How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story when I was nine. I illustrated it and everything. Doesn’t everyone say that? It’s true. But I’ve been seriously pursuing writing for the last four years. I set a list of goals for myself, to keep me on task. I’ve been sending out submissions regularly… I don’t know how regular, but I always have submissions out to publishers. It’s a way of making what was a hobby into a career. If I get too many rejections and there are only a few stories with people, I get itchy. If no one’s reading my work, I can’t get published, can I?
What did you edit out of “The Last Seven Tribes of the Ketchari”?
A lot of passive voice. Not that passive voice is a bad thing. It can be done well. But when it’s (mostly) not, it makes for an interesting but dull story. In real life, I am a fairly take-things-as-they-come person. But for a good story, you want your protagonist to have agency and curiosity that gets them into situations they then have to get out of. I’m working on leading with agency and not storytelling. I was taught description, description, description but most of the feedback I get says it’s too much for a short story and it’s getting in the way of the pace. We continually grow as writers, and I can finally see it in my drafts. I look forward to the day I catch most of it on my own.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most difficult part of my artistic process is that all-or-nothing feeling. Either I have five stories in my mind fighting for dominance over my fingers or I can’t drum up one interesting character. Sometimes I know a passage is not ready yet, that it doesn’t quite say what I want it to say and I can spend hours on one sentence—the lynchpin sentence—just to make it what I want it to be. What it needs to be. It can look quite obsessive, I’m sure, when I am yelling at the thesaurus for failing me. But I follow my gut. It hasn’t failed me yet.
From “The Last Seven Tribes of the Ketchari” by Sarah Lyn Eaton:
The Old Ones stretched themselves in creaks and groans to protect Rochelle’s flight. She ran with long, practiced strides, gaining distance from the hunters.
Birch dryads flung splintered arms at the men, bowling and pinning them to the ground. Roots snapped, tripping the hounds and their masters. In a wave, the grove stepped out of Rochelle’s path, setting themselves between predator and prey.
A scream pierced the air. Rochelle stumbled. Her heart froze.
A thin whistle in the crisp cold night. A burning sting sliced her shoulder. She fell against a young sapling, her cheek pressed against the snow. The birch curled itself low to shield her from sight.
Frightened, they both held their breath.
The forest filled with hounds and human cries and crackling flames, a cacophonous chorus shearing the night.
The dryads. They’re dying. She ran a hand down it’s trunk. The wood trembled.
I can fix it.
“I’m sorry. Hawthberskielth. Gruttberski—”
A sharp steel blade tore through the root. She screamed as thick fingers grabbed her mouth.
“Now, now. You went to all the trouble to wake the wooden bastards.” A dark face replaced the axe.
The tree above her shivered.
The hunter twisted the arrow she’d caught, grinding it into her shoulder. Biting back a yelp, her teeth drew warm blood.
“A shame to put them back to sleep before they fully experience life.”
“They’re going to die,” she said.
“See what destruction your magic has wrought? Isn’t it beautiful?”
The axe chopped through the wood twice more, raining splinters against her skin.
They dragged her out by her hair.
The bottom of the arrow scraped a sharp root, and she lost a moment to a blinding light of pain. Her breath came in uneasy gulps.
“It was sweet of this tree to protect you, but the trail of blood gave you away.” He dropped her and swung hard, imbedding the axe deep in the birch’s trunk.
Rochelle gasped at the stitch in her own side.
Twelve scarred hunters and two wolfhounds paced the forest. A bald man with pocked cheeks pushed her over and ripped her tunic, exposing her back. The men nodded at each other triumphantly.
“We got ourselves a winner, Nico.”
Rochelle’s skin crawled at the violation. The tattooed feathers on each shoulder blade were gifts after the grueling Ketchari rites of passages.
And strangers groped them.
Her nostrils flared.
Nico lifted her chin with a calloused hand. His ice-blue eyes assessed her like a trophy—another kill. He hacked off a handful of her hair.
Rochelle’s heart wavered as he held it out to the other men. The hazy sky heavy with smoke and the sounds of genocide.
“I think this one is the leader. Her feathers are more elaborate than the others.”
Rochelle ducked her head and winced at the pain.
Oh, right. There’s an arrow in my shoulder.
How many got away?
Did any of them escape?
Dark bitterness filled her mouth.
Nico set her ebony hair on fire.
It flared bright but did not turn to ash. The black color burned away, revealing a brilliant clutch of red hair, which shimmered like fine gems.
Nico’s demented smile chilled her deeply.
Sarah Lyn Eaton is a writer who has survived both flood and fire. She lives with her wife and cats where the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers meet. Her published stories can be found in Pantheon Magazine, as well as the anthologies Dystopia Utopia, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America, The Northlore Series, Volume One: Folklore, What Follows, and Elf Love. When not writing she can be found taking photos of fungus, collecting rock specimens, and mediating an end to the cucumber and bean plant turf war in her garden.