WG: Welcome Sandy. Thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
SB: I’m a New Englander and worked as a Pediatric RN and nurse educator for 26 years before deciding it was time to chase down my dream. I’m married to a very handsome 6 ft, 5 inch Scot with a wry sense of humor, have three wonderful children and a spoiled Bichon that looks like a panda.
WG: Let’s talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
SB: Twenty five years after I opened my first Romance, I finished another and thought, “Hmm, I would have written that premise differently.” Then came the “Why not try?”
Worried I’d fail at the task, I started writing in secret, hunched over an electric typewriter sitting on a little table in our guest room, the pint of White-Out at my elbow my new best friend. I was an easy month into the madness when Scott came home unexpectedly, followed the sound of rabid cursing and found me up to my knees in crumpled pages, a now empty bottle of White-Out at my elbow. Twenty four hours later he put his arm around me, walked me into the guestroom where I was stunned to find my first computer. One year later I typed The End…on a 1067 page, single spaced manuscript. :)
WG: Tell us about your journey.
SB: The journey to publication took four years. Although shorter than many face, it still had its fair share of “What the h*ll was I thinking?” moments.
A month after typing The End, I queried a local agent. Not knowing any better I sent the full manuscript to one who rep’s a friend’s cookbook. A week later when I hadn’t heard anything I called the agency. They told me these things take time and they’d get back to me. Another week passed then another. I kept calling, but by now they were no longer taking my calls, so…annoyed by their inefficiency—thinking how long can it possibly take to read a thousand page manuscript?--I got dolled up and went to their office. Yup. Pumped up, I informed the assistant agent that five weeks was really more than ample time to make a decision. The manuscript was good—or so my friends and family have told me—and time, after all, was wasting.
The rejection letter nearly beat me home. I was crushed! :)
Then I heard Lorraine Heath speak at a local library and learned about RWA and DARA. I entered my first contest a year later—received two fair critiques and a critique from h*ll. (On page two the judge had written in purple ink, “Where on earth did you get these awful names?” And it went downhill from there.
I immediately pulled in my horns and swore never to enter another contest…and I didn’t for two years.
After much prodding from my CPs, I entered my second manuscript into the Maggies…and finaled. (I was walking on clouds for days.) At the conference two judges suggested I enter the Golden Heart. I vacillated for weeks then realized the worst that could happen would be my learning where the judges thought my worked ranked among a 1000 other newbies. So I entered then promptly forgot about it. I heart nearly stopped when the call came telling me I’d finaled. I told anyone who’d listen that I’d finaled but still waited until Sunday morning to call the agent who’d already requested the full…knowing she wouldn’t be in the office. <g> She called the next day to congratulate me then offered representation shortly thereafter. I won the Golden Heart and Paige sold the manuscript in a two book deal to Kensington, who entitled it A MAN IN A KILT.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first?
SB: One other.
WG: Have all/any of them sold since?
SB: The first is still under the bed. (It’s going to take some serious editing to whittle those 1000+ pages down to 425.)
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?
SB: Time was suddenly in shorter supply. Kensington push up my delivery date for book two then offered me a spot in an anthology. I had three books coming out within six months and only one had been written.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you have a group or individual you work with as you’re brainstorming and/or drafting your manuscript?
SB: Yes, I have two wonderful critique partners, Suzanne Welsh and Julie Benson.
WG: If so, what do you look for in the way of feedback/input?
SB: I depend on both when brainstorming plots, but depend on Suzanne to tell me if I’ve hit the right note in a scene. To learn if she laughed in the right places or wept where I’d hoped she might. If she doesn’t, then I know something’s wrong with a scene. I depend on Julie to catch those pesky “drop threads” and inconsistencies.
WG: Do you maintain a set writing schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
SB: By 5:00AM, I’ve turned on the coffee and computer. By 1:30PM I’m usually brain dead, so I head for the shower and get on with the rest of my life…unless I’m on deadline. In which case, I’ve been known to write 18-hours a day.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
SB: Not unless I’m approaching a deadline and still writing instead of just editing. When my muse is in her “groove” we average 10 pages per day.
WG: Do you have a ‘mood setter’, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
SB: All my muse requires is silence and for me to be in my jammies and bunny slippers. (Having any music paying anywhere in the house will send her off in a snit.)
