This week I’m pleased to have Sarah Elkins here my Scribbles Page as she shares with us her journey in the writing world and gives us insight into her new novel The Facility. So without further ado, Sarah Elkins.
I have always daydreamed. A lot. As a kid I'd be going about my school day while at the same time, in my head, I was having adventures with characters from books or T.V. shows that I liked. I don't remember exactly when it was that I realized the shows and books I enjoyed had all started as stories inside someone else's head. When that thought occurred to me, however, my mind was blown. I could share the weird stuff I imagined with other people, if I could just figure out how to translate the pictures in my head into words.
In middle school I wanted to be a film writer. I wrote down one of the adventure stories I had going on in my skull as a script. It was over three hundred pages of pink jelly pen scrawlings detailing the exploits of characters loosely based on myself and friends. There was even a talking car and the main character was a were-dinosaur of sorts. I'd ask friends if they wanted a character in the story and what super powers they wanted. Anything went. It was a blast. I even made some storyboards for the script to better visualize what was happening in it. In high school I still wanted to be a writer and researched what it would take to work in film. It was before indy films were big so I researched the screen writer's guild for a project. I was absolutely heartbroken to learn how much it cost to be in it. I was from a lower middle class family. I wasn't sure how I'd get to go to college much less how I could afford to move to California and pay to be a writer.
I started to think of other ways I could tell stories and it dawned on me. I could just work on my own and write them. I could draw them as comics or write them as novels or do both. I hadn't taken an art class since middle school and had a bad experience already in high school regarding the art class there. The short version is the art students were in charge of selling valentine's candy. I knew no one would buy me one so I bought one myself so I wouldn't look like a loser when they delivered them. My candy didn't arrive. I insisted I knew I was supposed to get one because I bought it and had to go to the art room and show them where I signed up. Needless to say I felt miserable and didn't want to register for art class my last two years of high school even though I had free periods. I wound up just hanging out in the nearby park by myself. Is it any wonder I spent a lot of time in my head daydreaming growing up?
I decided to learn how to draw comics on my own and started posting a very poorly thought out fancomic on the outside of my locker in the school Band Hall. (It was the only place my school even had lockers.) I learned a lot from that little comic. When it came to writing prose I worked on a fantasy horror book at night using an old lap top my family had gotten at a pawn shop. I put each chapter in its own file. Part way through writing the book I asked my English teacher if I would get extra credit for writing a novel. She said yes and I was so excited I finished the book well before the end of the year. I wanted to turn it in early enough that she'd have time to read it. Only she didn't. I didn't get the extra credit and to my knowledge she didn't even look at the files.
I was heartbroken.
For years after that I thought I had no business writing prose. I focused on learning how to make comics. How to write them. How to draw them. I dated another artist I knew from online. Things didn't work out with the relationship but I learned a lot from them. Mainly, I learned that their opinions of the ideas I wanted to execute in my writing were contradictory to what they wanted to do. I'd mention a webcomic idea and they'd shoot it down insisting I do a pitch to a company. I knew I didn't have the experience to finish a comic for a company. I didn't even finish the pitch. I tried that several times. They didn't seem to like my ideas regarding prose either but I experimented with that anyway. Eventually I posted a few chapters of a story online and showed them to a friend who had just sold his first book to a publisher. That friend said I should stick with prose and not give up. I was super excited and filled with a bit more confidence. But I knew I had a lot more to learn.
Still I focused on comics. I worked as a professional flatter (comic coloring assistant) for eight years until my right arm hurt too much to hold a pen. I couldn't even feed myself with it. It was constant pain any time I tried to move it. I had to quit work. The remains of the relationship with the artist I had dated (who I had tried to remain friends) with evaporated. It was more than half a year or so before I was able to see an orthopedic surgeon who knew what was wrong with my arm and how to treat it. During that time I dusted off my little netbook computer and wrote on a story to deal with the pain and stress of suddenly having no future.
I wrote draft one of The Facility with my left hand.
