#236 – How to Craft Character Emotions with Sacha Black

Author and writing teacher Sacha Black returns to the podcast this week to discuss her book The Anatomy of Prose and crafting fully-realized characters. Sacha talks to us about her experience as an editor and how that’s affected her reading habits, and she gives some great insight into creating effective character emotions, embodying your characters’ personalities, and creating layered descriptions in your prose.

Author and writing teacher Sacha Black returns to the podcast this week to discuss her book The Anatomy of Prose and crafting fully-realized characters. Sacha talks to us about her experience as an editor and how that’s affected her reading habits, and she gives some great insight into creating effective character emotions, embodying your characters’ personalities, and creating layered descriptions in your prose. 

  • Sacha tells us about her book, The Anatomy of Prose, and how both her love of reading and her experience as a developmental editor inspired her to write this book
  • She explains the biggest mistakes she sees authors make when describing character emotions, and why more precise descriptions tend to lead to more universal reactions from readers
  • Sacha talks about her reading habits, why she “reads consciously”, and how she learns something new in everything she reads
  • She explains the difference between author voice and character voice, and gives some great advice on how to find your character’s distinct voice and embody your character on a sentence level 
  • Sasha discusses her editorial process, and she explains why even writers with a strong editorial background, such as herself, should still seek out the help of a professional editor
  • We discuss the Game of Thrones finale and why it’s such a great example of creators not fully understanding their characters (if you haven’t seen the finale and want to avoid spoilers, skip from 24:30 – 39:45)

Useful Links
Sacha’s Website
Follow Sacha on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon
The Rebel Author Podcast
The Next Level Author Podcast
The Anatomy of Prose
The East Eden Series
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V. E. Schwab
The Hazel Wood
Game of Thrones
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The Magicians (books)
The Magicians (series)
Here is the Beehive

A headshot of Sacha Black.

Sacha Black is an author, rebel podcaster, and professional speaker.

She has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules.

Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing.

When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.

She lives in Cambridgeshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.

Episode Transcript

Transcription provided by SpeechPad

Joni: Hi, writers, welcome to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni.

Stephanie: And I’m Stephanie.

Joni: On this week’s episode, we welcomed our returning guests Sacha Black, who is an author and also the host of her very own podcast, “The Rebel Authors” podcast. She teaches writing to indie authors, as well as writing her own books. And she came on to chat to us a little bit about her book for writers, which is called “The Anatomy of Prose,” or her most recent book, she has several.

Stephanie: So she talked to us about how to craft your characters, emotions, and how to do that in a way that would hook the reader. And also, we circled back from when we first heard her on the podcast to ask her opinion on the conclusion of “Game of Thrones” and how she thought the writing went for that season. So we covered a lot of topics. It’s great talking to Sacha, so here is the full interview.

Joni: So we’re here today with Sacha Black, thank you so much for joining us, Sacha.

Sacha: Thank you so much for having me back. It’s always an honor to speak to you guys. So yeah, thank you.

Stephane: Welcome back.

Joni: We’re very happy to have you here. So for anyone that didn’t listen to the last podcast that you were on, could you introduce yourself quickly for our listeners?

Sacha: Yes, of course. So my name is Sacha Black, also known as “The Rebel Author.” I am the host of “The Rebel Author Podcast,” and also the host of “The Next Level Authors,” podcast, which is a co-hosting, very honest, very chaotic type of podcast, where we track and keep each other accountable in our writing journey. And I am the author of nonfiction books for writers where I focus predominantly on craft, and helping writers to improve their craft. But later this year, I will be meandering into a different nonfiction genre. And I also write fantasy books. I’ve got some young adult books that’s out at the moment. And then next year, I should have some adult fantasy books out as well. What else can I tell you? I used to be a developmental editor, I’m a speaker, I have a potty mouth. I generally like to cause trouble. And I like the color purple.

Joni: Goes with the job of The Rebel Author.

Sacha: Exactly.

Joni: Can you start by telling us a little bit more about your book “The Anatomy of Prose?”

