Sara Light-Waller’s first adult novel “Landscape of Darkness: A Novelette of the Space Patrol” was just supposed to be a design experiment, not a book. “I was showing an example of Coquille and looked at what I had drawn. I suddenly realized there’s a book in there,” she says with a tinge of amazement.

Trained as scientific illustrator, her style of illustration is known as “Coquille” which uses a waxy pencil on bumpy paper. This allows a half-tone effect for black and white drawings, creating stunning, intricate pictures.

Light-Waller is a rarity as one of the few female pulp fiction writers. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton.

Light-Waller started out writing in the fantasy area, but realized after a while that it wasn’t a good fit for her. Then she started writing science fiction and “it was like putting on comfortable gloves,” she says with a smile.

In particular, she enjoys writing “pulp” which is a style from the early to mid-1900s. It was called pulp because of the cheap paper used to make little books more affordable for regular people. These books stretched the imagination with fantastical stories, unlikely heroes and far away locations, providing widespread entertainment long before television. “They’re very easy to read and there are many different genres,” she explains.

Light-Waller has the distinction of being one of few female pulp writers. She attended her first science fiction conference as an author in March at “NanoCon” in Longview’s Lower Columbia College. She was thrilled when the keynote speaker asked her to be on the panel. “I had one week to prepare,” she laughs.

Light-Waller’s illustrations are in the “Coquille” style, using a waxy pencil on bumpy paper. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton.

Her next big adventure is going to PulpFest in Pittsburgh this July. She is honored to be selected for their “New Fictioneer” category, for new up-and-coming authors.

Light-Waller’s novelette is being compared to some of the great pulp writers. She believes one reason her book is so popular is that she writes “neotopian” style, with positive human characters rather than “dystopian” where everything is doom and gloom and focuses on non-humans. “My goal is for you to be able to read and enjoy it in an afternoon, have some tea, then go to bed – short and sweet,” she laughs.

“We need a boost – stories where the heroes are human,” she says. “A lot of stories don’t make us feel good. The heroes are cyborgs or aliens, ETs or war machines. That gives us the feeling we’ll never be good enough. That’s what I love about pulp; it’s regular people that feel out of their depth but have to step in to take care of things anyway.”

Light-Waller’s illustration and writing talents cross many fields, including children’s coloring books, freelance writing and more. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton.

“Landscape of Darkness” was so popular, she is writing a sequel titled “Anchor,” due out this fall.

But Light-Waller doesn’t just stop at writing novelettes. She also runs the Space Explorers Club which includes a membership card, contests and a newsletter with something kids of all ages have always found fun – secret codes! “I have people ages eight to 80 reading it,” says Light-Waller.

Light-Waller also uses her talents to further children’s education. She has written four children’s books and two coloring books, and will be holding her second coloring contest for kids during Summerfest on July 4. One of her coloring books is all about Centralia’s founder, George Washington. As a member of the “George Washington Birthday Committee,” the idea is to engage children with history. A subcommittee is using the book as part of the “George Washington in Schools” presentation. “We want to make sure they know the difference between our George Washington and the president,” she says.

Sara’s Light-Waller’s writing has been compared to some of the best pulp fiction authors. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton.

Light-Waller’s life is a little bit like her stories; unsure of where things are going but working out in a surprisingly good way. Two years ago she came to the area to visit, looking to move from Snohomish. “I thought I was moving to Olympia,” she says with a laugh, but she quickly found a house in Centralia. Since then she has become whole-heartedly invested in her new hometown, not only learning the history but helping to keep it alive as a Borst Home volunteer and chairperson of the Centralia Historic Preservation Commission.

As comfortable in the past as she is in the future, Light-Waller intends to write more pulp science fiction as well as start a sci-fi magazine in the style of the old days. It will also be in the neotopian style, giving hope to mankind during this time of struggle and strife.

Light-Waller’s books and illustrations can be found at lucinapress.com. She also freelances, creating magazine covers, blog posts, copywriting and articles. Samples can be found at saralightwaller.com.

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