Blog Archive

Friday, May 17, 2024

Doing the Research for Timeslip and Dual Timeline Novels: Author Interview with Sarah Hanks

Y
ou have now published multiple titles, but what inspired you to write that first book? How long did it take you to write it and finally be ready to publish?
Great question. I consider my official debut into professional writing to be Mercy Will Follow Me, the first book of the Mercy series. However, I was writing for over a decade before that book baby saw the light of day. 
I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen. I didn’t know it then, but I had so much to learn. The three novels I wrote before Mercy were my hobby novels. I snatched pockets of time during my children’s naptimes as well as late at night. Something in me had to write, but I never saw it as end-game for me. I wrote because I couldn’t not write, but I never called myself an author. I was a children’s ministry director and a homeschool mom who wrote on the side.

My mindset changed when I got sick and those other roles were stripped from me. Though still a mom of many, I had to send them to school, and I needed help caring for them. (You can learn a lot about my battle with POTS from my novel Fall Back and Find Me.) 

During this season, I couldn’t function much, so I read. Then I began to write. I emerged from my cocoon as a writer with stories to tell. Mercy Will Follow Me was the first, and it took me three years. I wrote only on Saturdays at the library. The next books came more quickly as I found my footing and grew healthy enough to attend writers' conferences and grow in the craft.

How did you go about doing research for your 
time/slip stories?
All of my books save Braving Strange Waters are split-time novels that have dual timelines. The Mercy Series has two (or in the case of the 3rd book three) storyline in present day and one in a historical time period. Awakened to Life has several contemporary POV characters intertwined with a Biblical fiction storyline. A Battle Worth Fighting and Fall Back and Find Me have contemporary storylines and each have a historical storyline featuring a secret female Civil War soldier. Braving Strange Waters is my first actual timeslip or time travel novel in which a character travels from the contemporary time period to the past. People confuse the terms split-time, timeslip, and dual timeline all the time and even different people in the industry define them differently. Most people don’t mind what each is called, but some do. Way to make things ultra confusing, huh?

For my part, the same amount of research went into my split-time books as did my timeslip. It did help that I’d already done a ton of research on Bloody Kansas for Fall Back and Find Me as well as on steamboats and slavery for the Mercy series. Researching for me is a love/hate relationship. I enjoy discovering new things, but I’m always itching to write already, so holding myself back is the hard part. I search the library for as many books as I can find on the subject, utilizing inter-library loans and all of their resources. I try to get a variety, but I need at least one or two great first-person sources. A diary, a collection of letters, a journal. Something. 

Once I get a pile as high as my house, I go through them and figure out which ones truly include information that will be useful to my book. I buy those books used on Amazon so I can write in them and mark them up with highlighters, so the weeding process is important to avoid bankruptcy.  I also utilize documentaries, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. I also try to visit historical places whenever possible. When it’s not possible, I take virtual tours.

As you can imagine, it’s a lot of work, and so much of what I learn never makes it directly into the book. However, it all comes together to flavor the work and to give me confidence as I write. Nothing is wasted. It is helpful to write in the same time period or about the same subject for several books, though, to get the most bang for my research buck.

How do you decide if a book will be a standalone or a series? Or did the story just grow too long to be covered in only one book? Will there be more in your current series?

I knew from the beginning that the story I wanted to tell in the Mercy series could not be contained in only one book. Pain that is so complex and layered must be dealt with delicately lest it appear trite. For Natassa’s story, this meant I needed to show the ebb and flow of her healing. Otherwise, I ran the risk of treating victims of sexual assault as if they just needed to forgive and get over it—not my heart. The Sister in Arms books are considered a collection, not a series, which means they have a common thread but can be read as stand-alones. There will be more Time Sailor books containing some of the same beloved characters. With thse, it will work best to read them in order, but one won’t have to to enjoy the story.

You are a recipient of the Angel Awards for your writing and a previous guest speaker at their Faith and Fellowship Book Festival. How did you first hear about them? What is it like being on both sides of the awards program.
I’m not positive, but I probably first heard about the Faith and Fellowship Book Festival from fellow author and ray-of-sunshine, Joy Mehlville. She’s an Angel Award recipient herself and a huge proponent of the festival. I’ve participated in the festival as a panelist for a few years now and have won three Angel Book Awards. The festival is always an uplifting and encouraging time to connect with other authors and readers, and it was such an honor to receive the Angel Book Awards

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
 That’s a hard one. I absolutely love hearing testimonies from readers. Never underestimate the power of writing a review or sending an email to an author to let them know how a book impacted you. I received a lot of feedback from readers of my novel Fall Back and Find Me saying they have started putting into practice what the main character in that book does. In the novel, Amber asks the Lord for a word about her identity each day and writes it down. It is so exciting to me to get comments and emails stating readers have started going to Jesus for their identity and it’s changing the game for them. People who have struggled with their self-worth are being set free by the power of Jesus’ love! How thrilling that my little book could play a part in something so life-changing. It makes every hard writing session worth it.
 

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?

 That’s a bit of a trick question. In a way, I kind of wish I would have attended writing conferences and attended classes/workshops sooner. I was a hobby writer for over a decade before I started taking myself seriously. But truly, I believe everything happened as it was supposed to. In the right season, the Lord showed me what I needed to know and led me to the people I needed to walk with during the journey.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
 I’d say to just write and not worry about perfection. Get that first draft down. Worry about making it pretty later. I can be such a perfectionist and fear of putting something less-than-stellar on paper can paralyze me. Realizing that even the greats aren’t great on their first pass helps take the pressure off. 