Sacha: Yeah. So “The Anatomy of Prose” came about via a couple of sources. So the first one is I have this deep-seated obsession, shall we say, for analyzing the books that I read. And I have sticky tabs. And I commit sacrilege by underlining things and making notes to myself in the margins. Nobody come and bite me. I know, lots of people don’t like it, but tough. And I break down everything that they do looking for tools, like literary tools and devices that they’ve used, trying to understand, like the techniques that they have put in place to create the effects or characterization or whatever it is that they’ve done. And the second source, or the second inspiration for the book was the developmental editing. I was finding that when you’ve edited like 20, 30, 50, manuscripts, you find that you are often repeating yourself. And so I wanted to share something and create something that would prevent myself from having to repeat myself. But also to help writers get rid of a lot of those basic mistakes that we all do, myself included, I had to learn how to not do these things in the earlier parts of our journey.

And one of my readers said that the book essentially teaches you how to give yourself a developmental editor or a copy editor, I suppose looking at… It looks more at the sentence level than it does necessarily the story up. But obviously in that it also helps you to look at characterization, it helps you to look at your description. So it is looking at bigger parts of the story as well. But yeah, I adore prose and I adore understanding prose and like everybody sits on that spectrum, don’t they, of either liking really clean prose like you might get in, I don’t know, like psychological thrillers or something versus the epic fantasy flowery or literary fiction, you know, really descriptive detail prose. I sit somewhere just slightly over the halfway mark towards more descriptive, but anyway.

So that is why I created the book, I wanted to help writers to eradicate a lot of the basic mistakes that we all make, and to really polish their manuscripts. So that when they do give it to a developmental editor, they are getting the highest quality edit they can get so that editors aren’t having to correct more common mistakes, they are really genuinely helping elevate your manuscript.

So yeah, I mean like, the book has all kinds of things in it from looking at showing and telling, looking at what author voice is, description, common mistakes, sentence-level prose, description senses, all of that good stuff.

Stephanie: Do you find that you’ve had a hard time enjoying a book, if you’re constantly looking at what’s going on with the writing? That’s just like a controversial, some people say this.

Sacha: It’s such a good question. And I definitely think there is an adjustment period. So I always call it conscious reading, like I read consciously now. So I do read slightly slower than I used to. But you know, there are books that still will make me lose myself in a book and then it’s much harder for me to then be conscious. But no, because writing is so much a part of who I am, and story and reading is so much a part of who I am, I actually love being able to understand how an author has created that emotion in me or how they’ve had that impact on me, or how they’ve made me feel so repulsed by a character. So you know, because yeah, like, because then I get to learn and develop my own craft, and I get to, like, improve as a result of also loving a story that I’ve read. So no, not anymore. I was worried about that at the start, but I just, I love it almost even more. Because, yeah, I get to see the inner workings. It’s like being a book surgeon, you know, you get to…

Stephanie: Oh, I love that.

Sacha: Yeah.

Stephanie: So when I was reading the description of the book, the thing that stuck out to me was, you mentioned the key to crafting characters emotions is that that will hook a reader. And particularly in romance books, as we know, I read a lot of romance books, emotion is kind of the main focus of the characters. What do you see as common mistakes, when someone kind of discusses the character’s emotions in a story?

Sacha: I mean, the most obvious, and the most common mistake people make with emotions is to tell rather than showing emotions. Now everybody thinks that the phrase “show don’t tell” means you could never tell. But if you did that, your book would be like 5 million gazillion pages long. So we do all have to tell. And there are certain instances where that’s more common. But with emotions, broadly speaking, you have to show and that’s because emotions are a thing that we have to feel physically. And in order to elicit that in a reader, you have to provide detail. And so, yeah, I would say telling and by telling, I mean, identifying and labeling emotion, he was angry, instead of saying, “He slammed his fist on the table,” which is a terrible example. But you get the picture, or “He slammed the door on his way out,” you know, that tells the reader so much more than saying, “He was angry.”

That’s where these old adages like “A painting tells 1000 words,” or whatever the phrase is are so true. Like, you know, I know it’s almost a cliché, but actually, a lot of the time, clichés are very good. Like, there is some truth in that. So that’s the first thing I would say. The second thing I would say is leaving out details. So with emotions, and showing really good emotions, the more granular you get with what you’re describing, the more universal that emotion becomes. And that sounds like a contradiction. But for example, when a character dies, it isn’t their death that is the emotional aspect of it. What is the emotional aspect are the tiny, nuanced details that your protagonist will miss or like, let’s say a parent dies, it’s not that they are gone, it’s the things that they did, and the way they made you feel that hurts the most. So like, the way your mom looked after you when your ex-left you, or the way she always brought your coffee in the morning, or the way your mom would never, I don’t know, they would never give you a hug when you did something good. They’d always do a particular high five, you know, a fist pump type. It’s those details that are really unique almost to each individual relationship that are actually universal, even though they’re unique. They’re not because we all can relate to those details.

