When Sarah Olutola isn’t working on her dissertation here at Mac’s English and Cultural Studies graduate program, she can be found on bookshelves across Canada under the pen name Sarah Raughley.

Sarah’s first published book, Feather Bound, is the result of her creative writing efforts done after hours, after being encouraged in some of her English classes.

“Mac gave me encouragement in a roundabout way in that I had this class that we had to share our work and get feedback on it every step of the way. It wasn’t something I was used to as I didn’t usually show my creative writing to others,” said Olutola.

The book, an entry into the young adult fantasy genre, tells the story of a young girl with a secretive past getting swept up into a world of glitz and glamour, but soon finds that same world has disturbing connotations.

“It’s more low-key magical realism which basically means contemporary but with a touch of magic. You know, how sometimes fairy tales are creepier than they let on? It’s like those, but transposed into the modern world.”

Though this is Sarah’s first book published, it is not the first work taht she has tried to get bound and sold. “Just because you may have a debut doesn’t mean it’s the first book you try to get published. There are other works I’ve tried but wasn’t able to. This was an outlier for me, a bit experimental, and that’s how it went.”

She talks of her influences beyond other books, being that she plays a great deal of video games and wants people to take the medium seriously. “I’m sort of a geek and I found when I was a kid I did read, but I played video games more than I read. A lot of people dismiss video games as a way of storytelling. You see a lot of really creative, out-of-the-box storytelling in games.”

To aspiring McMaster authors, she stresses the importance of doing your research and investigating alternative publishing avenues.

“There’s the traditional route, which I did. Getting an agent, writing a manuscript, and e-mailing a query to a bunch of publishers. Nowadays, because of the rise of e-books and e-readers, you don’t really need to go through the traditional route. I’m happy I have an agent and that kind of support, but I’m also open to putting myself out there, for a dollar or two on Kindle,” said Olutola.

“Another big tip would be to read, read, and read a lot in your field, and even outside your field. It helps you build your vocabulary and evolve your writing style.”

She is not ready to put her passion to bed just yet, as she has already taken steps towards another publication. “I just wrote another manuscript, along the lines of big epic fantasies that I like [such as LOTR and ASOIAF] and I am currently sending that to publishers. I’m hoping that becomes my next book. It’s something completely new.”

When asked about the pen name, Olutola responded, “I’m eventually going to have to publish works under my professional name, and I didn’t want to get my academic work mixed up with my fiction writing. Raughley is a nickname for my Nigerian name, just a spelled a little differently.”

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