Get ready to learn more about the book The Sorceror’s Lament in this discussion with sapphic author Sam Dogra.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Sam Dogra about The Sorceror’s Lament, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Fantasy category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write The Sorceror’s Lament?
As a teenager I read a series of fantasy books by Mark Robson, the first of which was called The Forging of the Sword. He had a magic hierarchy in the books which I heavily disagreed with- so it inspired me to create my own. A lot of my early concepts were inspired by video game magic systems (particularly Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube), but I never really came up with a strong story to put the magic system in, so I put the idea aside. I had some ideas about two characters on opposing sides that had to work together, but I didn’t know what else to do with them.
More recently I read the Crier’s War duology, and the sapphic enemies to lovers and steampunk setting really caught my imagination. So I went back to this magic system and characters and created a story around it. I flipped the gender of one of the main characters (which suddenly made the central conflict far more interesting), made the other much more flawed (she became incredibly arrogant and selfish), and The Sorceror’s Lament was born!
I was also able to inject more diversity into the books using my Indian roots- I made one of the protagonists bi-racial and made an entire country based off India but in this fantasy setting. My earlier manuscripts really lacked in this area, so I was pleased I could bring my culture to the foreground and make it an integral part of the story.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
While I love Jessie, Lahara is my favourite. She holds many similaries to me and I can empathise with her loneliness and how others are jealous of her ability and talent. I thankfully don’t share her tragic backstory, but this adds another layer to her personality. She also embodies one of my favourite trops in the second book (no spoilers) and I thoroughly enjoyed planning her character arc. I also love the design I came up with for her.
What part of The Sorceror’s Lament was the most fun to write?
I really enjoyed the scene just after the midpoint of the book where Jessie has to warm up Lahara after she almost drowns in a canal when they’re escaping a city in lockdown. At this point Jessie’s magic is temporarily blocked so she can’t rely on her powers to do the job for her, and it’s the first time she’s considering someone else’s needs above her own. It’s a pivotal moment in her arc, and it’s also the only one bed trope (who doesn’t love that?).
How much research did you need to do for the book?
For the magic system I had to go back to some old pharmacology and immunulogy books from medical school to really know the nuances of how it would affect people, and that was fun to revisit. I also did a lot of research on the climate and geography of India (as one of the regions in the world is a fantasy version of India).
I was also very much inspired by the Netflix show Arcane with its steampunk elements and also my characters Jessie and Lahara share a lot of relationship dynamics with Caitlyn and Vi from the show too.
What is your favorite line from your book?
From Jessie: ‘I didn’t want to see the pieces of my broken heart scattering to the wind.’
What is your writing process like?
I used to be a die hard outliner, but then I found I was taking more time to re-write outlines than the actual story, so now I’m more of a hybrid. I use a simple plot beat structure now and keep everything else less rigid, which allows my characters to guide the story rather than me forcing them into situations. I enjoy the planning stage the most, the actual writing the least, and the editing I like 2nd best!
Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I write at my desktop at home. I can get distracted at times (I’m often playing spider solitaire in between word goals) but I usually aim 1000 words for 1 day, and then a finished chapter per week (my chapters are around 2,500-3,000 words).
Do you have any odd writing quirks?
Perhaps not a writing quirk but my go-to writing music is the Hollow Knight Original Sound Track- it really gets me in the writing zone and it’s a beautiful soundtrack!
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?
The book Save The Cat Writes a Novel really helped me simplify the outlining process and see that the characters I create drive the story, rather than me forcing events. It makes for much more organic story telling and I can’t recommend it enough.
I would also mention that the advice of giving a character a want, a need and a fear or misbelief holding them back is perhaps the most important element a story can have and I always try to incorporate this into my writing.
What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
I really like how Brandon Sanderson makes worlds and magic systems- he is definitely one of the most creative in these areas and I enjoy how often he thinks outside the box. The sea he made in Tress of the Emerald Sea was absolutely amazing and I hope to write something equally as unique someday.
Have you ever hated one of your characters?
I definitely despite Horus- he is a very unlikeable character on purpose in The Sorceror’s Lament and is made to represent every person I’ve come across who lacks total insight into their actual ability and feels entitled to have things given to them. He comes from a very nepotistic background and feels he’s above everyone else.
I chose not to give him a redemption arc as I have come across such people in real life and I find their lack of insight means they never get to that stage! He also provides a good foil to Jessie as while she is also arrogant initially you see where this attitude comes from, and it shows her greater change as she goes through the arc and realises such a firmly held belief can do more harm than good.
What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?
I’ve always loved fantasy books and they remain my go-to genre. I love the amazing worlds, the magic systems, and the chance to explore deeper themes with high stakes. I also enjoy when fantasy blends with another genre (such as mystery) as this can mix up expectations and lead to very creative stories.
I have tried other genres (and even tried writing contemporary) but my heart always belongs to fantasy, in particular ones that don’t follow the Lord of the Rings template (medieval Europe setting etc) and have sapphic elements.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Sabriel by Garth Nix was the book that introduced me to fantasy and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s still one of my all time favourite books and I love how unique the magic system is. The characters are also fun (I love Mogget and his ambiguous loyalty) and I really loved Sabriel’s journey. The writing style is immersive and it has one of the funniest lines I still remember to this day.
The Wind Singer trilogy by William Nicholson was also quite influential on me. It’s YA Fantasy and delves into big philosophical topics. The second book Slaves of the Mastery in particular is my favourite, as it explores whether free will does more harm than good and that if people only did what they were good at and were rewarded for it society would be more productive. I have yet to come up with anything as deep but the books inspire me to get there someday!
Strangely it was a video game called Eternal Darkness that actually inspired me to start writing with my own characters (I’d dabbled in fanfic until that point). The prose in the game is really good, the concepts dark and intriguing, and its magic system inspired me (and traces of it can still be seen in my book).