USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes hot, happy contemporary romance and her trademark humour and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. Described as ‘a magician with words’ by RT Book Reviews, she has sold over 11 million copies of her books. She has been nominated four years in succession for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award twice; in 2012 for her book ‘Doukakis’s Apprentice’ and 2013 for ‘A Night of No Return’. She also won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2012 and has made numerous appearances in their ‘Top Pick’ slot.
As a child Sarah dreamed of being a writer and although she took a few interesting detours along the way, she is now living that dream.
Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying.
Facts About Sarah
- I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old.
- I love horses, mountains, movies, good food, books, music and anything that makes me laugh.
- I trained as a nurse and worked for a few years in the ER, but George Clooney was never on my shift so I decided to do something different.
- I fell in love with my husband at work because he was cool and calm in a crisis and my life is one big crisis.
- We have two sons, which basically means that I have three men in the house. And piles of laundry.
- I completed my first full manuscript when I was at home with a new baby.
- I write on a laptop with the internet disconnected.
- I love to travel. In the UK my favourite places are the wild coastline of North Cornwall and the mountains of the Lake District. When I’m craving sunshine I love the Greek Islands.
- My favourite city is Paris with New York a close second.
- I’m an extrovert and sitting in silence all day typing is torture for me. I’ve been known to talk to my laptop.
- When I’m not writing I love spending time with family and friends.
- I carry a notebook and pen everywhere. I’m always scribbling and sometimes I sneak a horse or two into my books.
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Questions and Answers
When did you start writing?
I scribbled stories as a child and carried on scribbling – different things, children’s books, thrillers, anything that came into my head and excited me enough to want to write it down. I trained as a nurse and it was only when I was at home with my first baby that I actually finished a book. Typing ‘the end’ on something felt like progress. I sent it to Harlequin and it was rejected, but the comments were positive so I tried again, and again. It never entered my head to give up. On the third attempt my first Medical Romance was accepted. That was an exciting day!
How do you come up with an idea for a book?
Ideas are everywhere! The skill is turning those ideas into a compelling story with strong conflict that keeps readers hooked. I read a lot. Books, newspapers and magazines; I talk to people – observe human behaviour and always I ask myself ‘what if’ – what if they’d made this decision instead of that one? Done this instead of that? It’s a fascinating exercise. We all make mistakes in life. We all face difficult decisions. I try and create that for my characters.
How do you get started on a new manuscript?
A story comes to me in different ways. Sometimes I will suddenly think of a line of dialogue, and that might be enough to tell me a great deal about a character and the way they are going to respond to situations. I might imagine a single scene and build the book from there. Once I have that first idea, I let the story flow. I play with the idea, make sure the conflict is strong, that the motivation is solid. Most of all I think about the characters – I work hard to make them real people, with flaws and qualities, doubts and fears, and most of all with a problem! If there’s no problem, there’s no story. I look for trouble.
Do you outline or free write?
I use both methods. I need to know my characters and the central conflict before I start. I usually have a few scenes in my head. I don’t need to know the detail at that stage. Ideas always come as I write. By the time I reach the end of my first draft I know the characters really well and that’s when the book really starts to take shape. I go back through, deepen the conflict, tighten the motivation, make the characters as ‘real’ as possible on the page.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. I have a schedule and deadlines but each book does vary and I make sure I allow time to get it right. Some books flow more easily than others and it’s important to build in time for revisions. I always want it to be the best it can be before it leaves me for the final time.
Do you suffer from writer’s block?
I can’t afford to suffer from writer’s block! I’ve learned with experience that if a story doesn’t seem to be flowing , then there’s a reason. Either the character isn’t right, the motivation isn’t right, or the conflict isn’t strong enough. If I’m struggling, then the first thing I do is read through what I’ve written and identify the point where it was going well. Then I try and work out why it doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I’ll call my editor and we’ll brainstorm some ideas, or I’ll call an author friend. It helps to have another perspective. Sometimes it’s good to have time away from the manuscript so I’ll give myself some distance – I’ll work on something else for a few days and then return to it. Occasionally I’ll jump forward in the book and write a scene I’m confident with, but generally I write in chronological order. And I try not to panic. I remind myself the writing is hard work. Like any job you have good days and bad days. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t.
What do you enjoy about writing for Harlequin Presents?
