SARA Cafe Welcomes David Reed

What made you decide to join SARA?

In January 2016, I joined SARA on the strength of a recommendation from Laura Stephens. We had shared a small, unaffiliated critique group for a few months and based on her description of SARA and the strength of her writing and editing talent, it sounded like something I could benefit from.

My motivations for joining SARA were several. Elements of romance exist in most other forms of fiction, and I wanted to develop a better mastery of those elements. I needed (and still need) to develop both craft and discipline by surrounding myself with others who are on a similar journey. Most of all, this vibrant chapter seemed to have far more spirit and verve than any other writing group that I’ve visited or belonged to. Also, I certainly don’t mind being in the male minority.

What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?

My completed manuscripts (seeking representation) and current project are urban fantasy but not strictly romance (just romantic elements). However, the two subgenres that I have books planned in (synopses and first three chapters written each) are paranormal romance and romantic suspense. I’ve got to get off my excuses and complete both of those series starters before the RWA conference in July. Otherwise, I won’t have anything to pitch!

What about the romance genre appeals to you?

As an industry segment, romance calls to me for a variety of reasons. The obvious appeal of a loyal and voracious audience should draw any writer who has to publish to eat, which I do now. As of this past February, I took the leap of faith out of ye olde nine-to-five grind and became a full-time novelist. Despite needing to make a successful career of this, my original draw to romance was the challenge of romance as a genre.

Although romance is often unfairly maligned, I believe that it is at least doubly more difficult to write a great romance than it is to write a great fiction in any other genre. Not only do you have to write a great story, just like any other genre, you have to weave into it all of the equally important relationship growth (and tragedy) that are not treated with equal importance in genre fiction outside of romance.

Also, I suppose, I took a statement from another author as a personal challenge. She said that women would “never” pick up and read a romance with a male author’s name on the cover. I put “never” in quotes because there are always exceptions—I intend to be one of them.

Do you consider yourself a romantic?

Yes, I am an incurable romantic. My wife has teased me about being more weepy and emotional than she is at the movies. ’Tis true! I began writing poetry for her before we were married twenty-five years ago, and I still do today. Perhaps not as often as I should, but there are a few of my poems that are framed and hung with other artwork around our home.

What are your ultimate goals as a writer?

My ultimate goal as a writer is the same as my ultimate goal as a human being: to make the world a better place than I found it. My entire adult life, I’ve believed that I am always in the right place at the right time. Whether I like any given moment in time or not, I’m here to learn something or help somebody, or both. My humble prayer is that each thing that I write will inspire at least one person to be better. We are all works in progress, and our goal should be the improvement, not perfection.

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

I have a propensity for buying “great books” about craft, and only flipping through them. Perhaps that’s part of my struggle.

One of the craft books that I did finish (and I’m reading it again right now for the second time) is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Despite being written by and for screenwriters, I think Save the Cat has a great deal to teach us as novelists. The plotting methodology he teaches is just enough for me (a recovering pantser) to find useful without being so detailed that I never get started on actually writing. Perhaps the biggest lesson for me was that I can’t stumble over writer’s block if I already know where the story is going.

A strong second is Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k, but probably only because it scratches my nerdy itch to have a spreadsheet for everything. Keeping track of each writing session and its level of productivity does help dial things up for me.

Do you have a writing routine?  What does it involve?

My normal routine is wishing that I were writing while I’m doing anything else (laundry, dishes, exercising, whatever) and then sitting down to not write as much as I sit down to write. Mostly kidding. I bought a sit-stand desk so that I can switch positions more frequently. I have found that I do think differently standing and writing (well, typing actually).

One thing that I learned early on while trying to write every single day has nothing to do with writing every single day. It has to do with how my brain handles language. I found that I can’t listen to music with lyrics while I’m trying to write. Hence, I collect a wide variety of movie soundtracks and instrumental-only collections of music. It’s hard to find upbeat and thematic instrumental music that doesn’t put me to sleep with it’s classical lullabye, but I’ve found a few artists that make the kind of music I can write to without the language center of my brain tripping over the lyrics. Two that I listen to the most are Two Steps from Hell and Really Slow Motion.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

Not that I can think of. Except, maybe, a fear of rejection. But that’s based on my own actual experience, so I don’t think that counts as a superstition.

