Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunday Spotlight on Sandra Marton

This week, we here at The Pink Heart Society are thrilled to shine our spotlight on Presents author Sandra Marton...

ABOUT SANDRA:

I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember but I didn’t become a professional writer until 1984, when I sold the very first novel I ever wrote to Harlequin. I’ve been writing for them ever since. To my delight, I’ve been a RITA finalist four times, twice for Presents (short contemporary), once for Romantic Suspense and once for long contemporary. I’ve won RT’s Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents of the Year seven times, and RT honored me with its coveted Career Achievement Award for Series Storyteller. That I get paid for telling stories still seems like a dream!

SPOTLIGHT:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

Inspiration is everywhere! I’ll notice a couple seated in a restaurant, deep in conversation. What are they talking about? Why is she reaching out to touch his hand that particular way? I admit, shamelessly, that I often eavesdrop on conversations in public places.

I’m big on visual inspiration, too. For instance, a couple of years ago, driving along a road at night in the rain, I saw a motorcycle spilled on its side, a car with a crunched fender and a man in a leather bomber jacket squatting beside a woman seated on the grass, trying to shield her from the rain. That scene triggered an immediate reaction in me and, ultimately, it was the seed of a Presents I called The Sicilian Surrender. More recently, I watched a big, good-looking guy peering into a toy-shop window. He looked out of place and wistful at the same time. Next thing I knew, I was sketching out my current Presents, THE SICILIAN’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE.

What makes you mad?

Cruelty, especially to animals.

What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?

I met my husband when I was fifteen. Several months later, when I turned sixteen, he gave me a locket. He’d had his name and an infinity sign inscribed on the back. I still have that locket and cherish it to this day.

What in a hero makes you drool?

The courage to stand up for his convictions. Never turning away from someone who needs his help. Physical strength combined with a tender heart. And, in more down to earth terms, I love a guy with a pony tail and an earring. (My husband has both!) Add a hard body and I’m good to go!

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

A wildlife biologist, working with wolf or grizzly populations. Growing up, I alternated between dreams of that career and dreams of becoming a writer. Writing—my first love—won.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

Read. Everything from romance to suspense. Walk in our woods. Bird watch from our deck. Travel, go somewhere for a weekend or a month—I’m happy either way. The Gulf Coast of Florida is a favorite for relaxation. So is the Caribbean.

Actually, I don’t have to get away to relax. Going for a drive along our narrow country roads is wonderful. So is having a glass of wine by the fireside on a snowy evening.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

By writing. I just sit down at the computer and write, even if what I produce is far (very far) from perfect. Sooner or later, the creative gates will open. At least, they always have so far. (That sound you hear is me, knocking wood.)

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Can I have two choices? Winters, I’d live in a house overlooking the beach in Hawaii, just like the one we rented a couple of years ago. White sand, cerulean-blue water, golden sun. A private pool. Best of all, nobody around but us. It was wonderfully romantic.

Summers, I’d live in Alaska, in a cabin in the hills overlooking a valley crossed by braided rivers. We stayed in a place like that when we visited Mt. Denali. It was a beautiful cabin, complete with fireplace because even in the summer, Alaska can be chilly. It had a deck, too, and we sat out there one evening and saw a caribou stroll by! A trail wound behind our cabin. We shared it, very respectfully, with grizzlies and a wolf pack.

On the other hand, I love living here in New England. We have the most beautiful springs and autumns imaginable.

Who would you most like to give a hug to for a fabulous book you’ve read?

Barry Lopez, a sort of naturalist/philosopher, for a book called ARCTIC DREAMS. Nobody can express understanding of and respect for the natural world the way Lopez can. (If you’re starting to think I’m hung up on nature, I have to admit that you’re right. But I love cities, too. Paris. London. New York. Restaurants, theaters, museums and oh, the great little shops…)

What music do you listen to when writing?

I love music, everything from hard rock to soft rock, from medieval chants to Beethoven. Unfortunately, I find I can’t do much listening when I’m writing. Believe me, I’ve tried. The score from Last of the Mohicans. A wonderfully romantic collection of 13th century music called Love’s Illusion. Chopin. Fleetwood Mac. Pink Floyd.

