Author Interview: Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Sarah was written by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer.)

Passing through the palace of Elddon, Kelly had never been to this part of the palace before. Yes, this was her world, her imagination, and she knew this story and all the characters well, but never had this specific location appeared in the stories. That bewildered her. How could she have missed it? Now though, she approached the library of Sophia, Queen of Elddon, and Kelly had no idea what it would look like.

Kelly took many winding stairwells and twisting corridors, and a few times she caught a glimpse of the ocean waves crashing against the shore of the port far below, but she kept walking but slowed her steps as she approached the massive wooden doors with engravings of beautiful images in the wood. As Kelly drew near to the door, she lifted her hand and traced the carvings, but she couldn’t linger long. A guest was coming, so Kelly took a deep breath, seized the handles of the doors and pushed them open.

The doors creaked on their hinges as the opened, and Kelly stepped in and furrowed her brows as she looked around. She had expected a high arched ceiling with multiple levels of shelves containing hundreds of thousands of books with huge windows pouring sunlight into the room. However, she stepped into a dome-shaped room, but it was darker than she imagined, and she couldn’t see the ceiling. By the sound of her steps on the stone floor, she heard an echo and knew the ceiling was high but not as majestic as she had imagined. As her eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, Kelly saw row after row after row of massive book shelved filled with books all around the room. She looked up and saw only one other floor above this one, and it too was lined with bookcases.

She realized the light was coming from only one side of the room—the side facing the ocean, the only side not built directly out of the mountain. A few torches lined the wall, but many of them were unlit as not to risk any fire burning these books.

When Kelly came to the center where sunlight spilled from the windows, she found it open with a few tables to work at, and she noted several scrolls and books already on the table with parchments and unfinished writings.

Kelly touched the paper with the writings on it. None of this was what she expected, but she wasn’t surprised. Although Sophia was queen of one of the greatest kingdom on this world, she was always practical—evidence of her roots as a peasant girl.

Another set of footsteps sounded in the chamber, and Kelly already recognized her steps. “I’m over here, Sarah! In the middle of the room.”

Sarah heard the familiar voice of her friend, thrilled by both it and the captivating scent of the hundreds of books surrounding her. It almost made her giddy. She couldn’t help but lightly run her fingers along the spines as she strolled toward what must be the center of this magnificent room. No, it was not magnificent in terms of grand luxury, an overabundance of beauty, a sense a great royalty. Its appeal lay in the wisdom gained through the knowledge contained in the pages of each book she brushed.

But she pulled her hand to herself with a sigh. This place was special, the contents almost sacred. Sarah turned her full attention to navigating the maze of shelves to find the lovely sunlit tables in the center of the room. Kelly stood near them and Sarah knew she was intrigued by the mystery of this place as well. “Good morning, Kelly. Are you sure it’s okay to meet here?”

Kelly lifted her brows, surprised by the question, but then she smiled. “Oh yeah—totally fine. Sophia already knows we’re here, and she’s busy in a council meeting, but if she gets the chance, she might try to stop by and say ‘hi’.” She then glanced around once more. “Can’t believe I never wrote about this place.” Then she shook her head. “We’re going to get off topic before we even begin!” Chuckling, she motioned to the table and chairs. “Want to sit or meander?”

Sarah laughed too. “Not a surprise. And I’m for either one. I’d like to see the rest of the room, though.”

“Let’s explore then.” Kelly gestured for Sarah to follow. “I will admit, it’s a bit odd interviewing someone I’ve known basically all my life, but I wonder what I’m going to learn about you today.” She gave Sarah an evil grin before launching with her first question as they walked between two shelves, and Kelly grazed her fingertips along the spines of ancient books. “So, for the sake of the audience, what exactly is it that you do in real life?”

Sarah smiled and angled her face toward the ceiling, stretching her neck muscles. “Ah, nothing too exciting. I’m a writer. I spend a lot of time with Native Americans. I spend more time with people who don’t exist. Not you, of course. Or maybe not?” Sarah grinned and stopped to cock her head sideways while examining the spines of one shelf. No wonder her neck always ached.

