Today we welcome author Sarah Gilman to the blog, and to the Never Too Old for YA Books group from Goodreads.
Sarah's series, Return to Sanctuary, is well known in Goodreads circles!
So let's hear what Sarah has to say!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The realization was more a progression than a moment. I used to be a musician and had that creative outlet most of my life. As an adult, I left music because I couldn’t hold my own with competition anymore. I ended up with an extremely stressful job and turned to writing, something I’d thought about over the years but never actually started, and I read even more than I used to. I wrote like that for well over a year before I considered the possibility of pursuing it professionally. Even then, I didn’t really believe it could happen until Entangled requested Out in Blue.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. Out in Blue, my first book, took over a year, but most of that time was spent working with critique readers and revising. Deep in Crimson took about half that long. The first draft of Wings of Redemption, a novella, took me two weeks. My upcoming Covet romance took a month write. The biggest variable I face now is the brainstorming phase. Once I have the plot and characters worked out, I write every day and can get the draft done in a predictable amount of time. But sometimes the concepts for book flow in a quick few weeks, sometimes I hash the plot around for months.
What do you think makes a great story?
In two words, pacing and voice. There are many books I love, most for different reasons. In one book the hero may be particularly captivating, in another I might get so lost in the world nothing else matters. But the two things that are consistent across all the books I enjoy the most are pacing and voice. My attention span is firecracker-short. If the plot isn’t moving forward fast enough or the voice is flat, I end up staring at the wall thinking about my grocery list. When pacing and voice combine to make every single sentence entertaining, it’s a great story.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Thanks to my short attention span I don’t have much of a schedule. I write as much as I can and weave in reading and errands when the words don’t flow.
How do you balance family and writing?
I admit, balance isn’t always there. I make a point of never refusing a friend or family member who wants to visit or go out unless I’m facing a imminent deadline emergency. Problems arise, though, when anyone assumes that because I “don’t have a real job” that I have plenty of time to do all sorts of random things. It’s not about the time or lack thereof, but rather the belittling attitude that that makes me grouchy in those instances.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My gray matter. :)
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That come hell, high water, or deadline, no one else does the dishes.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve finished 2 full-length novels, 1 category-length novel, two novellas, and a half-dozen short stories. (I have at least a dozen unfinished projects, most of which will be novels.) I’m partial to the one I’m writing right now, which will hopefully be the third novel in the Return to Sanctuary series.
Are your characters based on anyone you know?
No. Wouldn’t admit it if they were! I do wish I knew some angels personally to interview, though. ;)
Do you have a favorite place you love to write?
My overstuffed leather chair!
Tell us one thing we wouldn’t know already know about you.
I’m a fan of manga and anime.
What do your family and friends think about your books?
Oh, that’s a complicated Pandora’s box! Family is family. Let’s leave that one at that. o.o
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read, but I also spend a fair amount of time every day cooking. I’m a from-scratch sort of person. I’m also learning traditional archery, but I’m waiting for the snow to melt before I get serious.
Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they?
Write a lot, read a lot, and ignore all cynics. As far as craft goes, I think I’ll reiterate a point from an earlier question: pacing and voice. Every sentence should be interesting. A simple example I love is this one:
“A cat sat on a mat.” Vs. “A cat sat on the dog’s mat.”
Ideally, nowhere in a manuscript should the cat simply sit on a mat. He should always sit on the dog’s mat! In other words, even description should add to a story and conflict should be everywhere.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be an orchestral musician. I played the flute through the college level.
What are your favorite books and which authors inspire you?
Books and authors as a whole inspire me. Nothing amazes me more in this world than the human imagination. One of my favorite books of all time is Myst (and Myst 2, to be fair). That series made me addicted to fantasy.
For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do's and don’ts for writing a successful book?
Do get your work critiqued.
Do get your work critiqued.
Do get your work critiqued by someone published in your genre (writing contests are a great way to accomplish this).
Don’t ignore constructive criticism of your work. Not only does your manuscript need more perspectives than your own, you need to be humble enough to see the value in the opinions of others. Otherwise no editor will want to work with you.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the third novel in the Return to Sanctuary series and the first novel in a new dragon-shifter series! I’m also in the early stages of a fantasy novel in which Purgatory declares independence from Heaven.
Thanks so much for stopping by today Sarah! It's been a pleasure having you here!