Welcome to the three hundred and ninety-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with romance author Sarah Fredricks. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Sarah. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Sarah: I’m based in Scotland, having moved there from England with my career in the eighties. As well as writing, I’m also a self-employed management skills trainer and a digital artist. I used to write a lot of stories and poems when I was at school but never saw myself then as becoming an author. Family pressure to have a job pushed out any thoughts of doing anything creative! Years later, at the time I became self employed I did take a writing course with a view to becoming a children’s author, but then the pressure to earn an income became intense and that dream went on the back burner. It’s only in the last few years, when there’s been less work around that I’ve had the time to pick up the writing again and get my first book finished.
Morgen: And I bet you love it. 🙂 I came to writing fairly recently too (my late 30s) and had never occurred that it could be a profession although I love reading (and blame Stephen King for me wearing glasses – book / torch / duvet). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sarah: I now write romance – I read bucket loads of the genre so I’ve got to know it intimately! I think I’ve put my desire to be a children’s author to bed and will stick with romance. I do like murder mysteries as well so I may surprise myself in a few years and write one of those – with a lot of romance thrown in of course.
Morgen: Romance is always popular, whatever the genre. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Sarah: Sarah Fredricks is my pseudonym – I felt it was important to keep my writing career separate from the training one. I’ve self-published one novel so far on Amazon.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sarah: I haven’t tried to get an agent yet. The self-publishing route through Amazon has meant I haven’t had to. I wouldn’t rule out having an agent because I think they play a valuable role. If I start selling a lot of titles in large quantities, then I think an agent becomes absolutely essential!
Morgen: I tend to agree and some authors have been picked up by self-publishing first so fingers crossed for you. 🙂 You mention Amazon, is your book available as an eBook? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Sarah: That is all I have published so far. In the last couple of years the e-book market has exploded and I definitely see this as the future for books. I use an e-reader as well as still read paperbacks. I’m comfortable with both but I do find the e-reader easier to hold. I think if you could use the e-reader for a complete plane journey they’d take off (pardon the pun) even more. I know this puts a few people off from having one.
Morgen: 🙂 The great thing about eReaders is that the batteries last for months – on most of them (the black & white ones anyway) it’s only the turning of the page that uses power. I have a Kindle Touch though and have it reading the book to me so it tends to eat it that way. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Sarah: I’ve done all the marketing so far – one of the downsides to being self-published I think. I spend between an hour and half a day most days on looking for new outlets to promote the book or promote myself.
Morgen: That’s the downside to the internet being such a big place; there’s loads of us with eBooks trying to be heard. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Sarah: For Carrie in my first book I would want a young Jane Seymour to play her. That doesn’t help much as I can’t go back to when she was younger but that is the sort of actress who would fit Carrie. The book I’ve just started to write is the first in a series of four, about a family with two sets of identical twins. This family is fast becoming my favourite. I just can’t get their story out of my head quick enough.
Morgen: Maybe you could dictate it into a Dictaphone or your mobile? It’s what I do if I wake up in the middle of the night. I used to send out morse code messages with my light (I kept waking up with ideas) before I thought of doing this. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Sarah: I designed the cover, using my digital art business. I found it very challenging to capture my image of the characters and reflect the story. From a couple of the reviews I’ve had so far, I’m not sure I succeeded too well. I know how I can be put off by a cover and that is why I spent so long agonising over mine.
Morgen: Oh dear. Yours is very simple which I don’t think is a bad thing. It does what it says on the tin. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sarah: As I alluded to above, it’s a series. The family of identical boys are six years older than their identical sisters and due to a tragic accident when the boys were 18, have ended up bringing up their sisters. They are all now adults and each book deals with a sibling and their journey to finding love. I have absolutely fallen in love with them as a family.
Morgen: I love that with writing fiction; you never know what’s going to come out and it’s very easy to get attached. I’ve been writing a story a day since May 1st (Story a Day May then 5PM Fiction). Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Sarah: Unless I’m training, then yes, I do write every day. There are times when I get stuck at a bit of the story. Because I have the whole story thought through before I start writing, I can see what is beyond where I’m stuck but sometimes have difficulty working out the fine detail of how I’m going to get there. Very often, going for a swim, or doing the ironing, or getting ready for bed will generate the ideas that I need.
