This is a first for me, interviewing myself.
Sarah’s Interview Questions
Please give us your website addy, a list of your books and a short bio.
Sarah is a published writer of contemporary, fantasy, paranormal and time travel/historical romances. She is currently writing a series of musical instrument stories inspired by her love of music and paranormal/fantasy books in the Legends of Valmora series. You can find Sarah's novels at Amira Press and Victory Tales Press/Western Trail Blazer line.
How do you usually come up with a story idea? Dreams? Writer’s journal?Eavesdropping on conversations? Newpaper?
All of these things but I especially like to write in a writer’s journal tidbits of conversations, things that happen in my environment that are unusual or interesting and people I meet.
What is your process from idea to first draft?
I usually think of a theme or a tagline then develop the blurb. From there I write the synopsis and character sketches. I cut out pictures from magazines that fit my characters (Jonny Depp and Hugh Jackman are frequent visitors) and include story elements (motorcycles, castles, letters, etc) and scenery (woods, lakes, city streets, etc). Then I tack them to the bulletin board above my desk. I actually enjoy this part of the process. Next, I write the story.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
Usually other authors help me when I get into uninspired periods. Sometimes I just need to take a break from writing and read for a while or sit out on my deck and count the stars.
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
I don’t have a specific Yoda but I do rely on the advice of my experienced writer friends.
What importance do you place on writing workshops? What workshops would you recommend to us?
I have taken many writing classes both online and in physical classrooms. Among my favorites were writing blurbs, creating query letters and one on procrastination and writer’s block. I really think writing workshops are especially important in the beginning of a writer’s career. RWA and its local chapters offer a variety of helpful workshops even for those who are not RWA members.
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations? How did this person help you?
The first person to inspire me and believed in me was my high school English teacher, Thomas Freeman and, later, Robert Williams, my college professor.
Jodie Belle, a friend and fellow author encouraged me in the early years of my published life to reach higher.
Have you ever used songs for inspiration?
I haven’t used the words to songs but, now that I think of it, that’s a good idea. Mostly I’ve used music to set the mood to write a scene.
Do you play music when you write? If so, what kind? Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?
I often use music to set the mood and tempo of a scene I’m working on. Many times, I use TV as background noise while I’m writing or NPR radio.
Do you read in a different genre than you write? If yes, why? If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
I don’t read paranormal stories while I’m writing one because I don’t want another author’s world-building or paranormal elements to influence my work.
I love reading time travel stories and, even if I read them while I’m working on a time travel, I never feel influenced by them. Don’t know why that is but it just is.
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer? Has another writer ever come to your aide? How?
Many times I’ve had aspiring writers ask me for help by giving them my input on their work or answering their questions about author groups or publishers. Sometimes they just need the encouragement to keep going when they feel like giving up.
I’ve had other authors come to my aide many times especially when I was dealing with writer’s block recently. In fact, my partner in crime, Tina Donahue, told me something I took in an valued so much I dedicated Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride to her. It was a simple but powerful sentence: write from your heart. Another author and friend who believed in me when I didn’t and guided me in a different and right direction was Cheryl Pierson.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
The ability to not allow a bad review or a snarky remark eat at me, devour my confidence and throw me into the dark void where even my muse won’t go.
Getting published has certainly been a huge accomplishment. I spent years working at it.
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money? Would you give any of it to charity? If so, which one?
I’d pay off my house and credit card (I only have one), give each member of my family a certain amount, put enough away to sustain me and then I would give the rest to The Humane Society of Charlotte, The ASPCA and The Defenders of Wildlife.
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
Write every day, read like an addict and absolutely never give up.
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? What do you admire about this animal? Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal? If so, what are they?
The Bear is in my animal totem. It is supposed to allow a person to have the ability “to know” like intuition. I like the Bear’s tenacity and protection of its young and I sure wouldn’t mind hibernating for winter. Sometimes I have these qualities but not always.
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?
A photographer for National Geographic.
A bush pilot in Alaska.
A professional violinist or bagpiper.
If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?
I’d love to sail around the world and stop in all the ports I love along the way.
What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?
I want heroes that are intelligent, empathetic and, although sensitive, ready to get down and dirty to tenaciously defend those he loves.
No one likes a whimpy, dumbass for a heroine. I like to write heroines that want something desperately and aren’t afraid to throw all their effort into getting it. I do, however, want them to have compassion and empathy for others. No self-involved beauty queens, thank you.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?
Global warming and dependency on fossil fuel
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be? Why?
I hate driving and I’m afraid of flying and, to top it all off, very impatient.
A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.
Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride
By Sarah McNeal
Available at Western Trail Blazer Novels
Available at Amazon.com
Also available in print soon
Joseph Wilding left his prosperous Virginia ranch and his grieving father to live in obscurity and guilt over his brother’s death until he marries Lola instead of Callie McGraw, the woman he abhors but whose life he was attempting to save.
Lola discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joe, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel who believes she stole his money and only Joe stands between her and death.
With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together or will time and circumstance forever divide them?
Joe swallowed another bite of bacon and downed two gulps of coffee before he pinned her with a dark eye. He suppressed the grin that wanted to ride up on his lips at her funny way of talking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about with all that zip code and meteorite lingo. Right now, we have some things to take care of, like Argos, here. I promised Jake Medford I would take a look at his lame mare and then I have to go into town and settle a few things, like talking to the sheriff about what happened yesterday.” Another gulp of coffee. “Oh. By the way, you might want to close the bedroom curtains when you change clothes or wash up in our bedroom from now on. We had a visitor last night and he probably enjoyed watching our intimacies in bed.”
That certainly got her attention. She sat up straight and stared at him with panic in her expression. “Oh, my God. Who do you think it was? Was it that awful man who attacked me in the bar? That awful Taylor person?” She placed her hands over her face. “Holy crap, I can’t believe it. That man saw me naked, having sex with you. I could just die.” Her hands flew up to cover her face.
Laughter sprung up out of his chest before he could stop it. “Well, it was just sex after all,” he threw her words back at her.
Her hands withdrew from her face to fist in her lap. Eyes narrowed and her lips thinned into a straight line as anger replaced embarrassment. Drawing her spine up straight, she looked him straight in the eye. “Ascendo tumm.”
“Up yours? What the hell does that mean?” A grin spread across his face when Lola sucked in a breath of astonishment.
“I forgot you know Latin.” Her head bowed and a momentary deflation of her expression caught Joe’s eye. A fraction of a moment later she glanced back up to meet his eye and said with defiance, “It means up your ass. In this case, that would be close to your shoulders, seeing as that’s where your ass sits.”
Joe just couldn’t help it. That defiant look, her captivating reply. God, what a woman. He burst out laughing at her insult.
I love you. He thought it but he sure as hell wasn’t about to say it.My First Review at You Gotta Read Reviews:
Ms. McNeal is a new author to me and I found Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride to be a deeply sensual yet very touching read. I instantly fell in love with the writing style and I just have to say Ms. McNeal has a gift of writing with great humor, witty dialogue and superb imagery.