Q. Tell us about The Shadow Wars Series?
A. The Shadow Wars is a YA fantasy/adventure series set in modern day Egypt. The first book in the series Born of Shadow begins with the the main character Kami receiving a package on her 17th birthday—a mysterious artifact and a plane ticket to visit her estranged grandparents in Egypt. When she arrives, no one is there to meet her. Alone and in an unfamiliar country, she discovers their disappearance is only part of a greater threat. Whispers of strange creatures made of a shadowy substance can be heard among the nomads of the desert. A new queen has quietly come to power, given strength by a powerful evil unleashed when she opens an ancient jar. She won’t stop until she finds the tomb of Alexander the Great, convinced that his remains hold the secret to her becoming a god. Kami must rely on a band of misfit friends she makes along the way to stop the queen and save her grandparents.
Q. How did the idea of this series come to you?
A. I have been obsessed with Greek mythology ever since I picked up “The Odyssey” as a precocious child. Later, in junior high and high school, I loved studying Egypt - the culture, artifacts, pyramids, mummies, all of it. The idea of this story all started with the jar. In myths like Pandora’s Box (which actually was a jar, not a box) and others, there is a force trapped that, if unleashed, could cause the destruction of mankind. So I took that concept, applied it to a Greek amphora and decided to bring Alexander the Great into the mix. There is a lot of mystery regarding his life, cause of death, and the location of his body. For many Egyptologists, finding Alexander the Great’s body would be like finding the Holy Grail. So I loved the idea of Kami’s grandfather being an Egyptologist with an obsession with Alexander the Great who accidentally uncovers something that should have remained buried.
Q. You first put your story, Born of Shadow, on Wattpad; what was the journey of gaining readers through that platform like?
A. Slow at first. :) Once I posted by story on the Share Your Story thread and on Facebook, I started to have several more readers. I think the biggest thing to contribute to my success at first was I invested in the community. I read and commented on several stories, which brought readers to my story. My story really took off when Wattpad featured it (featuring means you agree to leave your completed story on Wattpad for at least 6 months and in exchange, Wattpad promotes it for you heavily). I was able to get a ton of reads and followers by being featured. I also have people discover me and my story through the contributions I make with the Wattpad Class of 2014 (my writing group) and as a panelist on The Corner Booth, a weekly Youtube channel that broadcasts ways to succeed as a writer on Wattpad.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing Born of Shadow?
A. Sticking to a schedule. My life was slammed with tons of responsibilities, so I found the only way I could finally make my writing happen was to wake up at 4:30 every morning and write for a few hours before the kids left for school. I also bought a laptop so I could sneak words in during wrestling or basketball practices. Taking advantage of the “waiting” time throughout the day was surprisingly effective.
Q. Who and how did the process of the cover design come about?
A. I commissioned a talented illustrator Duy Phan http://bloodyman88.deviantart.com/ to paint my cover. I sent him a description of what I hoped for. He sent me a painted “sketch,” I requested changes and he made them. Once the painting was the way I imagined it, he completed the painting.
Q. How has your writing developed through your book?
A. I think with each book a writer improves, but in the beginning, the improvements are more dramatic. After I completed the first draft of Born of Shadow, I realized I needed to add quite a bit of description. So I did a series of “nerd” assignments where I practiced in this area, and it really did help when I went back to edit the book.
Q. Do you have any writing habits?
A. I wake up insanely early to try to get most of my writing in before the day hits. This isn’t a writing habit, per se, but while I was writing much of Born of Shadow, I had my toddler sitting on my lap playing Angry Birds on my cell phone. It was a happy, happy day when he learned to catapult his own birds instead of interrupting my writing to have me do it!
Q. How do you overcome writers block?
A. For me, writers block stems from to reasons 1. Letting the outside distractions take the priority (I suppose you could call this writers distraction more than a block) and 2. Letting my nerves get the better of me and “psyching” myself out. Waking up early and consistently writing has helped with the first. As for the second, I’ve had to learn how to work with my anxiety and talk myself into a better place. I’ve also found it helps to focus on the things I’m grateful for. When I’m in a state of gratitude, it seems to calm the anxiety and bring me peace.
Q. Does your fans have a fandom name, if so what is it, if not what do you think it could be?
A. I set up a fanbook on Wattpad and asked for fandom suggestions. I received several great options, but the clear favorite on Wattpad was Shadowborn. So we’re sticking with that for now. :)
Q. What’s the best way for readers to talk with you?
A. The best way is to visit me at SarahBensonBooks.com. I am also active on Facebook, Wattpad and Twitter under the handle @SarahBensonBooks.
Q. If you could be in your book for one day, what would you do?
A. I would love to visit several of the sites in Egypt that I’ve always wanted to see - the pyramids, the Sphinx, the library in Alexandria with Kami and the gang. One day wouldn’t be long enough though!