And so, leaving out details is another really common mistake. People think, “Oh, we just have to do like just the sensory gut wrench or whatever.” But it’s not, you do have to do that. And that is another common mistake. But it is also the details as well. And so yeah, the last one, I would say is not including enough sensory detail, those tangible…the sensations that you actually get in your body when you are feeling a physical emotion.

Joni: I think you explained that so well, particularly with the example about when a character dies in a book, like when I’m thinking about it, like the times I’ve been brought to tears in a book, it’s when there’s a little detail about something that’s really heartbreaking. It’s absolutely, yeah, that was really well explained. I’m curious, when you talk about reading consciously and noting what other writers are doing particularly well, are there any authors, like I know sometimes I’ll be reading a book and the story is great, and the writing is fine. But sometimes you’re reading a book and the writing is just incredible. Are there any authors that particularly make you feel like that, like, this is just so well written?

Sacha: Yes. And the interesting thing is, the more I use this process of consciously reading, the more that actually I can almost find something incredible about any book that I read. And of course, there are some really poor books. So I’ll just leave those aside for now. But what I try to do is pick out something from every book that I read. And so I’ll just give you examples from the last few books that I read. So I read “Nevernight,” by Jay Kristoff recently. And that’s an adult, dark fantasy, although the protagonist is a teenager. So it’s this weird…it’s definitely adult, but the protagonist is a young adult anyway. And he has great world building. Personally, I really didn’t like the sex scenes. But I’ll move on from that. But what I have learned from that book is how you can use footnotes in a really interesting way. So this is what I mean by like, I can take something from every single book that I have read and actually I’m literally writing an article now for my audience about how you can use footnotes in all these interesting, quirky ways. “Addie LaRue” by V. E. Schwab is just one of the most poetically, rhythmically exquisite books I have ever read. But she didn’t follow proper story structure. And it was super slow in the middle. And yet it was utterly mesmerizing and gorgeous.

And so there is no perfect book. There is no book that I can turn around to you, even my own books and say, “Oh, you know…” no book is utterly perfect. There are always issues with every book. But equally, I do try to make a point to learn something from every single book that I read. Another one that I read recently was “Clean” by Juno Dawson. And what I loved about that book was the quips and the like sass and the insults that they were using. So yeah, Juno had amazing dialogue, and like sort of witty banter. So yeah, I find myself, there were like patterns in the books. And when I get to the end, and I review my notes, there’s always one thing that the author’s done more than another. Oh, sorry, another one. “The Hazel Wood,” by Melissa Albert is possibly one of my favorites. She has such quirky original character descriptions, like when her protagonist meets new characters. I have never… I would kill to be able to write character ascriptions like that. But yeah, so that’s another example.

Stephanie: I feel bad. These are all the books I’ve been meaning to read.

Joni: “Addie LaRue,” I’ve heard so much about, like you are the seventh person to be like, you must read this book.

Stephanie: But what you said is true. Everyone I’ve talked to be like, “You just have to power through the middle, because again, it drags a little bit,” but then I’m assuming it’s there for a reason. You know what I mean?

Sacha: It was just exquisite, like the prose was borderline indulgent. But because it was so beautiful, and descriptive, and poetic, and rhythmic, I just save it every single way. It officially got the most sticky tabs of any book I have ever read. I mean, the thing is, like chock full of sticky tabs. But yeah, like I say, it is still not a perfect book. It is slow in the middle, like you probably could have ripped out a few chapters out of it, and it still would have been fine. And yet I still loved every single page, and I loved the ending, and yeah, I mean, she really nailed that book.

Stephanie: Have you read anything else by her before?

Sacha: Yes. So I’ve read her middle grade “City of Bones.” I think it’s called or like “A tone of Bones City of Ghosts.” Maybe it’s called. And I’ve also read “The Darker Shade of Magic.” I haven’t read the two sequels to that. I have got them and I will read them, but I haven’t read them. And the ones that I probably loved the most were “Vicious” and “Vengeful.” Because you know, I love the “Villain.” And oh, Victor Vale. Yeah. No, Victor Vale. I adore Victor Vale. He’s just a fantastic character.

Stephanie: I hear that there’s a third one coming out in that series? So I wait to see.

Sacha: Yes.

Stephanie: Okay, yeah. So I’m ready.

