Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Talking to Sarah Balance

Dear Readers: the interview of my victims, I mean guests, is my favorite part. Elaina Lee and Sarah Balance will be in the hot seat today and tomorrow.

Today, let’s find out more about Sarah Balance. I have an advantage as to her writing ability because I’ve already read Sarah’s latest ebook HAWTHORNE. Take my word for it, you don’t want to miss reading this yummy paranormal. But I don’t know near enough about our dear writer.  

Before I launch into nosy questions, Sarah, please tell us a bit about yourself.

How much do I love you?  You read my book and you still let me come over to play! LOL.  Okay, seriously, while not writing I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to six kids ages one to thirteen.  I love my husband to pieces (sometimes I'd like that to be literal), and even after fifteen years together he's still my best friend and way better than sleep, if you know what I mean. ;c)  In addition to HAWTHORNE, I'm twice published with Noble Romance and have a new one—UNFORGIVEN—coming August 22 to kick off my suspense series.

Now on to the grilling, I mean interview. Sarah, I’m curious as to where an idea comes from be it a book or a movie, so I have to ask. What was your inspiration for your release HAWTHORNE?

This one was tough.  Elaina Lee contacted me near the end of March to ask if I'd be willing to contribute to the Astraea Press charity novella project.  I spent about two days avoiding her email, LOL, then I said yes.  A month before the deadline, however, I had nothing.  In my "What was I thinking?" lament to my husband, he came up with the idea of a ghost story.  Not long thereafter, the ending hit me (and you'll have to read the story to understand the significance there), and with that I was able to go back to the beginning. At that point, the words FLEW.  And it was a good thing.  I finished the day before the deadline, and just ten hours after I submitted HAWTHORNE I had a contract.  The entire experience, from Elaina's email to the lightning-fast acceptance, is still surreal!

Loved the characters, especially had my eye on Noah. Are your characters based on people you know, made up or a combination of both?

Aw, thanks.  I tend to draw my characters from a combination of people I've met and life experience, but Noah was truly someone from my heart.  Not to sound like a schmuck, but I didn't have to think him.  I felt him.  I believe readers have really responded to him as well, which is one big reason there will be a novel-length sequel to HAWTHORNE. 

You’re known as a romantic suspense author, is there another genre burning inside you to be written?  Or perhaps you have written number genres? Share.

Romantic suspense owns me!  My first release was a romance, but when I wrote it I never thought it would be published.  I didn't even want it to be published, LOL!  I just wanted to prove to myself I could write a book, so I did.  But as I neared the end of that first manuscript and had thoughts of subbing, it hit me I really wanted to write suspense.  Right now I have about six novels planned, all romantic suspense.  There's something extra tasty adding that element of danger to romance, and weaving clues and plot is epic for me.  I love it!

Some day I hope to write about time travel, is there a genre that you hope to tackle one day?

Right now my plate is so full of romantic suspense plots—including the new series with Noble—that I can't see around the genre, LOL.  HAWTHORNE, with the ghostly element, is considered paranormal and no doubt I'll go there again, but that's the extent of my ambition to stray from suspense. 

Sarah, I know you have several children, how do you find the time to write? Did you hear the envy in my voice? Honestly, I’m impressed that you manage to write one word.

I have to give MAD credit to my husband.  Although I tend to trend back and forth from waking up early to write to staying up late, right now my routine is to go into hiding after dinner.  I put the baby to bed and my husband threatens the other five with laundry or dishwasher duty should they even think about bothering me. About once an hour someone will come see if I need anything, so I have regular coffee and cappuccino deliveries should I desire them.  ;c)

Oh wow, what a husband you have. Have you ever killed off a character because you were angry with someone?

I've never changed the fate of a character for that reason alone, but I think it's fair to say I've written some parts with a great deal of enthusiasm after dealing with someone IRL. 

Very diplomatic answer. Sometimes names just pop into my head and other times I struggle to find a name I’m happy with for a story. Where do you get the names for your characters?

I'm pretty much the same way.  When they don’t hit me immediately, I spend a lot of times looking at baby name lists, which feels comfortable after naming six kids, LOL.  But I prefer to look up themed lists, like southern, redneck, and cowboy names.  I avoid uber trendy-for-now names for characters who weren't born in the last decade, and to that end I've found checking the Social Security list for a certain decade is awesome.  I also find a lot of first names I like by looking at lists of surnames, a technique I discovered quite by accident while on the hunt for a last name.  I probably spend too much time choosing, but after hours of angst finally one will be so right, and that's a great feeling.

Yes, I know the feeling. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know beforehand and you wished you had? 
There's something to be said for going through the whole process the first time that really takes the edge off.  I'm a timid, fearful person.  I don't like to be the center of attention and I have a really hard time putting myself out there.  As an author, that's ALL you do. You pour your heart into your work, and once it's out there you can't take it back.  Publishing happened as a whirlwind, unexpected experience for me; I never aspired to be an author.  It took me six months to write my first novel, which was accepted on the first query.  I enjoyed the experience, but if I could do it over I would talk myself out of the fear of it all happening and just rock out the milestones.  It truly gets better every time!

What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

Crits, crits, crits.  If not for my crit partner, I wouldn't be published at all.  I don't know how she didn't run for the hills when she saw my first draft for the first time, but her patient early corrections turned blissfully deadly as my skills grew.  Authors tend not to like crits, and it is hard to see your work marked up, but once you have a good crit partner (who isn't afraid to point out your weaknesses) the possibilities are limitless.  I'm always nervous when I see a crit in my inbox, but it's also really exciting to know when I get to the other side of my edits I'm going to have a stronger story.  A good critter is invaluable for any author.

I couldn’t agree more, I love my crit partner, except for the times I want to strangle him. But he’s good and brings out the best in me. What was the worst advice? Did you know it at the time?

I wouldn’t call it bad advice, but overall pressure (from myself—not from the publisher).  The sex in my first novel is more graphic than I was comfortable with, but I think it goes back to my extreme introvert shell.  I'm not at all embarrassed by it, but I think I pushed myself a bit out of my (admittedly limited) comfort zone in order to make that story fit some sort of mold I had in my head.  I've since matured into it, LOL, but there is something to be said about being true to yourself with your words. 

Any WIP? Care to share?

I just started the second title in my romantic suspense series with Noble.  The first book, UNFORGIVEN, comes out on August 22 so I'm challenging myself to see how much of book two I can knock out before then.  I've also got the sequel to HAWTHORNE on my radar and a short story in the works for the November Noble Authors Blog Tour.  Eeep!

Come on August 22. And I can’t wait for the Hawthorne sequel. Thank you for being such a gracious guest.

Thank you, Cassie, for hosting me!  (Um, sorry about the furniture.)  I appreciate your help in spreading the word about HAWTHORNE and the other charity titles from Astraea Press.  It's a wonderful thing to know my work will make a small difference for someone else, and at only $3 I hope some new-to-me readers will take a chance and scope me out.  Hopefully (and if nothing else) I'm tolerable for charity, LOL.  As for you and everyone else who has grabbed a copy, thank you so much for your support!

Noble titles buy link:  https://www.nobleromance.com/Authors/97


After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it took ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home.   She sought peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she found was an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she could right.
Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett never forgot about Emma Grace.  In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents revealed a truth that could cost him everything.  What he found gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?
BUY LINK: http://astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=1011841&mode=product&product=4810595

