Sunday Spotlight: Sandra Saidak, author of Daughter of the Goddess Lands

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sunday Spotlight is a weekly scheme I am running to bring publicity to lesser known authors who, in the book blogging community, it is important to support.

I am NO LONGER accepting submissions for my spotlight scheme.

Today I am hosting Sandra Saidak, author of Daughter of the Goddess Lands.

About Sandra
Sandra Saidak is a high school English teacher by day, author by night.  Her hobbies include reading, dancing, attending science fiction conventions, researching prehistory, and maintaining an active fantasy life (but she warns that this last one could lead to dangerous habits such as writing).  Sandra lives in San Jose with her husband Tom, daughters Heather and Melissa, and two cats.  
Writers she counts as her greatest influences include Jean Auel, Spider Robinson, Zena Henderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ursula Le Guin.

Sandra’s prehistoric fiction series, Kalie’s Journey began with the novel, Daughter of the Goddess Lands, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age, and published in November 2011 by Uffington Horse Press.  Book 2 of the series, Shadow of the Horsemen, was released in July of 2012.  A story set in the Kalie universe can be found in Sandra’s short story collection, In the Balance.
Sandra loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to post a comment on her Author’s Page, or her website.


Hi Sandra! Thank you for joining us at Confessions of a Bookaholic.
I know you write prehistoric and alternate history fiction but many of my readers won’t be familiar with those genres, will you explain what they entail?
Prehistoric fiction is generally viewed as anything which takes place before the birth of writing, anywhere in the world.  When set in Asia or the Middle East, it often bumps into Biblical fiction or new takes on the Classics, like the Trojan War. Generally, prehistoric fiction relies on archeology and a really good imagination, since very little information from those times can be proven—or agreed upon.  Alternate History is taking any real event in history and asking: “What if things had gone the other way?”  What if the South had won the Civil War?  What if Nazi Germany had won WWII?  What if the Black Plague had wiped out 90% of Europe in the fourteenth century instead of 30%?  What if Islamic Africa became the dominant power and colonized the America with slaves brought from Europe?  And yes, there are novels about each of the scenarios I just mentioned.

How easy is it to maintain a balance between fact and fiction in your work?   
I’ve studied archeology since I was twelve, so I’ve got a pretty good library now.  I find the balance easy to maintain because the research only gives me ideas, pictures of artifacts, and information on what the climate was at a certain time and place.  The characters I create tell me the story I’m going to write, and that’s when the real work begins.

Tell us about your Kalie’s Journey series!  
The problem with this question is that I could talk about this series all day, and I’m sure your readers will eventually have to move on to other things.   Kalie’s Journey is about the culture-clash that occurred when peaceful, Goddess-worshiping farmers first encountered violent, nomadic horsemen in what is now Eastern Europe and Russia.  It takes place about six thousand years ago, and there is a lively debate in professional circles about how much of what I show in my books actually occurred. What no one disputes, however, is that the abuse of women that I describe in my fiction is very much a fact of life in many parts of the world today.  I was inspired to write these books after reading the work of Mary Mackey, Joan Wolf, Judith Tarr and Joan Dahr Lambert.  I loved their books, but none of them had exactly the heroine I wanted to read about, or the confrontation I wanted to see between characters who hold such strongly opposing views.  So I wrote my own book, which grew into a series.  My favorite part was starting out with a character who had survived abuse and trauma, and traveling with her as she grew from an angry victim to a powerful hero.

I read that you are an English teacher; do you believe that daily interaction with young writers influences your own writing in any way?
Unfortunately, most of my students are not big fans of either reading or writing. It’s more a case of the students themselves inspiring my writing.  I teach high school and teenager’s lives are so full of drama—whether they want it that way or not.  Sometimes, when my students misbehave, I threaten to put them in my next novel.  This actually helps, because they always want to know what characters they would become.  I like to think that being a published author gives me more credibility than I had before.  I tell them, “I know what I’m talking about because I don’t just read books, I write them.”  For those students who do enjoy reading, I think that helps.  The ones who don’t like reading don’t seem very impressed to have a published author as a teacher, except when they ask me how much money I've made.

What authors have influenced your writing the most?
There are so many, and the answer constantly changes, depending on what I’m writing (or thinking about, or living through) at any given moment.  Jean Auel, of course, since she remade the genre of prehistoric fiction, and made it so popular that there’s now room for writers like me.  The rest are all in the science fiction/fantasy realm: Spider Robinson, Robert Heinlein, Zena Henderson, Orson Scott Card and Marion Zimmer Bradley.  There are many more, but that should give your readers an idea about me.

