Hah! As my mother would say, over 21 and under 100. 🙂
Where are you from
Born and bred in the briar patch! I’m a native of Virginia in the South-eastern US.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc.
Well, let’s see. I’m a veterinarian working in a busy practice, so I don’t always get to spend as much time writing as I’d like. I have a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. 🙂
Most of my non-writing hobbies include animals. I love hiking in the woods with my dog, and I compete in the equine sport known as eventing—it’s kind of the triathlon of the horse sports, combing three different components—dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. I love taking photographs, too, and most of the pictures on my website were taken by me. Sadly, they are mostly of animals as well. I have a one-track mind sometimes 🙂
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I recently released my first indie-published story, The Boys of Summer, in April. My, that was a learning experience! I wanted to try my hand at indie-publishing to see what it was like. It was much harder than I thought it would be, but oddly more rewarding as well. I’m not sure I’d do it again anytime soon, however! I have a limited amount of time to write, and I feel my time would be better spent getting out new stories and leaving the formatting, editing, and distribution to my publisher!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Well, we grew up in a reading household. It only seemed natural to pick up a pencil and start writing my own stories as soon as I could print the alphabet. When I was in junior high school, I wrote a series of stories about a group of horse-mad teenagers who solved mysteries. My friends would fight over who got to read the next installment—I had a waiting list! When I went to college, however, I had this idea that it was time to grow up and put away childish things. Writing was one of the things I boxed on a shelf. It wasn’t until many years later, when a friend introduced me to online fanfiction archives, that I began writing again. It was like opening a hidden door to a secret garden and discovering that flowers had been growing wild in my absence.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t really think of myself as a writer for a long time—I was just playing around in fandom. It wasn’t until someone posted a celebratory noticed that they’d achieved a million word milestone that I added up my total word count—and I was well over a million words! That’s when I realized maybe there was something to this passion for storytelling. I also figured it was time to take the training wheels off and follow the urging of my friends who said I should be writing original fiction. My stories were the first thing I thought about each morning and the last thing I dreamt about when I went to bed at night. I figured that made me a writer!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Oh dear, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I misread a short story prompt for an open call for an anthology. I merrily wrote away until before I knew it, I had a full length novel about a vampire who wanted to give up the lifestyle and live as a human. He buys this fixer-upper in the mountains, becomes embroiled in the troubles of his werewolf friends, and tries very hard not to fall for his sexy-but-human neighbor. It was as far from the original prompt as you could get! Fortunately, Crying for the Moon found a home at Dreamspinner Press, and has done quite well, winning several review site recommendations and awards.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My stories tend to have some sort of twist to them. I like a lot of different genres: paranormal, mystery, sci-fi, contemporary, historical… but you’ll seldom find me sticking to one genre alone. My FBI story has an unexpected paranormal element. My contemporary story relies heavily on WWII history. I like happy endings but I like to whump my characters a bit too—I believe in making them work for that happy ending! And I love to make people laugh.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s funny, but I’ll get an idea for a story and start to play around with it in my mind. In a very short period of time, the title will come to me out of nowhere. If I start to jump around shrieking, “THAT’S IT!” then I know I have a viable story on my hands. No solid title means I don’t have a workable story. I was forced to rename a story once and it never did catch on and thrive. Titles are very important. A bad title, cover, or blurb can sink a decent story.
The title for The Boys of Summer came from a paragraph in the dream sequence:
The days marched inexorably on, and the boys of summer flew sorties all day long, drank late into the night, and rose before dawn to do it all again. The young men came and went like dragonflies, so many, so fast, present for such a brief time that David could not remember their names before they were gone again.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If I have a recurrent theme in my stories, it is usually that life is more than mere survival. You have to do more than just make it through each day. Living life to the fullest means taking a chance on love, putting your heart out there at risk, doing something that both scares and thrills you.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Well, I like to take a story that is well-rooted in reality and give it a paranormal element or sci-fi element just to mix things up. So I love putting in gritty medical details and researching my background so that the authenticity is there—then when I take you on the little flight of fancy, you’re predisposed to believe in it. 🙂
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My favorite saying is that everything is grist for the mill. Even when I am in the midst of some sort of personal trauma, there is a part of me coolly observing the situation and thinking, “I’m going to use this in a story someday.”
When I do use it, however, it has been altered and transmuted by the filter of the characters, so that it may not bear any outward resemblance to the actual event anymore—but the emotions that it evoked are still there.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
This was a tough question. I was a huge devotee of dog and horse books as a child, and they are still the stories I turn to when I am seeking comfort in life. I think they taught me a lot about story set up: introduce your main character, give them something/someone to love, set up the situation for a personal trauma or potential loss, but make everything turn out all right in the end. As a teenager, I read a lot of mystery and science fiction, and these stories influence my story-telling today. They are still my favorite reads. 🙂
I think for a lot of people, life is pretty stressful. I know when I seek a story, be it in book, television, or movie format, I’m looking for a hero or heroine I can root for, as well as a relatively happy ending. It’s not that I want everything to be fluffy kittens and rainbows—I want a story with some meat in it—but I want the ending to make me feel good. I suppose that means my stories are going to be lighter than many—and I doubt that fifty years from now, people will be reading them and praising them as high literature! But I hope that they are the kind of stories that you love to re-read because they make you happy.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Oh man, another tough question! I really do think my style is my own, but if I could emulate anyone, it would be Dorothy Sayers. Her character of Lord Peter Wimsey evolved over the years that she wrote that series of mysteries, becoming more real and less of a ‘character’ as the series progressed. The relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane remains my ideal of what an adult romantic relationship should be: two intelligent people meeting as equals and becoming partners in life. There were strong reasons why Harriet wouldn’t marry Lord Peter when they first met—and those reasons were worked out slowly over time until every objection had resolved. There were no silly misunderstandings keeping them apart. They talked instead of sulking or hiding. Neither one of them is perfect. That fictional relationship taught me much about what a healthy relationship should look like.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just came back from the bookstore this afternoon with seven new stories! I haven’t had a chance to choose which one I’ll start first, but I suspect it will be Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal. Since The Boys of Summer dealt in part with the Battle of Britain, I’m looking forward to reading more about Churchill during that time—especially if it is fiction!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Another tough question! I’ve been going through a serious re-reading phase, reading my favorites from when I was in high school and college. The Susan Elia MacNeal book is a new author for me and I am looking forward to it!
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on the sequel to Unspeakable Words.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have received a tremendous amount of support from my friends, many of which I met through fandom. They encouraged me to write original stories and pursue professional publishing, and I can say without a doubt that without their support, I’d probably still be telling myself I wasn’t good enough to be a ‘real author’.
I also owe a huge debt to the readers of my fanfic who left such wonderful feedback. I don’t think people realize how much writers (especially new writers) need to hear that their stories made someone happy—without the outpouring of positive comments on my stories, I would never have had the nerve to make the transition into original fiction.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Oh, I wish. My dream is for the writing to pay the bills sufficiently that I could work part-time in my current job. I suspect that is being overly optimistic, however. I do know some people who have been able to quit work and write full time, but my current schedule means I’m not producing stories as fast as I would like.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh, there is always something, isn’t there? At the end of The Boys of Summer, David, who has just survived some pretty traumatic circumstances and done so with a great strength of character, has an emotional blowout—a real diva moment! At least one reader expressed dismay at his behavior. Looking back, I would have set it up just a little stronger, so that his reaction wouldn’t seem so unreasonable to some.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always told stories. As long as I can remember, I made up stories about my favorite stories. I was sick a lot as a child, and missed a lot of school, but we had an extensive home library and I was reading on a college level when I was in grade school. I never fantasized about becoming a writer, however, because everyone in my family went into service-oriented professions. Wanting to be a writer was like wanting to be an actress: an unobtainable and selfish dream. I wish now that I’d ignored that Voice of Reality and kept writing. I suspect I’d be much better at it now if I had. 🙂
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current WIP, Walk a Mile, is the sequel to Unspeakable Words. I tried very hard to find a snippet that didn’t have spoilers for Unspeakable Words in it, but the entire story deals with something that happened to one for the characters when he touched a mysterious artifact, changing his life forever. I’ve wracked my brains trying to figure out how to post a snippet without spoiling the main event from Unspeakable Words, and I just can’t do it!