Sacha: I think it’s called “Victorious.”

Stephanie: Oh, okay. Yeah.

Sacha: Yeah, she’s just about starting to write it because every five years, I think at least, but yeah, she’s a fantastic author. I love her books.

Stephanie: I’m always impressed by her because every book she puts out is completely different from the other ones. So I’m like that, to me, is incredible. Because I just feel like sometimes people kind of have the same themes they wanna look into, or like, they wanna live in the same world, but she always puts out something that’s different from the rest of her stuff.

Sacha: Yeah.

Joni: And a publisher often pushes that, right? Like you’ve done one thing that sells, can you do it again, please?

Sacha: Exactly. Yeah.

Joni: I wanted to ask you as a former developmental editor, do you edit your own books? And how do you feel about working with your own books, as opposed to other people’s?

Sacha: So my particular process is to… Oh, so I do not make my life easy in any way, shape, or form. And I don’t write in order. And I tend to write in spurts, so I tend to write a book in two or three chunks, where I will like vomit out words, take a break for a month or two, vomit out words, and like I’ve pieced it all together. So some of my editing happens in that piecing together because inevitably, I have to go over some of the stuff that I’ve written in order to be able to piece something I thought was at the end, which is actually at the beginning, and so on, and so forth. So I definitely do my own structural story editing. But I do have a critique partner who has strengths where I have weaknesses, and I have strengths, or she has weaknesses. And we almost give each other a developmental edit in and of itself now.

I still have an editor, because everybody needs an editor. Also, I am terrible with commas. So yes, I do feel like a lot of writers will skimp on the editing process. And it’s not necessarily the best for your book, or you’re writing, like it doesn’t matter where you get to in this industry, you can still keep learning from new editors with new insights and new ideas. So no, I still…yes, I do do more of my… like, my editing costs are lower now. But I definitely still pay for editors.

Joni: Yeah, so it’s more about giving the editor a cleaner copy when you’re learning how to self-edit than actually finishing it yourself.

Sacha: That’s it, exactly

Stephanie: So I was also reading this description, and you talk about how authors can embody a character’s personality at the sentence level. And like when that’s not done well, it’s hard for the reader to pick out which chapter is which character. So do you have any tips on being able to write two characters, and knowing and having the reader know that they’re different characters?

Sacha: Yeah. So this is an interesting one, because writers often confuse like character voice and author voice. So author voice can change over somebody’s career, you look at somebody like Stephen King, or J. K. Rowling, I know she’s not the most popular author right now. But if you look at like her… I think it’s “Cormoran Strike” books versus her “Harry Potter” books. The sound of those two books is totally different. It’s the same, although we were just talking about the issue and the fact that each of her books sounds really different. And that’s her author voice that you can see, like that differentiation. And the fact that she can do that mean is her author voice. Character voice cannot change, because a character’s voice is their personality, that is who they are.

So really being able to differentiate characters, or if you are not differentiating characters is because you haven’t…you either don’t know your character well enough, or you haven’t represented that characterization at the sentence level well enough. And so the way you do that is by knowing your character really well. So if, for example, you have a professor, okay, they’re probably highly educated, they’ve probably spent a really long time writing academic papers using words like therefore, furthermore, in addition to, moreover. And so you would expect that in their speech, as well, you would expect that in their dialogue, you would expect that kind of stilted stuffy writing, stuffy narration in like the narrative paragraphs.

And so it’s ensuring you’re capturing those personality aspects at the sentence level. Like if, for example, you had a gang member, and they are not going to be using words like therefore, furthermore, you know, they are going to be using slang words, they might use terminology that’s not in the dictionary, because it’s been created by this gang culture. They’re probably gonna use shorter words in length, they’re probably gonna use shorter sentences even because, well, I don’t know, that’s one of the things that you can decide about your character. Are they using long sentences? Are they using short sentences? Are they using lots of description or little description? So each of these little things represents personality. And so like in the book, I have a couple of examples where only if you actually want, but like, I have them in front of me. So I can like read two examples. So…

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sacha: Yeah. Okay, cool. So if we have two characters, both observing the same town parade. So this is the first character, “They move like a current, each person flowing past the next, supposedly united in their cause. But as they chant and sing for solidarity, it sounds like the melody of mourners. I see the tiny fractures, the gaps they leave between each other, the scattered looks, the fear of isolation. Each of them is drowning in a swelling crowd. And yet, despite the mass of bodies, they’re all fighting alone.”