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
SB: No. I’m a hardcore pantser.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
SB: Usually a character, and more often than not it’s the hero. Once I can see him, know his likes and dislikes, know his goal(s) and greatest fear(s) should he not reach his goal(s), I start writing. As he comes to life on paper his perfect match comes to life in my head. Once she’s settled in, their black moment starts taking shape at the back of my mind.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
SB: I enjoy crafting tall, alpha heroes with serious private agendas. My heroines range from pretty to plain, petite to six feet tall, well-educated to illiterate, but they’re all flawed in some fashion and very practical…to their way of thinking that is, which invariably confounds the hero. The reader is always in on the joke, but rarely is the character.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
SB: Hmmm, hard question. I do manage to make people grin on occasion.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
SB: I’m fortunate. I have the house to myself each day after my wonderful, music loving hubby goes off to work. When I’m on deadline, however, finding the peace I need to write on weekends become an issue. If he’s not asking “What’s for lunch?” or popping into my office saying, “Sorry to disturb you, but…” he’s cranking up the surround sound. Out of desperation, I’ve been known to call his fishing buddy, our children, even our neighbors, begging for someone to please come take him away so I can get some writing done.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
SB: I resist forcing my characters along preconceived paths. If they decide we’re going left when I thought we were going right, I shrug and let them. If it’s a mistake I’ll find out soon enough. But more often than not, they’re right and the story becomes as much of an adventure for me as it is for them...and hopefully the reader.
WG: Other questions:
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
SB: At age eleven I opened WILD FIRE by Zane Gray and reading was suddenly fun. In ON WRITING, Steven King taught me how to self edit.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer?
SB: Historicals, no matter the period.
WG: As a reader?
SB: I’ll read any Highlander tale I can get me hands on and love every word.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
SB: I’d love to write a pure Gothic.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
SB: Write what you love to read and read not only what you love to write but what others recommend. There’s a reason for the buzz.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
SB: Fan mail. I’m simply blown away every time someone reads something I’ve written then takes the time out of their busy day to tell me they connected with/enjoyed it. Takes my breath away.
WG: What aspect do you struggle with the most?
SB: High Concepts. I cower every time I hear an author say “High Concepts are easy. Do X,Y, and Z and there you go.” Ya, right. Why doesn’t my brain work like…like author Lori Wilde’s? She sat down one day and thought, “What if a reluctant bride hires someone to kidnap her from the alter, but the man who snatches her isn’t the man she hired?” Next thing you know we’re all reading THERE GOES THE BRIDE and loving every minute of it.
WG: When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?
SB: I really enjoy watercolors As for my secret indulgence—chocolate coated, caramel and pecan Turtles that come too few to a box .
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
SB: “A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much temptation for the editor.” ~Ring Larden
WG: Please tell us about your latest release.
SB: My October 2, 2007 release is the light-hearted time-travel A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS.
Welcome to My World…’Tis the season to be jolly but Boston antique dealer Claire MacGregor isn’t looking forward to a solo Christmas, or cocoa for one, or trimming the tree by herself. But company’s coming. Unable to sleep, Claire is fooling around with an ancient Celtic puzzle box and when it opens…a gorgeous, studly laird appears. The Bad news: Sir Cameron MacLeod is centuries old. The good news: he doesn’t look or act it. He’s tall, dark and lusty—very lusty.
Come Away to Mine….Who is this lovely lass and where is he? Before awakening in the 21st century in Claire’s bedroom, the last thing Sir Cameron MacLeod remembers was readying for battle. Despite her strange clothes and odd ways, Claire proves both bonny and brave. He’s about to find out that love really is a many-splendid thing indeed ..
I had a great deal of fun writing this, particularly after contacting Sandra Power, a high priestess from Salem and having her graciously answer my questions about the “Craft” and sharing some of her life with me.
WG: And is there anything in the works you’d like to tell us about?
SB: I’m currently working on A WARRIOR IN A KILT, book #4 in the Castle Blackstone series and putting together a Gothic Highlander series proposal.
WG: Before we close, tell us how your fans can get in touch with you.
SB: They can contact me through my web site www.SandyBlair.net where they’ll also find photos of the castles I’ve stay in, a Gaelic and Auld Scots glossary among other things, or by emailing me at Sandy@Sandyblair.net.