S. A. Lytle has lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada since birth. She loves traveling, and hopes to explore the world someday soon.
In the meantime, though, Lytle lives with her identical twin Sam in a cozy house on the edge of the city and focuses on writing. The house is filled from top to bottom with books and video games, and the two spend most of their free time coming up with stories or reading.
Her first novel, The Hunter’s Tale, was released in May of 2013.
So many. I began reading even before I started my school, our parents wanted us to start school as far ahead as we could. Sam and I were twins but had no other siblings; we were very introverted children. So we read anything and everything we could get our hands on. Growing up, the fantasy authors I consumed the most were Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Melanie Rawn, Ed Greenwood, R.A. Salvatore. There’s just so many books I read that have places in my heart that I can’t possibly list them all.
What was the hardest aspect of writing The Hunter’s Tale?
The hardest part was sitting down to write it in the first place. Along with reading, Sam and I wrote our own stories from a very young age. I still have the diskettes from the earliest Mac computers we owned with my stories on them. But Sam and I found ourselves in the fortunate and yet regrettable position of inheriting a good chunk of money. Sam, being a government librarian kept her job. I was managing a shoe store at the time, but we decided I should quit and try writing. We didn’t expect success, but it was something we wanted to try. So leaving my job and tightening up our finances was the hardest part.
What aspects of inheriting a large chunk of money are regrettable?
Inheriting the money meant losing my grandfather. He passed away from cancer a few years ago, and my grandmother finally decided to hand out our inheritance while she was still alive to see the grandchildren enjoy the money. Sam and I were able to pay off our cars (thankfully we had no other debt left), and I took a year off work. It’s almost all gone now and will be with the move to Vancouver Island in the summer, but it was sure helpful.
What was your process for creating the world featured in The Hunter’s Tale, and what did you use as inspiration?
Sam and I created the world for The Hunter’s Tale close to eighteen years ago, actually. As I said Sam and I loved to write our own stories. So we came up with a trilogy and the characters quite naturally. We were ready to build our own world, and it fell into place easily enough. Having two minds that think similarly, and yet in some ways vastly different works great for us. We’ll talk out everything together and expand on another’s plot points, and fill in each other’s plot holes.
We took inspiration from a few places. The laws of Dungeons and Dragons influenced us (we didn’t play much, back then the boys were too weirded out when we joined them for games, they were so shy) but we read a lot of the novels based in the world.
For Eraph’s story, we decided to start with something more lighthearted than our main trilogy, so we moved away from the continent we’d fully developed and started throwing out ideas. We always start with the characters, and then fit a story around the characters that win our attention. From there we decide plot points, write them down and stick them in order on a cork board and move things around as we go. Of course when writing the characters and the world take on a life of their own and things change as you go.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The most enjoyable part of writing is when you get in the zone, so to speak. When you fall into the story and walk and breathe and feel with your characters and the words just flow from your fingers for pages and pages.
What is the best thing about living in Winnipeg? And what’s the worst?
Winnipeg. Where temperatures range from below -50 Celcius in the winter to +40 in the summer. It’s a brutal place.
In the winter, the cold can wear you down physically and mentally until you’re ready to crack. And then it warms up just enough for it to fog in the morning and hoarfrost to coat the trees. And then sunrise paints the sky pink and purple and gold and the ice-covered land sparkles like crystal.
Summer is beautiful. More humid than the tropics some days, where you feel like you’re melting. But then a breeze brings the scent of water and flowers and under the endless pristine blue sky of the prairies everything is perfect.
It is the best and the worst place to live.
But our parents retired to Vancouver Island, to a small town north of Nanaimo. And it’s beautiful there, we’ve always loved the old forests. It’s odd there though, not seeing the sky. But we’ve decided to move there too this summer.
What are a few of the best video games you’ve played recently?
Ah, video games. Our favourite pastime. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Banished, it’s rather addictive. Other than that, we’re replaying Red Dead Redemption here and there on the weekends. I still poke around Skyrim every once in a while. I’m looking to the bookshelves beside me and the rows and rows of old SNES through to XBox360 games (I’ve still yet to buy a PS3). Just like a good book, we like to go back to old games every so often.
What are your fondest SNES gaming memories?
SNES gaming was my childhood. Final Fantasy 2 I was a little young for, but our mother played it. I do remember when Final Fantasy 6 (3 in the US) came out, our mother kept us home from school and we all three played all day. My best memories are sitting watching my mom play games and my sister and I helping and then playing ourselves. It was a family affair. My dad never had an interest in it, but he did humour us.
What events in your life have shaped you the most?
This is a funny question. I’m sure many people have these wonderful and horrible stories of grand adventures and terrible traumas, but my life has been simple and happy and easy. My parents have stayed together even now. I was bullied as a child, but who wasn’t? A few breakups, some bad. Nothing spectacular or anything worth mentioning. Maybe it is the simpleness of my life that’s shaped me. Having a loving family around me, having a twin who has been my partner in almost every aspect of my life. My parents weren’t well off, but they provided for us. They taught us to work for what we wanted and to earn what we deserved. Maybe that’s why Eraph has a loving family, and isn’t like so many protagonists who are one against the world. Because that makes someone strong. To take those scary steps knowing not that someone will be there to catch you, but that your successes and failures are not just your own. That your actions and choices affect more than just yourself.
If you could snap your fingers and be instantly transported anywhere in the world, where would you choose to go?
To my parents house on the island. With my cat Nick and Sam, to see my mom and dad and our cat Quarter who was healthy enough to travel with them. To take walks on the beach every morning with my dad again, to eat meals cooked by my mom. To lay on the floor with a pile of pillows between their chairs ad watch TV with them every night, instead of just the few days I get to spend with them when I fly out there.
What are you working on next?
Several books, actually. The Hunter’s Tale has several possible sequels following Elan, a few about Dela and Loie and the Wizard, about Mica… And there are three prequels where you learn the origins of the Wizard, and more about what’s going on with the strange behaviours Loie exhibits. Is that giving too much away?