Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel trilogy. Covenant, the second Raziel novel, is available now from Harper Voyager. Sabrina lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband Mike and a sweet but spoiled cockatiel.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from how they don’t make fantasy films like they did in the 80s and more!
If you could be incarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
This is going to sound a bit crazy considering that in the end she got her head chopped off, but I’ve always been fascinated by Marie Antoinette. The glamour of 18th century France, the dresses, the insane hair—work with me here—all added up to one crazy era in history. So if I could be Marie Antoinette from about the time she arrived in France to the beginning of the French Revolution, that would be nifty. Honestly, I’ve probably read about every biography of Marie that exists. She was far from the person history portrayed her to be. A compassionate woman with a tragic destiny, she never said “let them eat cake” like most people have been led to believe. That would have actually been way out of character for her.
Describe your favorite place to read or write.
My favorite place to read/write is on the softest couch available, and if it’s winter I also need a space heater blowing on my feet. Typically, my cockatiel Caesar is perched next to me, napping away.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Favorite method? How to choose? I’d say it’s a three-way tie between web-surfing, YouTube, and napping. But wait a second—writers never procrastinate, right? Sure we don’t…
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?
Oh my gosh, the wizard hands down. I mean the scientist is “mad” right? The wizard is just powerful, so that could go either way. And besides, maybe he could teach me a way to snap my fingers and have a complete first draft of a novel. Poof! Just like that. Ah, to dream…
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
Number one, my novel Covenant and its prequel Archon take a rather innovative approach to angels and demons, so expect the unexpected! Two, I love birds, so there’s always an avian cameo appearance in everything I write. Three, none of my personal religious beliefs are in anything I offer to the public. I get asked that question a lot since I’m dealing with the supernatural in these stories. In the end, my goal is always just to entertain.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Do you remember all of the fantasy films from the 1980s like The Dark Crystal? Labyrinth? The Neverending Story? Those were my gateway. My mom was really into science fiction and I would watch Star Trek with her quite a bit, but I was always drawn to fantasy more. When I was little I was also quite obsessed with unicorns, and when I grew older, dragons. From there I got into Greek mythology and fairy tales. The cumulative effects of all this snowballed in my brain over the years. I often wish they would make fantasy films like the ones in the 80s again. Sure, the special effects are dated now, but they had some wild and original ideas. You had to give them that.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
If given the chance, I can easily eat an entire bag of Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream chips in the space of two hours. That’s not necessarily embarrassing, unless you consider that I would also be gaining 10 pounds in just as much time.
Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time. Alternately: Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
Sorry, heroes—villains are just way too much fun to write. Even when I was a little kid I would glomp onto the villains in whatever film or television show I really liked. I think it’s because villains are usually just that much more interesting. They’re often more believable, they have a lot of facets to their personalities, and have relatable—if not morally sound—motivations. Their flaws just tend to make them that much more accessible.
Which language, real or fictional, would you like the ability to speak fluently? Who would you talk to?
Tolkien’s Elvish is so lovely. Who would I talk to? Legolas or King Thranduil, of course.
What’s your favorite fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling?
The first fairy tale that really stuck with me was Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid. That entire scene where Ariel sells her soul to the sea witch Ursula was incredible, and it didn’t hurt that “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was one heck of a song. Anyway, later on I learned the original version of the fairy tale. Interestingly, Disney left out that poor Ariel was supposed to feel like she was walking on broken glass every time she took a step with her human feet, or that mermaids don’t have souls (they have to earn them), or that the prince was a huge jerk. But the story ends bittersweetly, even hauntingly, and maybe that’s the best we can ask for outside of Disney studios. Powerful stuff!