Interview de Sarah Ash (V.O.)
de Sarah Ash
aux éditions ActuSF
Genre : Anticipation

Auteurs : Sarah Ash
Date de parution : décembre 2008 Réédition
Langue d'origine : Français
Type d'ouvrage :
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ActuSF : How did you start writing ? And why did you choose Fantasy ?
Sarah Ash : When I was eight I discovered Tintin and I was so captivated that I tried to write and draw my own BD ! However as my drawing was not so very good, I soon abandoned the pictures and concentrated on the stories instead. My first novel (completed when I was thirteen) was influenced by Alan Garner’s ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’. It wasn’t published (but every writer has to start somewhere !) As to why I chose Fantasy, well I was the kind of child who liked to read old books of myths and legends. I’m still fascinated by the way these ancient tales can still tell us some eternal truths about what it is to be human. But at that age, I’d just have said, “What a brilliant story !”

ActuSF :
What were the authors who made you want to read and write Fantasy ?
Sarah Ash : E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, Alan Garner, and J.R.R. Tolkien were the authors I loved when I was a child. I loved the way Tolkien and Garner mingle landscape and legend ; I grew up in the city of Bath and the passages where Tolkien describes the ancient barrow tombs of the early warrior kings always made me think of the Wiltshire downs (and Stonehenge) close by. But it was Ursula Le Guin with ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ who probably influenced my writing the most ; I really admired the way she writes with such a spare – yet evocative, effective – style. 

ActuSF :
Tell us about The Tears of Artamon (Les Larmes d’Artamon in French) ? How did this idea take shape ?
Sarah Ash : ‘Artamon’ came partly from my love of Eastern European music and legends, and partly from my wish to explore a situation in which in a continent undergoing a period of scientific ‘enlightenment’ (very similar to our own eighteenth century northern Europe) comes face-to-face with raw and elemental magic which it can neither explain nor contain. From this idea grew the two opposing leaders : Eugene of Tielen, the rational, ambitious soldier-prince and Gavril Nagarian, the unwilling ruler of Azhkendir, the remote land of ‘snow and shadows’.

ActuSF :
Tell us about Gavril Andar, how do you see him ?
Sarah Ash : I see him as an ordinary young man trying to make a career as a portrait painter whose life is suddenly turned upside down when he learns that he has inherited the throne of Azhkendir and the title of Drakhaon. With the throne comes the curse – and power – of the rulers of Azhkendir, the daemon spirit known as the Drakhaoul, that uses the Drakhaon’s body as its host. The true origins of the Drakhaoul are shrouded in mystery – but it gifts its host with tremendous power : the ability to transform into a dragon. I’ve always loved vampire novels, and as I’m fascinated by the roots of legends in historical fact, I knew that the name ‘Dracula’ came from the Romanian word ‘drac’ meaning dragon, or demon. So I invented the term ‘drakhaoul’ to describe the daemon-dragon spirit that possesses Gavril and, in gifting him with its powers, presents him with an impossible dilemma. Should he use his powers to protect those he loves most dearly ? Because if he uses those powers, he will inevitably begin to change, both physically and mentally – and be forced, by the strain put on his body, to seek out innocent blood to replenish himself. 

ActuSF :
He is in a need to make choices and at the beginning of the saga, becoming king means for him killing innocent people. Was it important for you not to make a Manichean character ? AND one can not help thinking of Moorcock a little alike those multiverse heroes. Does the reference suit you ?
Sarah Ash : I must confess here that I’ve read very little Michael Moorcock, so I can’t claim any true kinship with his work. In fact, much of my favourite reading since I became a fulltime writer has been outside the fantasy genre. I think that I’ve been most influenced by Le Guin and her myth-like ‘Tales of Earthsea’ (learning something’s true name gives power, the essential co-existence of shadow and light, etc.). And I’ve never been interested in writing about Manichean absolutes : readers won’t find any evil Dark Lords battling against good White Wizards in my novels, although you will, I hope, be constantly re-evaluating your views as to who is a sympathetic character – and who is not.

ActuSF :
Why have you drafted a Prequel with ‘Tracing the Shadow’ (in French ‘La Traque de l’Ombre’) ? And not a continuation ?
Sarah Ash : ‘Tracing the Shadow’ and its sequel, ‘Flight Into Darkness,’ tell the story of two of the characters who appear in Book II of ‘Les Larmes d’Artamon’, Celestine de Maunoir and Jagu de Rustéphan. In Artamon, they are the ‘enemy’ – and I wanted to show some of the events from the ‘enemy’ point of view. The sequel (due out in January 2009 in the US) continues beyond the events that happen at the end of Book III of Artamon, so readers who want to know what happened to some of the characters will have fun – I hope - finding out ! So ‘Flight’ is, in some ways, a continuation. But I’ve yet to write my planned ‘Vingt Ans Après’ of ‘Artamon.’

ActuSF :
The journal Publishers Weekly has compared you to Robert Jordan and GRR Martin, I imagine that you pleasure the compliment. At the same time, wasn’t it too important ?
Sarah Ash : I was pleased – and very flattered – with the comparison. However, I think that readers expecting to read something similar to the work of these authors will inevitably be disappointed. My novels are written with a very different flavour and approach to the works of these eminent fantasy writers. In fact, I don’t think that my stories fit the ‘epic’ fantasy mould at all ; in operatic terms, they are more akin to Verdi (or so I like to think) than to Wagner. Operas buffs will know what I’m getting at !

ActuSF :
You are also known to be a musician, how much does the music affect your writing ?
Sarah Ash : Certain pieces of music have ‘given’ me scenes in my novels. For example, Glière’s music for ‘The Bronze Horseman’ gave me images for the early scenes in Tielen and Mirom. And Sibelius’s epic ‘Kullervo’ gave me much of the bleak atmosphere I was trying to evoke in writing about Tielen and Azhkendir in winter. But I also love to use film and anime music to put me in an energized mood for writing : ‘Ready Steady Go’ by L’Arc-en-Ciel from ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ is one particular favourite of mine !

ActuSF : Let us talk a little about the unpublished novels in French as The Lost Child, Songspinners and Moths to a Flame. What are these novels about ?
Sarah Ash : That’s really kind of you to ask about them ! ‘Moths to a Flame’ was my first published fantasy novel and it’s set in a much earlier time than ‘Artamon’, at a Byzantine-style court and tells the story of twins, a boy and a girl, servants of the moon goddess, who are captured by slave traders and taken to the great city of Perysse. ‘The Lost Child’ is set in an alternative medieval France/Spain and deals with a persecuted people, a stolen amulet with sinister powers, and features an impoverished tailor, Rahab, as its unlikely hero.
‘Songspinners’ takes place a few years after the end of ‘Flight Into Darkness’ (my latest novel). Its young heroine, Orial, has a gift for music but has been forbidden to develop it by her father, after her mother, a celebrated singer, died tragically young. A chance encounter with a couple of fugitives from Allegonde changes Orial’s life forever, drawing her into a dangerous world of religious fanaticism, political uprising – and opera ! ‘Songspinners’ is still my personal favourite from the first three and certain characters reappear in ‘La Traque de l’Ombre’ and ‘Flight into Darkness’.

ActuSF :
What are your plans ?
Sarah Ash : I don’t want to tempt fate by giving too much away at this stage ^_^ but I’m working on a new sequence of novels set over a hundred years before ‘Artamon’. Same world, but new characters, new challenges, new dangers – and yet some foreshadowing that fans of ‘Artamon’ will – I hope – find fascinating. 

Jérôme Vincent