I love the escapist, glamorous quality of Presents. It’s pure fantasy and, of course, it’s home to the alpha male. A Presents hero is never afraid to say what he thinks – that’s very refreshing and can be great fun to write. But the Presents man does have a sensitive side and a sense of humour and watching the heroine uncover that is part of the entertainment. I love matching a strong hero with an equally strong, independent heroine who is going to give him a few surprises. The fact that she is the only woman who can tame him makes for a powerful love story. But with two equally strong characters there are going to be explosions along the way. There are always sparks flying in a Presents and the book has a very distinct ‘flavour’ – to continue with the food analogy, it’s chilli rather than vanilla. You either love it or hate it but you certainly know you’ve eaten it. And yes, like chilli, it can be quite hot!
What made you decide to start writing full length novels?
I love writing Harlequin Presents but the shorter word count means the focus has to be on the relationship between hero and heroine with no room for exploring the wider aspects of their lives. Readers who have enjoyed my medical romances will know I’ve always enjoyed developing a larger cast of characters and with my novels I now have the chance to do that. Whatever I’m writing, I aim to bring the same level of warmth and emotion to the story and the characters. Still romance, but more of it. I’m very excited!
Can you tell me more about your O’Neil Brothers Series?
I wanted to write a series featuring three brothers ( I have sons and I’m fascinated by the interaction between brothers!). This series is set in beautiful Vermont and focuses on the O’Neil family who own a resort called Snow Crystal, which has been in the family for four generations. The first book, Sleigh Bells in the Snow, is Jackson’s story and is set in winter. The second story, Suddenly Last Summer, is Sean’s and the series will be concluded with younger brother Tyler’s story in October 2014. And of course I have three gorgeous heroines to match these three strong, sexy heroes. I hope readers will fall in love with the whole O’Neil family! You can read more about the series by clicking on the series page on my site.
Tell me more about your books for Cosmo Red Hot Reads
Harlequin has teamed up with Cosmopolitan to offer what they describe as ‘contemporary, fun, sexy stories for today’s fun fearless females!’ I’ve written two novellas for them (and although the stories are linked, each is complete in itself and features a different hero and heroine). In the first, ‘Ripped’, my heroine Hayley finds herself in a very embarrassing situation. It’s hot, fun, flirty and romantic and I hope it will make readers smile! The second story, Burned, is sister Rosie’s story. Rosie is a martial arts expert and she kicks butt!
Describe your typical writing day.
I’ll concentrate on my current manuscript until lunchtime, when I check emails, read news headlines, return phone calls, put the laundry on (where does it all come from?!). Sometimes I go for a quick walk to clear my head. Once a week I meet friends for lunch – I try not to do it more often than that. The temptations are there in this job and you have to be disciplined. I work until my family arrive home. Sometimes I do more in the evening after they’re in bed. It depends on how the book is going and whether I feel I’ve done enough. There are always other things to fit in – research, revisions on another manuscript, proofs to check, promotion, emails. The job isn’t just about writing the book.
What do you love most about writing?
When an idea develops in my head and I can’t wait to write it. That’s exciting. I enjoy seeing the characters come to life on the page and hearing them speak. I love it when it all feels ‘real’.
I enjoy research – in trying to add authenticity to a story I’ve learned about everything from protecting the rainforest to archaeology.
I love when readers tell me one of my books has really helped them escape for a few hours. I love the friendship I have with other writers – they’re a great bunch of people and writing can be an isolated profession so it’s important to have a network of friends for mutual support. I appreciate the flexibility of the job. As a working mum, that’s useful. I don’t have to ask anyone before I take a few hours off to go and watch a football match or a school play. Working from home is a real advantage and I never forget I’m privileged to be a published writer.
What do you dislike about writing?
Not much. I do become frustrated when the book isn’t going the way I want it to, but I have a fantastic editor and good friends, which helps.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I love spending time with my family and friends. Writing is an indoor, solitary job so when I’m not writing I like to be outdoor and social! I love cooking, hiking, mountain biking, music, watching movies, reading, talking, laughing – lots of things!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading?
I read a variety of books – romance (obviously!), thrillers, autobiographies, particularly by explorers and climbers – (I’ve climbed Everest several times from the safety and comfort of my sofa). I like reading stories of triumph over hardship. As long as a book grips me, I’ll enjoy it.
If you had to give an unpublished writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Write. How many times have you heard that? Probably as many times as I have heard people say they are going to write a book ‘one day’ or ‘when they find time’. Writers write. Not tomorrow, not next week – now, today. Write, and keep writing even when you receive a rejection.
Do you ever read and comment on unpublished manuscripts for other people?
No. For legal reasons I cannot comment on other people’s manuscripts. The RWA offers support and advice for unpublished writers as does the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK, who run the New Writer’s scheme offering a critique for unpublished authors. Details are available online.
Can you recommend a book on writing craft?
Stephen King’s On Writing
Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat