer if not for mine.

What is your next book coming out? What is it about?

I’m currently in the progress of writing my next book, aiming for a fall release (if all goes to plan). It’s a prequel to Song of the Selkies (my most recent release) and a retelling of The Goose Girl crossed with Puss in Boots. The story focuses on Princess Onora, the older sister of Song of the Selkies’s heroine, and how she reclaims her rightful place from an imposter, aided by a grumpy miller’s apprentice and her beloved pet cat — both of whom might just be hiding secrets of their own. It’s a fun story, and I’m excited to share it with y’all. If you’re curious, keep an eye on my blogs and social media for updates!

Find her online at: Author Site || Wordpress Blog || Blogspot Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Instagram || Twitter || Amazon 

Article By Amelia Nichole

Featured Author Interview: Sarah Pennington

I write science fiction and fantasy with a mad dash of mythology and history thrown in for good measure. I'm a professional copywriter, a homeschool graduate, and published short story author. When I'm not writing or reading something, you can find me painting birds or gardening.