Photo: Author Sebnem E. Sanders (Novelist & Story Teller)
MR: Today I’m pleased to present author Sebnem E. Sanders. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, these days Sebnem dreams and writes along the stunning eastern shores of the south Aegean Sea—which flows between Greece and Turkey. “Sebnem” in Turkish means “Morning Dew.”
Greetings, Sebnem, and welcome to Center Stage. At what age were you enthralled with reading? And what types of books first interested you? Did you initially read works in Arabic?
SES: I think I was seven, in first grade, when I learned to read and write, Mick. We started school in mid-September, and in late November we celebrated the Reading Festival where all the first graders were given red ribbon bows pinned to our uniforms, which meant we could now read and write.
I loved reading fairy tales from Andersen, Grimm Brothers, and 1001 Arabian Nights. Later stories from Jules Verne, children’s classics, and mystery books.
I never learned the Arabic Alphabet because during the early years of the Republic, in 1928, Turkey began use the Latin Alphabet.
MR: When did you first start penning your own tales, Sebnem? And how much time lapsed before your saw your first story published?
SES: I was in elementary school when my passion in writing began. I had some honours, also in prep-school. Later in life, I started writing poetry. The 70’s were very turbulent years in Turkey. The leftists fighting with the right-wing supporters. Brothers and sisters, killing brothers and sisters. Very sad. I was also in love. So poetry was my only escape. Almost everyone is a socialist in their youth, I was, too. My first vote went to the Republican Party, Ataturk’s party. I’ve never voted for any other party since then.
It took a long time before I saw my first stories published. Although I was the editor-in-chief of our school paper, The Campus Chronicle, and contributed to the literary magazines of the American Colleges in Istanbul, I had to earn a living and began to work. It was a long working career in Turkey and abroad, until I retired, and could begin to follow my passion.
My first stories were published in The Drabble, 100 word-stories, and then in many online literary magazines in the US, UK, Canada, The Far East and Turkey. I’m most grateful to The Drabble for publishing my first stories.
MR: You’ve done a bit of travelling—including visits to the United States, and time spent in England. Are there any other countries you’ve visited, Sebnem? And do you think your time in other countries has shaped your writing in any ways?
SES: Many… I lived in England and in the Far East, mainly in Singapore and Hong Kong, during the last days of the colonial period, pre-1997. I enjoyed both cities, Mick, but not the humid climate. At least Hong Kong had two seasons, Summer and Fall. In Singapore, there was only one season, rainy or sunny with 90% humidity.
The reason I travelled a great deal in my youth is because I worked with the Italian airline Alitalia in Istanbul. I was the secretary to the Alitalia General Manager for Turkey, and I could get free tickets and hotel discounts all over the world. So I indulged. “I am a part of all that I have met,” in Tennyson’s words. Naturally, this has shaped my writing. I’m a universal person. I like to think of humanity without the restrictions of race, nationality or religion.
MR: You certainly embody that belief, Sebnem. You’re often extremely active on Social Media and kindly support an array of writers and poets world-wide, myself included, and I greatly appreciate your enthusiastic spirit.
Since you retired and found yourself free to pursue your writing dreams, have you been able to interact in person with other Turkish writers? Or do you find your relationship with other writers limited to email and other electronic communications?
SES: I don’t think the literary circles in Turkey know about me because I write in English, Mick. So I was very happy to have my stories published at The Bosphorus Review of Books--which is the only English language online literary magazine in Turkey, with an English editor. Having my work published there gave me some exposure in Turkey.
Most of my friends say I should publish my book collection Ripples on the Pond in Turkish. But this endeavor requires further work. I cannot translate my own stories, so I’ll need to have them written in Turkish. Maybe, I’ll do that after my next book is published.
Since I write in English, my author friends consist of an international group: from the US and Canada, to the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, and a host of other writers from all over the world who also write in English.
We all support each other’s work on social media, as well as exchange critiques, and write or share reviews. As much as I would like to meet all of them in person, most interactions are online. However, we did have a small authors meeting in Athens this year with DJ Meyers and his wife, from Australia, Joanne J. Kendrick and Pamela Jane Rogers from the US, her late husband from the UK, and me from Turkey.
MR: Your flash fiction and short story collection RIPPLES ON THE POND released in December 2017—and will soon celebrate its 2nd birthday. While I haven’t read every story in RIPPLES, Sebnem, I can certainly detect the early influences of the Grimm Brothers and 1001 Arabian Nights in your writing. Many of your tales are considered “Speculative Fiction”—strange events often take place in “super-natural” fashion—they defy the so-called Laws of Nature or the Universe as we presently understand them.