So that’s the first paragraph and the second paragraph another character, is seeing exactly the same scene. “The Villagers weave through the street brandishing placards like rifles, their soldiers marching to their last battle, the war drumbeat of their feet grinds into my ears, rattling my teeth and making my blood boil.” So those two paragraphs are very different for a set of reasons. So the first one, they use much longer words, much longer sentences with more description. And the descriptions in particular are using like sad words, words like isolated, fractured, they talk about like that lonely, think words like scattered. So this person is clearly like a more depressed type character. Whereas in the second paragraph, you’ve got a character who’s using short, sharp words a bit more Onomatopoeia, things like blood war drum, rattle grinds, so this character is clearly much angrier.

So it’s thinking about the types of words that you use for their description. Because at the end of the day, whatever narration is happening on the page should be from the eyes of that character. So it should be how they see the scene, not how you as the author sees the scene. And if you can capture that and allow their personality traits to influence how you’re capturing that, you will describe their personality at the sentence level.

Joni: That’s a good segue into asking you about one of your recent courses, where you talk about using senses to write and how that can elevate your writing and your characterization. Could you expand a little bit and tell us about that?

Stephanie: Yeah, so I always write in, like, description, and writing a bit to like a painting. When you write sentences, without the senses, and in particular, like emotive ones, or descriptive ones, it’s a bit like a pencil drawing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love pencil illustrations, they have time, they have a place, sometimes they’re on my bedroom wall as well. But what is also beautiful is like mixed media, really colorful, bright, outrageous paintings. And when you start to layer in the senses, that is what happens to your writing, it brings to life what is still a beautiful pencil illustration. And it makes it this in-depth, oil, and acrylic, and watercolor, and textile type piece. And that, for me is really the difference between using non-senses and using my senses. And the other thing is that it basically makes it more real to the reader. So it enhances imagery, it creates…it not only enhances, it creates the imagery.

There are a lot of scientific studies that where people are put into functional MRI scanners. And it shows that when you ask a person to think about tennis versus when that person is actually playing tennis, the same areas of the brain light up. So when somebody reads your work, and you have sensory information, the same areas of their brain are lighting up as if they really were smelling cookies, or if they really were touching brick. So, you are evoking that real experience in a reader. And that’s why it’s so important because it’s so much more engaging as writing.

Joni: Yeah, it’s like that thing that they say about how different people have different learning styles, right? Some people learn kinetically, and other people have to see it written down. And it seems sort of like in a similar vein, like, it makes it three dimensional for people kind of like you were saying, it appeals to different parts of you.

Sacha: Yeah, and also different parts of the story. You know, there are different times that senses should be used, like in a romance scene, for example, you’re much more likely to find touch, being engaged, and taste, too, if we’re gonna get graphic. But in a battle scene, for example, you’re much more likely to probably use sound because you’re gonna have clashing of metal, you’re gonna have war cries, you’re gonna have squelching of innards being cut open or whatever. There are different times where different senses should be used. And then I’m not saying you always have to use them, but there are times and places where they are needed.

Stephanie: Talking about graphic things. Last time we talked, we talked about “Game of Thrones”, and the topic of your episode was on villain. So if anyone listening is interested in how to craft villians, go listen to that episode. So we find that we were so naïve back then, and we finally have seen the ending of “Game of Thrones,” and I’m just guessing here, but where do you think they went wrong in their character? Oh, man.

Sacha: Oh, God, I mean, so and obviously like spoiler warning, we are gonna talk about the ending of “Game of Thrones,” here. So like, if you haven’t seen it, you might wanna hit pause. For me they messed up big time with Cersei Lannister. Every other character aside and we all have issues with all of the other stuff. Cersei’s death for me was so unrealistic that I actually phoned my friend at the end of that episode because that wasn’t the final episode. Let me just add, and I ranted for half an hour and I was like, “She’s not really dead, though, is she?” Like there’s no possible way that’s how you ended that character. You know, and it wasn’t until the following week that I was like, “Are you kidding me, that was it.”

Cersei was one of the best villains and the best female villains I’ve seen in a really long time. Like she had genuine motivation that wasn’t about a boy. You know, she was…and also the actor played, I can’t remember the actor’s name, but she played her fantastically well. And so we have this whole arc, this whole story, and that was it, she was crushed under some bricks. Are you kidding me? She should have gone out in like this dramatic ball of flames and a giant battle off and like been given a proper brutal ending, like she deserved. And I’m sure some people will argue, “Oh, well, that is what she deserved. Because she didn’t get, you know…” No, I’m sorry. That’s not how this…this isn’t realism people like…

Stephanie: She lasted this long. And you’re telling me a pile of bricks with her brother of all people? Like I don’t believe.

