A very interesting, talented lady is visiting today. I wish I had her talent with musical instruments. Wow. Sarah was so gracious to invite me to visit a blog she manages (The Romance Room), I had to return the favor. And I'm so glad I did because I got to know her better. Let's find out about Sarah McNeal.
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications.
She welcomes you to visit her at
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I loved telling stories even as a little kid, but I first began to attempt writing them when I was 9. I submitted my first story to Seventeen Magazine when I was 13. It was rejected, but I had the fever, so I couldn’t give up.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Wow, this really varies. When I’m on fire and my outline is clear and solid, I can write the first draft in 3 months. If I run into a problem or struggle through an issue, it can take up to 6 months.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Schedule? I don’t really have one of those. I tried having “office hours” so I could get some structure, but I would just sit and stare at the computer screen. Since I usually write in longhand .first, yep, I know that’s archaic. I usually like to write after I’ve checked my emails and had my coffee in the morning, then I go out on the deck and start writing. If my attention begins to lag, I take a break to work in the garden or do housework. In the winter, I have to go to the spare room where it’s quiet and hand write a scene.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Like many writers, I read like a mad woman, but I also love music and take the time to practice on one of my instruments or go out and work in the yard. I love digging around in the earth. There’s such peace in that. My spirit becomes uplifted.
What’s your favorite movie?
It’s hard to decide on just one movie, but my all-time favorite is Tombstone with Kirt Russel,Val Kimer and Sam Elliot. What I truly love about it is the friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and Wyatt’s devotion to his brothers. He never wavered from his dedication to them.
What does your family think of your writing?
LOL My family takes my writing for granted. They seldom ever ask me what I’m writing or read my books. The only member of my family who is interested in my work, is my great-niece. She also loves to play the violin and other musical instruments with me. She’s my heart.
Have you ever stayed up all night to finish reading a book? If yes, tell more.
Absolutely! I read Wuthering Heights in one day. I got started and was so hooked into Heathcliff and Cathy’s stormy relationship that I just could not put it down. When I get into a book with deep, complicated characters and uncertain outcomes, I will read until I get to the end.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
8 novels and 10 short stories, 6 of which appeared in anthologies.
Of course, like most authors, everything I write is dear to my heart, but THE VIOLIN is very special to me. I wrote it about my Uncle John who died long before I was born. He was only 21 when he died. My father told me all the stories about his exceptional brother, how he traveled around the U.S. and Canada on a motorcycle with a New York opera company, played the violin and had just graduated with a degree in engineering when he drown while fly fishing with his friends. I wanted him to have the life he so deserved. Almost everything I wrote in THE VIOLIN was true except that John didn’t die or find the love of his life. I inherited his violin.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters with depth, determination and grit who can laugh at their frailties. And I like a story premise that is not predictable, but takes the reader on an exciting journey of the heart.
What is the best part of writing for you?
I love to come up with an interesting story with surprises in it. In my mind I piece together all these elements like a jigsaw puzzle and bring in the best characters I can imagine. It’s like taking daydreaming to a whole new level.
What do you enjoy most about life?
Everything. I feel lucky to be on Earth. I love to spend time with my family and friends even though I’m a bit of a recluse. I have such a fondness for all creatures. Even though I would not want to come upon some of them I in real life, like snakes and lions, I believe all creatures have a right to be here and a purpose—except parasites and mosquitoes. One of my favorite things to do is take my dog, Lily, outside and sit on the deck and enjoy nature.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
I’m a plotter. I usually start with the theme in the form of a blurb. Once I know who my main characters are, what they want and what the obstacles are, I plot the story in the form of a synopsis. I dislike writing a synopsis when I finish, so I write one in the beginning and use it like an outline. I’m a plotter. Now I know what I need to research to give the story a realistic feel. I love research, so I have to be careful not to get lost in it. Even though I have an outline, I find I need to tweak it sometimes and, sometimes I have an epiphany and change the plot a little when that happens.
What did you learn from writing your first book?
Not to head-hop.
I had some bad examples from stories that I read and emulated those authors in the beginning. I also had a propensity to throw in too much backstory in the beginning. Nothing slows a story down like backstory in huge chunks. I’ve learned so many things along the way from classes and other authors. Every time I write a story, I learn something new.
How many hours a day to you spend writing?