I can't remember if I finished the rough draft before or after I started to recover use of my right hand. My memories are a bit fuzzy due to the pain and lack of sleep. I know at one point I didn't sleep for a week, then broke a toe and didn't realize it because the pain of my arm was so severe I just couldn't feel anything else. I don't think I was able to use my right hand until I was already hammering away on the second book, now titled The Hunt, which will hopefully be out later this year from Ninestar Press. Looking at the timestamps on the earliest drafts of The Facility I finished it while smack in the middle of my arm problems. I queried it to literary agents and publishers. Sending out queries was one of the jobs I gave myself so I had a purpose. When queries didn't come out well I worked to rewrite the book. After being diagnosed and learning how to deal with my ever ossifying elbow tendons I wrote a different book and serialized it on Patreon.
The Facility is a story in which I recycled some characters from those early pink jelly pen adventure scripts I wrote as a kid. I replaced the concept of the main character being a were-dinosaur with her being a were-Tesla. I tossed in ideas from the failed comics I had attempted over the years. I poured my stress and anxiety and pain into it to give myself a future in a time when I thought I had none.
It's a book I felt I needed to tell myself to distract myself from the pain and fear of the future so I'd survive and also a book I wanted to share with others. The Facility is rough. It's no perfect first book. The characters, particularly Neila the protagonist, are messy and anxious. The plot builds slow and then things happy quickly. In that way it echoes the damage done to my arm. There were signs something was wrong for years. Signs I ignored. Until everything came to a head and it felt as if I had been stabbed. My muscles were red and swollen. It hurt to make a fist. It hurt to sleep without it on a pillow. It hurt to sleep with it on a pillow. I didn't sleep much.
The things that got me excited to be a writer as a kid, the idea that I can share my constant daydreams with strangers, and the things that got me excited to be a writer as an adult, that I could help someone else escape whatever they were going through when they read my work, are very different. Both are ever present in my mind. Psychic Underground: The Facility was born of both those reasons for writing. I am proud I finished the book and prouder still that it's found a place in print and in the hearts of readers. They may be few but they are dear to my heart. Thank you if you've read the book, and thank you if you choose check it out. No matter what I go through, I will not stop writing because it means I can continue to create worlds and have adventures even when my body betrays me.
Sarah, thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. I’m so glad you persevered and continued writing, it’s an inspiration to everyone who has a dream. Never give up your dreams and they won’t give up on you. Well Scribblers, I hope you enjoyed this week’s author spotlight. Remember to like and share below, especially if you know people who may enjoy The Facility. Until next time have a great week.
About The Facility:
Being psychic is just another aspect of life for Neila Roddenberry. So are dreams of a past life as Nikola Tesla. She's sure the last part is the result of reading the wrong mind at the wrong time without realizing it. neither are things she talks about much. Her friends know she's psychic, but no one knows about the dreams. She's twenty-three, asexual, and unemployed with ambitions to become a freelance artist and writer.
On the way home from visiting friends, Neila gets caught up in a terrorist attack, then wakes up in an underground psychic testing facility. Raised by a doomsday-prepper father, Neila is unusually prepared for the possibility of being whisked away to a secret lab somewhere. When she is faced with the choice of working for the scientists studying psychics at the facility, she takes the job as both an agent and a test subject.
But not everyone in the facility wants to be there.
Sarah Elkins is a freelance comic artist and writer who nearly had to give up art entirely due to a form of ossifying tennis elbow that forced her to be unable to use her dominate hand for nearly a year. She spent much of that time writing novels with her left hand as a means to deal with the pain and stress of possibly never drawing again. Thanks to a treatment regime she is able to draw again albeit not as easily or quickly as she once did.
Sarah enjoys reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, weird stories, comics of every sort, as well as any biographical material about Nikola Tesla she can get her hands on (that doesn't suggest he was from Venus." She has worked in the comics industry since 2008 as a faltter (colorist assistant,) penciler, inker, and colorist. She contributed a comic to the massive anthology project Womanthology. Currently she (slowly) produces a webcomic called Magic Remains while writing as much as her body will allow.