SARA Cafe Welcomes Holly Castillo

How did you learn about SARA and what made you want to join?

A little over a year ago I went to my first Writer’s Conference in Austin. There were two speakers on the subject of Romance: Teri Wilson and Patricia Walters-Fischer. They were so much fun and really passionate (no pun intended) about the world of Romance. After the workshop, I went up to them and asked where they were from, and they replied “SARA.” Then they offered to help me out at the RWA Conference (another first for me last year) and I knew I had found my new family. I joined SARA just weeks after returning from the RWA Conference.

What sub-genre(s) of romance stories do you write?

Historical and Young Adult

What made you decide to write romance?

I started reading Romance when I was about ten years old, and I loved the tension of whether the two lovebirds would ever get together (even though I knew they would). I’ve always been writing books. At that time, I was writing children’s books for my little brother, but I wanted to write my own romance. I wrote the first one when I was about thirteen, and it was over 400 pages long, single-spaced, 12-point font. I learned how to narrow it down a bit from there and have just loved (pun intended) writing the joy of a good romance story ever since.

What do you think is the most misconceived idea readers have about romance writers?

That anyone can do it. Writing Romance is hard work. You have to keep the pace going through action, suspense, mystery, and have the reader desperate to know what the character(s) emotional baggage is and how it will all be resolved in the end. Authors of Romance novels spend an exceptional amount of time on research of the time-period, the setting, the technology, anything that will be a part of the book. We have to become subject matter experts in a lot of different fields. It takes time, patience, dedication, and knowledge to be able to write a Romance. Not everyone can do that.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or read about writing?

Write for fun. Don’t write to please others. Don’t write to get a big paycheck. Don’t write to become famous. Write because it is what you want to do—because it is what you have been called to do.

What writer(s) inspired you to try your hand at writing as well?

Lucy Maud Montgomery. She wrote “Anne of Green Gables,” a series of novels that I read when I was about nine or ten. I LOVE those stories and I knew I wanted to be able to weave together words the way she could, and make the scenes just jump off the page and surround me.

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

“The Emotional Craft of Writing,” by Donald Maass

Are you a pantser or are you an outliner? Why?

Outliner. I’m OCD, and can easily fall down a rabbit hole if I don’t know where I’m supposed to be heading. I not only create an outline, but I write out each scene as it should appear in the book, and then get to enjoy scratching it out once the scene has been written. Gotta love those lists!

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension, etc?

The hardest part of writing for me is finishing the book. I’ve fallen in love with my characters by the time I’m coming down the home stretch, and I find myself procrastinating and dreading the final few scenes. I hate to say goodbye to the new friends I’ve made and have spent intimate time with for hours on end.

What is the biggest surprise and/or frustration you’ve learned in the writing/publishing process?

The biggest surprise has been how fast things can happen. Once my contract was signed, I only had a few months to get the second of four books to my Publisher. It was a surprise, but a happy one, because it keeps me focused on my writing and driving the series forward.

Is there a genre you wish you could write in, but never will? Which one?

Sci-fi. I love how exciting those books are, and how you can create entire new worlds. But my creativity hits a major roadblock when it comes to this subject matter!

What would happen if you didn’t write?

I’d probably be clinically insane because of all the voices in my head.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.

I sent in my query letter and synopsis to an agent for a Fantasy manuscript, and in less than two minutes he sent me a rejection letter. My query letter would have taken two minutes to read!! So I knew right then that he hadn’t even bothered to look at my query or synopsis.

Fortunately, though, I’m extremely stubborn. So I went back to writing my Texas stories that I love so much (still keeping the Fantasy story as a possibility one day) and made it through several more pitches before landing with a terrific publishing company.

What do you see as your writing goals five years from now?

I’d like to have my full Texas Legacy series published (16+ books), and mentoring others coming up in the publishing world. I’d also like to win an award or two. Or 10 or more…

Any other tips or words you’d like to share about writing?

A story is a journey. For us as well as the reader. When we sit down and start creating a love story, we never know what might suddenly pop up that fits perfectly with the environment we are trying to create. Enjoy the journey, every high, every low, every bump, and every glass of wine in between.

Photo by Duane Humeyestewa