Please give a warm welcome to Sarah McNeal today who pops in.
Hi and welcome to my blog, Sarah J. McNeal. Please make yourself at home and grab a drink from my hunky cabana boys, Zeke and Jake. So tell us a little about yourself.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Everything I’ve ever written contains bits and pieces of my own life experiences. I keep a writer’s journal and I have used those entries as story ideas and sometimes even developed characters from some of the situations and people I have entered in my journal.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
It takes at least 6 months for me to write a novel. I’ve written short stories in a month but that’s about as fast as I can produce a story from concept to conclusion. Once I had Writer’s Block and it took over a year to write the book. It was hard to press on when I had hit a wall. I was writing Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride when that happened. I hope it never happens again.
What is your writing routine once you start a book?
I get a story idea and write the logline for it. Having that helps me stick to the theme. I hate writing a synopsis so I write it first and use it as an outline. If I have an epiphany, I just tweak up the synopsis. I don’t always write the story in sequence. Sometimes I am burning to write a certain scene and there will be no peace until I write it. I’ll just set it aside then until it’s time to insert it in the story. Sometimes, I get a little stuck and have to write in long hand to get my juices flowing again. Once I get it down on paper, I rewrite it on the computer.
Tell us about your latest release or upcoming release. What inspired it?
My latest release is For Love of Banjo. Actually, when I wrote Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride, I had no plans for a sequel but I wrote about a teenage who was homeless but courageous, generous and loved to invent little mechanical doo-dads—Banjo. I just couldn’t forget about that kid so I decided I needed to write his story. I had to move up in time to write about him as an adult and that put the story into World War I.
What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write? (if you don’t have love scenes in your books, disregard this question)
LOL Well, I’m sure there are many writers who can write those loves scenes without a hitch or second thought but that wouldn’t be me. Love scenes are so intimate and intense. If a writer screws up (pardon the pun), it could ruin the story. I’m always concerned that the love scene will come off lame or just the same ol’, same ol’. They’re intimidating. But I try to be courageous.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
A LOT‼ I love research, especially historical research. I can get so deep into it, I have to remind myself that there’s a story to write.
What are some of your favorite things or hobbies to do?
I love music. I play several instruments: violin, guitar, bagpipes and harmonica. I also love science especially astronomy. I love to get out the telescope and do some star gazing. I also like to grow microbes by putting straw in water and then looking at the evolution that takes place under the microscope. I like the opera and I’m a big fan of Il Divo. I like photography especially old architecture.
Who are some of your other favorite authors and genres to read?
I like westerns by Linda Lael Miller and Cheryl Pierson, paranormals by Jude Deveraux and Karen Michell Nutt and Regency historicals by Lisa Kleypas and other historicals by Lindsay Townsend. Sir Author Canon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series and Asimov’s science fiction.
I also read nonfiction mostly science of the universe by Stephen Hawking
Among your own books, have you a favorite? A favorite hero or heroine?
Most authors would say their favorite book is the one they’re writing on but I do have a favorite book, one written from my heart for my father and the brother he lost—The Violin. Following that book though, I would choose For Love of Banjo. Banjo broke my heart when he first appeared in Harmonica Joe’s story and I finally got to give him the life he deserved in For Love of Banjo.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
Sometimes it’s the character that shows up first but most often it’s a result of the What IF game I play in my head. What if someone you loved suddenly left you for no good reason? What would you do? Wait for them to return? Go after them and give ‘em what for when you caught up with them? Take to your bed and pray you don’t wake up again? It’s really kind of fun working out the What If game.
What part of a book has been the easiest to write? The hardest?
I love writing the middle. My creative juices are flowing and I’m working out the details of the characters’ obstacles—getting them deep into the mucky muck of their story. Honestly, the beginning is the hardest part for me. I always go through some second guessing. Did I start at the right place? Is it exciting enough? Will this story unfold the way I want it to and on and on. I can freeze up if I let my thoughts undermine me. Once I get to around page 100, I’m off and running though.
What are the elements of a great romance for you?
A heroine that will do even the things that scare her, a hero who always puts the heroine first even if his life is on the line to do it and an obstacle (or villain) so great or powerful that there seems to be no way out.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
Getting started is the hardest part. Coming up with a story idea is the easiest.
Are you in control of your characters or do they control you?
I’m a planner and a plotter. I make out character sketches with goals, wishes and desires as well as fears, obstacles and secrets. If a character is going to speak to me , he or she better do in the planning phase. I have on a rare occasion, had to rethink a bit about a character after I’ve started but that doesn’t happen often.
What are some of your current projects?
I’m writing the next HazardWyomingstory about the English boy that Banjo rescued. This story will take place in the Great Depression. Robin’s father went down with the Titanic and he has a fear of deep water because of that traumatic loss. His fear will be tested.
I’m also editing a dark paranormal I wrote for the Legends of Valmora series about a place where evil and good battle it out. There are monstrous creatures, a deadly witch, people with wings, Gypsies and humans all working for control of Winatuke. Winatuke is a planet in another dimension that resembles Earth but is locked in a Medieval time where magic exists. Falcon McKnight, a photographer from our modern Earth must rescue his father from the Dark Isle and suppress his desire for the Gypsy his brother loves.
Boxers, briefs, boxerbriefs…. Or commando on a man? Why?
There is something very sexy about a man who wears nothing between his skin and his jeans.
What is your strangest habit?
I carry my house key with me in a pocket or pinned to me all the time. After accidently locking myself out of my house 3 times (once in my nightgown in the winter), I fear getting locked out again. So, I am never without my house key.
When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
How is it possible for a woman my age to still have break-outs? Honestly, what’s up with that? Clearisil should just be for teenagers.
What is your favorite pizza?
White pizza with sundried tomatoes and spinach
What is one thing scientists should invent?
A nuclear neutralizing device so we can all stop being afraid of bombs that can take out our world and nuclear energy plants that could destroy the environment.
If you could time travel, where would you go?
I’ve wanted to visitAustraliasince I was a kid. I’d love to ride the Ghan Train that goes across the entire continent. It’s like the Oriental Express only inAustralia. If I can ever scrape up the money, I’ll go there.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer? (Romance or other genres)
More than anything, I love coming up with new story ideas and playing the What If game. It is such fun.
If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
The Violin is a book of my heart. Not only does it have the elements I like to write about, history, time travel and a bit of paranormal, but it is my best What If story. The hero is based on my Uncle John and a tragedy that happened in 1927 when he drown on a fishing trip with his friends. My father idolized John and never got over his death. I hated that I never got to meet him. What If he hadn’t died that terrible day? What would be different?
What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?
I hope they feel they have been on an adventure and returned home with a feeling of joy and fulfillment in their hearts and a renewed spirit of love.
Anything else you want to mention?
I will be giving away a copy of For Love of Banjo to someone who leaves a comment in e-book or Print (within the continentalUSA orCanada). Be sure to include your email address with your comment to enter.
Excerpt of For Love of Banjo by Sarah McNeal
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.
Sunset spread like liquid gold across the horizon. The golden light glinted off his spectacles, making it impossible for Maggie to read his dark eyes.
Her lips pressed together in hurt. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Banjo Wilding that a good slap across the face won’t fix.” He grabbed her wrist in his long fingers and held it in his firm but gentle grasp.
“First you want me to make love to you—in sin I might add—and next thing comes out of your mouth is sass. Making love to you might prove a dangerous undertaking for any man.” He smiled when he said it. He let go of his hold on her wrist and opened his arms to her. His dark eyes drew her to him. She gazed into those magnetic eyes, felt her heart turn over and hurried into his warm embrace. Banjo pulled her in close and kissed the crown of her head.
The Earth paused as she stood in his arms. Minutes passed. Banjo took in a ragged breath and Maggie knew what he would say next. She dreaded it. He loosened his hold on her and stepped back. The awful moment had come.