TNA: Hi, Sarah, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.
SM: Thank you for having me here today! Well, I don’t know that there is that much to tell. I used to write when I was a child, but stopped when I went away to college. I thought it was something I needed to put aside in order to grow up. I was being ‘realistic’, I told myself. Up until that time, I’d been very creative. I was involved in the local theater and on the school forensics team. I sang and wrote stories. But that was for children, right? I shut my creative self up in a box and ignored it for twenty years while I concentrated on building a career. Then one day a friend introduced me to online fanfiction archives and it blew the doors on my exile wide open. I haven’t been the same since.
I’m a veterinarian by day, so my hobbies and interests tend to revolve around animals too. I ride in the equine sport of eventing, and enjoy hiking with my big dog. I love taking pictures too, but I think there is a German Shepherd permanently etched in my viewfinder because there seems to be one in every photograph I take.
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance, or is that something that came along later in your writing career?
It’s funny you should ask that—I started out writing general stories and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them. I finally realized I wanted to have my two main—male—characters hook up! What an eye-opening experience that was for me. I took to M/M romance like it was a drug. Really, it felt as though I’d found adult romance for the first time ever. There is so much I love about M/M romance—but not the least of which is that the two protagonists in the story are meeting on equal footing. They take turns being the hero—or the one being saved.
A lot of the tropes about romance in general don’t work quite the same way in M/M romances. I do find myself gradually considering branching out into M/F romances however. I take it as a personal challenge to create a female heroine I don’t want to slap twenty pages into the story! :-)
TNA: What was your first published M/M title? Do you remember the precise moment you came up with the story idea and knew you wouldn’t rest until it was told?
SM: Some friends of mine had been pushing me to try my hand at original publishing for a while—and then I saw a submission call from Dreamspinner Press for their First Contact anthology. I wrote Scavenger Hunt and sent it in. They declined it for the anthology—they said they had too many similar submissions—but they liked it enough that they encouraged me to re-submit it to the main site. I did, and the rest is history. I’m finding out that the short story is really not my forte. Even when I set out to write short stories, they seem to turn into novels!
But the moment I decided to start writing again began much earlier. I’d immersed myself in fanfiction, reading everything I could get my hands on. Finally, I could resist no longer—I was compelled to write my own story! I sat down and started typing—the words flowed out of me and I didn’t stop until I was done. It took me a while to get the hang of writing in segments—of not having to finish every story in a burst of concentrated energy. That’s the wonderful thing about fanfiction , though. You love those characters so much that you have to tell more stories about them. Your love for them overcomes fear, lack of confidence, and inexperience. In five years of writing fanfiction, I logged over a million words in storytelling. By the time I’d reached that point, I felt like I had nothing to lose by sending a story to a publisher.
TNA: Let’s chat a little bit about your new book The Boys of Summer? How did you come up with the idea for the book?
SM: I already had these two characters in mind in what was a contemporary story—but I kept seeing one in a RAF pilot’s uniform leaning against the side of a Spitfire. I couldn’t shake the image, so I decided it would be part of a dream sequence—only once I began the research into the details I needed, I dove straight into history and didn’t come up for air for nearly a month. I was stunned at how little I knew of the period surrounding the Battle of Britain—or the sacrifices these young pilots made. I knew a simple dream sequence wouldn’t do justice to these young men, and so I began to weave elements from the story into the dream and back out again.
I know the dream sequence doesn’t work for some people because it occupies a good bit of the book. But I think it is crucial to understanding Rick and David today because we know now how things would have played out if they’d met during WWII.
TNA: Did either of the main characters give you fits as you were writing, not wanting to cooperate with where you saw their story going?
SM: Well, not after I acquiesced and gave Rick his chance to be the sacrificial hero. :-) Before that, I couldn’t get anything done until I’d told the ‘older’ story first.
My characters are often uncooperative, but only when I try to make them do things that simply aren’t right for them. Once I figure that out, they practically tell their own stories!
TNA: Is this your first self-published title?
SM: It is, and man, what a learning curve! I had a lot of help and I still made some embarrassing mistakes. I’ve gone back and corrected most of them, but I still come across things that make me wince.
TNA: What made you decide to try the self-pubbing route? Do you see this becoming a more common and attractive option for authors, moving forward?
