I am so thrilled to have Sarah here today and she has, so patiently, allowed me to pick her brain a little. 😉
First, thank you so much for hosting me here today, Kathy! I really appreciate the chance to come on your site and chat—and I love answering questions! You’ve got some particularly interesting ones for me here today!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? This is going to sound a little odd, but aside from finding the energy to write after a long day at work, the most challenging thing I find is sticking to one genre! I’ve written paranormal, sci-fi, historicals, and contemporaries—each has its own attractions to me—but I realize by jumping around so much, my brand isn’t very clear. To some people, this is very important, as they won’t read specific subgenres. All I can say is I love putting hot men in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Normally if I have a message in my stories, it’s something like ‘you can build your own family’ or ‘life is more than mere survival.’ In the case of The Boys of Summer, however, when I began the research for the historical section of the story, I was frankly appalled at how little I knew of the time period and the great sacrifices made by so many people. Especially the young fighter pilots, barely out of school. Combat flying was a young man’s game because the cabins were not pressurized at first, and the G-forces would make a slightly older man black out during a dive. These boys were frequently sent into battle with less than 12 hours of flight time, and the average life span of a pilot during WW2 was six weeks. Six weeks. It became very important for me to tell their story too, which is why the dream sequence took center stage in the drama.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire right now. I’m currently working on a M/F story set in the 1950s, featuring a secret agency that investigates paranormal events. I think of it as “Ward and June Cleaver meets the X-Files.” I’m halfway through a rough draft of a M/M Regency story, and am working on a contemporary M/M set in the sport horse world. I have a ridiculously tropey holiday story I hope to get out by next Christmas, and of course, I must write the next installment of the Sixth Sense series! Did I mention I have planned sequels for Crying for the Moon as well? Gah! That’s me all over. Too many great ideas and not enough time to write them. The priority this year has to be the follow-up to Truth and Consequences (Sixth Sense Book 3). People are (gently) threatening me if I don’t give them closure!
Do you read your reviews? And... Do you have any advice for how to deal with the bad? Well, you definitely have to develop a thick skin to be an author! Because of Amazon’s algorithms, reviews are critical to the visibility of a book, and with hundreds of stories being released every day, visibility is crucial to a story’s success. Face it, if we’re not getting positive feedback, at the very least, we’d like to see sales! Even the review system wasn’t tied into sales in this manner, however, positive feedback is like crack to writers. We want to hear from our readers, we want to know which bits they loved and how our stories made them feel. Having a lovely review drives us back to the keyboard to write even more.
That being said, not everyone is going to love your stories. To be honest, I find it easier to dismiss outright nasty reviews than ‘meh’ ones. If a reader finds my stories only so-so, then I feel like maybe I failed to get my ideas across adequately, where the outright vitriolic review sets off my troll alert and I can just forget about it. Early on in my career, I let a few lukewarm reviews completely derail my plans for a story arc, resulting in the story sitting on my hard drive for years. I finally got over it, and when I did, I was stunned at the number of readers who piped up saying how glad they were to see more stories in the series. Which just goes to show, that nice review you didn’t leave might be the one that keeps a writer from deleting her files!
I have a couple of pieces of advice that I give to writers who struggle with bad reviews. First, they happen. If a lot of people are saying similar things, sit up and take notice; you got something wrong. But if most of your reviews are favorable, and you get an outlier, a one-star, gif-ridden raspberry blown in your ear? Roll your eyes and wonder why someone was so invested in writing something meant to sting. Everyone gets negative reviews, even the most brilliant of writers on the most outstanding stories. Don’t believe me? Look up the reviews on your absolute favorite stories of all time. I guarantee you, someone will hate Pride and Prejudice as much as you love it, or pan the Sherlock Holmes stories, or call the Lord of the Rings boring and say they couldn’t finish the series.
The thing that helped me the most, though, was coming to the realization that these reviews had no power over me. They weren’t going to make me quit writing (which honestly seems to be the intent of the worst ones). If a reviewer doesn’t like my style, that’s okay. They don’t have to read any more of my stories if they don’t care to. Sure, a low rating will punch a hole in your story’s overall rating, but all that stuff averages out when more people leave reviews. Maybe I’d get more wigged out if I thought I was on my way to mainstream fame and fortune, but I know I’m not. I enjoy telling stories and sharing them with people. Quitting the day job isn’t in my future just yet.
Bottom line, an excellent review will have me smiling from ear to ear. But a bad one has ceased to affect me the way they used to.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a similar situation and what did you do? Whew. I almost chose something easier. I could tell you about the time I almost became a dating statistic, or the time I had a professor hit on me when we were alone in the lab. I talked my way out of the first situation and discovered a good elbow jab to the ribs was effective in the second. The last time however, was more recent. I was at work and some people brought in a stray, unneutered male pit bull they’d been feeding. I was kneeling beside the dog, petting him while talking to the clients, when all of the sudden, he went from happily wagging his tail to putting one paw on my knee and the other on my thigh and leaning into my face to show all his teeth.
It was like someone had flipped a switch. I read dogs pretty well, and there had been no tension, no indication that he was going to be aggressive. In retrospect, I suspect he smelled other animals on me, and that triggered the behavior change. All I knew at the time was that I had an eighty pound dog, with the jaw crushing power of 1500 pounds per square inch, just centimeters from my face. Had I reacted instinctively with sudden movement, he’d have been on me before I could stop him. If I tried to stand up, he’d attack. For what seemed like an eternity, we sat in a frozen tableau.
I didn’t move. I looked him in the eye and said quietly, “Dude, so not cool.”
Slowly he backed down, stepping off me, grumbling the entire way. The people who’d brought him in just sat back in shock, their mouths open. Needless to say, it was a very short exam!