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

As a full-time househusband, when I am not writing, I am doing the laundry, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, etc., all the wrong way—according to my wife, who did all those things differently than I do them for the past eighteen years.

I do aspire to do book narration and voice acting in the coming years. My current excuse for not recording more (I’ve only recorded one audio book for a startup company that hasn’t launched yet) is the lack of a home studio that can block out all the ambient sound of the house. Until you try to make a professional recording, who knew the air conditioner, the ceiling fan, and the neighbors’ dogs were so noisy?

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Being finished. Well, I can’t really say that from experience, so I’m hoping that will be the part I enjoy most. Currently, I am going through, line by line, all of the changes my developmental editor has proposed for my first completed manuscript. Hence, it isn’t finished yet.

My second favorite part, I think, is coming up with new ideas. It’s fun to imagine new stories. It’s fun to start a new novel. It’s fun to write the blurb and the logline and imagine the cover. It’s what comes next that I need to learn how to make my favorite part of the process… and I’m not quite there yet.

What would happen if you didn’t write?

If I didn’t write, I’d be sad. I would probably go back to my previous career in software development, but I wouldn’t be happy doing it. I would consider becoming an opiate addict. I think depression (in writers) is often caused by not writing.

How do you know when your research is done?

My natural, smart aleck response is to ask: What is this “research” whereof you speak? I write fiction! Why should I need research? But that’s just me being silly.

Because my current manuscript is contemporary and set in real world El Paso, I did research the public locations by visiting them in person. This caused me to rewrite a couple of scenes that could not have possibly happened the way I imagined them.

For me, an author has done enough research when I’ve been to that place or I’m familiar with that subject, and I feel like I’m there again when I read his or her work.

Name one thing you absolutely can’t write about.

I can’t think of anything I can’t write about. There are lots of things that I don’t want to write about—software reference manuals and scatological erotica come to mind, but only because they’re so similar to one another. I understand why some people think they “can’t” write about something, but I don’t believe it’s an actual inability, just a preference.

The reason I take that view is that my characters and muses have brought me things to write that I would never have sought out on my own, or even aspired to write in the first place. For example, I’ve never been a psychic Irish lesbian or a Catholic Latina housewife—but both are powerful heroines in my stories. I’ve even got a half dozen or more nonfiction book ideas on a “to write” list somewhere that I’ll get to one of these days.

Name one of the challenges you’ve had as an author and how you met that challenge.

My biggest challenge as an author is my writing excuses. I acknowledge this only because I believe that when writing the story of my life, I should never give someone else the pen. They’re my excuses and they’re my fault and they’re mine to fix.

The one that I allowed myself the most (until recently) was the old cliche, “I don’t have enough time to write!” I removed that excuse for myself by quitting my day job (with the devoted support of my lovely and gracious bride of many decades). I gave myself a year to prove that I can, well “walk the walk” doesn’t make sense for a novelist, so insert whatever the equivalent cliche is for a writer. Stephen King wrote in On Writing, “Writers write.” Period. The End. So that’s what I’m doing.

Ask me again next year whether I have all four of my 2017 books written!

SARA Café welcomes Tricia James!

The SARA Café is an occasional feature that puts the spotlight on a SARA author. This month, it’s Tricia James’s turn to answer a few questions.

by Mary Brand

12-typerednails-website-1SC: When did you join SARA and for what reason?
TJ: I originally joined SARA back in the late 1990s…so long ago that, frankly, the exact year is obscured by the fog of time. Suffice it to say, a long time ago.
Long story short, we had been living in the Near East and Europe for over ten years, finally moved back to Georgia, followed closely by a move to San Antonio. Over those years, I had gotten pretty serious about writing so the move back to the States seemed like a good time to get serious about doing something about it. Hence, RWA and SARA. I quit the first time because I started getting promoted in my corporate job. I liked what I did and I liked the money they paid me to do it.
Now I’m retired from all that and it’s time to get back to writing so I rejoined in July 2013.

SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?
TJ: My original love is historical romance…well-researched period pieces. I tend to like them like I like my Mexican food…spiced up and hot. Historical was always a good fit for me because I’m basically a history nut and I love the research. Unfortunately, I can’t always predict where I’ll end up. Couple of months ago I was doing research on some specific events of the English social Season circa 1811 and ended up immersed in an article about the world’s oldest crown. I know, right? Time suck.
I also write contemporary romantic suspense which is great because there’s this whole range of interesting ways to say things (some not so reverent) and I get to kill people. Someone almost always dies. I’m currently working on a series set in New Orleans and Louisiana. My current hero hates humidity almost as much as I do so it’s a good setting for him.

SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?
TJ: No, not really. Okay, honesty. Not at all. If I have to have a label, best to call me a realist, maybe even one that’s a little bent. I won’t read about helpless women or men who are bullies unless he’s a villain. My heroes are bad boys that are good men. My heroines are strong women who may not know what they want, but they certainly know what they don’t want and they don’t settle.

SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?
TJ: I’ll be pursuing the Indie route. I like the control and the independence and I’ve decided (after a lot of reading and study) that I can handle the marketing aspects. Although, the whole concept scared the crap out of me when I first began considering. I asked everybody (literally) everything (literally) that I could think of. I’m sure I annoyed more than one person.
However, I won’t publish until the contemporary series is mostly complete…end of this year or beginning of next. Hopefully, sooner. Unfortunately, I’ve had a series of life events that have interfered over the past six months so I’m really looking forward to a dull, uneventful remainder of 2014.

SC: What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?
TJ: Hands down, it’s Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. Put the whole structure-thing into instant perspective. I’ve read a lot of the screenwriting books and got something from all of them but Save the Cat made everything click into place in an informal, common-sense, non-intellectual way. Might not be for everyone but a great fit for my style of learning and writing.

SC: Do you have a writing routine? What does it involve?
TJ: Simple. Each day…every day…write something. Only requirement is that it must be doable and must move the plot forward in some significant way. And research doesn’t count. I love research but research won’t get a book published.

SC: Do you have any writing superstitions?
TJ: None other than I have to be organized and have to be able to see my stuff—lots of bookshelves, dry erase boards, bulletin boards. Although I have a U-shaped writing area and I’m pretty religious about keeping automation stuff on one side (computers, iPad, phone, printers) and non-automated on the other side (my Fiction Bible, binders, sticky notes, pen/paper for brainstorming.)

SC: What would happen if you didn’t write?
TJ: I’d spend that time with my cameras–crazy about digital photography. Although I’d still probably play with characters and scenes in my head.

SC: Name one thing you absolutely can’t write about.
TJ: Can’t do torture of children or animals. I’m pretty naïve so I’m at a loss with the whole BDSM-thing but I guess I could write it if I wanted or needed to…just don’t want or need to.

SC: Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.
TJ: Procrastination is my biggest nemesis. I fight it every day. Also, doesn’t help that I can pretty much rationalize my way into accepting any excuse I’ve concocted. And I can get pretty creative about the excuses. It’s a struggle.

SC: Something many of us can relate to. Thanks so much, Tricia. It was a pleasure interviewing you. And best of luck with your writing!


Article by Mary Brand

SARA Café Welcomes Laura B. Hansen!

The SARA Café is an occasional feature that puts the spotlight on a SARA author. This month, Laura B. Hansen joins us.

by Mary Brand

Laura B HansenSC: When did you join SARA and for what reason?
LBH: I joined SARA in December 2013 so that I could be surrounded by like-minded people who could inspire me to finally pursue my dream of becoming a romance author. I found out about the group from my childhood friend, Jolene Navarro, who showed me that following the dream can lead to becoming published.

SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?
LBH: Nailing down one sub-genre is tough and my ADHD just won’t allow me to do so. So I’m currently working on an inspirational book, a historical book, and a contemporary book.

