Interview with Sonja
What is your average day like?
I get up. I think about exercising. I put it off. But because I'm going to exercise, I
don't work. I read the paper. Play videogames. Watch something on AMC or
TCM. Then I exercise. By then most of the day is shot. I play more videogames.
I shower. I have dinner. No point in starting writing anything. I go to a movie or
hang out with my family or play more videogames or watch more TV. I go to bed
and lie awake reading or doing cryptic crosswords until two or three or four. Or
five or six. Then I sleep.
That's my AVERAGE day. On rare days, I write. Then when the book is done, I
go back to average days.
Do you have any other careers?
Do you work at home?
How did you become interested in writing?
I started as a playwright in college, but after a few dozen plays I realized I couldn't
support myself doing that. I had read quite a bit of science fiction - though it was
never more than about a quarter of my reading -- and I knew it was the most open
of the genres, so if I wanted to turn my writing into a career, it seemed worth a
shot. I had tried a few sf stories in college, but now I wrote with a serious intent to
write something of professional quality. The result was the novelet "Ender's
What is your favorite book?
Lots of favorites. Depending on category and purpose. The Book of Mormon.
Lord of the Rings. Screwtape Letters. Guns, Germs, and Steel. Foundation.
Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac. Bradbury's I Sing the Body Electric.
Pinker's The Language Instinct. Pride and Prejudice. The Prince and the Pauper.
Tunnel in the Sky. Galactic Derelict.
Do you have a favorite book that you have written?
All my books were the best I could do with a story I believed in and cared about at
the time I was writing it. At the time of writing, each one was my favorite story --
and also the worst thing anyone had ever written. Now, in retrospect, each one
means different things and arises from different places in my memory. Lost Boys
is the most emotionally resonant because it is based on my family. Saints is about
my people, my ancestors. Homecoming is my spin on the most important book in
my life. Alvin Maker is the most fun to write. Pastwatch is probably my best sci-fi novel. Enchantment may be my best novel, period. Hart's Hope might be my
best prose writing. And I'd be an idiot not to feel a great deal of affection for
What/who inspired the Ender's series?
The basic idea of the battle room came to me when I was sixteen. My future
sister-in-law, Laura Dene Low (she soon married my older brother, Bill), had
urged me to read Asimov's Foundation trilogy, which blew me away. I found
myself wanting to come up with a futuristic story myself, and my rudimentary
understanding of science fiction at the time led me to assume that sf stories began
by the author thinking of a futuristic idea (and it certainly is one way to come up
with a story).
Since I had been a Civil War buff for years, and because my brother Bill was in
the army at the time (and the Vietnam War was at its peak), I speculated on how
military training would be different in the future -- especially war in space, when
there were three dimensions to think about. It wouldn't be like flying airplanes,
because in flying there's always a "down" to orient yourself with. It would take
drastic rethinking of the organization of objects in space and time . . . and so I
came up with the battleroom as a means of training soldiers for 3D combat.
Years later, when I wanted to write a story that was completely and obviously
science fiction, I came back to that idea and realized that if the soldiers being
trained were all little kids, the story would be much more powerful. But this, too,
came out of the obvious truth that most of the time our soldiers are children, or we
make them into children through training -- we want them utterly dependent on
their commanders for their understanding of reality, the way children are utterly
dependent on their parents.
Are any of your books' main characters based off of people in your life?
Only in Lost Boys is anyone based on real people. The family is based on me, my
wife, and our eldest son (who is still very much alive, thanks). The other
characters are disguised enough that they could not be identified by strangers. In
my other books and stories, I don't base characters on people I know personally.
Once you knew you wished to be an author, how did you pursue this?
I was a theatre student when I found out I got the best response from my rewrites
and fixes and adaptations of other people's stories and plays. From there, it was an
obvious step to write my own plays. And after losing money even with hit plays, I
realized that fiction would be a much more financially rewarding field of writing
than plays. I pursued this decision by writing stories designed to fit within an
existing publishing genre -- in this case, science fiction -- and, when my stories
started selling, writing more of them. Meanwhile, though, I also made money
from script writing -- half-hour audioplays for Living Scriptures of Ogden, Utah.
What was high school like for you? Did you enjoy it/hate it? Good grades?
Did you fit in? Hobbies?
I was a straight A student (except for a jerk band teacher who punished me for
moving away from Arizona so I didn't play at graduation, and my D for my last
quarter of geometry). I fit in fine at Mesa High School, but I finished high school
at a private school in Utah whose students had all been together for many years, so
obviously I did not fit in at all. (I'm the most findable of all the graduates, but I
am never invited to reunions. <grin>) I played in the band in Mesa -- French
horn, sousaphone. I also was involved in drama, which was my real love. I did
the speech/debate thing, too. Hated P.E. and got out of it as much as possible.
Finished high school Spanish and took college Spanish during my last year of high
school; studied Portuguese that year because my high school teacher minored in it.
Had fun even when I didn't fit in.
How was your childhood? Loving? Good parents?
I had a Dandelion Wine childhood. My parents were loving, supportive, attentive,
hard-working, and had high expectations of their children. They gave us a home
filled with music, books, photography, and the belief that we could do anything we
were interested in doing.
Do you have any siblings?
Two sisters, three brothers.
How many children do you have?
Five children, three still living.
Have you pursued any other careers in your life?
I was a copy editor, book editor, and magazine editor before going into writing on
a fulltime basis. During 1983, when the recession made it seem desirable to take a
regular job again, I worked once more as a book editor. Other than that, I have
had no other sustained employment.
Did you go to college? Where?
I received a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University (1975) and a
master's from the University of Utah (1981).