As most of the visitors to my blog would be well aware of, I am a HUGE fan of Harlequin romance author Sarah Mayberry. Ever since I discovered and read her Blaze title Anything For You which is of the friends-to-lovers trope which happens to be one of my favorite themes of romance, I have never looked back. Apart from 2 or 3 titles, I have read everything I can get my hands on by Ms. Mayberry and I don’t foresee that changing anytime in the future.
Since I read and reviewed an ARC of her last title One Good Reason which is to come out on the 26th of this month, and because I have been toying with the idea of doing author profiles/interviews on my blog for quite sometime now, I decided to cross into unchartered waters by requesting Ms. Mayberry to delight us all with her presence and kick-start my “Get to Know My Favorite Authors” series.
For those who may not know her Sarah Mayberry hails from Melbourne, Australia which serves as the setting for most of her romances. Recently married to her partner of 18 years, Sarah Mayberry worked as a storyliner on Australia’s longest running soap Neighbours which she credits as giving her insight into writing romances that tugs at your heartstrings. Her recent titles all belong to the Harlequin Super Romance line which delivers a lot more on the character development and indepth story telling though I do miss her super HOT Blaze titles now and then.
So without further ado, please give a warm welcome to the very talented Sarah Mayberry.
MBR: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this Ms. Mayberry. Please make yourself at home right here at my little corner of the world wide web. And since you are the first author to do so, I am so excited I think I can barely control myself. LOL! So onto my first question. Did you always know that you wanted to be a romance writer?
SM: I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I used to make books out of folded and stapled paper when I was in primary (elementary) school, and when I left high school I did a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing. I was reprimanded by my fiction teacher for writing what he called “women’s fiction.” He didn’t consider this a good thing, but I did. Eventually I worked out that I wanted to write books like the one’s I enjoyed reading, and they were romances, every one of them.
MBR: Ah! I bet every one of your readers is thankful that you didn’t listen to your fiction teacher in this instance. The next question relates to family life. Similar to you, I am also the middle of three children. What was your childhood like as the middle child? Any funny childhood stories to share with your readers?
SM: My husband is also a middle child and we make lots of jokes about the over achieving middle child/overlooked middle child syndrome. To be honest, it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like being first or last in the line up – I definitely don’t think I handle responsibility as well as my older sister, but I’m also more independent than my younger brother. I think every “role” has its up and down sides. The best story for illustrating our family dynamic is one that has been documented on one of our old home movies (this is on real film, not video, because I am THAT old!) My family are playing around on a large strip of grass in front of the local shops near our holiday house on the bay near Melbourne. My brother is a toddler, and my sister is about 5 or 6 and completely obsessed with him – she loved changing his nappies and playing mum to him. So, mum and my sister are doting on my younger brother, my father is behind the camera. I am in the background doing somersaults and handstands on the grass. At one point, my brother makes a break for it, running on his little bandy legs toward the busy road on the other side of the grassy reserve. Everyone goes after him, including my father (the camera jerks in panic but chills out a bit when my mum and sister catch my brother). I am completely oblivious in the background, still rolling around on the grass in my own little world. My brother in law has called me “monkey girl” ever since he saw this piece of film, but I think it illustrates the fact that I was often off imagining in my head while the world went on around me.
MBR: (chuckles) Your imagination has definitely paid off in the long run as each of your books just get better and better. You have gone through a lot before settling down to write romances. What would you do differently if given the chance to do it all over again the second time round?
SM: It’s always tempting to think “I wish I’d submitted that story earlier or been more consistent in my attempts to be published”, since I worked at it off and on for about 10 years before I finally made it. But I honestly really value the experiences I had in other industries prior to becoming a full time writer. Not only did they teach me to value the freedom of what I do now, they also gave me lots and lots of fodder for my stories and an appreciation for how the “real” world works. Imagination is great, but there’s no substitute for having experienced something first hand.
MBR: Your stories are certainly “real” enough and I bet many readers would agree with me on this fact. I have mentioned at the beginning just how much I love your Blaze titles. You seem to have settled well into writing for the Harlequin Super Romance line. Does this mean that fans of your super hot Blaze titles like myself would never get to read one of them ever again?
SM: At the moment my story brain seems to be producing Super Romance stories. If a super hot story pops into my brain, I will definitely consider writing it as a Blaze, if the senior editor would be happy to hear from me again. Or perhaps I might consider publishing it myself – it’s a whole new world at the moment with digital media, so there possibilities are out there.
MBR: Oh yes, a lot of authors seem to be venturing into self publishing. And whichever way you choose to publish, I am sure your fans would be onboard. All your published novels to-date are contemporary romances. Most authors tend to branch out into other genres over time. Have you ever considered doing that yourself?
SM: I read romance, fantasy and a smattering of crime fiction. For many years I have had two rather epic fantasy ideas rattling around in my head. I would love to find the time to write them, but I also worry that they are so different from what I do now that there would be a huge learning curve to overcome. One day I might get around to it… I love reading historical romance, and there’s a part of me that would love to try to write one, but I don’t know that my “voice” would be suited to historicals. My next writing goal is to write a single title length book that will hopefully find a home with a mainstream publisher. Fingers crossed…
MBR: I for one am a huge fan of contemporary romances and wouldn’t be disappointed even if you continued writing just that. And the single title length novel sounds like a wonderful idea. Crossing fingers myself! So, what’s the one genre of romance you would never write?
SM: Hmmm. This is tough. Never say never, but I suspect I am not the kind of writer who excels at suspense/crime plots. My stories tend to be very character and emotion driven, and I have always found what I call “what happens next?” plotting a little bewildering. I hugely admire writers who do it well (Tess Gerritsen is a favourite – although she’s not strictly writing romantic thrillers, she used to be a Harlequin writer).
MBR: Have never read any books by Tess Gerritisen. I need to check out her books then. That brings me to the next question. What’s your next title going to be about? Would you mind sharing a bit on your next release?
SM: My November release is called All They Need. This was a hard book for me in many ways – I started it four different times before settling on what story I wanted to tell. In hindsight, this was because I came up with a situation rather than two people with a story between them when I wrote my proposal. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and sometimes you only realise as you start writing the actual book that the situation you created requires your characters contorting themselves into weird and unnatural behaviors to service the story. Since I’m the kind of writer who prefers for the story to service the characters and not vice versa, I got myself into a real state. However, there was a deadline to be met and with the patience and generosity of my man and my editor, I finally found the story hidden inside all that gumph I’d spun originally. The resulting book is the story of Mel and Flynn.
Mel’s recovering from an ugly marriage to a controlling, disapproving husband. She took a lot of crap from this guy before she hit bottom and realised she needed to get out, and she’s questioning herself in the aftermath, wondering why she let herself be treated so badly. She’s lost her trust – both in other people and in her own judgement. Flynn comes from the same monied set as Mel’s ex and has always found her attractive, even though they were never very close during her marriage. He was aware of her, though, and when circumstances bring them into contact again he once again finds her very appealing. But Flynn is dealing with the sad and stressful decline of his father thanks to early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and he doesn’t think he has the space in his life to do a relationship with Mel justice. Especially since he very quickly understands that she has been wounded by her marriage. But, as we all know, love doesn’t work to schedule, and these two find themselves drawn to one another despite all the sensible voices in their heads telling them to back off. Still, Mel isn’t even close to being ready for another relationship, and she’s convinced that she never wants to marry or even live with another man again. Which leaves Flynn with nowhere to go, really. Obviously, they resolve their differences, but I don’t want to ruin things for readers!
MBR: Wow! Sounds like its going to be an emotional read. Can’t wait for November to get here. Or maybe I could read it much earlier if Harlequin were to offer an ARC on Netgalley. Fingers crossed… Next question is about the drool-worthy heroes that you write. Every single one of your heroes are so yummy! Where do you find your inspiration to create heroes that tug right at the reader’s heartstrings?
SM: Honestly? My husband! He is The Best. Handsome, sexy, smart, funny, capable, kind. I am always channeling him in some shape or form when writing one of my heroes. I sometimes feel as though I have a little cartoon him sitting on my shoulder saying “a real man wouldn’t do that!” and encouraging me to let my heroes make mistakes. Men are so wonderfully different from women, and I love the way they think and the way they behave with each other. I think that all women want to be noticed by the man they love – not just sexually, but in all ways. We want him to notice our new hair cut, or new perfume, or new bra. We want him to realise when we’re flat or sad. I try to show that my heroes are into my heroines in every way – they desire them (of course!) but they also like and admire them and want to be with them. Friendship is at the core of any great relationship, and it’s what remains when the fiery excitement of the first few months of a relationship begins to settle down, so I always try to show that my heroes and heroines are friends, too. And I like to try to access the private world of doubts and fears that men hide so well from the world. I think a lot of the time we think they are cool and collected and strong, but underneath that they are just as wracked by doubts as women are. I think seeing someone’s vulnerability is very endearing, especially when you know that they’re doing their damnedest to hide that vulnerability.
MBR: Now that right there is why I love your books. The heroes do not behave like a bunch of ninnies but rather they stay true to who they are in your stories. Thumbs up to your husband and the little cartoon of him that you carry around. Based on your profile on Goodreads, you seem to read a lot of romances yourself. Who is your favorite author? And is there any author that inspires you?
SM: I have a handful of favourite authors. I love Susan Elizabeth Philips, Ain’t She Sweet being my favourite book by her. I love Rachel Gibson, too,See Jane Score being right up the top of her hit list for me. Kirstin Higgins’ Just One of The Guys is one of the books I can re-read and re-read and never gets sick of it. And I ADORE Lisa Kleypas’s books, both historicals and contemporaries, but I have to give special mention to Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger. I think those last two books epitomise the sort of of single title contemporary romance I’d like to write myself – they made my chest ache when I was reading them, my benchmark for a great romance, and they were sexy and funny and smart. If I could come even close to doing that in a longer length work I would be one happy writer! I also have a big writer crush on Victoria Dahl after reading Lead Me On, and I also love Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Laura Kinsale and Anna Campbell.
MBR: All of the authors you have mentioned are some of my favorites as well. Love Susan Elizabeth Phillips! Goodreads and your website seems to be your only online presence at the moment. There are a lot of authors who maintain contact with their fan base through social networking mediums such as Twitter and Facebook. Is there any hope of us ever being able to find your presence there in the foreseeable future?
SM: I am avoiding Facebook at the moment, but I joined Twitter last week and am enjoying it so far – it’s fun, and I love the way people can jump into the conversation. My Twitter name is MayberrySarah, and I can’t promise the most scintillating of posts, but I am trying to stay in touch with the world a little more via this medium. My website is being updated as we speak – this will be my third revamp, and hopefully a good solid one. I made the mistake of having an amateur design my first site, and when she disappeared, she took a bunch of the images from my site with her and the whole thing kind of fell apart. My sister in law designed my current site, and it’s gorgeous, but we’ve been relying on a friend to do the technical side of things since Annie is a graphic artist and not a web designer. My new neighbour, however, IS a web designer, and he does great stuff. We started working on a new site a couple of weeks ago, and he’s due back from holidays this week so I am hoping to have something up by the end of the month. Incorporated in that will be a new blog which hopefully will be hack-proof – I have been hacked 4 times by people selling illegal prescription drugs and have tried lots of things and spent lots of money trying to secure my site only to have it happen again. This it what motivated me to revamp the site again, so I am hoping to resolve a number of issues at the same time with this new take on my site. I do blog regularly over at www.superauthors.com, and I always give away books.
