Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview With Author Sarah McNeal

I met Sarah McNeal on an online writers and readers email list last month and loved her wit and her dedication to research and plotting. She's given me some excellant tips on reforming my nonplotting ways. Her newest release has one of the best titles I've run across for a story: Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride. Isn't that amazing? It made me ask:

Who is Harmonica Joe?
Why is he called that?
Why does he have a reluctant bride?
Did he force her into marriage?

Without reading a blurb or excerpt she had me wanting to buy the book JUST with the title. That's a truly creative author.

I finished Sarah's book last week and loved it. She is a wonderful writer who pays attention to details, yet she conveys emotion that reaches out and grabs the reader. I sent her a few questions, and wanted to share her answers.

Hello Sarah:) I finished your new release and loved it. I have a few questions for you if you don't mind my picking your brain.

Brenda: I loved the time travel aspect to your story, and the fact that you added twists that were unlike other time travel stories I've read. Did you have that plotted out ahead of time, and was it hard to figure out what you wanted to happen?

Sarah: First, let me thank you for that tremendous compliment. I love to write time travel but I like to make the story more about the characters and giving the time travel a real purpose in the story line. I’m happy that you got that.

I’m a plotter and a planner. I write the synopsis to a story first and use it as my outline. Sometimes I get an epiphany along the way and then I go back and tweak up my synopsis. I know exactly where the story is headed when I begin to write it.

Brenda: I know you love research, so how much research did you do to get the details down for your story? I thought you did a wonderful job with the details.

Sarah: Thanks again for that compliment. It means a lot to me to get the details right. Without the details, no one would get that the story takes place in 1910.

I did extensive research for Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride. I love research because it’s just fun and sometimes I get lost in it. I found a great book called Remember When that is a detailed account of American history, culture and growth from 1900-1930 that had pictures on every page. I also used The Timetables of History by Grun and Domestic Technology by Nell Du Vall that tells when a new technology came into being and then when most households had it. Then there are my personal experiences. My grandmother had a coal burning stove in her old Victorian farm house that basically heated the whole house upstairs and down. She cooked on it and I watched how she set it up and what she did to cook on it. She had an outhouse, a huge garden (everyone in my family had a garden) and a big barn with all kinds of farm animals including horses.

Brenda: Your story was a cross between sweet and sensual, at least in my mind. How did you decide how detailed to get with the sex scenes? There's been a lot of talk about how readers really seem to want the detailed erotic scenes, but I thought your story was sexy without going over the top. How did you decide on what to write when it came to the sex scenes?

Sarah: I am not an erotic author. I prefer to write about the sexual tension and the build-up rather than a detailed description of each sexual act, put it under a microscope and show it on You-Tube with a scoreboard. I love it when a kiss becomes exciting and eye contact between the couple send sparks off the page. It’s important to me, whether I read a story or write one, to get the emotional involvement between the hero and heroine into the act of lovemaking.

Brenda: I highly recommend Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride to fans of time travel stories, cowboys, historicals and happily ever afters.

Sarah: Thank you, Brenda, for reading my book and I am happy as a clam that you liked it.

Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride
from Western Trail Blazer

Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death.With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny

You can visit Sarah at her website,, for more information on her writing, her blog and links to buy her books.


Sarah J. McNeal said...

I want to thank you again, Brenda, for having me as your guest on your blog. You are such a sweetheart.

Delaney Diamond said...

Good to see you, Sarah!

I'm a bit jealous of you plotters. You can create a story with all the twists and turns, etc. and then get to writing.

I stop and stall and hope for the best as the story unravels on the screen. Luckily, once inspiration strikes, I'm usually good to go.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for coming by, Delaney. I didn't always plot but I had trouble keeping my story line on track. I learned to plot but I don't go to extremes like scene by scene but it works for me. I stay flexible to the possibility of change.
Thanks again for coming by.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Well, girl, you know how much I enjoyed HJRB! Fantastic book, and time travel "ain't" easy! I am sooo looking forward to Banjo! I am not a plotter by any means. I scare myself when I start on a new project. I just know it has to have an HEA, but other than that--anything could happen.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Cheryl, I can't believe you're not a plotter. How in the world did you ever write Sweet Danger without a plot? Lordy!
Thank you for those compliments about Harmonica Joe. I really appreciate your kindness.
Banjo is coming along at super sonic speed...okay, a little exaggeration there. I haven't come up with a title yet--just Banjo something. I love him though.
Thank you so much for coming by.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Hi Sarah,

I wanted to pop in and wave hello!

I'm reading Hamonica Joe's Reluctant Bride now. I'm really loving this book. What a great cast.

I'm glad to see you're going to write Banjo's tale. I can't wait! :)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you, Karen. I just finished your book, WANTED and I loved Jace and his little girl Emma. I'm looking forward to her story, too.
I'm working on Banjo now and I'm one third of the way through the first draft.
Thanks for coming to see me, Karen.

Brenda Hyde said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone:) I see I'm not the only one who loved Sarah's book. No pressure to hurry with Banjo though. Nope. No. Pressure. *snicker*

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I appreciate everyone who has dropped in and left a comment. Thanks for having me Brenda.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I've just gotta get this book! I love time travel and I love westerns. Your plot sounds intriguing and wow, I love your characters already!


Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Hey Sarah,
I'm with Delaney, I'm a pantser all the way. I know kind of how I want the story to go, but it pretty much unravels on the screen as I go. I envy those who can do the start to finish and then start to write. Hmm, maybe one day I'll be more disciplined.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you so much for dropping by, Cynthia.
If I didn't plot, I would lose the necessary thread I need for my stories because all but one of them have a mystery working in the background.
Thanks again for coming by and leaving a comment, Cynthia and congrats on the wonderful reviews you're getting, too.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

What a wonderful surprise to have you visit and comment, Jacquie. Thank you for thoose kind remarks about Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, too. I really appreciate it. I hope you decide to read it and that you like it.

Fiona McGier said...

See? I told you that where-ever you popped up on-line, your loyal friends would follow you! ;-D

I may write notes to myself sometimes, but I'm mostly a "pantser" too...but then I write contemporary, so there's no research to be done as to historical details. You are much more organized than I'll ever be, Sarah! More power to ya. And good luck with the current WIPs!

Teresa K. said...

Sarah my friend,

I started Harmonica Joe this evening. I'm sure enjoying it so far. Can't wait to get together and yack it up about the book.

Great interview lady. And look at all the love you have out here for you today.


Sarah J. McNeal said...

Fiona, I always appreciate your loyalty and friendship. Thank you so much for dropping in and leaving a little comment. I think all those years of critical care nursing helped me become more organized. Thanks again for coming by.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Teresa, I am so happy you decided to read Harmonica Joe. I will be very interested in hearing your commentary about my book. I wrote it while overcoming writer's block. I look forward to chatting it up with you. Thank you for coming by this blog and leaving a comment, too.