Today at Jilligan’s Island, I’m thrilled to have Sarah Delena White joining me. Sarah has recently released her fantastic debut novel, Haylada. More information on the book is below, along with its beautiful cover! But first, she shares what she discovered while working on the novel.
Halayda was a first for me in more ways than one. It’s not just my first published novel; it’s the first novel I successfully finished. Don’t get me wrong—I wrote quite a bit before that. I started ten other manuscripts in the space of twelve years, but ended up abandoning them for one reason or another. When I started Halayda, I wanted to see it through to the end. I read up on writing strategies and tried out a lot of different advice. Here are a few of the things I learning during the process.
It’s okay to prioritize writing.
For my entire adult life, I had pushed writing aside, labeling it a fun hobby at best and an utter waste of time as worst. I felt guilty whenever I prioritized writing, always wondering if I could put the time to better use. It took me a long time to realize how hypocritical this was. Stories have tremendous power—it’s not an exaggeration to say that some of them have redefined how I see the world. It’s easy to value other people’s stories—or any kind of art—more than we value our own, but this isn’t doing anyone a favor. I decided to set aside chunks of time and make sure I made progress each day, no matter how impractical it seemed.
Find what works for you, even if it’s weird.
Each writer is wired differently. It’s easy to fall down the black hole of writing advice and end up doing things that worked for someone else but don’t benefit you. For example, I tried to be a “plotter,” writing thorough outlines and planning every detail in advance. This works great for many people, but for me, it killed the story every time. Despite being a natural planner, I decided to approach Halayda differently. I made sure I had a story structure and kept the characterization consistent, and then let everything else unfold in the moment. Each scene held new surprises, which meant I never got bored with the story. Then I broke one of the cardinal rules of first drafts by showing each scene to a critique partner as soon as I wrote it. Getting someone else’s reactions early on was helpful in making sure I was on the good track with the story. In other words, there’s no right or wrong system for writing a book!
You’ll never have the process completely under control, and that’s okay.
This was the hardest part of writing Halayda! I wrote a clean first draft and anticipated a straightforward editing process. My characters had other ideas. I ended up working a major character into the story after the first draft was complete, making some big changes to the world-building, and shifting my main characters’ arcs in order to set up the rest of the trilogy more effectively. It was a long process, and incredibly frustrating at times, but In the end it made for a much stronger book. I had to let go of a lot of preconceived ideas and let the book be what it wanted to be, even when it meant putting in a lot of extra time and effort. Like anything in life, there’s nothing predictable about writing. It’s a journey that will test you at every turn, but it’s ultimately worth it.
Thanks so much, Sarah, for sharing with us what you learned during the writing process. For those of you wondering what Halayda is about, read on!
A mortal alchemist. A faerie king. A bond that transcends death.
Betrayed by a trusted mentor, Sylvie Imanthiya hides on the fringes of society, caring for half-fae orphans and trading her alchemical creations on the black market. She lives for the one night each season when she can see her dearest friend—a man whose destiny is far above hers.
King Taylan Ashkalabek knows better than to exchange halayda vows with a mortal. Even their friendship is a risk; love is an impossible dream. Then a brutal alchemical attack poisons his realm, unearthing a dark power within him—and leaving Sylvie with the ancient mark of Faerie’s savior.
Manifesting unpredictable abilities and aided by allies with their own secrets, Sylvie and Taylan journey into the wilds of Faerie to heal the damage and confront Casimir, an invincible star-fae determined to claim the realm as his own. But only their enemy knows Sylvie’s true capabilities—and Taylan’s weaknesses—and how to use them in his vicious schemes.
Her fate is life. His fate is death. With Faerie in the balance, Sylvie and Taylan must stand together before reality as they know it is destroyed.
Sarah Delena White was raised by wolves in an alternate dimension. She writes eclectic speculative fiction that reworks mythology with a fine balance of poetry and snark. She’s an experienced world traveler who loves to weave world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds. She is also the Benevolent Firebird (acquisitions editor) for Uncommon Universes Press. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found making jewelry, singing Irish ballads, drinking tea, and working a variety of odd jobs. She can be bribed with dark chocolate.
You can find Sarah here: