Melinda Salisbury, debut author of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, on writing a story about a girl discovering who she is against all odds, and how her own personal dream of becoming an author is now a reality.
I never imagined I’d be an author. Not a real one, with a proper book with a cover, and an ISBN number, and a copyright warning inside. It seemed like the kind of thing you get to do if you study at Oxford or Cambridge, or if you have a favorite aunt who writes. I didn’t realize for the longest time that you could go to a normal school, have a normal life, and become an author.
And yet here I am.
As publication day approaches, lots of people are asking me how I feel—am I excited? Am I nervous? If I’m honest, I’m petrified. To me it feels unreal that this story (that began life as an idea I had whilst singing in the shower, of all places) will soon be in people’s hands. It’s simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating, that this tale, that started so small, has come so far. I never imagined it, not even in my wildest dreams. Who could?
When I began writing The Sin Eater’s Daughter, I knew that the world I was creating was a treacherous, merciless place to live, and I had no intention of toning it down or making it more palatable. Because to me, the most horrifying thing about Twylla’s life isn’t the world around her but how trapped inside it she is by things she cannot control, nor change—by her gender, her heritage, her abilities. I wanted to write a story about what it means to have very few choices, and little control over your life, and what a colossal undertaking it would be to try to overcome that, if it were even possible. I wanted to write about a girl discovering against all odds who she is, and what her hopes and desires are, in a world that’s never considered she may be anything more than what it chooses for her. I wanted to write about the importance of small rebellions and how sometimes bravery isn’t just rushing at a dragon with a sword, but facing up to the truth, and working alongside it.
And I did. I wrote that story, and in a short time people will be able to read it. So how does it feel to be a debut author? It feels as though I’ve woken up in time to see the sunrise, and made myself the perfect cup of tea to watch it with. It feels like I’ve looked up in time to see a shooting star, or a baby deer stand up for the first time. It feels like suddenly missing a friend so fiercely it ached, only to pick up the phone to call them at the exact moment they were calling you. Without using endless clichés, it’s impossible to explain how it feels, because it feels impossible to begin with. It feels like exactly what it is—a dream coming true. And I’m so happy and proud to be here.