Q&A with Sarina Dorie

Sarina Dorie’s story “The Gleaners” has an interesting take on alien tourism that will not disappoint our Analog readers! Check it out in our November/December issue on sale now. Read below for a peek behind the curtain and to hear about Sarina’s other projects.


Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?

SD: Shortly before writing this piece I watched a video on Youtube on Dyson spheres and the Fermi Paradox by Kurzgesagt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNhhvQGsMEc).

Also on my mind was the idea of foreign exchange students. As a teacher at a high school, I occasionally get emails requesting that I become a host family. Sometimes I think about people I know and why they would be poor hosts for foreign exchange students. Like me. But that is mostly because I don’t have room. I have lived and taught overseas, and learning about another culture was a great experience, but it was also full of mishaps, miscommunications, and cultural misunderstandings. I tried to channel the feeling of my personal experiences being a foreigner in another land into my story, “The Gleaners.”

AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?

SD: Often I know the title of a piece of writing before I begin, even if it’s only a working title. I really struggled to find a title for this piece. While writing this story, I was searching for a word or phrase that captured the essence of the story, the idea of learning from others. I must have used a thesaurus, saw the word “glean,” and then remembered “The Gleaners,” a painting by Jean-Francois Millet that depicts French peasant women gleaning straw from a field. The day I learned about that painting is burned into my memory as one of the best teacher-mentor days when I was interning at an elementary school and co-teaching with a fabulous art teacher.

So in a roundabout way, the story is named after a painting I know about because I am an artist and art teacher, but the story really isn’t anything about the painting.


AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?

SD: As a teenager I read a lot of Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Kate Wilhelm. I also read every Star Trek universe novel I could get my hands on.

Among contemporary authors I love Laini Taylor, J.K. Rowling, Carl Hiaasen, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Peter David. I love Laini Taylor for her storytelling, humor, beautiful imagery, and characters. I am hypnotized by J.K. Rowling’s world. When I go back to read Harry Potter these days, I have realized I don’t actually love Harry. In the later books especially, I find him to be an annoying teenager, but I am still compelled to read. I love Carl Hiaasen’s humor. Humor is important to me in just about everything I read, and I often include it in my own writing.

From the classics, I read and reread Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Alexandre Dumas, and Charles Dickens. The romance aspects in my novels are often heavily influenced by Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I am also fascinated by the unrequited love of Severus Snape and Lily Evans in the Harry Potter series. Readers sometimes tell me Felix Thatch in Witches Gone Wicked is Severus Snape while others say he is Mr. Darcy. He is definitely both with a little Heathcliff thrown in.

AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?

SD: I often find myself writing about being a monster and an outcast, or a stranger in a strange land. I suppose someone could say it is a common trope to convey a world, but I think the reason I often do this is because I have lived abroad. I know what it is like for everyone on the street to stare at you and to feel intimidated and threatened by that. Alternately, I know what it is like for everyone to purposely pretend they aren’t looking at you. It is a strange experience being an “alien.”

When I lived in South Korea every restaurant brought me a fork and knife because they assumed I couldn’t use chopsticks. I never learned how to in Korea and my family laughed at me when I came home because I still couldn’t use them. I got away with not fitting in because I was excused for being a foreigner. In Japan I was very much encouraged to blend in to Japanese culture. I was expected to learn and speak the language, use chopsticks, and use appropriate Japanese customs. Sometimes I was a social outcast but too ignorant of the culture and language to realize it. At other times, I was excused for certain behavior and treated like a child. People gave me candy and patted me on the head. Other non-Japanese English teachers I knew were insulted to be treated that way, but I wasn’t, mostly because I liked candy.

I often fall back on the feeling of being an outsider. I wrote a Japanese steampunk series that largely relied on this concept. Currently I am writing a series titled Womby’s School For Wayward Witches, and I explore the idea of being the least magical teacher at a magic school.

AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?

SD: I have always wanted to live in the universe of Star Trek. Upon deeper contemplation about this question, I have concluded the only logical time to live in Star Trek would be The Next Generation era. I might be okay with the original series century of Star Trek in which the planet Vulcan still existed, but I don’t want to live during the time of DS9, Voyager, Discovery, or Enterprise. There is good conflict in Discovery, but that is not a world I want to live in.

On the other hand, I would be totally okay with living in any era of the Harry Potter universe: pre, post, and during the reign of his Dark Lord.

AE: What are you reading right now?

SD: I am currently listening to the last audiobook of the Red Rising trilogy. I love it, but I definitely wouldn’t want to live in that universe.

AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?

SD: Some of my past careers have been: barista, art museum lackey, copywriter and editor at a digital advertising agency, English teacher overseas, tutor, and ruler maker. By rulers, I mean measuring devices, not a creator of dictators and royal sovereigns. Currently I am a fashion designer, artist, writer, belly dance teacher, and public-school art teacher.

When I have very bad classes as a teacher, my writing is therapy. When I am an unemployed art teacher—it happens intermittently in my line of work—I have more time for writing. When I was a copywriter and editor, it sapped all of my creativity and I produced little creative writing. I often fit art, teaching, and feeling like an outsider into my stories. As a public school teacher, I am exposed to a lot of hormonal people full of conflict—and their children—and it gives me a lot of juicy material.

For years I have wanted to write a novel about being a teacher and sneak in all the horrible experiences I have that no one would believe. Finally I did it in my series Womby’s School For Wayward Witches. The premise: You think you know the world of magical boarding schools? Not from a teacher’s perspective at a school for at-risk youth.


AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?

SD: The best way to stay in contact with me, hear about what I am writing, know when I have a new release, or books offered for free on Amazon is by signing up for my newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/sarinadorie/authornewsletter.

Sarina Dorie has sold over 150 short stories to markets like Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s IGMS, Cosmos, and Abyss and Apex. Her stories and published novels have won humor contests and Romance Writer of America awards. She has sold three novels to publishers. Her steampunk romance series, The Memory Thief and her collections, Fairies, Robots and Unicorns—Oh My! and Ghosts, Werewolves and Zombies—Oh My! are available on Amazon, along with a dozen other novels she has written. Recently she has released a series titled Womby’s School for Wayward Witches.

A few of her favorite things include: gluten-free brownies (not necessarily glutton-free), Star Trek, steampunk aesthetics, fairies, Severus Snape, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Mr. Darcy.

By day, Sarina is a public school art teacher, artist, belly dance performer and instructor, copy editor, fashion designer, event organizer and probably a few other things. By night, she writes. As you might imagine, this leaves little time for sleep. You can find info about her short stories and novels on her website www.sarinadorie.com.

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