Sacha: Yeah, well, and I didn’t that was the thing. Because she deserved, and my expectations were that she would have some really fantastic, like, what’s the word? You know, like one-to-one-type battle, somebody who had a grudge against that was gonna end up killing her. You know, and she just died under some bricks, with nobody there to even witness it. I was like, “This is the most limp ending for a fantastic villain I have ever seen.” So, for me, that was just, “Oh, what a waste. What a waste of an amazing villain.”

Stephanie: I think that’s what pissed me off the most was that you had all these characters over how many seasons, eight, nine seasons that you put so much time and effort into? They’ve had like amazing journeys, with every single one ended in the most unsatisfying way. Or like ways that didn’t make sense.

Sacha: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think the only one that I sort of accepted was Denarius. And I kind of accepted that. I did quite like that John did it. But even that, I was a bit like, “Oh,” I don’t know what I expected. I feel like it was a victim of its own success in that it was probably never going to meet everybody’s expectations because it had such a lightning bolt success that so many millions of people had seen it and all of the hype that you almost set yourself up for failure. No matter how you end a series like that, nobody is gonna be happy. You know? Yeah, I don’t know.

Joni: Like, it’s lazy storytelling, you spend years building a character, you can’t just like… It’s like when a book has a really crappy twist. And if you go and read from the beginning, like there’s no indication. Do you know what I mean? Like when you come to like a really satisfying twist, and you’re like, “Oh, look at all these like little exceeded parts that we’ve been told all along, like, that’s so clever.” Or if it just comes out of nowhere, and there’s nothing, it’s lazy.

Sacha: Well, see, this is controversial, but I don’t think a twist is a twist unless it’s been foreshadowed. Because it is just one of these like, there’s a Latin word that they use to say that things have just happened at the end. Oh, I can’t remember it. There’s a Latin phrase anyway. And basically, it’s when people just do stuff just to like, you know, solve a plot problem or whatever. And that’s unless a twist has been properly foreshadowed because you need the red herrings to allow readers to like, go on a journey and to hype up their expectations and then to dash them with red herrings. And then to bring them back up again, so that then a twist is satisfying.

Joni: Well, the thing is, the writer has absolute power, right? Like they’re making all the decisions, they can throw whatever they want, and at the end, so it’s not fun if they just throw in a thing that like, “Oh, and this is how it ended.” Like it’s not clever. It doesn’t make the reader feel engaged.

Sacha: Exactly. Deus machina or something, is it?

Joni: Deus ex machina. Yeah. Yeah.

Sacha: Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. Yeah.

Stephanie: And then I think just like to add to the love of that is when the showrunners discussed the show afterwards, they’re like, “We didn’t know what we’re doing.” I’m like, a story is something you can look up and like, satisfying endings and like, character developments isn’t something you can look up. So like, at the end of the day, they were just lazy. And that bugs me even more.

Sacha: But showrunners on a multi-million-dollar TV series that don’t know story structure. That is the biggest load of cods that I have ever heard. Like, what a load of nonsense. That is just laziness.

Stephanie: And I think what I’ve read is like George R. Martin, he asked them, they’re like, “Who’s Jon Snow’s parents? And they got it right, which I don’t think it was the most difficult thing, but like, “You gave a show to those two?” When you should have been asking, “Where do you see this story ending?”

Sacha: Exactly. Exactly. Ah.

Stephanie: Okay, we’ll switch gears to make it more happy. What have you been loving lately? Has there been a show that’s actually meeting your expectations or a book?

Sacha: Oh, so many. So I’m one of these people that doesn’t tend to watch shows until I finish a book or a project I’ve got a gap and then I’ll binge something. So I binged “Bridgerton” the other day in two days, and I absolutely loved it. Like the first 30 minutes of the show. I was like, “What is this?” Like, “What am I watching?” And then like, we got to the end of the first episode, and I was like, “Yeah, where’s the next episode? Like, we’re not going anywhere. I need to watch the next episode.” Anyway. So I like binged that, loved that. “Sabrina” is another one like in a completely different genre that I absolutely love. It’s a total guilty pleasure watch for me, but I do absolutely love “Sabrina.” Magicians. “The Magicians” just ended recently.

