For those of us who have only been members of SARA for a short time, you may not know how our chapter began. Today’s interview gives us that background. Could you tell me the details of how SARA began?
Emma Merritt was the lightning rod that fired the start of SARA…in my living room, believe it or not. Always influential in every group she was in, Emma had many opinions about national RWA and she wanted to run for national president. She felt the need for a local group at her side and her back. It was impossible to say no to Emma, and I for one didn’t want to. Okay, I was the one to whine and complain in our regular Friday night group. We’d been in other groups. The stepchildren of San Antonio Writers. An informal lunch group—my favorite. We’d organized Alamo Writers Unlimited, a group determined not to be affiliated with RWA.
Ultimately, I gave in to Emma. So there we were—yours truly, Evelyn Rogers, Pamela Litton, and Karla Hocker, signing our names. We became San Antonio Romance Authors, with Emma as President, yours truly as Vice President, Pam Litton as Secretary, and Evelyn Rogers as Treasurer. I think that was the line-up. Surely Karla had a post! We became a full-fledged chapter of RWA. By the next year, I was the second SARA President…and Emma was President of national RWA.
Time marched on.
In the year 2000, I dropped out of the writing business from burn-out and tremendous loss. There was a lot of upheaval in my personal life, and I’d lost three people who were central to my happiness. Two of them were Emma Merritt and Elda K Bradberry.
You cannot imagine how thrilled I was to attend the recent September meeting and see so many SARA members in such an active organization. Emma would be absolutely delighted!
What sub-genre(s) of romance stories do you write?
I used to write for Silhouette. Wrote historicals for Kensington’s Zebra line in the ’80-‘90s. I’m back with Kensington now. I’ve just finished the Texan Brides series, three historical novellas for Lyrical Press. The first, His Make-Believe Bride, is released October 25. All are set in Lubbock in the early 1900s.
What made you decide to write romance?
It was purely kismet.
What do you think is the most misconceived idea readers have about romance writers?
That we’re a bunch of numskulls.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given or read about writing?
If it were easy, everyone could do it. So keep at it.
What writer(s) inspired you to try your hand at writing as well?
Barbara Catlin, I guess. It all goes back to the kismet thing. She and I were partners at the onset, wrote our first book together. She’s still my muse and BFF.
What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?
N/A. San Antonio writers taught me to write.
Are you a “pantser’ or are you an “outliner’?
Both. I like to know where I’m going, need to know how a story ends so that I’ll stay on track and don’t waste scenes. That doesn’t mean an end can’t change!
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog?
Description is tough for me. And creating interesting, compelling characters.
What is the biggest surprise and/or frustration you’ve learned in the writing/publishing process?
That it really never gets any easier.
Is there a genre you wish you could write in, but never will?
Not really. I’d like to write medieval stories, but I’ve actually written one medieval long novella that was published in the late 1990s by Kensington. I’m actually as comfortable in that time period as I am in 19th and 20th century Texas. Well, I might be a bit rusty. As a genealogist, I have a fair understanding of ruling and noble families in Britain and Europe and I’m familiar with the territory. Oh, dear…don’t get me started!
What would happen if you didn’t write?
Been there, done that. I did some non-fiction writing—work-for-hire, including a history of the Pearl Brewery during its transformation. I unearthed the story of the three Emmas. (Yes, I really, truly did.) But I got up to Kerrville, and the projects ran out.
I ended up working in the newsroom at the newspaper (hard, hard work!), then at another part-time job, as a publicist. Very low pay. When I got a chance to run back to Kensington, I ran fast as I could into Steve Zacharius’s arms.
We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
My rejections have been more on the order of awful reviews. I’m the queen of the awful reviews. How I survive? Well, I’m not the usual sweetness-and-light person. My thinking is off-center. It stands to reason my characters aren’t going to be the average nice characters. Not everyone likes me, so not everyone is going to like my books. I don’t know how I’ve managed to stay published past some of those eviscerations, but I have. Check with me next week, though!
What do you see as your writing goals 5 years from now?
I hope I’m not having to do housework.
Any other tips or words you’d like to share about writing?
Two things. One. Seek wise counsel. When I started out and to this day, I listen to writers, editors, publishers, publicists, etc., I admire and trust. I want to hear what they had to say about writing and the business of writing. Two. This is Emma Merritt’s advice. Attach your seat to the seat of your chair and stay there. In other words: Write, write, and keep writing. The only way to succeed is to produce a body of work. And I wish you great success with it.
Thank you for the history lesson and your insights on writing.
sIt was nice to think back on those bygone years, though sad to remember Emma. I loved her so very much, and remember those years of flying around—vanloads of writers going here and there with Emma, her husband Paul in the driver’s seat—going from one conference to another. She was always the star, wherever we went. She absolutely lit up every huge room. She wasn’t a big woman, but she seemed huge. When I looked in her coffin, it was the first time I ever saw that she was actually so very tiny. OMG. I’m crying all over again.