Meet BFS Authors – Sunyi Dean @Blind_Nycteris

Sunyi Dean (sun-yee) is an autistic author of fantasy fiction. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire with her children. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wild swim in lonely dales.

Her short stories have been featured in The Best of British Scifi Anthology, Prole, FFO, Tor Dot Com, etc., and her debut novel, THE BOOK EATERS, will be published on 18 Aug 2022 by Harper Voyager UK. 

How would you describe your writing?

Crunchy and smokey, with a faintly bitter aftertaste. Sort of like those bizarre, whisky-flavoured crisps you can buy in Aldi for a suspiciously cheap price.

Tell us about your latest project…

The Book Eaters is a mashup between a contemporary gothic novel and a speculative thriller. Set in an alternate 00s Britain, it follows the story of Devon Fairweather, a woman who can eat books, and her son, Cai, who has a darker hunger for human minds.

Honestly, it’s such a gonzo plot that I always feel faintly embarrassed when trying to explain it to other people, but I promise that it works when on the page, kind of. I hope. Maybe? Anyway, I dug into my love of fairytales, my experiences of living in inner-city North England, and my love of northern landscapes for this one. My adopted country is so beautiful and bleak and weird and wicked, and I’m terrifically in love with it.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Getting paid! (I joke. Mostly.) More serious answer: I’m allergic to drafting and find it horrendous, but I live for revision. I love being elbow-deep in edits with a thing that I know works and has potential, providing I can fill in plot gaps and smooth away bumpy writing.

Have you always written in this genre?

Broadly yes, narrowly no. I’ve always been drawn to SFF generally, but I started out trying to write secondary-world fantasy. My first novel, long since trunked, was an over-complicated epic science-fantasy disaster. I’ve since found my spiritual home in contemporary or contemporary-adjacent spaces, although that might change again in future.

The front cover of The Book Eaters. There is a page that has been ripped revealing the cover underneath which is off-white with a small picture of a large house in the bottom half.

What has been a highlight of the publishing process so far, and what are you looking forward to?

I think the editing process was a huge highlight for me. I feel like Lindsey Hall (my editor) gave me a proper levelling-up in terms of plotting, worldbuilding, and tension. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to improve my craft in that way.

What was your journey to publication like?

Fairly difficult, sometimes bleak. I should clarify that most people have a tough ride to publication, and I wasn’t querying or submitting as long as some authors I’ve met. That said, my personal circumstances were a little chaotic pre-publication.

In short, I separated from my ex-husband while writing The Book Eaters and ended up moving out of his house in the middle of Covid lockdown into a semi-derelict flat. I was nine years out of work and living completely on the dole, with a limited future. It was under these circumstances that I finally completed The Book Eaters and passed it to my agent, Naomi, so they could submit it to publishers.

I’d already been on submission once before with a different novel which had failed to sell, so I wasn’t expecting this attempt to go any better. But sometimes, life surprises you! The Book Eaters sold very quickly, and it is no exaggeration to say this event changed everything. My final statistics: 3 books written in 4 years, collecting about 180 lit agent rejections and 20ish publisher rejections between them.