SARA Café Welcomes Willa Blair!

SARA Café Welcomes Willa Blair!

by Mary Brand

SC:  What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?  


WB:  I’m one of those people – yes, one of those people, who isn’t happy in just one genre.  My published books cross several, actually.  Scottish historical paranormal romance.  How’s that for a mouthful?  It makes choosing keywords and categories interesting.  Should my books be listed as historical?  Or paranormal?  For me, the historical research takes the most time and effort – and it’s fun – so I think of them as historical romances, but I’m pleased as punch if fans of paranormal romance, especially those who enjoy stories about psi talents, can find them in the paranormal section, too.

And… I’ve got a couple of contemporary/romantic suspense romances on the back burner.  One is paranormal, one – so far – is not.  Add to the mix a science fiction romance series that I’m plotting, and you can easily see that I enjoy all sorts of stories. I spent my childhood eyeball-deep in science fiction and (some) fantasy.  I loved anything where psi talents played a role.  Still do!

SC:  What are your ultimate goals as a writer?  

WB:  We all need goals in life, right? Whether they’re attainable or not? I’m an oldest child, and like so many of those, I’m achievement obsess…uh, oriented.  My goals are less about making money and more about accomplishments.  Some of my big dreams include getting on the NYTimes and USAToday Bestseller lists, winning a Rita® – or several. Getting a movie or TV deal.

Um, excuse me.  I’ve got to get back to writing that next book…!  

Seriously, writers have different goals at different stages of their careers – finish a first draft, enter a contest, win a contest, get an agent, collect rejections, sell a book, etc., etc., but the ultimate goal of almost every writer I know is to build a loyal and happy following of readers who clamor for the next story, novella or novel. To me, that’s the most worthwhile goal of all.

SC:  If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?

I kept a picture of Philip Winchester in the corner of my screen the whole time I was writing Highland Seer.  Not his current look on Strikeback, but as Crusoe, with the longer hair, intense stare, and beautiful, rare flashes of a grin. To me, that look is Donal MacNabb.

Donal is the only character for whom I’ve adopted a ‘real world’ person’s face.  There is just something about Philip Winchester’s picture that captured Donal’s essence for me.  I’ve combed through imagery sites, Pintrest boards, etc., looking for the perfect analog for Toran, Aileana, Ellie, as well as for the characters in my upcoming novella and third book in the series.  Nothing has quite clicked.  Hmmm…I see a contest for my readers in my future!

SC:   What do you do when you’re not writing?  Do you have any hidden talents?  

WB:  Besides cleaning out junk drawers? (Seriously, do they reproduce at night? I have at least one in every room of the house.) Spending time with my husband, reading, feeding hummingbirds, taking pictures, playing with my cat, cooking – all very normal stuff.  Before we moved to Texas, I used to garden, but now we live on limestone in the hill country.  Rock.  Xeriscaped.  Pulling weeds is about all I want to do out there.  Digging holes is out of the question.  (So no, no bodies buried here, either.)  And if I ever get my studio set up (which involves cleaning out junk drawers, closets and rearranging furniture – a trifecta of stuff I don’t want to do), I plan to resume painting and making stained glass lamps and panels.

SC:   What is your favorite part of the writing process?  

WB:  It’s a tossup between typing “The End” and signing contracts.  In between is a lot of hard work, sheer terror, joy and anticipation.  But that first moment when you put your name on that piece of paper is magical, I don’t care if it’s your first book or your fiftieth.  Finishing the book comes a close second after all the blood, sweat and tears are over.

SC:  What would happen if you didn’t write?  

WB:  I’d go to the gym.  And shopping.  Okay, maybe not the gym, but there would be shopping.

SC:  How do you know when your research is done?  

WB:  When I’m comfortable that I have enough information to build the background for the book, set the historical stage for the events that will take place, and add enough detail that the reader feels immersed in the time and place.  I’m not a historian, so I’m not trying for perfect historical accuracy.  If I find something interesting, I like to confirm it with more than one source.  That’s not always possible. And I am writing fiction, after all.  But all those details have to work within the context of the book.  Tom Clancy said it, as did Mark Twain – the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.

SC:  Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge. 

WB:  I’m not a detail-oriented person by nature, but I’ve had to learn to fake it.  The upside of that is being able to manage all the details that go into writing, editing, and promoting a novel.  The downside is that I can get too close to the story to see the big picture. My solution is to leave it alone for a few days, weeks, or months – whatever it takes to regain perspective.  Then I can read my book as if for the first time and spot problems I would have missed while I was down in the weeds.

SC:  Thanks, Willa! 


Join SARA Author Jolene Navarro at Her First Book Signing!


On Saturday, October 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., SARA Jolene Navarro will be signing her debut book, Lone Star Holiday at Bergmann Lumber Company on 236 South Main Street, in Boerne Texas 78006.

Lone Star Holiday is a Christmas Story about family, faith and a second chance at love.


SARA Café Welcomes Linda Carroll-Bradd! 
By Mary E. Brand

Linda casual

SC:  When did you join SARA and for what reason?

LCB: I joined SARA the month after I moved to San Antonio—November 2000, because since I started writing in the mid 1990s, I have belonged to the local RWA chapter of wherever I lived.

SC:  What sub-genre of romance stories do you write? And why do you like it?

LCB: Because my interests are varied, so are the sub-genres in which I write. I describe myself as writing sweet-to-sensual contemporary and historical romance. My first stories were contemporaries and sweet because I was learning the nuances of writing fiction after years spent in the business world with wordy and flat business English. At that point, I couldn’t handle much writing about more than a hug and a kiss. As I developed as a writer, I added more heat to my stories.

Next, I explored setting a story in the past. I’ve always loved westerns and I’m lucky that my husband shares an interest in history so we make sure to visit museums in whichever town we travel through on vacation. I have a weakness for books available in the gift shops of the local lore and legends.

SC: What about the romance genre appeals to you?

LCB: I enjoy creating stories where love is the ultimate goal and prize, even if the characters use a large majority of the story to fight that fact.

SC: If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?

LCB: For my latest western historical release, Capturing The Marshal’s Heart, I choose Emma Stone because of her feistiness and Jake Gyllenhaal because of his intensity.

SC: What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?

LCB: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. This is dense, almost like a college text for a creative writing program. So I worked through the lessons one chapter at a time, applying the techniques as I understood them—and worth the effort.

SC: What do you do when you’re not writing?  Do you have any hidden talents?

LCB: Lately, I’ve taken up crocheting again. Partially because I realized, based on an interview like this, that my whole life was focused on writing, researching, and editing. So I found my selection of crochet hooks, grabbed my loose ends of yarn (since then the inventory has been re-supplied several times over), and created a granny-square baby quilt. Once I get a dozen or so, I plan to set up a site on Etsy and offer them for sale.

SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

LCB: Oddly enough, revisions are my favorite stage of story creation. I love the search for the correct analogy or metaphor to use that makes those words or that comparison special to that unique character. Also, the layering in of setting and sensory details that enrich the scenes and potentially foreshadow coming events.

SC: How do you know when your research is done?

LCB: When I can picture my characters, they have names and I know where their first scene together will be. I’ve learned that once I get the story set in my head and pit my hero and heroine at opposite sides of an issue, the details can be inserted later.

Now naming my characters can take days because I want the name to speak to some element of the individual’s core make-up. And finding the right place (especially for historical) involves aspects that we don’t think of today—like the types of transportation to this place, the frequency of freight or mail delivery, the occupations available for the new resident of this town.

SC: Thank you, Linda!

Photo by Glamour Shots at North Star Mall, San Antonio, Texas.