SM: I wasn’t sure this story had a home with a publisher. There was a good bit of personal involvement for me on this one, and I was concerned that the section I thought was the most important—the dream sequence—would be the one to suffer the editorial hatchet. :-)
I also was curious about the self-publishing process. I knew that I could get a greater share of the royalties, that I would have creative control. In a way, this has been one of the most emotionally satisfying stories I’ve ever produced because I’ve invested so much more into it, both in terms of time and money.
That said, I found the self-publishing process daunting, and if I hadn’t had someone with IT experience to willingly help me, I don’t think I would have managed on my own. Even so, the formatting and uploading process took nine hours that first day. I’m sure I would get faster with time, but I’m not sure it is a good use of my time. This story has gotten wonderful reviews and is on the Goodreads list of Best M/M Romances of 2013 (which staggers me as it was only released in April!) but I strongly suspect that it would have sold much better if I’d gone through a publisher. I thought because I had a platform in place, self-pubbing would be a snap in terms of promotion. Boy, was I wrong!
TNA: Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite? If so, who and why?
SM: I have a special place in my heart for Rodney, the philosophical gargoyle from Raincheck. He’s surly because he is lonely. By day, he’s a stone gargoyle. Each night, as dusk falls, he comes to life and watches over one of the tenants in his building. He builds quite the fantasy about their potential life together, all the while knowing that the day they tear his building down will be the day he ceases to exist. He takes books out of the bins at the used bookstore but he always makes sure he leaves something in return. I keep thinking one day I’ll come back to his world and write more about him. I adore him. :-)
TNA: Do you have an all-time favorite literary character? If so, who and why?
SM: Oooh. Tough question. I have so many favorite characters. I’d have to go with Lord Peter Wimsey from the Dorothy Sayers novels. He’s intelligent and educated, but sensitive, too. Over the course of the series, he grows as a character, becoming less of the act he portrays in public and more of the private man. I love, too, that his relationship with Harriet Vane is an adult one. He does her the honor of treating her like an equal—something that is so very hard to find in a traditional romance. I suspect it is because the Wimsey novels are primarily mysteries with romantic interruptions, but I would be proud if I could ever write a character or a series a tenth as good.
TNA: If you could sit down to dinner with one person, past or present, who would it be, and what’s the one question you’d love to ask that person?
SM: And I thought the last question was tough! This is the kind of question that is often asked in an interview of this sort, and I never know how to answer it. In part because I don’t want to appear shallow or conceited, either, for that matter. In part because my answer changes. At the moment, I think my answer would be Barak Obama. The first time I ever heard him speak was on the NPR radio show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. He was articulate and funny, and I remember thinking, ‘wow, he’s pretty cool for a Senator. Why can’t all politicians be so well-informed?’
I’d ask him if it had been worth it. That if he could go back and speak to that Senator, would he do anything differently?
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?
SM: Ah. I am currently working on a couple of projects. My main WIP is the long-overdue sequel to Unspeakable Words. I’d always intended for it to be a three book series, but somehow along the way I got sidetracked into working on other things. Things ended on a pretty wild note in Unspeakable Words—I really owe it to the guys to finish their story. Unfortunately for them, I am an evil, terrible person, and they’ve gone from the frying pan into the fire. :-) I don’t want to spoil things for the potential reader, so I’ll stop there.
I have sequels planned for the vampire/shifter story Crying for the Moon as well. I want to tell the story how Nick met Peter—two of the secondary characters in the story that I fell in love with, much to my surprise! And the nemesis of the first story, Victor, isn’t going to give up on getting revenge on Alex. Oh, the terrible things I plan to do to my boys! I believe in making them work for their happy endings. :-)
I’m also toying with my first major M/F story. It’s on the back burner for the moment while I try to decide whether or not I want to publish it under my current pen name or create a new persona for a totally different genre. Part of me thinks this would just be starting over again, so I haven’t decided. One story centers around sport horses, and pits a top competitor between his ex-girlfriend (and veterinarian) and his controlling mother as he is trying to heal both himself and his horse from a potential career-stopping injury.
The second is a science fiction story about a brilliant, prickly scientist who travels to another universe to find the only man with the correct DNA who can pilot the spaceship that she designed. Their pilot, and the man she’d had a secret crush on, had been killed by sabotage during their test flight. Now she must convince a man from another universe to come back with her—and bond to AI that controls the ship.
Ideas. Plot bunnies. They multiply and run rampant all the time. I have story ideas coming out my ears. I just don’t have the time to write them down. In my ideal world, I’d work 3-4 days a week at the ‘day job’ and spend the rest writing.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
SM: The best place is my website, www.SarahMadisonFiction.com. You can find all my other links there—for Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, you name it!
TNA: Would you like share an excerpt from The Boys of Summer with us?
SM: I’d love to! Rick and David have been touring small islands in the South Pacific when a tropical storm forces their plane down. Here goes:
Excerpt (rated R for language):
“I don’t think we’ve got much choice.” Sutton’s voice was grim. “We’re lucky to have that much. Hold on, these trees are coming up faster than I’d like.”
Still fighting to keep the nose of the plane up, Sutton guided the recalcitrant aircraft toward the so-called clearing, the ground rising up to meet them far faster than was comfortable. David found himself leaning back in his seat, bracing his hands on the console as the tops of trees scraped the underside of the plane. Branches swiped at the windshield, and David had the sudden impression of being in a car wash scene as written by Stephen King.
“Duck your head!” Sutton barked. “Wrap your arms around your legs!”
“And kiss my ass goodbye?” David shouted, raising his voice over the increasing noise as he obeyed Sutton’s orders.
Incredibly, Sutton laughed. It was an oddly comforting sound. Like everything was somehow going to be all right because Sutton was at the controls.
The moment of humor was gone in a flash. The plane screamed with the sound of tearing metal and the sharp, explosive crack of tree limbs and breaking glass. David kept his head down and his eyes closed, praying to a God he was pretty sure had more important things to do than to keep up with the well-being of one David McIntyre. Despite being strapped in his seat, his head and shoulder thumped painfully against the passenger side door as the plane thrashed wildly. There was a moment of eerie, blessed silence, and for an instant, the assault on the plane seemed as though it had lifted. Eye of the storm, David thought, just before the plane hit the ground.
Someone had left the window open and it was raining on him. How incredibly annoying. He shifted, intent on reaching for the offending window, when a jolt of pain ran through his shoulder and he gasped. When he opened his eyes, nothing made any sense at first. Then he remembered the crash, and realized that his side of the plane was pointing up at the sky. The rain was coming down in a steady stream through the broken windshield. The sound of the rain on the metal hull of the plane was nearly deafening.
He winced at the pain in his neck when he turned to look over at the pilot’s seat. Sutton was slumped to one side in his chair, unmoving. His sunglasses were hanging off one ear.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” David murmured, hastily undoing his seatbelt so he could reach across to Sutton. His skin was cold and damp where David touched it, and adrenaline pounded through David’s veins as though he could jumpstart Sutton’s heart by sending his own pulse beating through his fingertips. “Sutton! Rick!”
David fought to free himself of his seat, twisting for greater access to the other side of the cockpit. When the seatbelt came open, he fell half across Sutton. Sprawled practically in his lap, David could now see the nasty cut on the left side of Sutton’s temple. The pilot’s side of the plane had taken a lot of damage, and David yelped as he encountered a sliver of glass. Bits of the windshield and console were scattered like confetti over Sutton’s jacket. “Sutton!” The lack of response was unnerving. He tossed aside the sunglasses and worked a hand down into Sutton’s collar, feeling frantically for a pulse.
He could have kissed the man when Sutton suddenly groaned.
“Rick, are you all right? Can you understand me?” David began feeling around for additional injuries.
“I could never understand you, McIntyre,” Sutton said in a fair approximation of his slow drawl. Even the half-smile was a good imitation of his usual expression. “Who tours the toughest jungles in the South Pacific dressed to play golf?”
“Hah-hah, very funny, keep your day job. Oh, no, wait. Forget that. You’re not so good at the day job either.” Relief made him almost giddy. They were going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay.
Until Sutton tried to move and caught his breath painfully.
“What, what is it?” David tried to reach down around the other side of him, to see what the problem was. He felt something wet, warmer than the rain coming in the windshield, and he pulled back his hand to stare at it in shock.
His hand was covered in blood. The metallic odor of it caught him unaware and almost made him gag.
“Shit,” Sutton said mildly. “I seem to be stuck on something.”
“Stuck?” David knew he was practically shrieking, but what the fuck was he supposed to do, miles from nowhere, with an injured man impaled on God knows what, who might die and leave him here all alone.
Thanks so much for being here with us today, Sarah! We appreciate you taking the time to answer all of our questions.
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