Tell us about the most interesting character you have created.
I think my most interesting is Adolf Goebbels, the main character of my upcoming book, From the Ashes.  Adolf is my only male protagonist to date, but—much to my surprise—he was the easiest to write.  A privileged son of the ruling class in a world where Nazi Germany won WWII, Adolf is probably the nicest, humblest and most empathic character I’ve created.  Although Ilsa, originally created as Adolf’s love interest, tried to hijack the novel, I managed to satisfy her by putting her in charge of the military side of the revolution.  A terrible soldier (because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone), but a brilliant leader and visionary, Adolf showed me strengths I didn’t know I had as writer—and a person.

How important do you believe it is for writers to read widely?  
I don’t know many writers who don’t love to read.  I certainly do.  I can’t speak to “widely” since that means something different for each person.  I enjoy fiction over non-fiction, but within that genre, I read science fiction, fantasy, historical from almost any period, and all kinds of mainstream fiction.  I sometimes read books in the genre I’m writing as a form of research, but if a book doesn't hold my interest, I don’t finish it.  

What should we look out for from you in the future?  
This summer, I will be making my debut in alternate history with From the Ashes, a novel set in a future where Nazi Germany won WWII. The inspiration came from a documentary I saw long ago, when a historian explained that one of the plans of SS Chief Heinrich Himmler was to create a series of museums showcasing vanished races (this would be after he and his government finished exterminating them).  But the result was that, even while the war raged, many Jewish books and artifacts were preserved for this purpose.  (I don’t know anything about other groups, such as Gypsies, although I would love to find out.)  It came to me one day, more than twenty years ago, that a world under Nazi rule would be a pretty terrible place to grow up, even for the children of the ruling class.  What would happen, I wondered, if an angst-ridden adolescent, dreaming of a better world, or looking for meaning in his life, wandered into one of these museums—and started reading?  Before I knew it, I had young Adolf Goebbels (grandson of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) leading a group of college outcasts, ready to overthrow the government—with Judaism as their guide.

I read that you have cats called Cocu and Oreo, they sound adorable. I’m sure my readers want to hear more about!    
Cocu, the older cat, is a Japanese bobtail.  I’d never even heard of that breed until my husband met one and fell in love with him.  Cocu is nearly pure white and, of course, has that stubby little bobtail that makes me laugh when he wags it.  My husband is more of a dog person, and insists this cat is really a dog wearing a cat suit.  I think the word cocu is a form of ancient Japanese currency or measure of rice; I never did get it figured out.  Oreo, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is black and white.  He’s a rescue cat we adopted.  I wanted to name him Tuxedo, but was outvoted by the rest of the family.  A scrawny kitten when we brought him home, Oreo now outweighs Cocu by several pounds, but Cocu is still the dominate one—for both the felines and humans in the house

 Finally, is there anything else you wish the readers of Confessions of a Bookaholic to know?  
I really love to hear from my readers, and I also love book discussions.  Put those two together (discussions about the books I write) and I’ll be on cloud 9.  If anyone reading this interview decides to start reading my books, I hope you’ll post a review, comment on my blog, or start a discussion somewhere (but if you do, please tell me where, or I may not know about it!)  I also hope to see you in a discussion of favorite books we turn out to have in common.

About Daughter of the Goddess Lands
Daughter of the Goddess Lands is the unforgettable saga of Kalie, a courageous young heroine born into the untamed beauty of prehistoric Europe. Kalie's peaceful life is shattered when a brutal attack by horsemen from the east leave her scarred in body and soul. As the sole survivor of the assault, Kalie makes her way home, and warns her people to prepare for the invasion that she knows is coming. But the goddess-worshiping farmers of her home have no concept of battle, and dismiss Kalie's warning. 
When the marauders strike again, they cut a swath of destruction and death that prove too late the truth of Kalie’s words. Then Haraak, the leader of the invaders, demands a tribute of gold, grain and slaves in exchange for sparing her village. It is in Harak's cruel show of power that Kalie sees a chance to save her people--and gain revenge for herself. 
She leads a group of volunteers to infiltrate the horseman's society, and then destroy them from within. Once she is among them, Kalie uses her skill as a storyteller, and her knowledge of healing to penetrate the horsemen’s inner circle and to discover the secrets that could lead to their destruction. But Kalie discovers that price of revenge is high, and that a quest for vengeance can become a journey of healing and redemption.

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