Q1. What would you say makes a romance novel a great love story?
SANDY: The characters have to have chemistry. To me, that connection, that wonderful feeling that the heroine and hero belong together, makes the story work. If an author can make me believe the relationship is destiny, then I’ll suffer through anything she throws in their path to see them together. The more hurdles they have to jump to get to their happily ever after, the more interesting the story. I had a fan mail once where a reader told me she read All the Right Reasons and was mad at me up until the very last chapter because she was terrified Lucas and Joy would never find a way to get past all their problems and end up together. I was thrilled because that meant I did a good job on that book.
Martha: Ahh – now that may explain why I found Murphy’s Law so gripping… the chemistry and the conflict were such a good combination!
Q2. It appears that your books follow a rule many authors are told: “write what you know.” Please share briefly what special knowledge or experience you bring to your books.
SANDY: My husband and I own a small stable of harness-racing horses. When we first became owners, we had so much to learn! From the equipment to the handling of the animals to the strategy of the sport… It was almost overwhelming. I decided to try to share what I learned with my readers and hopefully introduce a few new fans to the sport by writing a romance based in the horseracing world. Murphy’s Law was born, and as Seth learns about racing, so do readers.
I’m a high school teacher and had resisted writing about being a teacher because I didn’t think of it as the type of profession that would interest romance readers. But when I sat down to write a first-person book simply to exorcise my middle-aged angst, of course the heroine had to be a teacher. It was also the first book I wrote around a title – Turning Thirty-Twelve.
I never intended to share that story, but when a friend encouraged me to submit it to Siren-BookStrand, I did. To have it be the first book I sold was bizarre to say the least. My little “kicks and giggles” book seems to have resonated with other readers of a certain age, which makes me very happy.
Martha: I found the harness-racing world very interesting and a great story setting. I look forward to reading the second book and more of your books too.
Q3. When you do a series do you have each book plotted out before you start the first one, or do the subsequent books flow from the first book?
SANDY: I never plan to write a series. I write the book that calls to me. You nailed it on the head when you asked whether “subsequent books flow from the first book,” because that’s exactly what happens. A secondary character from a completed story will start buzzing in my ear, telling me he deserves a story of his own. The world I created tells me it has more to offer.
Martha: That seems like a good sign. If the characters and world you create grab you they are likely to grab the reader as well.
Q4. I noted that you have a new series coming out, an Urban Fantasy series about “Amazon” women. These women sound pretty awesome. What inspired these books?
SANDY: Thanks! I love my girls. Those are the only books I designed as a series. They haven’t found a home yet, so I can’t give you a date for when you can buy them, but I promise to scream from the mountaintop when my agent sells that series.
I had written mostly contemporaries, but I love reading paranormals and urban fantasies. I simply couldn’t think of a really good and innovative idea for a paranormal of my own. My son is my biggest muse because he’s horribly creative. We love to go to movies together, and we talk a lot while we’re waiting for the previews. Sometimes we even go early simply to hash out book ideas. One time, I asked if he could help me with some world-building and he tossed out some ideas for having women be the warriors for once and being guided by goddesses. Things happened pretty quickly after that. By the time we got out of the movie, I let him drive home while I grabbed some paper – an old horseracing program I think – from the back seat and started jotting down ideas. The Reluctant Amazon, the first in the series, was written within three months because I couldn’t stop the story. It yelled at me day and night. Three more books followed, the titles based on that warrior’s weakness – The Impetuous Amazon, The Brazen Amazon, and The Timid Amazon. I’m dying for my girls to find a good home so I can share them!
Martha: They sound awesome (I even like the pictures at your blog) and I hope they find a home soon! Then perhaps I could review one?? (hint hint)
Q.5 Do you find that there is a big transition in writing style from your contemporary works to the new urban Fantasy series? Did you have to change or struggle with anything particular?
SANDY: I didn’t consider it a challenge to change my writing style because I simply didn’t. I wrote with the same romantic entanglements and character interactions. I made the hero and heroine just as in love and just as tortured. The gods and goddesses have all the emotions and foibles of the human characters. The only things I added were the action scenes. But to me, those fight scenes weren’t really different from describing the action of a horse race. It’s all about choreography – like a ballet. Having the right person in the right place at the right time.
I loved doing the research about the deities as well as the demons and cultures. The history teacher in me had a ball with my Amazons, so much fun I started a new sci-fi series!
Martha: The goddesses sound like added fun to those books. I’ll be watching for the sci-fi books too.
Q.6 In Murphy’s Law is there something your heroine would never be caught dead doing or saying?
SANDY: Katie would never compromise her principles. For example, some horse trainers look for ways to cheat faster than the sport can keep up with policing their activities. Katie would never, ever cheat to win a race. She’d rely on hard work and her love for the animals to be sure they were in their best condition so they had the best chance to win. And they probably would. J
Martha: Right – Katie was definitely a stand up character and a "winner."
Q.7 Is there an ancillary character In Murphy’s Law you had the most fun with?
SANDY: I fell in love with Ross Kennedy. He came about because I had a student who begged me to name a villain after him. Ross should have been a shyster lawyer who was trying to cheat Katie out of the money she was supposed to earn by taking on Seth. But every time I tried to write Ross that way, he rebelled. He just wouldn’t let me write him as a bad guy. So Ross became the third side of a Katie/Seth/Ross triangle and a potential hero. I loved him so much, I had to give him his own book when Katie chose Seth, the love of her life. Finding the right heroine for Ross was a true joy. Ross’s story became his struggle of a Type A personality to learn how to let go – Free Falling. The ultimate kicker is that my student, the real-life Ross, is going to school to become a lawyer now because of that character. How cool is that?
Martha: That is cool about your student studying law! Now I just have to find time to squeeze in Ross’s story. J
Q.8 Do you read new authors? If so, who's your new favorite find?
SANDY: Hands down, Paula Quinn. Her Laird in the Mist and the sequels are phenomenal. I’m in love with Graham from A Highlander Never Surrenders. Her books really deliver in emotion and action.
Martha: I love Paula Quinn too! I was fortunate to recently review two of her books.
Q. 9 If you could have readers finish a sentence what would it be?
SANDY: When I read a book by Sandy James, I come away feeling…
Martha: My answer: I come away feeling emotionally charged from an intense romance.
Q.10 Some quick reply sentences:
Why I write ... To express all the things I feel deep inside.
What I am reading/watching/listening to ... I’m a Broadway freak, so I’m usually listening to some Broadway musical score.
My inspiration ... My children and my students inspire me.
Sandy, thanks for a great read and for sharing in an Author Chat! Thank you too for offering an ebook of Murphy's Law as a giveaway. Some lucky winner will really get to enjoy a wonderful romance.