“Oh, you thought I was real all this time? I didn’t tell you?” Kelly raised her brows in a joking manner but then laughed though a thought same to her. “It’s like I’ve been your imaginary friend since childhood, and you never quite realized it.” She paused then tilted her head in thought. “That would be an interesting story.” But then she shook her head. Ideas came to her too easily, and she wanted to focus on Sarah. “So, when did you start writing? And when did you begin to get really serious about it?”

Sarah wagged a finger at Kelly. “Okay, but I want to come back to that about imaginary friends! We need to talk about that.” The actual interview question would be easy to answer, though. Sarah had had a similar question not long ago. Still, she wanted to keep it short and move on to more dangerous questions. She could count on Kelly for that! “I wrote my first story when I was five, but I didn’t get serious about writing as a career until I was 23.”

Kelly smirked at Sarah’s insistence of going back to the topic of the imaginary friend later, but she stayed on subject as she found an intriguing leather bound book on the shelf and pulled it off. She blew the dust off the cover—right into Sarah’s face—and gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry!” But the design of the cover was amazing. She ran her hand over the design for a moment before putting it back. “So, when you were 23 what made you become serious of writing?”

Sarah exaggerated her cough over the dust, moving closer to Kelly to see what had been revealed now that the dust was on her and not the book. She sighed in contentment. Why couldn’t books themselves be a work of art today? Now, some books weren’t even in print form much less contained in such an elegant package. Such were the times, which also afforded great opportunities. “Well, I had a bit of a meltdown. Well, quite a bit. It was as if everything in my life was strewn across a whiteboard. Everything I wanted to do, what I thought I was supposed to do, what I thought everybody wanted me to do. I couldn’t do anything for days. I prayed and knew it was time to surrender all. Not in the sweet sense we sing about in songs, about surrendering all to God without truly doing so. I knew it had to be real in my life.” Sarah took a deep breath. She’d told this story many times, but it was fresh each time. But there was something cool about truth. It always gave her a sense of peace.

“I took an eraser to that whiteboard and, one by one, wiped off each thing in my life. I surrendered those things to Him with the full commitment to take nothing back He didn’t give me. When I came to writing I halted. I was serious about this. What if He didn’t give it back? But I erased it as the final thing, and handed the marker over to God.” Sarah laughed a little. This was the part when some fellow Christians thought everything would fall perfectly into place. Not so. “Nothing happened. For about seven months. Except I experienced more peace and harmony than ever before in my life.” Sarah nodded her head instinctively. “Late that summer, God put writing back on the board. I’ve been doing it every since.”

Kelly paused when she heard this. She knew Sarah personally, knew her experiences, and often worked closely with her and knew what she was going through. One thing struck her as strange. “Interesting that, of all the times—for you—that God gave you direction for your life, happened to be in the summer time.” She glimpsed across to her friend. “Because, I know you don’t have the best of summers, and it’s almost like God gave you the gift of writing at that time, so you will always have a peace through all those hardships.” She pondered this for a moment but then shook her head, not sure if any of that made sense.

With a sigh, Kelly put the book away and came to the end of that row of shelves. Spread out before them on shelves against the wall were unusual objects—gifts to the queen from grateful commoners to wealthy lords. Lots to explore there. Kelly headed that way and gestured for Sarah to follow. Who knew what they would find? But still, Kelly stayed on the conversation. “So, what genres do you tend to write?”

Sarah smiled a little at the comment about summer. Indeed, even that summer had been a difficult one with family circumstances. In fact, it was under such circumstances that the doors opened. How glorious! The peace was always there though. And every summer since, Sarah had had the gift from God of writing to see her through.

Trying not to be too distracted by the “story props” now before her, Sarah said, “Mainly historical fiction with a focus on my Choctaw heritage. Although…” She leaned closer to Kelly and whispered, “Between me, you and the millions of people reading this…I write a little sci-fi on the side.”

Kelly laughed. So much for that being a secret now. “And you write medieval fantasy stories with me.” Kelly nudged Sarah a little. “Where do you think all this came from?” She motioned to their surroundings. Elddon and Sophia indeed came into existence due to a story Sarah and Kelly had co-written, which then turned into a series just because co-writing was so much to do.

“But anyway, writing Choctaw stories is very unique, and I know that’s your heritage, and you’re very involved in it, but was there a specific story or moment when you realized that that was what you wanted to focus on?” She furrowed her brows as she cast Sarah a look. “Or how did you come about to write those stories?” While waiting for Sarah to answer, Kelly went to the shelves to look the objects over.

Sarah bumped back into Kelly with a laugh. “Whatever. I didn’t mention the medieval ones we wrote because I didn’t want to make us sound too crazy, doing an interview in a fictional world we created in our story. I do hope Sophia stops in though! And maybe Conrad…” Sarah shook her head. “Back on topic, or are we supposed to have one? Okay, really, it was the commemorative trail of tears walk that solidified my desire to write about my Choctaw heritage. My first story, “Contrast,” was a big success in a sense for a flash fiction. It really resonated with people how I contrasted my own moving experience on the walk with that of my ancestors. I knew this kind of writing had a lot of purpose behind it, and it’s also a great niche in terms of marketing. I’ve just had to make sure my motivations stayed true to my faith, myself, and my tribe. That’s been an internal struggle at times, though looking back, I think it was something I didn’t have to be concerned about. Staying true is an inherit part of my being, I think.”

“I think that’s wonderful, and you do a lot of hard work with all your research and such. I quite admire you for it!” Kelly nodded. She wrote historical fiction too, but Sarah had a more strict audience of people who would critique the accuracy of her work. To be honest, that would make Kelly nervous, but if a story called, it couldn’t be denied. “Now though, our time is about out, but we still have time for a few more questions. So what are your plans for your writing? I mean, how far would you like to see your stories go? If that makes any sense?”  While waiting for an answer, Kelly motioned for Sarah to follow her back between the bookcases and to the center of the library.

Sarah cast one last longing glance at the gifts to the queen, wishing she had hours to explore them, yet scared of what stories might jump out at her from them. The reason it scared was exactly her answer to Kelly. “I have so many story and book potentials it’s overwhelming.” Sarah followed Kelly back to the center of the room, trying to keep her eyes off the bookshelves that tempted her to spend her life with them. “I’d love to see these stories go around the world, eventually. And they have a little. Honestly, there is as much or more interest in Native American culture in other countries than in the U.S.. I also want to explore the homeschool market as a speaker and instructor. So many opportunities, so little time.”

“Well, in this day and age with technology, you never know what’d happen.” They came out from between the shelves and were surprised to see Queen Sophia standing there looking over a few documents on the table. At the sound of their approach, the young queen lifted her gaze to them and smiled, and Kelly easily returned the smile. “Your Majesty, I assume you heard Sarah’s desire to meet Conrad and yourself.”

Sophia smiled warmly as she fixed her attention on the two co-authors. “Of course, and welcome! I trust this place was suitable for your meeting?”

Kelly nodded. It was perfect, but she shot Sarah a look to let her answer.

Sarah gulped, willing away any tears. They had made Sophia’s life a tragic one, with a tragic ending, but such was life at times. Still, it was hard to look at the queen when she nodded and said, “It’s perfect, your majesty.”

Sophia bowed her head at Sarah’s words but then raised her head once more still smiling. “Good. I’m glad. I know you haven’t much time here, but I wanted to see you—face-to-face. As for Conrad…I thought it best he not accompany me….”

Kelly nodded. That was probably a good idea after all Sarah and Kelly had put the two of them through. “Well, Sophia, we would really love to stay, but unfortunately both of us need to return to our world. Thank you for stopping by and for letting us use this place for our interview. It’s absolutely enchanting.”

“You are welcome back any time.” Sophia smiled then began to focus on what was on the table before her.

Kelly grabbed Sarah’s arm. “Come on,” she whispered. “Otherwise we’ll end up being a part of their tragic story…” Once out of the library, Kelly released her friend and shrugged. “Sorry for having to end our interview so abruptly, but I do believe you have company coming in real life soon. Thanks for coming! And I’m sure to hear from you later today. It was great chatting.” And with that, the two of them vanished from Elddon back to their real world lives, and Kelly checked her phone to send Sarah a message.


Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer’s book Choctaw history, ‘The Executions: Book One (Choctaw Tribune)’ can be purchased here:

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