What a beautiful bank holiday weekend we just had here in the UK! The sun was out, the BBQs were lit, the gin and tonics were flowing. I hope you had a good one, wherever you are.
This week, I’ve been chatting to the wonderfully whimsical Sky Sommers about her current projects and upcoming releases. Read on to see what we discussed…
Hi Sky, it’s such a pleasure to speak to you! Tell us a little about yourself.
Sky is a pen name since I’ve written other kinds of fiction (law books) under my real name, I couldn’t in all honesty confuse people. I’m from Tallinn, Estonia and while I’ve lived in Finland and the UK, I moved back in 2008 to be closer to the Nordic sea. If I hadn’t I’d never have met my husband, he would never have had kid number 5 with me (yup, we have 5 kids between us with 4:1 in his corner) and I’d probably still be working crazy hours. As it happens, I’m an entrepreneur who works part-time for a large client as a legal adviser and 4 days out of 7 I can do what I want – write, study, read (lots!) and play with legos. I help others publish their books (cookbooks or fiction) and I do love my garden, but otherwise I’m boring, no hobbies or pets.
Boring?! I wholeheartedly disagree, your life sounds lovely and full. I’ve written and published a couple of business books, but luckily it was ghost writing for my employer so I haven’t had to come up with a pen name! When did you start writing and what were your first stories like?
I started writing a diary at age 12, like most people, I guess. In the noughties, I dabbled in short stories and when one of them got to page 80 and I realised, Toto, we’re not in Kansas no more, that’s when I ventured into novels. That sci-fi novel is still unpublished, by the way, but I have hopes that I can muster it this year.
That’s funny, I went the opposite way, I started out with novels and have recently gotten into short stories. What are your favourite books to read?
Fairytales, any kind. Favourite rom-com book is Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me. Fave book that always makes me think and turns tropes on their head with sarky humour is Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. That and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.
Fave tropes – happily ever after, coz what’s someone’s happy might be another’s nightmare, right?
So true! I haven’t read The Master and Margarita, but I did read Goethe’s Faust at Uni, I did European Studies and my lit class was always fascinating. I’ve always loved stories that rework and reimagine old myths and legends. That’s why so much of my writing is inspired by folklore.
Can you tell us a little about your first published book, and your most recent release?
First published book was about ancient Goddesses running amok in the present day, scrambling to get their lost powers back (Goddesses: Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble) and yes, the name is a twist on the line of the witches in the cursed play.
My most recent release is Embers: Beastly Curses, a retelling of Red Riding Hood, where Red is a 5yo boy and his parents are trying to rekindle their lost love despite the wolf-curse.
I love that nod to Shakespeare, I actually saw the Scottish play a few years ago at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and it was phenomenal. Well, until the alarm started going off on my phone and I was sitting there thinking “Who’s phone is that? So rude!” until I realised it was mine.
Embers sounds right up my alley, Red Riding Hood is one of my absolute favourite stories. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings?
Real life, coz that is stranger than fiction, trust me. Also, I wouldn’t trust me with stuff as frequently hilarious dialogues I overhear or participate in end up in my books.
So, trust you, but don’t trust you. Got it. Would you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser?
Plantser. I used to start writing from some place in the book and just build things around, a bit from the end, a bit from the beginning, a dialogue there, a snippet here. With the Cinders-Embers-Ash trilogy I learnt to plan out the storyline for characters and then iterate storylines in a more organised way, which has shortened the writing time considerably. But I still dabble with dialogue here, description there. Descriptions sometimes even at ARC stage as I’m hopeless with those.
I don’t believe a book can ever be finished, we just get it as close as we can and then send it out into the world. There are things I’d still like to change in The Fair Queen and it’s been published for almost a year! What are you working on right now?
Ash: Crooked Fates, the 3rd book in the Magic Mirrors Saga comes out on 21 June. It’s a retelling of The Wizard of Oz where most of the book is the story of 17yo Ellie on her way to Emerald City to meet Oz and the rest is Oz and Ellie’s mom patching up their relationship in parallel. All this with a healthy dose of humour and I’ve even managed to work in some fight scenes. I will be rewriting it based on beta readers’ comments in May and getting ARC copies out to readers in the middle of June.
That sounds fantastic, I’ve never read a Wizard of Oz retelling, but I adored Wicked when I went to see it on the stage. What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors?
Write! Even if it’s 5 minutes, 35 minutes or shorthand dialogue notes on your phone while you’re stuck in a queue somewhere. And keep reading, your own genre and others – my writing has gotten better over time (I hope) because I read tons and pick up pointers of what to do better.
It sounds so simple, but you’re absolutely right, the shortest writing stint is better than no writing at all. I couldn’t live without the Notes app on my phone now, it’s full of snippets, ideas, titles and character names I’ve dreamed up over the years.
Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Sky! It’s been lovely getting to know you better and finding out about your writing process. Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books?
Newsletter signup: https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/e1e0240a-3178-11eb-92dc-4330ce8a93ed
Facebook page/group: https://www.facebook.com/fairytalesgalore
Goodreads: Goodreads.com/skysommers and my personal Goodreads account: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/19939142-ilona-nurmela
Sky’s story Kiss the Frog will also be featured in Enchanted Waters: a magical collection of short stories, which comes out 16 July. Want to get your hands on an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review? Join our street team!
Happy reading folks!