Stephanie: Oh, I’ve heard about one. I haven’t…

Sacha: Yeah, well, the first book is called Magician, I think “The Magicians,” by Lev Grossman. And they’ve translated it into a TV series. And I think there was like five seasons. Anyway, I watched the final season. And that just about got away with the finale. But the whole series was just so magically wonderful, and witty, and like diva. There’s loads of divas and stuff. So yeah, I loved that. And so that’s TV shows. Did you want books as well, or?

Stephanie: I’m here for anything.

Joni: Everything.

Sacha: Okay, so yeah, I mean, I mentioned “Addie LaRue.” I mentioned “Nevernight,” which I read, although really, the sex scenes were terrible, but apart from that, I really loved it. I’m just trying to think what else I have read recently. Oh, my God, I read like so many books. And now I’m like, what are the books that I’ve read?

Joni: This is what happens to me when people ask me this, too. It’s very stressful. And then after you hang up, and you’re like…

Sacha: It is so stressful.

Stephanie: … I’ve read this excellent book I could have talked about t.

Sacha: Oh, yes, one other. “This is the Beehive,” which I think it’s called “This is the Beehive,” by Sarah Crossan I think is the… You might have to just double-check the titles and spellings of that. But so that is a book that is written in like poetry stanzas. But it’s a novel, and it’s a novel, and it still feels like a novel. But it was absolutely fascinating for the style in which it was written. And it’s a very short read, I literally sat on my floor and opened it and read the first few pages. And then like, I’d finished the book, and I got up and I was like, “Wow, where’ the light?” It was like one of those ones. And so it’s not very long. And it was gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching. And yeah, like a really interesting read from like, a writer’s perspective, to see like, this is what I mean, about I love you know, we were talking earlier and I love like quirky, different things that I learned from stories. And that’s why I like “Nevernight,” because the footnote, I mean, well, anyway, this is similar to the get on it with it, Sacha. Anyway yeah. So “This is a Beehive” was a fantastic one. Let me see if I got one more for you. I don’t know… I’m like looking around my Redbook, all the ones that I’ve read are like at the back, which is not very helpful and then I wanna like tell people what to read. No, that’s it. I think that’s what I’ve got for you.

Joni: Perfect. Do you recommend them on your podcast?

Stephanie: Can you tell us where listeners can find your podcast?

Sacha: Absolutely. So any podcatcher essentially, all that usual Apple and Spotify and all that good stuff. Just look for “The Rebel Author Podcast,” or “Next Level Authors,” which is the other one that I do.

Stephanie: And then what can readers expect or readers and writers expect from you next?

Sacha: So if you’re a writer, I have got a couple of books coming out this year. So the first one, which I am racing towards the end of right now is all about side characters. So I’ve got one on heroes, one on villains. And now I’m going to be publishing a book on side characters, and that will hopefully be out either late spring or early summer. And then later in the year, I’ll also be doing a like more general self-publishing books. So, I’ll be going slightly more into the business marketing type. So that will be later in the year. And on the reader side, I am finally publishing the book that nearly killed me. So I’m publishing the third one in my young adult fantasy series, which is called “Tray,” and the fourth one, because apparently, I just vomited out the fourth one, and so there’ll be coming out in quick succession after a very long two-year gap. And then later in the year, I will probably, if I can fit it in and we don’t have too many more lockdowns with kids at school, that I will be publishing a completely different standalone called “The Center of Death,” which I am so excited for.

Joni: You’re so busy.

Stephanie: Yeah. I was gonna say that.

Sacha: I know.

Joni: I love, love, love hearing you talk about writing, though. I love the way that you talk about craft and the kind of the anatomy of prose is really cool. So excited for our…

Sacha: Thank you, yeah.

Joni: …readers and listeners to explore that too.

Sacha: Well, thank you for having me. I do love to gab a lot about craft. So yeah, and it’s a real honor to talk to you guys. So thank you very much for having me.

Stephanie: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in reading any of Sacha Black’s books, we will have a link to them on our blog, or if you’re interested in learning how to grow your sales, visit kobowritinglife.com.

Joni: This episode was produced by Joni Di Placido and Stephanie McGrath, with help from Rachel Wharton. Editing is done by Kelly Rowbotham, music is provided by TearJerker. And a big thanks to Sacha Black for being our guest today.

Stephanie: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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