AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: SARAH M. ANDERSON
Debut author Sarah M. Anderson has joined the Joyfully Reviewed bunnies for a quick interview.
So Sarah tell us about your debut novel, and what inspired you to write it.
My debut novel, A Man of His Word, is a December Harlequin Desire.
Dan Armstrong can’t tell if the figure in the trees is a ghost, an Indian princess, or a hallucination—until she takes a shot at him and disappears without a trace. With only the bullet hole in his hat as proof, he starts looking around for a beautiful woman with a grudge. Rosebud Donnelly fits the bill. She’s beautiful, she’s an Indian, and she’s the tribal lawyer suing his family over water rights. But does she really want him dead? There’s only one way to find out. As he gets closer to Rosebud, Dan can’t tell which is in more danger—his head or his heart.
I was raking leaves several falls ago and had the image of the American Indian woman riding down out of the trees and then taking a shot at the cowboy. It took me another year or so to figure out who these people were and, more importantly, how they could ever live happily ever after, after she puts a hole in his hat!
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I think of myself as a mister—I have a general idea of where I am going and who I’m writing about, but I usually go through three drafts of the opening chapter as I figure out more about the characters and what drives them. I usually do my plotting as I fall asleep at night and by the time I wake up, the kinks of the next scene have worked themselves out. Usually.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I originally wrote complicated family sagas. I liked them, but honestly, they sucked. The granddaughter of the family didn’t want to stay on the family farm. She demanded to go out west, where she met a cowboy who was also an Indian. I had such fun writing that book—it was sassy and sexy and everything that the previous three books hadn’t been. That book landed an agent, and I realized that was where my strengths were. So I stayed out west!
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
It’s true, I like some of my people more than others. I think my all-around favorite hero is Rebel Runs Fast, a medicine man in a book called Mystic Cowboy. He was the total package—hunky, good with his hands, a sense of humor, and fond of skinny-dipping.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
The follow-up to A Man of His Word, featuring a character named James Carlson as the hero, was extremely difficult for me. Poor James went through countless complete rewrites before I finally figured out what made him tick. Luckily for me, he was a patient fellow!
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
That first book with the cowboy who was the Indian? That character came from real life. The character’s name was Jacob, and he had lost an eye and a nose in a fight. He wore a custom-made leather mask that covered half his face—a real Phantom of the High Plains! We first meet him when he rides shirtless down the middle of the street, leading a second horse. That scene actually happened. I was in Red Lodge, Montana on vacation with my mom and grandma when a shirtless cowboy rode down the middle of the street, leading another horse. If I hadn’t been there with my family, I would have gotten on that horse and ridden off into the sunset with him! He had a mask, too. The only difference between the real-life cowboy and my character was that the real cowboy was white, and my character was Lakota Indian.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
That depends on the day of the week. Some days, the words do not come, and I’ve learned now that nothing good comes from trying to force it. Other days, rewrites are the hardest. The book with James Carlson was one of those.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I don’t like ‘live’ Christmas trees. They’re actually dead, but still pretty. If you’re going to have a ‘live’ Christmas tree, you should be able to take it out back and plant it. Needless to say, my favorite villain in the Batman world is Poison Ivy!
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Dumb action flicks. I would much rather watch Bruce or Sylvester or—especially!—Jason chew their way through a scene than watch anything that gets near the label ‘chick flick.’
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I have an office, so I do my best work with some music going, a mug of hot tea, a candle burning, and small dogs sleeping on my feet. Unless it’s 97 degrees outside. Then just the music.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Because I write modern-day westerns, I listen to a lot of Toby Keith, Trace Atkins, Jason Aldean, Lee Ann Womack, and Darius Rucker. But I also toss in Def Leppard, Skid Row, Kelly Clarkson, and Pink. I have song lists for sad scenes, sex scenes, and fight scenes. Most books don’t have a specific song.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
I was firmly Team Jacob because I love a shirtless Native American! Any member of Jacob’s pack works well for me, especially Chaske Spencer, who played Sam Utley. I also use Val Kilmer, circa the movie Thunderheart, as a model.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I got The Call on my way home from picking my son up from kindergarten. I was driving and knew I’d wreck the car, so I literally hung up on my agent. I rushed home, got my son a snack and ordered him not to talk, kicked the dogs outside, and tried to remain calm. So my son was first to know, then I called my husband and my mom.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I came late to the genre because I was busy getting my Masters in the Victorian novel. So while other people were discovering Danielle Steele and Jayne Ann Krentz, I was deeply involved with Mr. Darcy and Heathcliffe. How I wound up writing westerns with two degrees in English literature is still a mystery to me!
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Because of my degrees, I go all fan girl for Courtney Milan’s Victorian historicals. I also got star-struck by Sherry Thomas for the same reason. In the western genre, Kathleen Eagle and Linda Lael Miller would have me babbling like a schoolgirl!
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
In addition to being an author, mom, and dog-walker, I also have a part-time job at a small educational publishing company that only does workbooks for grades three through eight—so I can’t help anyone else get published, sadly.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
The James Carlson book will be out in July of 2012. Right now, I’m working on the final book in this series featuring a Lakota lawyer named Nick Longhair which will come out in September 2012. Nick left the reservation behind and assumed the identity of Nicholas Long. But now he’s come home to find his old girlfriend, Tanya Rattling Blanket has a young son. Which life will Nick choose? Then, in 2013, I’ll have a book in Desire’s Rich, Rugged Ranchers series as well as a three-book series about brothers who build motorcycles.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Kathleen Eagle, hands down. She is the gold standard for modern-day cowboy-and-Indian stories.
How do you pick your characters names?
Some characters come to me with their names on their shirt pockets. Other characters are much more mysterious and make me work for it. I’m a big fan of simple names—Dan, James—names that may be a little old school, but carry a lot of weight. Frequently, the simpler one character’s name is, the more ‘different’ the other character’s is. So Dan’s heroine is Rosebud. I find it best not to have two people who have weird names at a time. I don’t want to throw the reader out of the story!
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I prefer attraction at first sight then steady growth throughout. I feel it’s important to make sure that my characters have a basis outside of physical attraction for the relationship. I’m not a huge fan of characters who fall into bed and decide they’re in love without having carried on an actual conversation. My characters have to genuinely like, admire, and respect each other. Otherwise, it’s not falling in love. It’s falling in lust—which is a completely different book!
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I haven’t run into this too much—yet. I usually get, “I don’t like books with all that smut.” My usual response varies between, “Nobody’s holding a gun to your head to make you read it,” to “Yes, I can see how two people falling in love and getting married is smutty. You’re right. Don’t read it.”
Where can the readers find you?
Readers can find me at:
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
If it’s chocolate, I like it! However, I’ve noticed that, the older I get, the more I like the high-quality, darker chocolates. I don’t eat as many M&Ms as I used to, but I can do some damage to Godiva!
This post is brought to you as part of the A Man of His Word Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule and rules, visit My Website. Comments on this blog will be entered to win a signed copy of A Man of His Word. All blog comments are added to the Jewelry Grand Prize list. Jewelry Grand Prize announced on January 1st, 2012 to one randomly drawn name on the list.
Next stop is Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills on Dec. 13th.