Tell me about your books
I currently have three books out; the novella, Daylight Chasers, the short story collection, The Stars Will Guide Us Back, and my recently published full-length novel, The Fable of Wren.
I published Daylight Chasers in 2019, almost on a whim. I wrote it with the intent of sharing it with friends and family, but with encouragement from the writing community, decided to publish it first on Amazon. The novella is fairly short, but packs a punch, and is still my highest rated book and one that is close to my heart.
The Stars Will Guide Us Back was published in June 2021; a conglomeration of stories writing and different times in my writing career, from early on to fairly recently. One of the stories, Transdifferentiate, is the second short story I ever wrote, but is a fan favorite and a story that still holds close to my heart for all it carries a lot of sadness and moral ambiguity.
Lastly, I recently published The Fable of Wren, published October 2021; a quiet mystery featuring a non-binary main character and my very first full-length novel. It took me two years to perfect, but it is a book that encapsulates my first few years of grief and is the book I wish I had when my wife first passed away.
When and how did you start writing?
Writing is highly personal for me. I started writing during a time when I was physically stripped of my ability to do any drawing—which had been my creative outlet and career—and needed some way to express what I was feeling after my wife passed away.
Since then I’ve started receiving the correct treatment for my illness, I’m more able to draw and paint but sparingly, so writing has become my primary form of expression.
How does a story begin for you? Is it an idea, a conversation, a title or an image?
Generally my stories started with a seed, a question, something to ponder on. From The Stars Will Guide Us Back, Reset came from some wonderings about black holes; Transdifferentiate was the offspring of thinking about the biological immortality of the ‘Immortal Jellyfish.’ From there, the stories evolve as I write, as I’m a discovery writer, and rarely know exactly where I’m going until I get there.
What writing advice have you been given that really helped you?
To not listen so closely to everyone’s writing advice! Everyone has their stylistic preferences, or ‘rules’ that are great as guidelines but unrealistic as hard and fast yardsticks to measure by. Everything with moderation, and as you write more, you begin to get a feel for when a rule applies and when it doesn’t. The best thing you can do is write, and learn about editing.
What do you consider your greatest writing accomplishment? And which was your biggest challenge?
Taking up writing in the first place was an intimidating task for me. My biggest accomplishment was having even tried. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to put together a coherent story, but found that it flowed and I had a passion to make it the best it could be. I never would have known if I didn’t take that first leap. I think far too often people dream and never do, and it’s in the initial doing that we find our strength to keep going, despite how long and arduous the task might seem.
My biggest challenge is my own self-confidence, or lack thereof. I know I’d achieved some level of competency in art, but in writing I constantly question my choices and wonder if I’m doing the right thing. It’s something I struggle with all the time.
What do you do when you get blocked?
My first go-to is music. I create a playlist for every book, and often every short story I write. It helps me get into a mood, but I also might write a scene with a song on repeat to fully immerse myself in the emotion of that song.
If that doesn’t work, it’s time to ‘take in’; creativity is a balance of input and output, and if I’m not getting enough input through reading, watching tv and movies, playing video games, having conversations, etc., then I have nothing to draw from.
Has a book really touched you? Made you rethink your views on life? If so, what was it?
There have been several to be honest, but the one that really made me think at a time that I needed to think outside myself was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. He was a victim of the Nazi Concentration Camps, but was also a psychologist, so he spend his time in the camps learning why amongst the ordinary man some lost hope and other kept going.
He talks a lot about our need for meaning, no matter how small; it can be things like being there for friends or family, some sort of goal like combating world hunger, or even daily meaning in times of struggle, such as ‘I want to go see this play.’
There were a lot of powerful messages in the book, despite it being dry at points, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
What would you do if you didn’t write?
I would draw to the extent that I can, but other than that, I’m not entirely sure. When put in crisis I tend towards searching and learning as my default, so I’m sure I’d find something just as I did with writing. But I’m not entirely sure offhand what that would be.
What are your current projects? What should we be looking out for?
I have two projects currently; the ongoing serial, The Dragon Warden, and my novel in progress, Origami Bones.
The Dragon Warden is an incredibly queer, sci-fi-/fantasy/steampunk/speculative web serial available on Patreon and Kindle Vella. I started it last year, but it was put on hiatus when I over-committed publishing two books in one year! Now that The Fable of Wren is published though, it’s my biggest priority, so expect to hear more about that re-launch and soon.
Origami Bones is a novel I intend on publishing March 2023. It’s a contemporary magical realism novel covering such topics as environmentalism, found family, and loss.
Your book the fable of Wren has just been published; can you tell us the story of how that came about?
The Fable of Wren being my first novel was somewhat of an accident; actually, it being any more than a one-off short story was an accident! I fully intended for it to be something short and simple, but once I developed Wren, a non-binary birdwatcher and the main character, it began to evolve quite quickly. At first it was a novella, but as I began to look at the arc of the story, it really needed more to honor the book.
The magical realism element came in about halfway through the development, and I couldn’t be happier with its addition. I don’t tend towards straight-laced contemporary books, as I always like to have some questions left open for the reader. The decision to add the interludes into the book was also the best thing I could have done to give some insight into Wren’s mind.
With it being my first full-length novel, I of course have some concerns; but at some point you have to stop editing and let the book be what it is and move on to the next. After a year and a half of perfecting this book, it’s time to let it blossom into its own. I hope that others learn as much from Wren and their adventure as I have.
What is your ultimate dream as a writer?
A bit of a swerve, but my wife was a writer—she wrote so many manuscripts over her lifetime, but all for fun. When she passed, those manuscripts became mine. Someday I want to have the emotional strength and technical capabilities to edit and publish them in her name.
What advice would you give other writers?
Know why you want to write. People will tell you to write to market, and rely on trends to guide your plot and characters, but if your goal isn’t fame and fortune, this is unnecessary. If your goal is authentic fiction for the margins of society, your book is going to look very different from being a best seller, and both are valid and valuable. Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt and at the end of the day, follow your own advice and own moral compass.
A widow, disabled, and a member of the queer community, Rue Sparks traverses the equally harsh and cathartic landscape where trauma and healing align to create stories that burrow into the hearts and minds of their readers. In addition to The Stars Will Guide Us Back, Sparks has authored the novella Daylight Chasers, writes the web serial The Dragon Warden, and will be releasing the contemporary mystery novel The Fable of Wren later in 2021. They live in Noblesville, Indiana in the USA with their sweet senior support dog and still draw and paint when they’re physically able.
The Fable of Wren:
The Stars Will Guide Us Back: