About the author:
Sumiko Saulson is a speculative fiction writer whose focus is on horror and science-fiction. A novelist, poet and writer of short stories and editorials, she currently works as the Oakland Art Scene reporter for the Examiner.com. Her novels include "Solitude," "Warmth", and "The Moon Cried Blood". "Things That Go Bump In My Head" is the name of her short story anthology, and her horror blog. A native Californian, she spent her early childhood in Los Angeles, and lived in Hilo and Honolulu, Hawaii in her teen years. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area. An early interest in writing and advanced reading skills eventually lead to her becoming a staff writer for her high school paper, the Daily Bugle (McKinley High, Honolulu, HI) one of the nation's only four such daily High School papers at the time. By the time she moved to San Francisco at age 19, she had two self-published books of poetry and was a frequently published poet in local community newspapers and reading poetry around town. She was even profiled in a San Francisco Chronicle article about up-and-coming poets in the beatnik tradition. Over the years she's written numerous articles for local and community papers, non-profit and corporate newsletters, poetry and lyrics and novels.
Interview with Sumiko Saulson
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My original day-job was as a computer graphic artist, and I ended up in computer repairs and cross-platform integration for Macintosh and Windows based computers not long after. I also enjoy art as a creative pursuit. I paint, and my preferred medium is acrylics on paper, although I also paint on canvas and found wooden objects such as table tops and pieces of cabinets. My paintings have been exhibited in art galleries, coffee shops, and community centers here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am a journalist, covering the arts scene in Oakland, California for the Examiner.com.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first book I ever created was actually a coloring book. I was five years old, and I gave it to my cousin, Gina, for Hanukkah. The first story I wrote was in the third grade. It was a series of stories, actually, campfire tales about skinless, skeletal zombies with still-rotting fleshing clumps of flesh and internal organs. I guess you can say that I was a horror writer at an early age.
What is your writing process?
I use notebooks to write character sketches and list key plot points, such as time lines or family relations, but I type the story itself on the computer in almost every instance. Poetry and very short stories of 500 words or less are the only things I write out by hand first. After I complete a first draft of a story, I need to print it and have it on paper in order to proofread it. I often make editing marks on paper at that time, letting myself know where I need to elaborate on or change plot points.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever read was "Ann Likes Red," a very simple children's book that my parents used to teach me to read when I was three years old. The first book I remember reading for pleasure was Pippi Longstocking. I loved it so much that I read several others in the series. That was the book that inspired me to develop a life-long love of the written word. She was also the first strong female heroine I'd been introduced to.
How do you approach cover design?
My background in graphic design is a tremendous asset when it comes to cover design. I used to try to create everything in the computer, but now I tend to base my covers around my acrylic paintings. It is much easier to create something that reflects the cultural tone of my novels, which tend to have either multicultural or black heroes and heroines, using acrylics on paper. For my short story anthology, I wanted a creepier, more traditionally horror genre associated look, so I used Photoshop to digitally alter a photograph of myself to make it look like Frankenstein's monster inspired zombie, after one of the short stories in the book.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I really love horror, and I have read most of the books written by Anne Rice and Stephen King. I also love Toni Morrison and have read most of her books. It's pretty easy to tell I'm a horror fan when you walk in the door to my place, because I have two bookshelves filled with novels, and a third smaller shelf with only books signed by the authors, many of these local. My five favorite books are :"Love" by Toni Morrison, "Pandora" by Anne Rice, "The Stand" by Stephen King, "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper, and "Dune" by Frank Herbert.
What do you read for pleasure?
Horror. Lots and lots of horror. The last book I read for pleasure that wasn't horror was "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin, which is a bit of a dark urban fantasy if you ask me, although now that it is being turned into a movie, they are calling it a romance. The last book I read for pleasure in any genre was "The Moonlit Earth" by Christopher Rice which was, of course, horror, although there were more than a few science fiction elements interwoven in the story. I guess I enjoy the whole speculative fiction wheelhouse, especially if, in the case of science-fiction or fantasy, they happen to walk on the darkly shadowed side of the street.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Los Angeles, California, and lived there until I was twelve. I lived in Hawaii, on the Big Island and on Oahu between the ages of twelve and nineteen. Los Angeles is the backdrop for "The Moon Cried Blood" and also appears quite a bit in "Warmth." Several of the short stories in "Things That Go Bump In My Head" take place on the Big Island, in Kalapana or Pahoa, where I lived during junior high school. The subsequent loss of that entire town of Kalapana to a volcanic eruption in the late eighties had a definite impact on me and my memories of a home I can never return to.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Local marketing seems to work the best for me. People who are from my community, my city, and my neighborhood care more about me as an author than people who aren't from Oakland or the Bay Area. Local marketing includes book readings, and book signings. Readers like to make a personal connection with the author, which is easier to establish in person than over the Internet. On the Internet, collaborative projects with other authors seem to be the best way to market. When I become a part of one, my solo projects
also seem to sell better.
Describe your desk
It's actually a wooden chessboard sitting on top of a dresser and a table, well, Is should say, on the gap between the table and the dresser, mostly under the dresser. It faces the front door, and is usually infested with one or two cats.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I am in the middle of re-editing, revising, reproofing, and otherwise revamping "The Moon Cried Blood," the story of a young girl with a tragic past living in Los Angeles in the 1970s who discovers she is one in a long line of witches who are imbued with their power by the moon spirit, Luna. They are accordingly, called the tribes of the Luna, or collectively, the Lunae, and their powers can include genetic memory, travel through time into the dreams of ancestors or forebears, the ability to see into the hears of men and and women understand their underlying motivations, and the ability to see changes occurring in the time line, which are generally the result of tampering with aforementioned timeline by their enemies, who are infected with the wolf spirit.
Where to find Sumiko on the web:
Links to Sumiko's books: