Author Spotlight: J.D. Sanderson

What can you tell us about your SF, time-travel duology and the inspirations behind it?

It feels like it sprang out of nowhere. After watching Part One of The OA on Netflix, I looked at my wife and said “That. I want to do THAT in a book.” I was enthralled with how amazing it was – so fiercely original and unapologetic in its refusal to follow conventions. I wrote my first book, A Footstep Echo, over the next year. I didn’t script anything out – no character histories, no plotting. If anything sounded like something I’d heard or read before, I threw it out. 

The second book, The Clock’s Knell, came out the year after. Where the first book is broken into three parts, the second is broken into five. If you read one right after the other, it flows like one gigantic story. I wanted to create a story that didn’t rely on space battles or having to save the world from a big bad. I wanted something smaller and more personal. I don’t knock those larger scale stories – they’re a lot of fun! I just wanted to be different. Probably why one of my main characters is an older man in his 70s!

Your recent book had some publishing turbulence due to COVID-19, what were those challenges and how did the book prevail?

I was so excited to finally have a book come out with an up-and-coming publisher. Kyanite was great, and everyone I worked with there was fantastic to deal with. COVID-19 then hit the young company hard and forced them to close their doors. My short story collection, Around the Dark Dial had been out for a week or two when I heard the news. I was crushed, but luckily they were super helpful in giving me the rights back and returning the master copies of my book. I self-published it on Amazon in early January 2021.

What else can you tell us about Around the Dark Dial?

Where my first two books were inspired by the newest and wildest influences I could find, the short sci-fi and mystery stories in Around the Dark Dial were inspired by the 50s radio plays I came to love when I was a child.

A relative gave me a collection of vintage radio dramas on cassette tape when I was ten, and I just ate them up. Combined with a fascination of The Twilight Zone, I decided to try my hand at stories that left more to the imagination. A lot of them are written to engage the readers imagination. I never plan anything, therefore a lot of the endings end up surprising me too!

How did you become a writer and what tips do you have for budding writers amongst our readers on writing a novel?

I wasn’t planning to become an author at 35. I just wanted to write a cool story. I may never wind up on The New York Times’ bestseller list and that’s okay. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to be original, or at least put your own original spin on something. Give the reader a reason to pick out your book.

Our thanks go to J.D. Sanderson for talking to us. Follow him on twitter at @ascifiwriter.