So I’ll give you a bit of The Boys of Summer instead. In this scene, David McIntyre and Rick Sutton have just crash landed their plane on a deserted island in the middle of a tropical storm. (I moderated the language a bit to keep it PG-13)
“Hey! Hey! Don’t pass out on me,” David warned, reaching under Sutton’s jacket and around his body to take hold of his torso. “I’ll never get you out of here if you pass out, and I can’t reach whatever’s bleeding from here. I need to stop the bleeding, okay? You’re going to have to help me.”
Sutton nodded silently. His lack of heroic banter worried David. He tightened his grip around Sutton’s chest, locking wrists that were slick with far too much blood. Where the hell was it coming from? He braced his feet against Sutton’s chair and pulled.
At first, it seemed like nothing was happening, as though he was attempting to lift a two ton gold brick. Then slowly, he felt Sutton coming with him, oozing out of the seat like a man being pulled out of quicksand. Sutton wasn’t helping him much, a fact that scared the crap out of him. He’d slung one arm around David’s shoulder, but he was pretty much dead weight as David tugged on him. Nonetheless, things were progressing steadily, with David gradually pulling Sutton up out of the crumpled mess that was the pilot’s seat, when suddenly they stopped moving.
David grunted and tugged some more, but to no avail. He slithered around, trying to get a different grip on Sutton but nothing worked.
“Hang on,” Sutton said, his breath coming in short, warm bursts near David’s ear. “I think I’m caught on something.”
“What, again?” David asked, and was rewarded with a faint chuckle. It was odd to think he could so easily turn his head and his lips would be on Sutton’s. They were practically embracing now. As it was, Sutton shifted, trying to move his injured side, reaching around behind him. His actions caused him to arch his back slightly, pushing up against David’s chest. The rain had soaked through Sutton’s shirt, leaving no questions as to his physical fitness. They could have been skin to skin, the contact was so close.
“Crap, that hurts.” Sutton slumped against him. “Sorry.” His words were little more than exhaled breath. “I can’t reach it.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” David huffed, pulling Sutton closer into his body and then fishing around blindly behind him to see what he was caught on. He found the offending piece of cloth, hung on part of the console. When he couldn’t unsnag it, he tore it instead. He collected Sutton into his grip once more. “Most heroes could get impaled in the belly at least once every other episode, and still manage to fight off the bad guys and get the girl in the end. You’re supposed to say, ‘I’m fine, I have at least two kidneys’ and keep moving, mister.”
A laugh so soft it only stirred the hair near his ear sent a ripple of undefined emotion through David. He was so afraid Sutton would die. He needed Sutton not to die.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I spend most of the day thinking about my stories and what I want to say when I finally get home. But at the end of a 10 hour workday, by the time I get dinner, feed the critters, and answer work-related phone calls and emails, my creative energy is pretty fried. It’s very frustrating sometimes.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That would have to be Dorothy Sayers, for the reasons mentioned above. I am a huge fan of Josephine Tey as well. Both wrote in the Golden Age of Mysteries in the 1920s and 30s. Sayers wrote stories full of wit and erudition. Several of Tey’s stories (Brat Farrar and Miss Pym Disposes comes to mind) are amazing character studies. Tey in particular has a genius for describing a character in a few words but leaves you with an indelible impression of what that character looks like and how they behave.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My work doesn’t allow me to travel much at all. I took my first real vacation in over a decade this past Christmas and traveled to the UK. It was my first time out of the country and it was a marvelous experience. I would love to travel more—and if I could take photographs and jot down notes about my experiences to be used in stories later, I’d be in heaven.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Most of my book covers were designed by cover artists hired by my publisher—I’ve been fortunate to have some incredibly talented artists: Reese Dante, Anne Cain, Paul Richmond, to name a few. A great cover is your story’s best friend.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
