Author Interview {Sarah M. Eden}

I’m nursing a cold and feeling…bleh.

You know that moment when you sleep terribly even though your body is exhausted. You wake up from bad dreams in the middle of the night but can’t remember them in detail later, only the feeling of being disturbed.

And your baby has a blowout that could have been disastrous had you not had ninja like reflexes.

Yeah, that’s when my day took a turn for the better. You’re laughing, but successfully navigating a baby blowout is the perfect way to make your day happier. Oh, and snuggling said baby after an impromptu bath to clean up said blowout and then hearing him coo to you in gratitude for making him all nice and clean and snuggly. Hmmm…happy moments, people.

As far as the cold, I self medicate with Jane Austen on such days. There is probably some kind of scientific explanation for why reading Regency comforts me, but I won’t delve into the research. Instead I’ll share with you an Author Interview with one of my favorite Regency writers.  In 2014 she’s releasing a number of beautiful books much to her readers’ enjoyment. She’s also a Whitney Award Finalist. Here’s more about the lovely and talented Sarah M. Eden:

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CH: I adore a great Regency, so your prolific writing in this genre gives me great pleasure! What inspired you to choose the regency era and what inspired your first book?

SE: I first began studying the Regency era in high school. I had read my first Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility) and was so fascinated by the social strictures and expectations that I wanted to know more about the time period. I dove in head first and have never lost my love of this era. It’s now been almost twenty years since I first began an in-depth study of the Regency era, and with the knowledge I’ve gained along with the adoration I have for those tumultuous two decades of English history, I can’t imagine abandoning the Regency romance genre any time soon.

I wrote my first Regency in response to a challenge issued by my mother. I had spent a long afternoon complaining to her about how hard it is to find the kind of romances I most enjoy–solid writing, detailed and believable characterization, romantic tension without ratcheting up the steaminess factor–and she suggested I write one of my own. I took up the dare wholeheartedly and spent a lot of time studying the craft of writing before trying my hand at it myself. The book I wrote in response to that challenge was later published as “The Kiss of a Stranger.”

CH: The Jonquil brothers are swoon worthy in the best ways. What do you have in store for the rascally youngest brother?

SE: Oh, Charlie. I am actually really looking forward to eventually writing his story–it should be a whole lot of fun. There’s not much I can tell you about it that wouldn’t be a spoiler, either for his story or for the three brothers whose books will precede his. But, let’s just say, the course of true love does not run at all smooth for Charlie Jonquil. At all. At. All.

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CH: Two books out this year – how do you do it while juggling family and even health issues?

SE: I have had 5 books and 5 novellas released since January 2013, with 3 more novellas and one more full length novel out before the end of this year. So, I guess it’s fair to say things have been a little crazy.

One thing that makes that possible is the slow turning wheels of publishing. Four of those full-length novels were written more than five years ago, while the other two were completed in 2011 and 2012. So while I did have to go through multiple rounds of editing, which is no small thing in and of itself, none of these books were started and finished in such a short time. That simply wouldn’t be possible without sacrificing either the quality of writing or my sanity, probably both. The novellas were all written in this time frame, but at 12,000 words instead of 80,000-100,000 words, that is considerably more doable. When I write the novellas, I do a very detailed and tight outline, which allows me to write them fairly quickly.

Now that I have more or less caught up with my backlog of books, the real time crunch begins. With my health issues, I am no longer a fast writer. Whereas I could once churn out 3 or 4 books in a year, I struggled to finish even one in the past thirteen months. I can no longer physically type (though we are hopeful that will change), so that has changed the process of writing. The mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that comes from a chronic illness slows down productivity considerably. And I have kids who need their mom, who have busy schedules requiring the mom-taxi, a husband who really likes having conversations and spending time with me, a house to run, other responsibilities, etc. I have learned out of necessity to be very organized and to do what I can to make good use of my time. Even with all of that, however, I can see that my publishing schedule will slow down from this point forward.

by Sarah M. Eden

by Sarah M. Eden

CH:  At the Whitneys last year, you wore a beautiful sash. Tell me about your personal heritage and does it color your writing?

SE: That sash was my clan tartan, actually. Shout out to Clan MacBean!

I have ancestors hailing from a small handful of countries, including Scotland (hence, the tartan), Ireland, England, and Germany. I have always loved studying my cultural heritage and gaining a better understanding of where my people came from, how the places they lived would have influenced their lives, what they experienced, etc. That certainly shows up in the stories I write. Longing for Home and Hope Springs were such a joy to write in large part because I was able to call upon my own Irish roots and celebrate that part of my ancestry. I often use family names and locations where they lived in the stories I write. It’s a fun way for me to connect to my own past.

CH: Tell us about your process for writing a book. I once saw an awesome outline (blurred, I might add, to keep up from getting any spicy tidbits!) for one of your stories. How do you work from start to finish? What is your go to book or source for research in this era?

SE: I always begin with the characters: who are they, what are their goals, what obstacles get in their way, why is reaching those goals so important? Without good, solid answers to those questions, there’s no story.

Once I’ve answered that, I work on a 9-point plot map–it’s an overview outline of the story in which I identify key events, turning points etc. in the story, all shaped by the character’s goals and motivations.

With that in place, I do a scene map, which is the image you saw. I write out a few bullet points of each of the scenes in the story and pin them up on a bulletin board, moving them around as necessary until the shape of the story is right. I sketch out any maps and floorplans that are key to the story as a way of preserving continuity. I fill out my character bible, which is a reference guide for information on the various characters. I identify overarching themes. I make a list of significant supporting characters.

Then I take a nap.

