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 Sarah Pinborough, a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. She has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original horror film in development. Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her 2013 novel Poison, a modern retelling of Snow White, will be released in the US by Titan Books on November 18th.
Join us to get Sarah’s unique take on duels to the death…
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
Until I was eight I was at an American school in Damascus (Damascus Community School, sadly now closed because of the troubles in Syria), and so Halloween was a much bigger thing there than it was in English schools. They were having a big party at the school with haunted classrooms and things, and me and my older sister really wanted to go, so my poor mum had to make us costumes, with quite limited resources. I decided I wanted to go as a tree elf (as you do when you’re six), and so she spent forever sewing real leaves onto tights and a leotard for me. When my dad drove us up there, as we went through the gates I saw all the bigger kids in their costumes and got nervous and refused to go in and so he took me home. My poor mother put all that work in for nothing. I probably owe her a lunch for that one.
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
When I am really stressed, which is quite a lot of the time as I’m a person who finds it hard to relax and switch off, I go through loads and loads of cotton buds cleaning my ears. My ears are the cleanest in England. In fact my doctor once said they were ‘dangerously clean’. I can’t remember when it started—I think probably about the same time I started writing. My flatmate has banned me from buying them now, for the sake of my hearing.
What’s your favorite fairy tale?
My favourite fairy tale is Snow White. There’s attempted murder, magic, jealously, friendship and love. What’s not to like?
Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?
A wand. I have terrible aim and poor co-ordination. I’d end up tripping over and lopping one of my own limbs off with a lightsaber. Plus, I’d rather just turn someone into a frog for a while until they calm down than actually have to kill anyone. I’m not sure I’d be good at killing people. It all seems so final. Turn them into a frog, then while they can’t speak, explain gently why fights to the death are in general a poor idea and maybe it’s better to talk it out over a cup of tea or a beer.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Hmm, this is a tricky one! You can’t really go wrong with a bacon sandwich when you’ve had a late night, and I’m quite partial to a McDonald’s as a treat, but that might be bending sandwich rules a bit, but I think if I HAD to choose one, it would be avocado and crispy bacon on a ciabatta with a thin spread of mayonnaise. And I’ve also just realised how middle-class that sounds, but I can’t help it…I LIKE IT. Or, ham and coleslaw. Or a sausage sandwich.. Hmmm.. is there such a thing as a bad sandwich? Now I want a sandwich…
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Peter Pan I think. I remember reading it when I was very young and I loved the flying and the discovery of another magical world and adventures. After that might have been The Magician’s Nephew, which once again had the discovery of another world. I had an aunt who always had rings on that made me think of that book with their bright gem stones. And of course after that, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There’s a pattern of escapism emerging, and the concept of whole other worlds just out of sight. I still believe in them.
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
A big cat, like a white tiger… OR… a mouse. The two extremes of my personality.
If you could open a new shop in Diagon Alley, what would you sell?
I would sell wishes! Wishes that are embedded in delicious treats like Turkish Delight and fudge. But only wishes that can be given as gifts to others. So if you had a friend who was unhappy, you could buy them a little packet of fudge with happiness wished for them swirled into it. Or love or success, or peace of mind or self-confidence.
Having finally established communication with a distant alien species, what’s the first thing that we should tell them about Earth/humans?
We don’t taste very nice. Absolutely not tasty. Quite yuk. Probably poisonous.