In The Boys of Summer, I knew the heart of the story was in the dream sequence. Many people have said that they wished that the dream sequence had been a whole book unto itself, but there was no way it could have had a happy ending. I couldn’t tear apart my characters that way and leave them with nothing at the end.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I spent over a month researching the WWII dream sequence for The Boys of Summer. It was only meant to be a single scene at first, but the more I read, the more appalled I was at how little I knew of the time period. I realized I had to try and do justice to these young men—barely out of school—who sacrificed so much in defense of their country during the Battle of Britain. Some of these pilots were sent out with less than eleven hours of flight time. Their stories were amazing. Before I knew it, the simple dream sequence had taken up a good chunk of the book—and I felt it was crucial to the story I wanted to tell.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Social media is all very well and good, but never mistake networking for the real business of being an author: writing the next story. I think it is all too easy to get caught up in flitting from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to Goodreads, etc and spend so much time talking about writing the next story that it takes you twice as long to finish it then if you just shut up and wrote it. The best advertisement you have for your work is the next story—but that takes more time than fiddling around on the internet. It also takes less mental energy to mess around online when you’re tired. You need to be disciplined enough to do the work!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
You guys really have no idea how much it means to us as writers to get feedback on our stories. We *love* hearing from you—and if you take the time to tell us why you loved something about one of our stories, it’s often the highlight of the day. You want a favorite author to write more stories faster? Tell them how much you enjoy their work. Praise is like a drug to us. Most of us have severe doubts about our abilities and talents on any given day. An email or a review from one of you guys can be the encouragement an author needs to get cracking on that next story.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies
In addition to the one I mentioned at the beginning, I did a lot of theater in high school and was a member of the All-Regional Chorus as well. I’d love to have the time to do local theater again. One of the reasons I turned to writing was because I’d moved to a new area and I auditioned for a play but couldn’t fit the rehearsals into my schedule. Writing let me be creative on my own schedule, and once I rediscovered it, I realized this was the great love of my life I’d been looking for but had been too blind to see it under my nose the whole time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love sci-fi shows like Doctor Who, Firefly, Babylon 5, and the Stargate and Star Trek series. I really wish there was a good sci-fi show on right now—there doesn’t seem to be much out there at the moment!
I love the BBC Sherlock series, and other crime/mystery shows. I adored The Closer, and am watching Major Crimes, Castle, Person of Interest, White Collar, and Maxwell & King right now. Or rather, I’m recording these. I seem to tape hours of shows only to be half a year behind on watching them. To be honest, if you want to be a writer, you need to read and watch other people’s stories so you can learn the rhythm of a good tale. But if you want to make a living at being a writer, well, the time to write has to come from somewhere. Giving up television is one of the easiest places for me to make time in my schedule.
As for films, I am totally in love with Captain America, Iron Man, and the Avengers. I don’t get to the movies much though. I usually end up waiting until they come out on DVD.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Oh dear. I jokingly say I have a $5 palate—meaning that if food costs more than $5 a plate, I can’t tell. That is, unless it goes over $50 a plate, then it starts to register that it is really good! I love bread and I’m not supposed to eat it anymore, so I tend to think about it a lot. 🙂
My favorite colors are greens and blues. I like the colors of the forest and the ocean.
Music… my musical tastes are probably frozen in time. I tend to prefer to vocalists that I can sing along with, so predominantly women. A quick glance at the iPod brought up Joan Osborne, Eva Cassidy, Cheryl Crow, Anna Nallick, The Bare Naked Ladies, Darren Hayes, The Eagles… I like clever lyrics. I haven’t listened to commercial radio since 9/11, so I rely heavily on my friends to introduce me to new artists!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
At one time, I wanted to be a naturalist, like Jane Goodall. I gave up that idea when I realized I couldn’t really take my dog with me to observe animals in the wild. 🙂
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
You can find me at http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com/
My home page has ALL my links: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, you name it! I love hearing from you guys too, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me at akasarahmadison[at]gmail[dot]com
Thanks so much for having me here, Fiona! What a challenging and in-depth interview—this was a lot of fun!
Just in case the hyperlinks didn’t take…
Buy Link for The Boys of Summer: http://amzn.com/B00CCUVR7G
Buy Link for Unspeakable Words: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2058
Buy Link for Crying for the Moon: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2422