SC: What about the romance genre appeals to you?
LBH: I’m all about the happy ending, with true love winning out over all else. But I also love how characters grow as they discover the impact love can have on their lives and how the plot twists add to the feeling of love triumphing over anything that stands in its way.

SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?
More times than I can count I’ve been accused of being a hopeless romantic. And I’ve proven it in real life by marrying my third husband after the first two didn’t prove to be faithful. Talk about perseverance. My husband is proof that the third time’s the charm. My parents and most of my aunts and uncles have been married for over 50 years, and my dream was always to find that kind of magical love that stands the test of time.

SC: If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?
LBH: For the inspirational romance I’m currently working on, I’d choose Chris Evans for purely selfish reasons: He’s smokin’ hot and that’s the only way I’d ever meet him! Plus, my 16-year-old son idolizes him, so I’d allow him a few minutes to chat.

SC: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hidden talents?
LBH: Nerd alert: I’m an avid reader, both of classics and romances. I’ve been known to stay up all night and take the next day off work if I get really into a book. During work-free daylight hours, gardening takes up a ridiculous amount of my time. And my KitchenAid mixer is my best friend. Additionally, I love to go fishing, even if my husband still has to take the fish off my hook because it grosses me out.

SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
LBH: I really enjoy the editing and revision aspects of the process: going back in to hone the craft really fascinates me. About the time I think something is done, I give it one more read and discover a new, more interesting or entertaining way of saying it. It’s like a puzzle that one never really completes.

SC: Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.
LBH: There’s a tie for first place in the area of challenges as an author: Lack of discipline and lack of confidence: It’s difficult to write romance on my time off since I write K-12 assessments all day, but romance writing is so fun! I’m still working on how to meet this challenge, but one strategy has been to set aside time each weekend to write in large blocks of time. Sometimes, though, I’m just out of words or can’t shift gears.
And I have a really hard time sharing my work, which I realize I need to get over since my ultimate goal is to be published. I submitted to a writing contest a few months ago to try to get over this fear, and read aloud one of my responses to a SARA activity at our last meeting, so I guess my strategy is to take baby steps to expose my sensitive underbelly.

SC: Thanks so much for the interview, Laura! It’s great getting to know more about you!


Article by Mary Brand   Photo credit to Sharon Saldana-Molina

SARA Café welcomes Angela Smith!

The SARA Café is an occasional feature that puts the spotlight on a SARA author. This month, it’s Angela Smith’s turn to answer a few questions.

by Mary Brand

Angela(2)SC: When did you join SARA and for what reason?

AS: I joined SARA in November, 2013 after attending two previous meetings, because I longed to meet and network with other romance authors. I had been writing forever then stopped for a few years, but I had recently been published and knew finding a group was an important next step. I live over 80 miles away from my nearest romance writers group, so it took me longer to find a great group and to travel a long distance to attend meetings. I love that they meet on Saturdays and I love how I was immediately welcomed as part of the group.

SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?
AS: I write romantic suspense, though I have dallied in inspirational and Young Adult. 

SC: What about the romance genre appeals to you?
AS: I love love. I believe in love. I love watching people fall in love and fight falling in love because it isn’t in their immediate plans or because they’ve been hurt before and don’t want to take that risk again. I love the mystery of relationships, what makes them work and what doesn’t, and the psychology of why people are attracted to each other. In the end, I love watching people make it all work, despite the odds.

SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?
AS: Depends on how you view romantic. I don’t really fall for flowers, poems, pet names, or candlelight, but I believe there’s someone out there for everyone. I just believe that the majority of people don’t see it, run from it because of their own fears, or they place their happiness too much on love and romance without realizing they are the ones in charge of their happiness. I believe you can be romantic in the everyday things. My husband leaves sticky notes in odd places for me occasionally, and that, to me, is romantic. I won’t lie, though, I do like some romance—some music and flowers occasionally-but I wouldn’t consider myself a romantic.

SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?
AS: My ultimate goals are to one day retire from my fulltime job and make enough money with writing, to grow a strong following, to continue to publish at least one book a year, and to be an author where fans can’t wait for my next book.