Everyone needs an editor. Every author needs an extra set of eyes. None of us can do this alone … so I shouldn’t try to. I can ask for help when I need it. Help brainstorming, help problem-solving, help with critiquing. That doesn’t make me a weak writer; It makes me a smart one.

Find your people. Writing can be an isolating profession, but it doesn’t have to be. Seek out community. It’s there. Be intentional to nurture it. And then … write!
Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
 
What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

My next release, New Creations, comes out on August 16th. I wrote it to honor my grandpa, who is a legend in all the family stories. A good bit of it is based on his true shenanigans, and it’ll be one that runs the gamut of emotions, making you laugh and cry. 

Here’s the blurb:
Floyd Douglass is a blundering barber who faces retirement wondering if the past sixty years of his life has been a waste. When he's presented with the opportunity to go on a mission trip, it seems like the answer to his prayers and a way to finally make his life count for something. Now with a series of obstacles standing in the way of his newfound dream, he must decide whether to push through or find contentment in being the faithful family man he's always been.

Emira has always looked up to her grandpa, especially when her parents’ marriage fractured and left her foundations shaken. Now, she scrambles to assure the man who taught her how to love what a deeply meaningful life he’s lived.

That's all for today's interview.
If you'd like to learn more about Sarah's books, here are the links to get you started.
Purchase Braving Strange Waters on Amazon here.
Website: www.sarah-hanks.com
Follow me on Facebook or Instagram. 

And here's a tip for my readers... Go to her website and check out the freebies that are available to you to read at no cost. https://sarah-hanks.com/freebies/ and https://sarah-hanks.com/prayer-guide/
 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Finding Your Starting Point to Write: Author Interview with Michelle Romano

What inspired you to write your first novel?

I've always loved to write. My novels come from a place of emotion, as a starting point. Finding Faith was written after the ending of a relationship, and the story evolved from there. The idea that inspired me to write Theo's Heart was a combination of experiences with love and loss. When I have a plot idea and a direction, I wait until the emotional pull of the story captures me and then the story creates itself. 

How long did it take to prep your first book for publication?
My books have taken me one to two years to complete for publication. There is a lot of work behind the scenes, like editing, cover designs, author bio, book introduction, marketing, etc.

Who had encouraged you along the way?
I get positive feedback about my writing from my parents, boyfriend, and a couple close friends. They usually read my stories in the early stages, and then others read it when closer to publication. Along the way, I've befriended authors, and they regularly give me encouraging words which have kept me engaged and moving forward!

Are you active in any critique groups?
I love critiquecircle.com. An author friend referred me to this group. It's been a Godsend. It's so helpful to hear what others think of my work, and I've grown so much because of their insights. I also love to return the favor.

You’re an indie author, which means you’re in charge of everything from writing to publishing and marketing. Other than writing, what other parts of the process do you personally do or hire others to do?
Yes, being an indie author is a lot of work! I write my own stories, bio and book introductions. I use Fiverr.com when I need editors, beta readers, and cover designers. These are day-to-day gifted people from around the world. It's reasonably priced, and I can find people in my genre. I try to keep costs low though, I've had to learn a lot.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
That I write well and that my writing is engaging. I've been told it's deep, real and beautiful.

Marketing is the biggest key to making sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?
I'm still learning! I've tried a variety of avenues including Amazon Ads and other promotional programs. However, I stand by Facebook and LinkedIn. But not without daily engagement on my part. My motto is that we have the power to be impactful when we develop connections. So, this is what I try to do on social media. I belong to at least 90 groups for authors and readers. I am constantly liking posts, responding to questions, asking questions, and offering to help authors by reading/reviewing their work. I am trying to get seen. 

Weekly, I post my books on these websites. This approach has increased the number of people reading/reviewing my books. It's hard to sell books, but I am happy with the direction I'm heading. It takes time, and I am hoping that with reviews, more sales will eventually come.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I wished someone told me that marketing is like a full-time job, and to wait until summer to publish so that I would have more time since I don't work in the summer months. I also love to research and network. If I knew how much of this I needed to do, I would've started a lot sooner.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
The best advice is to use the five senses when writing and to show emotion, to bring the reader into the story. There is a great book that helps with this called "The Emotion Thesaurus." My advice is to not give up. Sometimes, I feel as if my head is going to explode - there's so much information to learn. But through spreadsheets and daily organization of emails and Facebook notifications, I am able to stay afloat. I'd also tell new authors that there are zillions of new books being published every single day, so it's important to find their niche.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

I love to write. It takes courage to write a story, and I admire the people who have that courage. Because they take that risk, phenomenal books are available.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
Theo's Heart will be published on May 17. Here's the book introduction: Hushed cries and unexplained vibrations fill the empty corridors of Serenity hospital. Fifty-six-year-old Mari clings to her best friend Theo after a devastating car accident. But as prayers beckon for a miracle, Mari senses a presence, a connection to the Other Side. Guided by enigmatic messages from Theo’s doctor, Matteo, Mari embarks on a spiritual trek where the ordinary intersects with the extraordinary. And as her journey unfolds, she delves deeper into the mysteries of the unconscious mind, and discovers a love that transcends time.

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Michelle's books, here are the links to get you started:
Finding Faith:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KNSNBDR 
Theo's Heart: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CW1BFKLP  
Website: https://www.michelle-romano.com/
And here's a bonus for my readers. Leave a comment on this post and we'll pick one reader who'll receive a copy of one of  Michelle's eBooks. So do that now. It can be as simple as I want to be in the giveaway. We'll chose a winner next Wednesday!