For the sake of transparency, I’ll admit that the new author I’m interviewing today is one of my favorites. His YA fantasy Prophecy Rock series is action-packed and filled with characters who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading his stories. So far he has written the first book in the series, Genesis, and a novella called Shadows of Kyrus that will be released soon and I had the pleasure of beta reading. Both stories are quick, enjoyable reads that I recommend.
With the Prophecy Rock series, Sae-Low created a compelling world that feels real and robust. He is also gifted at creating powerful, believable female characters, a subject which you may already know is close to my heart. I hope you enjoy this peek into his thinking process as much as I did!
Tell us a little about the mysterious T. Sae-Low. Can we know what the “T” stands for?
Well, long story short, I’m a native of L.A. but went to college down in San Diego. After college I tried a couple different fields of work and ended up becoming a teacher. It’s Mr. Sae-Low by day and the mysterious T. Sae-Low at night! The “T” is just the first initial of my first name which is “Theppong.” The name is Thai which is where my parents are originally from before emigrating to the U.S. I’ve been told that it means “Angel of Mercy” or “Angel of God” in Thai, but my family could just be messing with me. I’m thinking it’s the latter.
What was the hardest part about writing Genesis, and how did you overcome it?
Two things immediately come to mind. The first was creating the outline. It took so much longer than I thought it would. For months and months I spent countless hours researching to create Eos and all the characters that populate it. After that, I needed to figure out where I wanted the story to go. Once I had all that done, the writing came a lot easier than I thought it would…but it was just the first draft. The second thing that I think any creative mind can attest to was the revision process. To get the manuscript just right, at least in my mind, took a while. I continued revising and tweaking things until I was finally satisfied with the story. It took a lot of time and perseverance but it was well worth it when you see the finished product.
The female characters in Genesis are very strong. Did they come from your imagination or were they inspired by people from your life?
Yeah, I wanted to have strong female leads because I feel that they’re just so much more interesting than the typical “damsel in distress” archetype. Since the novel takes place in an age of constant warfare, I knew there would be a good number of battles (both large and small) in the novel. I didn’t want my female characters to be watching from the sidelines but actually in the thick of the action and even dictating what was happening.
I find my inspiration from a variety of sources, but I do tend to look back in history at ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Figures like Mother Theresa and Harriet Tubman come to mind. To endure incredible odds and still manage to come out on top is truly fascinating. For my female characters, in addition to being able to beat down their enemies in battle, I wanted them to have strong and opinionated personalities that almost commanded attention. I just felt it made them that much more interesting.
What was your inspiration for the vivid settings that you created in Genesis?
The world of Eos is a combination of a whole lot of different sources. I grew up reading and collecting comic books and watching anime with my older brother. Every title seemed to have a unique and wonderful world that I always wanted to learn more about. Why is the sky colored green? Why do they have to wear masks? Why are the buildings shaped like that? I found myself asking more and more questions as I delved deeper into these make-believe worlds. Another part of me has always been fascinated with mythologies of various cultures. Each one is so creative and different in how they try to explain and make sense of the world around us. I love reading about creation myths and what different cultures believe about the afterlife. All of these inspirations mixed together in my mind and what came out was the world and mythology of Eos and Prophecy Rock.
You’ve also written a novella that will be published soon, Shadows of Kyrus. Which story did you find easier to write?
Even though Genesis was a longer story, I felt it was easier to write than Shadows of Kyrus. With Shadows of Kyrus, I wanted to approach it a little differently and experiment with the narrative format. As a novella that takes place in the world of Eos but isn’t necessarily tied to the main story arc, I gave myself more flexibility in what I wanted to do. As odd as it may sound, I was inspired to write Shadows of Kyrus after I read some of the classic monster tales like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shadows was originally supposed to be told as a series of flashbacks during an interview but the plot evolved in a different direction during the writing process that I am very happy with.
What is the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?
I ride the train to work everyday and just watching and observing different people helps me create some of my characters. Here’s a short story. So one day an older man boards the train with his bicycle and starts banging his bike against the seats and even into other patrons. He’s cursing and hollering at everyone and just making a huge scene. Eventually he starts mouthing off at another rider and the other guy gets so angry that he hurls his soda at the old crotchety man, splashing soda all over the place, including me! I and other people were upset but the old man was laughing hysterically at the whole thing. The other rider got off the train and the old man exited shortly after. It was such a weird and random scenario, but I honestly couldn’t stop wondering what this old man’s story was. How the heck did he get to this point in his life? Did something horribly tragic happen to make him become like this? Or has he been like this his whole life? Anyways, when I got home that night and did some writing, the incident inspired me to write the scene in Genesis where one of the key characters meets the old man at the marketplace.
What are some books and authors that have inspired your writing?
There are so many to choose from but the ones that stand out to me are the masters of fantasy like Tolkien because of his incredible ability to create worlds. I mean the guy even created the term Mythopoeia! George R.R. Martin is a master of weaving together multiple plot lines into one epic story like no other. I’m a big fan of Paulo Coehlo and his works like The Alchemist. His ability to tell a simple yet deeply profound story is a skill that I truly admire. I also listen to great speeches from history on my iPod (yeah, I’m a nerd like that). Speeches are fascinating to me because you have to deliver so much with such few words. Even though it’s a different medium, I try to incorporate the same principal into my writing as well.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I just want to thank Kristen Pham for the chance to be featured on her wonderful blog. Please support indie and self-published authors. There are a lot of great writers out there who deserve to be recognized and are creating truly unique and ground breaking work. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and my writing. Please check out my website at www.tsaelow.com to learn more about me and the Prophecy Rock Series. Shadows of Kyrus is almost available so please stay tuned! You can follow me on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks!