Geeking Out While Writing ‘Seraphina’s Lament’: A Guest Post From Sarah Chorn

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Image: Melanie Meadors, Sarah Chorn, used with permission

Dark fantasy author and blogger Sarah Chorn has penned a brutal and beautiful novel, Seraphina’s Lament, which bestselling author Mark Lawrence calls, “A passionate and vivid tale.” Written with an evocative and lyrical style, it’s a book that has been getting a lot of attention from early readers. Here, Sarah tells us what inspired her while writing her debut novel, available on February 19th. 

Russia

The events that take place in Seraphina’s Lament are heavily influenced by the tragedy of the Holodomor, an event I knew almost nothing about a year ago. However, in order to peg a lot of the details, I had to learn all I could about it, and about Russian history. Of course, this spiraled, and now I’ve got a few books totaling about 6,000 pages on Stalin sitting on my bookshelf, I’ve read a ton of books on the Romanov dynasty, another truckload of books on Stalinism, communism in general, Lenin and the like. Then I went really far down the spiral and read a few books about the history of Russia about 1,000 years ago, the Kiev-Rus, the Latvian empire, and just so many other things. I mean, I literally think I’ve read just about every book on Russian and eastern European history my library system has. I may have overdone it for Seraphina’s Lament, but my interest was certainly triggered. 

Image: Sarah Chorn, used with permission

Poetry

I made a pretty conscious decision with the style in which I used to write this book. Seraphina’s Lament is very dark, and pretty heavy. I wanted to pair all those dark themes up with some lyrical, poetic writing as a balance. The idea of matching up darkness with beautiful writing enchanted me. However, to do this, I had to immerse myself in poetic and lyrical writing. I had to study it. I had to see how it worked and how I could make it my own. I really fell down the rabbit hole, when I discovered that poetry is actually not boring (as I had once thought). I really find it fascinating to see how poets address some really heavy topics in unique, memorable, almost haunting ways and I learned a lot about writing from them. 

Two Steps from Hell

I can’t write unless I’m listening to music, but I can’t listen to music that has words or I will become completely sidetracked and listen to the words rather than paying attention to what I’m writing. Also, the music has to fit what I’m writing. When I edit, for example, I have to listen to piano music. It’s calming, but moves enough to keep me awake and engaged in what I’m doing. I can’t write about the things in Seraphina’s Lament to calming music, so I had to find something else. Enter Two Steps from Hell, two composers who write some incredibly epic, cinematic music that basically functioned as the backdrop to my entire book. It’s dramatic, and gave me the sprawling scenes and mental vistas I needed to pull myself through this story, and to tell it the way it needed to be told. I think I have their entire catalogue now, and I know exactly what song goes with what scene in my book. 

Notes On My Phone

I can’t outline worth a damn, but I did learn that the “notes” app on my phone was essential to scribbling down those random lines that would pop into my head through the day. A lot of my book was written and thrown into the “notes” app, before it was moved over into Scrivener and shifted around so it made sense somehow. It was incredibly helpful to have a space to just throw down a line or two of whatever, whenever it hit me. I think I’d be pretty lost without that app now. 

There are a lot of other things I geeked out about while writing Seraphina’s Lament, but I think I’ll leave it here, and let you read the book and see if you can figure out what any of the other things are on your own. 

Photo: Sarah Chorn, used with permission

About Sarah Chorn:

Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

About Seraphina’s Lament:

The world is dying. 

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake. 

First, you must break before you can become.

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