What draws you to penning these types of dramas?
SES: I’ve always liked “Speculative Fiction.” In fact two of my longer work fall into this category or genre. I believe the fairy tales of my childhood must have a great influence, but I never actually plan on writing a speculative tale. I’ll feel inspired by a prompt—a photo or a painting, something in the news—a book, a movie or a conversation.
Then, sometimes weeds talk, buildings lament, trees feel and understand, a character like Ivan gets infatuated with ivy –and Bernard gets obsessed with his mannequins.
Author Kathryn Gauci came up with an interesting term, “anthropomorphic slant”—attributing human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena—just like we find in fairy tales.
MR: Your publisher for RIPPLES—The Gargoyle Chronicles—is located in Australia, and managed by author D.J. Meyers, who’s fascinated with gargoyles, among other things. In fact, if I understand correctly, all the books offered by this publisher have one thing in common: every work contains the word “gargoyle” in at least one sentence.
Which of your stories references a “gargoyle,” Sebnem—and how on earth did you find this publisher?
SES: I met David J. Meyers online at the now defunct Harper Collins writers’ site called Authonomy. I’d joined this site back in 2012 with a completed manuscript of The Child of Heaven. DJ and I began to read and edit each other’s work. That’s how our friendship began, and in the summer of 2013 DJ and his wife Michelle visited Istanbul where we met in person.
DJ writes fantasy and historical fiction, and publishes his own work. He kindly encouraged me and offered to publish my fiction collection, Ripples on the Pond, in 2017.
I don’t know whether all of DJ’s work contains the word “gargoyle.” Knowing his stories, that would be fitting. I suggested he use the name “The Gargoyle Chronicles” as the publisher. But I don’t think any of my stories reference a gargoyle. That’s strictly DJ’s territory.
MR: You have three additional manuscripts in various stages of completion: The Child of Heaven, The Child of Passion, and The Lost Child. The titles suggest they’re all related in some way. What can you tell us about these works? And do you have any specifics hopes or thoughts about where they might be published?
The Child of Heaven is a fantasy about an alien child who visits Earth to learn about human feelings from the main character, Leila, who lives on the shores of the Southern Aegean.
I’m rewriting, editing, and polishing this tale at the moment. It’s a different kind of book, but contains some of the characteristics one finds in The Little Prince and The Alchemist. I’m hoping this one will release in 2020.
The Lost Child is about parallel universes and speculates whether humans are capable of changing their ways in altered circumstances. Central to this story, a man loses his child in both universes.
Meanwhile, The Child of Passion is contemporary fiction with romance.
These completed manuscripts will be self-published. The three stories are not related. However, each involves a child. Why? I have no idea. But probably because I don’t have any children. Although none of these children are main characters, each one influences the main characters in their stories to change.
MR: You also have stories in the book collections ONE MILLION PROJECT, THRILLER ANTHOLOGY and PAWS AND CLAWS. What can your share with us about these adventures, Sebnem?
SES: My contribution to the One Million Project, Thriller Anthology is a short story called “Mummy’s Torchlight.”
It’s a sad tale about a young boy whose mother is murdered, and how he copes with this tragedy as he grows up and faces the culprit. But NO spoilers, Mick!
My contribution to the Paws and Claws collection is a flash fiction story called “High-Flyers.”
This is another anthropomorphic tale, told by a red kite who observes the human condition from a bird’s eye view.
I didn’t begin as short story writer. In fact, I never thought I could write one until I joined the Flash Fiction Group on Authonomy. The group, then hosted by author Darius Stransky, gave me a warm welcome, so I began to write a story every week. I believe flash fiction is an inspiring exercise to create something new—in style and plot—while improving one’s skills to write concisely due to the limited word counts. “Short and sharp,” as online magazine Spelk Fiction says.
When Authonomy closed, Darius moved the group to Scribblers in 2015—and asked me to host it a year later. Although I’m still running the group, membership numbers aren’t as high as they were in Authonomy.
By 2016, I’d written over 150 stories. I chose 71 and posted them on Scribophile for critiques and editing—and finally Ripples was published.
MR: Well, Sebnem … your writing career certainly didn’t involve “instant gratification.” But I’m surely pleased your dreams and endeavors have been wonderfully realized and received. Thanks for sharing with us here at Center Stage—and I hope you make new Writing Friends as a result of our chat!
As always, thank you fine Audience for joining us! Truly a pleasure.
Mick Rose Grateful Author (and Reluctant Poet)