Chapter One

The car slowed to a stop and a decade's worth of memories tumbled onto the sun-blanched asphalt.
Hawthorne Manor.
The hand-painted sign hadn't changed in years. In the thick, damp air filling the Louisiana landscape, the wood display remain inexplicably unaffected. There it sat—every meticulously scripted letter as crisp and clean as the stark white walls of the manor it lauded, oblivious to the passage of time.
Emma Hawthorne tensed in the seat of the Mustang convertible, staring at her past with ice sluicing her spine Anywhere else, the view would have been gorgeous. The drive, lined on both sides with live oak laden with Spanish moss, was the South personified. At the end, Hawthorne Manor held court. Pristine, proud, the boastful antebellum home beamed, lording over its acreage.
But it harbored the unspeakable. No amount of time could erase what happened to her on the other side of the expanse of green lawn. Nothing could change what she'd seen there. Some might say she was crazy—that she'd imagined or invented the whole ordeal—but her scars were all the proof she needed. Whether the shadows lurking behind the fa├žade of the picturesque plantation were real or born of an overactive imagination, there was no way she was going back into that house.
Especially not for a dead woman.
Sparing a glance in the rearview, Emma steeled herself against a trembling in her hands that threatened to overtake her body. She released a pent-up breath, her heart settling into a less acrobatic rhythm at the thought of leaving. She didn't have to stay here.
Let the South win this one. She was going home.
A split second after she decided to go, something caught her eye. She blinked, trying to see through the swaying canopy of leaves and moss, certain a figure stood atop the widow's walk straddling the roofline of the house. But no one—
Something brushed the car, rocking it. Swallowing panic, Emma tried to tear her focus from Hawthorne Manor, but fear kept her from looking anywhere else. Time and distance hadn't done her any favors; she was a fool for coming anywhere near this place, much less with the ragtop down.
The car rocked harder. The something refused to be ignored.
Fighting the grip of panic tightening her throat—fighting the ghosts of her past—Emma forced herself to look away from the house, toward the intrusion over her left shoulder.
The first thing she saw was an aged set of gnarled fingers resting on the door, blue automotive paint showing through an ugly translucence.
The second was the face—withered, centurion, and expressionless. Haunting.
Emma screamed.


It couldn't be her.
Noah Garrett tore down the drive, slapping through a muggy afternoon haze comprised of mosquitoes and humidity. He couldn't know that scream, but he felt the connection the moment the sound of her fear pierced the thick air.
Emma Grace.
The one reason he allowed himself to stagnate on the old plantation, long after life and reason moved on without him. Long after she had.
A blue Mustang sat at the end of the driveway. He wondered if it could be hers—even as he knew it impossible—but she was nowhere in sight.
He slowed to a trot. The sprint left him drenched with sweat and not entirely disappointed his imagination had gotten away from him. His dream of one more chance to see Emma Grace had never included himself as a dripping mess. He wiped the moisture from his brow, fast concluding the car must belong to a tourist. They often parked at the end of the drive and took pictures of the condescending mansion most thought beautiful. He assumed the intrusion seemed small to their frequent guests, but the constant ding of the hidden bell announcing a visitor could drive a man to the edge.
As if losing Emma Grace hadn't already accomplished that.
Noah closed in on the convertible, giving the nearby grounds a cursory look. The lawn was meticulous, the beds overflowing with sprays of purple garden phlox which trailed around the bend in the road and disappeared. A riot of white and rust-red irises backed the smaller purple flowers, their leaves deep green and glossy. Overhead, Spanish moss swayed only occasionally atop a maze of live oak, more likely a result of a passing swarm of insects than an actual air current. The land was still. If there were tourists snapping photos of the historic plantation—or doing anything else—he didn't see them. But someone had been there, the seemingly familiar scream so real.
Wasn't it always?
Resigned to another night alone with his memories, Noah pivoted.
And found himself nose to nose with Emma Grace.
Astounded, he opened his mouth, then closed it. He wanted to reach for her, but his arms refused the notion; they hung uselessly by his sides, the effort futile. His mouth wasn't much on cooperation, either. Finally, he found his tongue. "Em—"
Her expression cut him off. Green eyes wide, skin pale, her small frame shaking, she spoke. "I saw her, Noah. She's back." The words, nearly soundless, seemed to catch in the thick air. Lingering. Threatening.
And ripping the heart from his chest.
BUY LINK: http://astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=1011841&mode=product&product=4810595


Sarah Ballance said...

Thanks so much for having me! You're the first to get the scoop all in one place. It must be those questionable interview tactics you use, LOL.

Cassie Exline said...

Well, now, as I explained, if you don't struggle, things go smoother. The interview turned out lovely. ;)

Elaina Lee said...

Wonderful interview, ladies! Wonderful questions, wonderful answers!!!

Cassie Exline said...

You're just saying that, Elaina, because tomorrow you're in the hot seat. muahahahah!

Sarah Ballance said...

LOL! Thanks, Elaina!