Author Spotlights

Author Spotlight – Rue Sparks

Author Spotlight: Rue Sparks
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Rue Sparks


Artist, animator, writer, designer, professor- I’ve worn a lot of labels, but the one thing I’ve always aspired to be is simply a storyteller. I live in Noblesville, Indiana in the USA with my sweet senior support dog and still draw and paint when I’m physically able.

 

Q&A
Introduce yourself!
I’m a writer and artist from the USA’s midwest, the land of ‘ope’ and Faygo. I worked as a studio artist, graphic designer, and art director in advertising for a little over a decade before a physical illness cut my career short. Now I’ve hunkered down in Indiana with my sweetest senior support dog, Hera. I may be disabled, but I write and still dabble in art.
What do you like most about writing?
When art became near inaccessible to me, I felt lost. It was how I coped with my emotions, my situation. Now with a debilitating physical illness, I needed it more than ever to process my new lot in life, but that same illness prevented me from using that tool.
Writing was something I could do with less pain, but brought a lot of the same relief. It started with poetry, then short stories, then that grew into novels. I love that it allows me to access emotionality while giving me the chance to create worlds and characters outside myself at the same time. It creates space between me and what I’m trying to process, and my hope is that it helps others learn how to deal with some of the same issues and concerns.
What is your writing routine like? When and how do you write?
Because of my disability I have a sporadic writing schedule. It usually depends on my pain and fatigue levels. I go in spurts—when I’m feeling good, I take full advantage, and may write up to 5k a day. When I’m having a flare-up, I may write nothing for a week.
My process is to take a prompt or an idea and mull over it a bit. I’ll do something else, like listen to music on my record player, do some chores, make a Spotify playlist, something where I can think without giving it my full attention. This gives my subconscious mind a chance to have at the problem and come up with solutions. Once I have a general direction I’ll start writing until I’m stuck again. I’ll repeat this process until I have a draft, then it’s time to edit. I’m somewhere between a discovery writer and a plotter in this way.
What are some things that have influenced you and your writing?
I’ve been influenced by some of the more typical things like books, television, movies and music. My favorite influencer though is science. I listen to the podcast Ologies in binges, and near every episode has me reeling with ideas. I love taking some seemingly innocuous sentence or concept and relating it in some way to a story. It helps that in speculative fiction especially you can be really creative with integrating prompts.
Could you tell us more about Daylight Chasers?
Daylight Chasers is my debut long-form work, somewhere between a long short story and a novella. 
It revolves around Keenan, the top agent at Daylight Chasers. It’s a company that upon uttering the phrase ‘I wish this day would never end,’ appears to take the speaker around the globe by hopping time-zones to fully experience a day that ‘nearly’ never ends via travel blog.
Keenan is hired to be Isabella’s guide, but he quickly learns that this will be all but business as usual. Isabella is moody, mercurial, and unpredictable. Every activity they’ve set up for the group seems to go off the rails.
The story takes on the pattern of a fable, spiritual guides in the form of activity coordinators and an ending that’s meant to be not inspirational, but cautiously hopeful.
I love the concept of a story about someone who jumps through time zones and uses it to take clients on adventures. Could you tell us about how you came up with the idea and did you find anything difficult about writing it?
My stories are usually a conglomeration of a bunch of small pieces of inspiration put together, and this one was no different.
One inspiration is the book “They Both Die At the End” by Adam Silvera. I liked his use of the phone call when someone was going to die that day, and borrowed that concept with a twist for the event trigger.
Another inspiration was the song Daylight by Young Guns. There’s a line in it that really hit me in context of the song. It’s a simple one, but it felt relevant to the story: “All we need is daylight.” It reminded me that sometimes when we’re in the darkness the only thing that really makes a difference is to remember that for better or worse, things will always change come daylight.
That concept also led me to thinking about how you could extend the day, leading to the idea of driving west through time zones to extend daylight. Being in the US, time zones were always a concern on road trips, so the idea seemed like a logical step.
Keenan and Isabella go on both a physical and an emotional journey throughout the story, what do you think the most important thing they learn is?
Most importantly is that everything changes. For better or worse, things will always change. That means you can’t take for granted the good times, and you can’t dwell on the bad times. Daylight is just the manifestation of a new day, a new time in our lives. Dawn can break on a hurricane, the night can fall on a cloudless sky of stars. The only constant is change, and if you can live with that, you can survive anything.
What other things do you like to do besides writing?
I draw and paint when I can. I read (of course!) and play video games, especially RPGs. I write old fashioned snail mail letters to friends and to home-bound seniors. Other than that, I’m a slave to the whims of my aging pit bull mix and unashamed about it.
Tell us about a book that is important to you.
There’s this strange book that has stuck with me called Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I call it strange, because it’s about a bookstore clerk who discovers a cult-like group of seniors trying to find the secret to eternal life in the pages of its mysterious book collection; which sounds like such a heavy subject, yet it’s such a wonderfully light and fun novel. The ending (which I will of course not give away) was so perfect and I’ve yet to find a book with a more perfect ending.
If you’re up for an intense non-fiction read, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl was life changing for me. I read it at a time when I was struggling mentally—I was dealing with the early part of my illness, and the grief over my late wife, and wasn’t sure what I was doing with myself. It was a heavy book to read at that time, but I’m glad I did. Frankl was a psychiatrist, and a survivor of the Holocaust. He’s the founder of logotherapy, or meaning therapy. 
There’s a Nietzsche quote in it that really stuck with me: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” The whole book was like that, very powerful and poignant. I highly recommend everyone reads it at one point in their lives.
Anything else you want to share?
One of the benchmarks of Daylight Chasers, and many of my stories, is that we’re more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Through our own strength, and the strength of our found family, we can bear almost anything.
So when it comes to writing, or any endeavor, I wish for y’all to give yourself more room than you think you deserve. You can bear more weight, more criticism, more stress than you think you can. If there’s something you want and the only thing holding you back is your own self-doubt, try to remember the words of Nietzsche. Find your why, and you can bear any how.

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