SC: If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?
AS: That’s a hard one, mostly because I envision my hero/heroine perfectly and haven’t been able to find anyone yet that closely matches either looks or personality. Garret, in my first novel Burn on the Western Slope, could be played by Chris Hemsworth, but I haven’t found a match for Chayton or my heroines.

SC: What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?
AS: Stephen King’s On Writing.

SC: Do you have a writing routine? What does it involve?
AS: I (usually) get up early in the morning and try to get an hour of writing in before work, but most of my writing is done in the evening.

SC: Do you have any writing superstitions?
AS: None at all.

SC: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hidden talents?
AS: I love to play the drums, but I am nowhere near talented at it. I love to read and I love the outdoors (even better when I can put the two together). I raise hens and keep a garden, and my husband and I love to travel and go new places.

SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
AS: I love it when the words flow and my fingers seem to know exactly what is going to happen before my brain does. I also love research and character development.

SC: What would happen if you didn’t write?
AS: The voices in my head would probably make me go crazy.

SC: How do you know when your research is done?
AS: I’m not sure my research is ever done. I love learning new things and I love to research. However, my characters usually tell me when I’ve done enough research to make my story work.

SC: Name one thing you absolutely can’t write about.
AS: I’m not sure there’s a subject I would shy away from, but I don’t think I’d want to write horror.

SC: Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.
AS: The biggest challenge I have ever had is working full time and trying to pursue and maintain a writing career on the side. I actually published two novels over six years ago under a pseudonym, but my job got in the way and I was very private about my writing because of my job. My boss since retired and I continue to work for my new boss (my former is very proud of me and regrets I never told him, by the way, although I still think it would have been different when he was still District Attorney. I realized I could no longer let my career get in the way of what really spoke to my heart, and I had to stop doubting myself. I also decided I needed to be true to myself, hence the reason I no longer use a pseudonym.

SC: Thanks so much, Angela!

Article by Mary Brand, Photo credit to Alicia Moffett of Whoopsie Daisy Photography.

 

SARA Café welcomes Roe Valentine!

 

The SARA Café is an occasional feature that puts the spotlight on a SARA author.      This month, it’s Roe Valentine’s turn to answer a few questions.

 

by Mary Brand

Roe ValentineSC: When did you join SARA and for what reason?

RV: I joined early 2013, mostly because I wanted to meet other romance writers who knew my journey and could answer all the gazillion questions I had, still have actually.

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

RV: I write three sub-genres – Contemporary, Historical, and Erotic. I’m finding that I enjoy writing historical and erotic the most. I wouldn’t be surprised if I combined the two in the future.

SC: What about the romance genre appeals to you?

RV: The love journey of the characters, and that love always wins.

SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?

RV: A ridiculous romantic!

SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?

RV: I want to be multi-published in all my sub-genres, and basically make a living at it. As far as what I want to offer readers, I want to tell love stories that stay them. I want to maybe give hope about love.

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

RV: For Almost Married, my contemporary, I would say Jensen Ackles as Mr. Jake Moreau and Emmy Rossum as Dr. Carla Harris.

SC: Do you have a writing routine? What does it involve?

RV: Normally I write a detailed outline of what will happen in each chapter, and then I just write. Nothing crazy.

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

RV: I wouldn’t say hidden talents. I basically read, do yoga, go to happy hours, shop online, search for the next great coffee shop to write in. Nothing too adventurous—though I’m not opposed to adventure at all. Oh and I’m a pretty good salsa dancer 😉

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

RV:  Coming up with a premise. Nothing like being in your car or the shower and a new story line hits you. I love that!

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

RV: The voices in my head wouldn’t stop, and probably would drive me insane! Ha. Ha!

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

RV: When my characters can answer this main question: Who am I and what do I want? (Is that really two questions?)

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

RV: Facing rejection and failure. I accepted those things as gifts, because it meant I just needed to keep going. And I did. Now I have two books published, and I’m not going to stop.

SC: Sounds like you’re off to a great start! Thanks so much, Roe.