Then I get to start writing. I do a more detailed outline of the scene I’m working on, and then I write the scene. The story always evolves as I write and I make adjustments to the pieces as needed, but the characters and plot map are the backbone of the story.

I don’t have a single reference book that I rely on for research. I have mountains of sources, all covering different things. I have a few books that give a good overview of the eras I write in, but to truly write something authentic and accurate, I need details and primary sources and a lot of confirmations that what I’m finding is correct. I have never been the kind of writer who was satisfied with writing a historical novel that only kind of captured the feel of an era or that was basically accurate. I wanted my books to have that truly authentic feel from the very first page, and I knew that couldn’t happen without a lot of work. So I consult with museums and archives. I’ve spent countless hours reading letters and newspapers from these eras, pouring over scholarly journals, pushing through law books, era-accurate medical books, personal journals, etc. It is a lot of work, but I think it makes a difference in the end.

CH: Have you ever been to England? Do you plan to visit for “research purposes?” 🙂

SE: I haven’t been to England, though I very much want to. I have already mapped out my dream research “vacation” to England and Scotland. I’ll get there someday.

I did, however, go to Ireland at the end of 2012, which was a lifelong dream come true. While I was there I was able to do a great deal of research as well as simply enjoy the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. It was amazing and I am anxious to go back again.

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CH: I’ve loved the Proper Romance series out now. What a relief to read juicy romances without the fear of crossing lines into bodice ripper territory. How did you get to be a part of that new line?

SE: When my agent read Longing for Home, she immediately thought of Shadow Mountain’s “Proper Romance” line. She felt it was a good fit there and so she pitched it to them. They loved the story and agreed that it was a good match for their vision of this romance line. I’m excited to see where this line goes in the future. There are a lot of readers who enjoy a non-bodice-ripper romance but struggle to find them. Having an entire line dedicated to providing those kind of stories is a welcome and much needed addition to the romance industry.

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CH: Tell us how you got your agent. Any tips for those still seeking the right agent for their work?

SE: My agent had mentioned on Twitter that she was interested in representing historical romance. A Twitter friend of mine saw that and responded, suggesting she check out my work. So, unbeknownst to me, I had an agent perusing my website, reading my blog posts, checking out my social media presence, etc. She liked what she saw and, via Twitter, asked if I would be at that year’s national RWA conference and would I like to meet up and chat. We worked out the details, she actually read one of my books that was already published so she would know if I was any good. We met and talked, asked each other questions, got a feel for what the other was looking for, and in the end it was a perfect fit.

In terms of advice for those looking for an agent… keep at it. Opportunities will present themselves when you least expect it. The key is being ready for them when they come. No amount of querying or cultivating connections will get you representation if the writing isn’t there. Work on your craft. Always be improving. Being a good writer won’t guarantee that you’ll find your dream agent, but being a poor writer will stand in your way every time.

CH: What have you been reading lately? Are there any books that really stuck with you growing up?

SE: I am currently reading for two different awards programs. I’m neck-deep in books I need to finish reading in the next few weeks. It’s been great to be exposed to so much writing–it is one of the keys to improving as an author–but has also meant I haven’t done any reading for pleasure in a while.

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The book I remember best from my growing-up years was Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. I read it in 6th grade and was blown away. I was totally engrossed in the heroine’s plight and pulled into the story. It was the first time a story did that for me and it changed my whole perception of reading. Until then, reading was always a chore, an assignment I did because I had to. But after reading that book I realized that reading could be exciting and enjoyable, even though it was hard for me. It pushed me forward and kept me reading at a time when I hated to read. I’ll always be grateful to Mr. O’Dell for writing a book that helped me over that hurdle.

CH: Finally, here at ADDICTED, we’d love to know what you’re addicted to? Is there anything you can’t live without?

SE: My first thought was step stools. I have one in every room of my house. Not as the result of an addiction, though. It’s really more of a necessity. I’m what’s known as “really short.”

Second thought: pointless online quizzes. I’ve taken enough to know what Jane Austen character I am, what city I should live in, which color best describes my inner child, which incarnation of Star Trek fits my personality, and which Harry Potter character I probably should have married. But this is more of a procrastination tool than a true addiction.

My third answer was Ireland, but that’s really an obsession, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Then, looking back over this list I thought maybe I’m addicted to lists. But in the interest of not looking like a total nerd, I’m going to reject that answer as well.

I think I’ll go with growing roses. That’s probably almost as nerdy as lists, but at least it’s true. Back when we lived in Arizona, we bought a house with thirteen rose bushes growing out front. I learned how to care for roses out of necessity and discovered that I loved doing it. So when we moved to the house we live in now (in a climate much more conducive to roses) one of the first things I did was clear out a flower bed that was ideally positioned for roses, and started planting bushes in my favorite varieties. The arthritis I now have in my hands makes this work hard, even impossible on some days, but I get so much joy from it that I’ve kept at it. I have had to scale back the vision I had for a long row of rose bushes, but I am enjoying the ones I do have.

 

I enjoyed Sarah’s writing before this interview, but now I absolutely adore the woman. As a fellow “fun sized” person, I appreciate her step stool addiction. I have a thing for lists too.

As I was posting images of Sarah’s latest books, I kept thinking, “This one is my favorite,” only to find another and think the same thing. I resonated with the stories in GLIMMER OF HOPE, DROPS OF GOLD, and AS YOU ARE and just loved reading them. Go check out Sarah’s website , follow her on Facebook and Twitter and pick up her books on Amazon. If you’re planning to be at the LDStorymakers Conference in less than a week, make time for her classes too. I personally can’t wait! Thanks again, Sarah, for visiting Addicted!

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