Today, it is my pleasure to start off my author spotlight features with a wonderful writer that I met recently through Instagram. Sabina is not just a fellow author, but a fellow coffee lover and her debut novel Hiraeth just released a few days ago. Below, I’ve asked her to share a little bit about herself, her book, and her writing journey as well as an excerpt from her book. Without further ado, let’s meet Sabina!
Meet Sabina Lungeanu
Sabina Lungeanu writes dark fiction and the occasional poem thrown in for good measure. Her work has been shortlisted for the Daniil PashkoffPrize 2018 and has appeared in various anthologies. She owes much of her writing to her patron goddess, Lady Caffeine. At night, she defies the light-polluted urban skies and goes planet hunting with her telescope. Hiraeth is her debut novel. Find out more at: Instagram @sabina.scribbles
A Short Interview
1. How did you get started writing and can you share what your author journey has been like?
Books have always been an intrinsic part of my life and taking the leap from reader to writer felt like the natural next step. I started out with poetry and, to some extent, I’ll always be a poet at heart. It wasn’t until my late tweens that I discovered the charms of prose. I tried my hand at flash fiction and short stories. Two novels later and a third in the making, I’m growing more and more comfortable with long fiction. I relish its steady flow, the momentum that builds up throughout a novel, as well as the many artistic freedoms it allows.
2. What is your process from idea to draft to revisions?
I sometime wish it would be clean-cut, a clear structure to follow and rely on. My experience so far has been more on the chaotic, intuitive side. It starts with an idea, a nagging thought that won’t give me peace. That seedling needs to ripen, and it’s crucial to give it the amount of time it needs. Every story grows at a different pace and rushing it will only stifle the process. When I start writing the first draft, I remind myself every so often to get out of the way and let the story come through. Surrenderingcontrol and trusting the idea to fly on its own is scary. However, some of my best writing happens when I just let the story tell itself without forcing it into predefined patterns. I love those moments when characters develop in completely unexpected ways and surprise me, that’s when I know they’re finally alive. The revision process is an endurance test, but also very rewarding. It requires a different frame of mind, pruning and polishing, peeling off the layers until the story is at its most authentic. It’s usually after many revisions that the true essence of a story reveals itself.
3. Your bio mentions that you write dark fiction. What is that exactly and how does that play a role in your debut novel?
Dark fiction is an umbrella term for a variety of stories in different genres. What they have in common is their disturbing, gritty themes, such as death, issues of mental health, deep-rooted fears. Their purpose is not so much to terrify, but rather to unnerve the readers and immerse them in realms usually avoided. More often than not, the monsters arise from within, and human nature is portrayed in all its flawed beauty.Atmosphere plays a big role in dark fiction, and the tone can bemelancholy at times. My debut novel explores themes of vengeance, entrapment, and the alienating effect of mental illness.
4. How did you come up with the idea for Hiraeth? Also, what did you go through to find such a unique name for it?
The inkling of an idea out of which Hiraeth grew came to me in a very prosaic manner. Every day on my way to work, I’d walk by this store with an antique birdcage in its window. My mind loves to free associate, so it threw in a mysterious pocket watch, a Scottish setting by the ocean, and a ghost on top of that. The story used to have another working title, and it was only later in the process that I settled on Hiraeth. I’d seen this Welsh word somewhere and it had stuck with me because of its uniqueness. I love how it defies a direct translation into English. It’s longing, nostalgia, homesickness, and so much more. After several revision rounds, I realised it was the perfect choice for conveying the essence of my story.
5. Your novel features two different time periods, what was that like when writing the novel. How did you juggle the drafting of each time period, or did you write them separately and then edit them together?
Without spoiling anything, there’s actually more than two time periods in the novel. Juggling them was definitely a challenge. Some stories refuse to be told as a linear narrative, and this was one of them. I just wrote it all down first and then decided how the jigsaw pieces would fit together.
6. What has your debut launch experience been like? What tips would you give to first time publishing writers?
It’s been a ride and far more thrilling than I would have expected. My advice is to pace yourself. Don’t attempt to take care of everything at once. Plan ahead and include a generous time margin for various delays and last-minute changes. Last but not least, enjoy it. You’ve worked hard to get here, and you only get to be a debut author once.
7. Do you have any writer quirks or unique habits?
I’m a devout believer in coffee and its many avatars, but that’s hardly a unique habit among writers. A quirk of mine is setting up playlists for my books. Music is an essential part of my creative process, and many scenes have grown out of a particular song.
– Prologue –
I’m still burning in my dreams.
Excruciating heat crawls up my arms and legs. My skin curls like paper, parting with the flesh underneath. I shout, or at least I think I do, but the sound dies on its way out. Smoke fills my lungs, black and heavy. It clings to my airways and chokes me from the inside. I fight for oxygen, a battle I know I cannot win.
My heart slams against my chest, wrestling to break free of its ribcage and fly away. Someplace where fire doesn’t exist, where no fumes taint the air.
My mother’s face takes shape in my mind. A small part of me wonders why I’m not crying yet.
Are tears even possible in this heat?
I force myself to feel something else besides sheer terror. Regret, like when I was five and the greedy waters of the bay swallowed my favourite teddy. My heart had skipped a beat, and the world dimmed just a little. Deep down, I knew it would never be quite as bright again, no matter how many new toys Mother would give me.
Some things aren’t meant to be replaced.
I look down at my body, in places already charred beyond recognition. It disgusts me, a broken shell I want to rip apart and leave behind. Nausea hits, and I gag at the smell of my own burning flesh.
Out of nowhere, strong hands lift me up. The room goes out of focus, a gigantic spinning top, myself at its axis.
Huh, so I guess they’re real. Must be some angel, one of those Mother believes in, all benevolent stares and wide, welcoming arms.
How she’d love to hear about it.
The angel takes to the stairs, and I have a split second to ask myself, Why doesn’t it fly? before the air is sucked out of me and we crash through the darkness.
I don’t remember hitting the ground.
In my head, we’re still falling. An endless, quiet fall, like snow tumbling down from the heavens.
Rage sparks up inside me, a fire deadlier than the one devouring my body. It torches my last thoughts and turns my heart to ash. Black flames fill me up like a bottle of poison.
It feels like forever, but it’s over in seconds.
I’d always thought death would be the end of pain.
Now I know it’s only the beginning.