Nothing works.

I end up humming, conducting an imaginary orchestra, getting up and dancing, even—I’m shuddering at the thought—singing. When I don’t do is write. So I’ve learned to pop in a CD only if I’m taking a coffee break. Then, music’s a great idea.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?

I’d sooner starve than eat snails.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

In what I think of as my former life, I was president of a board of education in New York State. In that capacity, I was touring one of our high schools with the principal and one of the deans. As we passed the teachers’ bathrooms I stopped, excused myself and stepped into what I thought was the ladies’ room.

It wasn’t. I figured that out as soon as I saw the urinal… and the guy standing at it. He was, mercifully, zipping up! He turned red. I turned redder. “Just checking to make sure everything’s ship-shape,” I said briskly, and walked out.

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

Professionally, seeing all four of my 2006 novels on the Waldenbooks list. Also, completing my 65th novel. (I can’t believe it, either.) Creating a new trilogy my editor’s very excited about. Seeing my Knights Brothers trilogy break new ground for Presents by combining hot passion and high-octane danger.

Personally, seeing my not-quite five year old granddaughter confidently climb on the bus the first day of kindergarten. She has the kind of self-confidence all little girls should have. Watching my three year old grandson changing all too quickly from baby to little boy. Now, if he’d only really, truly give up diapers…

And, always, my heart celebrates the amazing fact that I still adore that guy I met at age fifteen.

What’s beside your computer when you’re writing?

Everything. I am, I guess, a pack rat. While I’m working on a book, things just pile up.

Right now, for instance, there’s a two inch stack of notes about Andalusian horses to my left because my current hero—an oh so sexy Spaniard—breeds them. Beneath it are some articles I clipped from the NY Times, from Vanity Fair magazine, from Vogue. Let’s see… what else is here? To my right, there’s a telephone I forgot to put back in its cradle. My portable computer, open alongside my desktop computer for absolutely no good reason. My cell phone. Two, no, three flash drivers. A cup of cold, forgotten coffee right next to the electric warmer pad I meant to stand it on. Honestly, I don’t think you want to hear any more. As I said, I’m not the neatest person in the world when I’m working.

If you could kiss anyone in the world who would it be?

Why stop at one? I’d kiss the character Daniel Day Lewis portrayed in Last of the Mohicans. Talk about sexy! I’d kiss Lucas Davenport, a hero created by suspense writer John Sandford. And if I could be sure I’d survive it, I’d love to plant a kiss right between the eyes of an Alpha wolf.

What are you working on now?

The final book in the trilogy I mentioned earlier. It’s about three good friends: Nicolo Barbieri, Damian Aristedes and Lucas Reyes. The men are all royals, all pure Alpha. They’re rich, powerful, sexy and, yes, gorgeous. They’re also quite human, as my heroes always are, meaning each has a good heart, a sense of humor, and they’ve all had to fight their way to where they are now. Not a one is ready for love or marriage or, heaven forbid, fatherhood, but that’s what Fate (and I) have in store for them.

Sandra's latest Presents novel, THE SICILIAN'S CHRISTMAS BRIDE is out now in North America!

Check out her website and blog for more.

17 comments:

  1. Welcome Sandra! Wonderful to see you hear.

    It was so good to meet up with you and your husband again in London in Sept - here's to the next time!

    Kate

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  2. Oh Sandra I love your books!! I love them especially because you have linked books and characters that pop up in other books, and great heroines and heroes. I couldn't eat snails either!!! I laughed at your school story: a little bluff goes a long way!!

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  3. Oh god, I love wolves too! There's a pack of wolves kept at Woburn Abbey in Northamptonshire and there's a totally black one. I don't know if he's the alpha, but he's gorgeous and I always check to see if he's there when I manage to visit.

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  4. Great interview ladies.

    Sandra as you well know I loved your Knight Brother's series and The Sicilian's Christmas Bride. Cant wait for your "Royal" series to be published. 65 novels? Amazing!

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  5. Kate, hello to you, too. Wasn't it wonderful, meeting up in London? So many writers!So many new friends and old! I wish we could do it all over again.