I don’t have set hours for writing. Sometimes I get email out of the way first. Some days I have to dedicate myself to promotion. It really surprised me in the beginning to learn how much promotion an author has to do. When the spirit is with me, I can write for hours, but on other days, I have to force myself to get something down even when I’m not feeling it. An author once said, “You can’t edit a blank piece of paper.” So, even if it’s not my best work, I can go back later and bring it up to par.
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
Believe with all my heart in myself. Several times in my attempts to become published, I allowed others to dissuade and discourage me. I wouldn’t want any aspiring author to ever feel that discouragement.
Are your stories driven by plot or character?
Although I am a plotter, I have to admit that there have been times when a character took over the pages. One example of that is in Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride. Banjo, the streetwise, tough talking kid, took over and I had to corral him until I could get his story written in a sequel, For Love of Banjo. I had never intended to write a series when I wrote Harmonica Joe’s story. It was supposed to be a one time deal, but with the entrance of Banjo, a whole saga of a family in a fictional town in Wyoming started. I loved allowing Lola to predict future events now again since she came from the present back in time to 1910 in the first book. Her uncanny knowledge of the future would lighten the mood when things became intense.
How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?
Sometimes I do get lost in my work and forget to emerge into real life. Sometimes my family has had to mention my absences and bring me back to the real world. I know that I sometimes bore my friends and family with writer’s talk and I wish I had a close friend who lived next door to talk to and brainstorm with. I have to admit that balance between writing and real life doesn’t come easy for me.
What are some jobs you've done that would end up in a book?
I worked as a nurse all my life, but I don’t like to write about it in my stories. Stories provide an escape from the intensity of critical care nursing. I have, however, used stories of patients in my writing. There are so many heart-rending stories from those patients, some I’ve yet to write.
If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
THE VIOLIN. Even though it’s an earlier work, it is my most inspired story. It’s an almost true story about my family and I put into it all the love I have. When a reader finishes this book, they will know the essence of who I am.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
More than anything, I want them to feel uplifted. Life is worth living. No matter how bad things get, there is always a way to find happiness.
What two authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
I read a wide variety of authors so it’s hard to choose just 2. I think that’s why I love to read anthologies. I have found some new-to-me authors that I love through anthologies. Two of them are Lisa Kleypas and Linda Lael Miller.
Tell us about your latest book.
UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS is my contribution in a new summer anthology, LASSOING A BRIDE from Prairie Rose Publications. It is a collection of western, historical romances by several talented western writers.
A broken dream…a cancelled wedding…and an unexpected blessing
When Juliet Wilding’s dreams are crushed, she cancels her wedding plans to Harry O’Connor. But Harry is not about to give up on the only woman he has ever loved. What neither of them expects is the event that will forever change both their lives.
rptub“When will the new owners be moving in?” She asked the question without making eye contact.
“On the twenty-first of June.”
She slowly turned to look up into his face. “Why that’s when our wedding day was supposed to take place.”
“That’s when our wedding day will take place, Juliet. And this house is my wedding gift to you. Actually, it’s a wedding gift from your family, too. They helped me renovate it…with you in mind.” He lifted his hands to encompass the whole house. “All of this, it’s all for you, darlin’. It doesn’t have much furniture yet, but—”
She extended her arm and kept him away with her hand on his chest. “No, Harry, this can’t be our house.”
“I assure you it can…it is.”
A tear slipped from her eye and made a path down her cheek.
What the hell? Had he been wrong to buy the house? “If you don’t like it, I can change it. I’ll do whatever you want. I just want you to be happy.”
“It’s not the house. It’s not you; it’s me. I can’t marry you. I refuse to ruin your dreams or your life.” She wrestled out of his arms when he attempted to embrace and reassure her.
The earth was churning under his feet and his heart clenched so painfully he wasn’t sure he could get his breath. “I know you love me, Juliet. You’re my dream. You’re my life and my future.”
Table of Contents:
“The Prettiest Little Horse Thief” by Gail L. Jenner
“Unexpected Blessings” by Sarah J. McNeal
“No Less Than Forever” by Tracy Garrett
“The Bank Robber's Lament” by Sara Barnard
“The Bride and the Badge” by Livia J. Washburn
I will be giving away an e-book of Lassoing A Bride to a person who comments today. Be sure to include your email addy in your comment so I can contact you if you win and award you your book.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm so glad you visited today, Sarah. Best wishes on Lassoing a Bride.