In general, I have to admit that I find the internet very distracting – I go to check my email and wind up spending hours looking at completely unrelated things. It’s really played havoc with my focus in the last year or so. So I try to be really disciplined about how much time I spend on the net. I even have a program which bars me from accessing the internet for a set number of hours. I find when I know I can’t get online, I really concentrate for fixed periods and am very productive. But I also love interacting with readers and other writers, so at present I am trying to find a balance that allows me to keep writing 3 – 4 books a year as well as my other work while staying in contact with the world.
MBR: Aha! Finally, I would be able to ‘stalk’ you to my heart’s content. And I mean it in the best possible way. (laughs). And am really sorry to hear about the issues you have faced with your website and blog. Darn spammers! So, what is your favorite way to spend your ‘me-time’?
SM: Sleeping. Reading. Shopping. Hanging out with my man, my family or my friends. I’m trying to like gardening more, since ours is HUGE.
MBR: Sleeping and reading I can definitely get on board with. For me, I am someone who craves the Internet and I don’t think it would be a pretty sight if someone were to deprive me of my daily fix of the World Wide Web. For you, what is the one thing you absolutely cannot do without?
SM: I have to agree with you that the internet is very damned addictive. But the one daily fix I couldn’t do without is some form of contact with friends or family. We don’t have children, and my husband works full time outside of the home, so I spend A LOT of time on my own! Things can definitely get a little cabin-feverish if I don’t make the effort to talk to people. We’re hoping to get a dog in the near future that will be great company, but definitely people are my can’t-do-without fix!
MBR: I guess I get my people-fix when I go to work 5 days a week. But I can totally relate to what you mean about things getting a bit cabin-feverish. And that brings me to the last and final question. For those who are aspiring to become writers, what would your one valuable piece of advice be?
SM: Keep writing and reading. When you find a book and a writer you love, read them over and over. Find a page or scene you really admire and put your writer hat on and analyse how the author put the scene together and think about how you feel as you read it and try to understand how the author has conveyed/created that emotion in you. I have had some of my most valuable writing breakthroughs doing this. Also, I learn something new from every book I write, so never expect to be able to whip a story out with the greatest of ease – writing is hard, and for me it’s very emotional and sometimes very draining. Don’t be afraid to put yourself on the page, though – if you’re not feeling something when you write big emotional scenes, then it’s hard for readers to feel it, too, I think. The bottom line is that there is both craft and talent required to make it as a writer. Learning the tools of the trade – the craft – gets you one step closer to being able to harness your creativity.
MBR: Once again, thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to spend some quality time with us. And I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors. Hopefully your dream of writing a single title length novel would be realized in the near future.
SM: Thanks for the support for all of us writers in general. We would be nothing and nowhere without readers.
And now for the fun part.
First of all, I will be giving away an e-copy of Sarah Mayberry’s newest release One Good Reason to one lucky commenter on this post. All you have to do to win a copy is to tell me why you want a copy of One Good Reason. If you want to find out what the book entails, you can always read my review of the book from right here.
Secondly, Sarah has very generously agreed to give away 3 books, a “Best of Sarah Mayberry bundle” chosen and handpicked for you by myself. The books include The Last Goodbye, She’s Got It Bad and Home for the Holidays. This giveaway is for those who have never read Sarah Mayberry before. All you have to do is tell me your most favorite contemporary romance that you have read to-date for a chance to win the Best of Sarah Mayberry bundle.
Post will be open for comments till 26th July 2011. The winner of One Good Reason will receive the e-copy of the book on the 26th itself if you respond to my “winner e-mail” on time. For the winner of the “Best of Sarah Mayberry bundle”, Sarah would be mailing the books to your address.
Please help spread the word and don’t forget to leave a comment behind. And don’t forget to leave your e-mail address as a way to contact you in case you are the lucky winner!
Good luck to all of you!
I hope that you all enjoyed reading our conversation as much as me and Sarah had fun doing the interview.