    Sandra

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  6. 2Paw, thanks for those wonderful comments. I absolutely adore writing books about families or (my next trilogy) close friends. I always think of my characters as people I really know--I think all writers do that--and taking them from book to book just makes it even more fun for me.

    Glad to know we agree on snails. (Shudder.)

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  7. Nicolette, I'd love to see your wolves. One of the biggest thrills of my life was walking wolf trails in Alaska, seeing their pad prints and scat. Hearing them howl fills me with joy. It's wonderful to find someone else who admires wolves, too. And, oh what lessons about Alpha heroes and their mates we can learn from wolves...

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  8. Marilyn, I always love your comments on books, mine and those of others. you're the kind of woman, reader and reviewer who truly understands this genre. Thank you for everything. AndI can't believe it's more than 65 books, either. My husband, who is my business manager, tells me I am currently writing--wait for it--my 69th novel! Who ever dreamed I'd be so lucky???

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  9. Sandra, I knew you'd written a lot of books (and I've read quite a few of them) but working on your 69th? That's incredible! I'd love to know more about how you keep each book fresh and new.

    I enjoyed hearing about your inspiration from everyday incidents, by the way.

    Annie

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  10. Annie, I don't really know precisely how I keep each book fresh and new--and thank you for that comment, by the way--other than to say that each time I create a new pair of lovers for a book, whether it's a long or short novel, I feel as if I'm just "meeting" them for the first time. Does that make sense???

    Also, like many authors, I let my characters--my heroes, especially--come to life in my head for weeks, sometimes months. I think that gives them the opportunity to grow and develop quirks and traits that belong only to them.

    You've raised a really excellent question. I'll have to think about it some more because, really, it goes to the heart of the creative process for each of us, don't you think?

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  11. Hi Sandra, yes, your comments do make sense. Thank you.

    It's interesting that you talk about meeting your characters for the first time. Sometimes I've been intrigued by the way characters will reveal themselves as I write - with information and feelings I'd only vaguely knew. It really is like meeting someone new and having them introduce themselves.

    The creative processes are amazing. They seem very difficult to pin down. I wonder if that's a good thing to some extent?

    Annie

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  12. Sandra, you're an amazing woman and and a fabulous writer! When you wrote that you'd like to kiss an alpha wolf, my heart melted...to just see an alpha wolf has been a dream of mine for years...

    Best Wishes in your life and career! Sincerely, Debora Hosey

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  13. Debora, you've made me blush! Thank you for those generous comments.

    Your reviews, your love of this genre, always remind me of why I'm so happy to be part of the world of romantic fiction.

    Annie, I agree. I've always thought that there's danger in over-analyzing how a writer writes. It's like cooking: some cooks have a genuine knack for it and you absolutely cannot pin them down to giving you a recipe.

    I have an aunt who is an incredible baker and makes (among other things) an apple cake to die for. She's always been generous, handing out the recipe to whomever requests it, but nobody's really been able to bake an apple cake to rival Aunt Laura's.

    "That's because she doesn't name all the ingredients," a disgruntled cousin always says, but, honestly, I just think it's because Laura never uses the same amounts or measurements when she bakes her apple cakes. If she were to try and pin those things down, I'd bet the cakes wouldn't be quite as good.

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  14. Sandra, great to see you here and read your interview. Ah, wolves. Gotta love 'em. And congrats on all your books. That's a tremendous achievement.

    Good to have had a chance to see you in London. Shame we always seem to have to go across the pond to do it!

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  15. Anne, it's amazing, isn't it, but you're right, we do seem to see each mother more in London than in the States!

    Maybe we'll both get to RWA in Dallas next summer...

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  16. I had so much fun reading all those comments. What a lovely lot of chatter!

    I adore the image of the "big, good-looking guy peering into a toy-shop window looking out of place and wistful". If we don't stop and notice these lovely moments we are missing out on such wonderful oppurtunities for new and lovely characters.

    Your desk sounds just like mine too ;). Thanks for the truly lovely insight into your life and your writing habits.

    Ally

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  17. Ally, thank you and Nicola, Natasha and Trish for this great site. It's one of the most friendly romance forums around, and the design is just beautiful.

    I've had a wonderful time!

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