S. Cushaway is an author who likes to stretch the boundaries of genre fiction. She came to my attention through the Brain To Books Blog Tour request service, and initially described “Salt In The Water” as a sci-fi/western/adventure book. Now this intrigued me enough to inquire further, because I remembered how Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series was considered cross-genre by many.
When I asked Sarah to describe the book further, she said:
Salt in the Water crosses a few genres (it has elements of light cyberpunk, weird west, adventure, and – while I hesitate to call it post-apocalyptic, perhaps post-post apocalyptic might be a better term). Primarily, however, it is a science-fiction fantasy with a heavy western theme. I’ve had a few beta readers and ARC readers compare it to Deadwood with a sci-fi/fantasy backdrop, or more recently – the HBO remake of Westworld. It’s a very gritty, dark story – not for YA audiences. However, I’ve also gotten consistent feedback from readers across multiple genres that the story, while a sci-fi western, was not intimidating or difficult to delve into – I tried to make it accessible to readers of any sci-fi or fantasy genre (a bit how like the Dark Tower draws fans from across the board – the story isn’t similar, but “ease of use to reader” could be compared to that).
Introducing S. Cushaway
Sarah Cushaway lives in the snowy wastes of northwest lower Michigan with her husband (co-author Jeremy Ray) and their young daughter. She has a passion for historical fiction, but enjoy reading and writing many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and speculative fiction. Sarah began writing at a very early age, inspired by such books as the Little House series, Watership Down, the Hobbit, and Animal Farm.
When not busy working on writing the next books in the “A Lesser Dark” series, she enjoys spending time with her family and two grumpy cats, dabbling in art and music, and trying to hide from the snow eight months out of the year.
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
I’d like to begin by thanking Timothy Bateson for the opportunity at an author spotlight- getting the word out as an indie-author is always an uphill battle, so spotlights like these are invaluable! As for a bit about – myself I’m a straight-up nerd. I was always penning little stories or narrating stories in my head as a kid, and later got into online play-by-post roleplaying and story-telling through MMORPGs.
Music plays a big role in my creative process – I wrote Salt in the Water, my debut novel, on a steady diet of obscure Gothic Americana/Dark Folk music and coffee. I think coffee makes up at least 50% of any author’s food pyramid.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Salt in the Water – A Lesser Dark: Book I– is our (my co-author and myself) debut novel, and a mish-mash of several different genres. When the initial idea for the main character, Kaitar Besh, came to me years ago – the setting was definitely high fantasy. However, as I sat down to do the outlining (yes, I’m an outliner) and initial drafts, I found the idea of a strange genre mashup incorporating science fiction, fantasy, and – of all things- a western, to really fit the tone we wanted for the book. It’s a story that takes place far from the bastion of civilized society, where technology means the difference between life and death, and where mysterious dangers lurk through a red, arid desert called the Shy’war-Anquai. The book is multi-POV, but centers around a veteran scout named Kaitar Besh, who is battling the demons of his past as well as all the threat surrounding him and his companions as they brave the wastelands on a rescue mission.
Who is your intended readership?
Anyone who enjoys a good story – particularly fans of dark fantasy, weird westerns, science fiction, and “grimdark”. While my story is (of course) vastly different than, say, The Dark Tower, Westworld, even Firefly, we’ve worked very diligently to ensure it’s as accessible to all readers as those books/shows.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think it’s always been with me. As a kid, I’d be narrating my day in my head as if I were telling a story or writing it for someone. I was (and, time allowing) a voracious reader. I tackled some pretty hefty books at a young age, and while I didn’t always understand the subtext of some of those stories then, it definitely made me -want- to write great stories that would make a person feel and think differently about the world.
Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?
There are so many “favorites”, it’s hard for me to choose just one. However, I think the book that really struck me as a kid was Watership Down (and yes, the crazy cartoon-movie that terrified pretty much everyone, too). Recently, I’d have to say The Stars Look Down, by A.J. Cronin. I know those are some oddball favorites for an author writing a sci-fi/fantasy western, but any great book teaches me something, and helps me be a better writer, no matter the genre.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
Read, first and foremost. Stray outside your comfort zone and read all kinds of books, because the art of great storytelling isn’t limited by a specific theme.
Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?
Nothing too hilarious or specific, but two supporting non-POVs, Eli Vorensi and Kira Bolgarv, got their start some years ago as characters my co-author/husband and I casually roleplayed in World of Warcraft. Yes, we are really that geeky.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?
I do like to scribble (some of those sketches can be seen on my Facebook author page), and I also dabble in music. Admittedly, I don’t have much time to do either these days, so my drawing tablet and bass guitar are sitting in a corner, collecting dust.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
The next project is getting the sequel book, Ghosts in the Glass, to an editor. The manuscript is finished and needs one final pass before it’s ready for a professional nitpick.
As for book secrets – I won’t give spoilers, but I will say that colors and certain objects/symbols are a large part of foreshadowing. Motifs are fun.
A Lesser Dark:
#1 : Salt In The Water
There are a thousand ways to die in the desert—desperate outlaws, deadly predators, murderous elements, and betrayal. . .
Kaitar Besh, a veteran scout as legendary for his cynicism as his skills, is ordered to brave the deadly Shy’war-Anquai desert one last time. Escorting Leigh Enderi—a greenhorn Enforcer with a reputation as shady as his own—he soon realizes the ghosts of his past have come to haunt more than his nightmares.
When the mission breaks down in the wake of bitter hatred and mistrust, even Kaitar’s fabled skills may not be enough to bring them home again. Stranded in the red wasteland without contact, food, or water, they uncover a betrayal that could bring all they hold dear crumbling to the dust. . . and tear down the wall of lies surrounding them.