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Author Interview: Sienna Eggler Chats about Off The Beaten Path

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Get ready to learn more about the book Off The Beaten Path in this discussion with sapphic author Sienna Eggler.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Sienna Eggler about Off The Beaten Path, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Fantasy category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Off The Beaten Path?

This series is something of a passion project for me. It’s been in the making for the past few years, and was intended as a web serial. I am very fond of isekai anime and portal fantasy as a whole, and wanted to write the story I wanted to see. For me, that’s a story with a Black character at the forefront, transported into a queer normative world. I know there’s a demand for fantasy where Black characters are allowed to just have fun and vibe with magic, without being delegated to supporting or minor roles.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

That would be Anniken, who unlike Meike, is horrified to be thrust into this strange new world. She takes some time to adapt, but really leans into it once she does. She has big MC energy, which is a gag I liked in Yuru Yuri. She doesn’t have a ton in common with me. For one she’s very confident, outspoken, and knows how to handle a sword. We’re alike in terms of ambition, perceptiveness, and cynicism.

What part of Off The Beaten Path was the most fun to write?

Like Meike, crafting and gathering are my two favorite things to do in MMOs. I had a lot of fun writing those scenes, as I find them really cathartic. It’s also what Meike prefers to be doing, when they aren’t out adventuring. Even in battles, they’re more content to play the support role and ensure everyone stays alive.

How much research did you need to do for Off The Beaten Path?

A fair bit, mostly concerning plants and fungi. Botany is Meike’s major, and they love mushrooms. Looking up fungi was probably my favorite part of the process, next to the variety of healing herbs. I was really fortunate to be gifted several herbalist books, which I use for inspiration on some of the potions used in the book. Incidentally, my knowledge of medical terminology will help a ton in future books in the series.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

The first book is very focused on Meike’s journey, but future books do give Anniken more of the limelight, along with perspectives from other characters. There will also be more questing and exploration.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I mostly write at my desk, where I have a second monitor setup to run Obsidian while I write in Scrivener (or alternate between the two). Obsidian is great for notes! But lately I’ve been fascinated by an idle game called Chillquarium. I like running that in the background because it’s just soothing.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I don’t snack much while I’m writing, but I do like to drink tea while I write. That’s usually ginger lemon or slippery elm tea (Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals), since I have digestive issues, but for a treat I like Strawberry Fields from Tea Spot.

Do you have any odd writing quirks?

At some point (probably in my high school business ed class), I started typing with my middle fingers, and… just stuck with that? Occasionally I’ll use my other fingers, but I mostly rely on those two digits. I’ve been told it’s very rude, which is fair! When I’m on my phone, it’s mostly my pointer finger or thumbs.

Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?

I have two cats: Lily, an aging tortie, and a young black cat named Raynie, who has a ton of kitten energy. Lily mostly leaves me alone while I’m writing, but Raynie likes walking onto my desk to get my attention. She’ll only leave me alone once I play with her.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

There’s so much in fiction I want to see but have to really dig to find. That rang true especially in my youth, but I have it somewhat easier as an adult.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

I’d say the biggest hindrance is trying to model what I see others doing, rather than staying true to myself. That’s spilled over into two of my books, which I heavily regret now and don’t plan on replicating.

When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

Music! I make playlists based on stories and characters (and moods), though there are certain artists I immediately go to for some scenes. I love sad music, so it’s easier to find moods for those kind of scenes.

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

Horror! My favorite genre across all mediums. My mom was a big horror fan, and got me into Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. She gradually stopped reading it in favor of Zane and other romance novels (but still loves horror movies), but my love for horror expanded into video games and podcasts.

What books did you grow up reading?

I already mentioned King and Andrews, but there was also Goosebumps, and my “transgressive fiction” phase in high school. I don’t write horror at the moment, but there are many tropes and depictions I didn’t care for and avoided in my own writing. King in particular is guilty of a lot, such as the way he treated women and fat people in most of his early work, along with the magical negro and Indian burial ground tropes.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

Far too many to count, but the ones that stand out the most are Watership Down (it’s a big special interest of mine), Carmilla, and It. Carmilla is rather self-explanatory, but It stood out to me because it’s another fixation that persists from my childhood. I first read it at 13, and love the tv mini-series. While the book has its issues, I related a lot to the kids, especially when I first read it. And then there’s Pennywise, which is a whole thing.

Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?

I mostly read horror, but I also love sci-fi. I like horror for the escapism from the real horror of everyday life, and sci-fi for the potential it brings, in terms of technological advances. But I also love the “low life, high tech” of cyberpunk.

Meet Sienna Eggler

Eggler is a queer and autistic author with a love of the supernatural and all things horror. Despite that, ey mostly write fantasy, sci-fi, and sapphic romance. ey/em

Visit Sienna’s Website

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Author Interview