Morgen: So I guess the trick is to get ready for bed regardless of the time. 🙂 You’ve answered my next question already but you may like to add something… do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sarah: I prefer to have an overview of the plot before I start, along with all the characters. I do find as well that sometimes my fingers take over and parts of the story go in a direction that I hadn’t initially thought about. So I think I get the best of both worlds!
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Sarah: Gosh, I’ve created quite a few characters this week and I can’t thing how I created them, so I guess I don’t have a particular method. With names, sometimes I’ll hear a name I like and decide to create a story around that name, other times, I’ll have an idea of what a character is like and I’ll search online for inspiration. I like to create strong characters, particularly the main ones and I take characteristics from the world around me – people who are in the news, TV programmes, celebs etc.
Morgen: I have a list of the alphabet tacked to the top of my computer screen and I tend to pick a letter and then see if a name comes from it. I do sometimes change them if they don’t feel right or like yesterday’s story, the main character started as Bernard but then he had a St Bernard called Bernie so the man became Stanley. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sarah: I go through five versions of the writing from ‘outline’ through to ‘done’ so in that I do a fair bit of editing. Each time I’ve improved the story. Where I have had a lot of corrections to do, I am now more careful in my initial writing as they are tedious to do.
Morgen: I do four or five too. Unless I’m finding stupid mistakes then I draw a line under it and / or send it to my editor / first readers. Do you have to do much research?
Sarah: I write in the current day and a lot of the storylines are in my head so my research so far has been superficial. For example, particular fashion items, jewellery, furniture. In the book I’m writing just now I will need to research Michelin starred quality food and how to treat a scald, amongst other things.
Morgen: Sounds intriguing. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Sarah: I prefer third person. I don’t like reading first or second persons so I’m not sure I would enjoy writing in them.
Morgen: I love second but it’s an acquired taste. Third does tend to be the most popular with readers and therefore agents and publishers. First person is limiting so third gives you that flexibility. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sarah: Not yet, but my writing career is young!
Morgen: Let’s hope there aren’t any then. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Sarah: I have to force myself to do the final proof read. I found the front cover challenging and all the marketing is very time consuming. I think the amount of marketing required has surprised me. My favourite part is writing the actual story – turning the picture in my head into words that recreate that picture in hundred of different ways for my readers.
Morgen: Me too and almost all the authors have said the same too things; that they love creating but the marketing takes them away from that. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sarah: Read, read, read, the genre you’re going to write for. That has really sharpened my writing skills. The second piece of advice I would give is to just write. I find this tactic really pays off for me when I have a ‘sticky’ bit. I just keep writing it knowing that it isn’t as I want it but at least it gives me a starting point from which to improve and create what I do want.
Morgen: Absolutely – you can’t edit a blank page. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Sarah: I would invite Val Doonican, Michael Ball and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I wouldn’t cook but would have a professional chef create a masterpiece of fine dining. And the minute the plates were cleared I’d have a right good knees up! The two people I would most like to duet with and a fine musician – bliss!
Morgen: A great mixture. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Sarah: Throughout a corporate career and as a trainer, I have written dozens of circulars, procedures and training courses. I also spent a few years as part of a speakers club and wrote a lot of speeches. At the moment, my only writing is my novels.
Morgen: And presumably you wouldn’t have any nerves doing book talks. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Sarah: I love singing and acting, but haven’t done much with these for a while. We did do an Old Time Music Hall last year which was a lot of fun. I also swim and walk every week, go to ceilidh dance classes and take part in a book club. With all of this going on, I also spend time with my family.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Sarah: I am on LinkedIn and belong to a few forums there. I find other writers and people involved in the writing industry hugely supportive of each other.
Morgen: Aren’t they. I was really surprised initially but I’ve come to equate it to learner drivers – we were all beginners once and unless you have success first time round (passed your test) we’ve all had rejections. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Sarah: I think there will always be a future for writers. As self-publishing is now so easy, especially through Amazon, the writer market place is likely to get very crowded but this could help some wonderful talent be found that may otherwise not have been.
Morgen: I think so too. A lot is said of some of the crowd being of poor quality, which is undoubtedly true, but some good writers stop if they’re rejected so it’s more encouraging that we can find out own way. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Sarah: I have a blog site at http://www.sarahfredricks.com. My author page on Amazon also has some info about me and that can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Fredricks/e/B0076I6CSI.
Morgen: Great to meet you today, thank you Sarah.
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