Sarah Black is a semi-retired family nurse practitioner who works in a medical clinic that takes care of the homeless. A Navy brat, she has lived in California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona and Alaska as well as Italy. She and her son James now live in Boise, ID, having moved there from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. She writes contemporary and historical gay romance and mystery. When she isn't writing, she's doing something with wool after having learned weaving on the reservation. Fans can find her on the web at: http:www.sarahblackwrites.com.
Q. It's a pleasure to interview you for TwoLips Reviews, Sarah. Could you tell us how many books you've written and which is your favorite?
Sarah: Tuareg (Loose Id, LLC), which came out in May, is number twenty-five! These books are mostly novellas; this length is my favorite to write. And to read.
Q. Do you recall when and how your interest in writing first began?
Sarah: I’ve always loved books and reading. I started writing early – poetry, though I blush to admit it! I was a great lover of English romantic poetry when I was young, Byron and Shelley especially. As a young reader, it was most important to me to get lost in the story, so I loved a strong story, great settings and exciting narrative drive. Now, I love different things – beautiful writing, truth, strength.
Q. What inspired you to write male/male books?
Sarah: I wish I knew! I started out to write great stories, beautiful fiction. That’s still what I try to write. The characters I keep thinking up, they’re guys, and they keep falling in love. I’ll say, “Guys, we’re trying to say something important here. Will you stop kissing and pay attention?” And one of them will flip me the bird, and they’ll keep on kissing.
Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your first book?
Sarah: The first one? You love your first, no matter how badly written! I would change nothing- I wrote the book I wanted to write, and I wrote it for myself. It was called The Forever Kind and I still remember the excitement of going through step-by-step finishing it, revising, sending it out, getting accepted. What I took from that experience is that the writing is the source of all happiness. Not publishing. Publishing does not make you thin, rich, or happy, but writing – wow! That’s the best.
Q. Tell us your latest news! Can you share a little of your newest and next upcoming releases with us?
Sarah: I have two new stories out and one about ready to release: Sockeye Love came out from Dreamspinner Press, LLC in May, Tuareg is out at Loose Id, LLC, and Slackline will be released from Dreamspinner Press LLC on July 20th. I love Sockeye Love – it’s the sort of story I like to read the most, as well as write – short, about 75 pages. Just a tiny slice of something real and true and heartbreaking. Slackline is fun and funny, I think. Boys goofing off and acting like boys. Tuareg is the more traditional romance, with a wonderful exciting hero, a Tuareg leader who is sexy and dangerous and mysterious. Ibrahim was a great character to write – I had so much fun with that story. It’s my version of the great sheik stories I read as a teenager.
On the home front, my baby graduated from high school! He has mild autism, so I wasn’t sure this day would ever come! We’re negotiating where to move next. Santa Fe is top of the list.
Q. What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Sarah: It’s hard for me to plot out a story in advance. I start writing after I think up the characters, and they start talking in my head. I never know what’s going to happen next. That means some stories go nowhere! And it also means it’s hard for me to contract for a story until after it is written. That’s not really the way the industry works, but I’ve tried to plan out books for a year, contract for them, then write them. I didn’t like working that way. I’m happier when I write my way into the stories, write just what I want, and then try to find a publisher for the story, depending on how it turned out. That’s why I have stories with publishers all over the place!
Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Sarah: I never know how stories are going to end. I’m always caught by surprise. Stories end themselves, and I’m sitting there, my fingers on the keyboard, saying, wait a minute! I’m not done! But the end is the end, and I have to bow to what the story needs.
Q. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Sarah: I start writing first thing in the morning, and I work until I’m done. If it’s editing, I’ll sit in the chair all day if that’s what it takes. When I write, it’s scene by scene, then I have to do something else while I think up the next thing.
Q. What do you think makes a good story?
Sarah: Characters who are as real as they can be and a strong internal conflict. That’s all I need to love a story I’m reading. Remember Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? The joy of those stories wasn’t the mystery, it was the two of them: flawed, wonderful characters.
Q. Where do you get ideas for your books and how do you come up with a title?
Sarah: I wish I knew! Titles are interesting, sometimes I’ll look at just titles in a bookstore, read a hundred at a time, walking along the shelves. When I do that, one or two will stand out, and I’ll study what makes them interesting and memorable. I don’t write stories in a series, so the titles are usually strongly about the story.
Q. What books have most influenced your life? What book are you reading now?
Sarah: The Grapes of Wrath was the most influential. I’ve worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner for thirty years, taking care of the poorest people in America, because of that book. I just finished reading American Rust by Phillip Meyer – wonderful writing, with a very strong POV. The ending was the wonderful sort of ending that had me laughing and hugging the book!
Q. Are there any new authors that have attracted your interest as a reader and if so, why?
Sarah: I really like writers who can write short – that’s a skill that speaks to careful editing. Also a light touch of humor. Too much sex is boring and repetitious, so if I read something where the plot is one sex scene after the next, I doubt I’ll read that writer again.
Q. Do you have any advice for other new writers coming along?
Sarah: I feel strongly that writers should write what they like, stories that make them happy, because the real reward for being a writer is in the writing, not the publishing. And we should all be reading and paying attention to what we read, to how other writers use their craft. It’s something special, to be a writer. We should never take it for granted.
Q. Finally, do you have anything else that you'd like to say to your readers?
Sarah: Don’t just read male/male books. Read everything, bios, memoir, nonfiction, short story collections, novels. It’s a big wonderful world out there. Our genre is very special, I think, but with too much exposure we can get jaded.