This week I am happy to present an interview with brand new author, Sarah M. Anderson. Writing runs in my family. I write. I have multiple cousins who write and one of my grandmothers wrote. Thanks to my cousin, Sarah M. Anderson finished our grandmother's book, Eleanore Gray, which was published it in June, 2011. Goldie M. Lucas, our grandmother, was a published poet whose works were printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Globe Democrat. Eleanore Grey was her first novel. The story draws heavily upon Goldie's childhood memories of growing up in Dean's Creek. Goldie died in 1960, leaving Eleanore Grey nearly finished. Now, over fifty years later, Goldie's final work has finally seen the light of day.
Sarah M. Anderson has now had her first novel of her own published by Harlequin Desire. Her debut novel, A Man of His Word, was released in December 2011. She reviews western novels for Romance Novel News and is a founding member of the Authorial Moms blog.
Please grab a cup of coffee, or drink of your choice, and join me for a special Coffee with David author interview.
Question: What is the latest project you are have had published?
Sarah M. Anderson: In December, 2011, my debut novel A Man of His Word was published. It was the ninth book I wrote, but the first one I sold. Since then, I’ve sold two more books to Harlequin Desire. The second book, A Man of Privilege, will be out in July, 2012, and the third book, tentatively titled A Man of Honor, will be out in September, 2012.
Q: What was the hardest part of writing A Man of His Word?
Sarah: A Man of His Word is a category, or series, book. It has a strict word limit of 50-55K words. It was the first time I’d attempted to write a shorter novel, and it was a nerve-wracking experience. I had to significantly reduce the amount of supporting characters and subplots, so the challenge was to keep the main plot feeling substantial enough to fill out the novel.
Q: When did you decide to start writing modern western romance fiction?
Sarah: I didn’t ‘decide’ to do it, not consciously. I thought I was writing women’s literary fiction with strong romantic elements—a family saga going back three generations. It was terrible! Then I got to the granddaughter of the family, and she wound up out west with a cowboy who was also an Indian. That book really clicked—I enjoyed writing it, my readers enjoyed reading it, and I had three agents request the full. The first agent who requested it rejected it with the line, “I normally like westerns but this didn’t do it for me.” It was a thunderclap moment—I write westerns! Believe it or not, I didn’t realize it until I got that rejection. I retooled my query letter, dropping the women’s literary fiction with romantic elements and adding in contemporary romance with western elements, and it went from there.
Q: Do your works share a driving theme? If not, what are the themes you like to focus on?
Sarah: Every single one of my characters is scarred—usually mentally, but often physically. They all have their scars, but they do not allow the things that happened in the past hold them back in the present. When one of my characters meets their match, that’s the person that sees them as they really are. This is most explicit in my upcoming July release, A Man of Privilege. My heroine, Maggie Eagle Heart, is a former hooker and drug addict who still has the scars of her abusive childhood. But the hero, James, doesn’t see an ex-hooker when he looks at her. He sees the woman she’s transformed herself into—which is what Maggie really needs.
Q: What was your biggest fear when you decided to start querying agents?
Sarah: I started querying the very first book I wrote and my fear was that no one would read it and discover how totally awesome it was (it wasn’t). Form rejections were easier to take because I could justify that that agent didn’t know what they were missing. I had this huge fear of someone (besides my mother) reading it and telling me it was horrid. However, the more I wrote, the less that fear scared me. Plus, every rejection was useful—like the one that told me I wrote westerns!
Q: If you could have coffee (or drink of your choice) with four other authors from any time period, who would you choose and why?
Sarah: It’d be a delightful cup of earl grey! To this day, my husband cannot understand how I made it through grad school without drinking coffee or beer. If I had four authors to pull up a chair with, I’d chose Marguite Henry, Scott O’Dell, Dave Barry, and Jane Austen. It’s an eclectic mix, I know, but I grew up reading Marguite Henry and Scott O’Dell—those books had me hooked early. Austen was just such a wonderful collection of stories, and Dave Barry’s humor slays me every time.
Q: Who was the most influential person or persons in your writing career?
Sarah: I don’t want this to turn into some variation on an Oscar acceptance speech, so I’ll say that, more than one person, the Chicago-North chapter of the RWA has been the most supportive, welcoming group of writers I’ve run across yet. I was a complete and total novice when I found my way to their Spring Fling conference four years ago, and through every step of the way, they’ve encouraged me individually and as a group. And now I’m in the position to offer some encouragement of my own. It’s very encouraging!
Q: If there was some advice that you could give to a fellow writer, what would it be?
Sarah: Patience. This is the advice I continually have to give myself, so I imagine other writers need to hear it, too! Publishing moves slow. It doesn’t matter if you’re going the traditionally published route, or if you’re doing it all yourself—you still need to be patient. If you rush a book, you’ll wind up with clichéd characters, stale plots, typos, and more typos. No matter what stage you’re at, you’ve got to take the time to make it right.
Q: What advice would you give a fellow writer about pitching a story either face to face or in a query letter?
Sarah: Don’t be afraid to let your voice shine through. That doesn’t mean go crazy in a desperate, look-at-me! free-for-all—the other part of that is be the professional the agent/editor wants to work with. If you’re begging and pleading and sliding manuscripts under bathroom doors, you’re going to get a ‘no’ no matter how good the story is because the agent/editor is not going to want the headache of dealing with you and all your issues. But if you’re locked down and afraid to even make a peep, then agents/editors will never get a sense of what you and your writing is like. So let your voice shine through, but keep that voice professional.
Q: How could my readers learn more about you and what project are you working on now?
Sarah: I’m everywhere! I’m on Facebook, Twitter (@SarahMAnderson1), my blog, the Authorial Moms, and my website. If you can’t find me online, you aren’t looking!
Thank you, Sarah, for taking time to talk with me about your writing.
Sarah M. Anderson is going to be part of a panel of break out authors talking to the St. Louis Writers Guild on January 19, 2012 at 7 PM. For more information about the panel, please visit www.stlwritersguild.org.
Next month I will be having "Coffee" with Hemingway First Novel award winner Rick Skwiot about his latest novel, which will be released this month. Come back on February 4th, 2012 to have "Coffee" with Rick Skwiot.
Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.