Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Writers Wednesday with Sarah Mayberry

Today's newbie is the lovely Sarah Mayberry, a fabulous new writer for Harlequin Blaze.

About Sarah:

Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her screenwriter partner, Chris. She has worked in publishing and television, but writing romance novels is definitely her favorite career so far. When she’s not writing, Sarah loves to read, go to the movies and avoid exercise.

The call:

Like a lot of other writers, my journey to being published was all about patience – which is pretty funny because I am basically an impulsive, impatient kind of person most of the time. I had submitted to Harlequin about eight or so times over the years and had no joy, but my last rejection was actually pretty encouraging. At the time I got it, I didn’t think so, of course – I think I had a pretty big ice-cream binge over it, actually. It wasn’t until I found the letter again a year or so later and read it with fresh eyes that I understood it was actually pretty encouraging, as rejections go. They said they liked my writing. And that if I wanted to have another go at the story they’d love to see it. I went to my partner and showed him the letter again and asked “why didn’t I do anything about this? I’m an idiot.” He helpfully agreed that I was an idiot, and I started working on a new novel.

I had changed jobs in the mean time, and started story-lining on Australia’s longest running television soap, Neighbours. Sitting in a room with people talking about story and character all day gave me a new appreciation of where I had been going wrong in my previous attempts at books, so I felt like I had a whole new confidence with the manuscript that eventually became Can’t Get Enough. I finished it, submitted it to Harlequin’s Flipside romantic comedy line, and sat back to wait.

And wait. And wait. A whole year of constantly checking my email and the letterbox later, I finally decided to be bold and chase up my submission with a phone call. I got straight through to Wanda, who is now my editor, which was my first pleasant surprise. The second was that she had emailed me to let me know she liked my book – hadn’t I gotten her letter?

Frantic phone calls to my IT consultant brother revealed that our email program had been “withholding” a bunch of emails from us. Wanda’s was amongst them. She wanted me to make my book a little longer, as the word count for Flipside had gone up while I was waiting for my submission to be read. I did that, and resubmitted, and waited some more. Then Wanda got back to me with the crushing news that Flipside had been cancelled. I was heart broken. I stopped reading her email and burst into tears and rang my partner and gibbered miserably down the phone at him. Then I went back and read the rest of Wanda’s email, which offered me two alternative venues for my story – Temptation or Blaze. So, things weren’t quite at the drown-myself-in-a-vat-of-ice-cream stage just yet.

I calmed down and opted for Blaze, being unafraid of adding words or writing hotter sex scenes, and I revised again. I spoke to Wanda a couple of times during that process as she eased me toward putting more sex earlier on in the book – what was originally an almost-kiss became almost-sex and, finally, flat-out sex by the time she’d held my hand long enough. Hilarious when I think about how much sex there is in all my books now! Anyway, by the time she was happy with my book, I pretty much knew she was waiting to hear back from the senior editor on whether they were going to acquire, and then I got out of the shower one morning to find the answering machine message light blinking.

It was Wanda, she’d called while I was shaving my legs or whatever, and I called her straight back. I had just spoken to her the night before about my latest round of changes (remember the time difference down here in Australia) and I just knew that she wouldn’t be calling again so soon unless she had news. And she did. She said those beautiful, amazing words: We’d like to buy your book. It was something I had been working toward for so many years, and it was so much the fulfillment of my dreams I couldn’t quite believe it.

Apparently I had a sensible conversation with her and took lots of notes on what would happen next after that, but all I can remember is this sort of out-of-body oh-my-god feeling that this couldn’t really be happening. Then I ended the call and just jumped up and down squealing like an idiot for a while.

After all that, if there is any advice I feel I can offer aspiring writers it’s this: write and keep writing. You get better with each attempt, and you learn something new every time. No word goes to waste at the end of the day, it’s all part of the journey.

I have since written another five books for Blaze, and a book for a Presents continuity set on a cruise ship, and I am working on the first of another three-book contract at the moment.

Take on Me is a March 2007 release, and is part of the Secret Lives of Daytime Divas trilogy, with the remaining two books coming out in April and May. All three books are set on a day time soap in LA. What fun!

Sarah is a regular at Exploding cigars, and also has her own website,

Thanks Sarah!


  1. Sarah, I have read all your Blaze books so far and really enjoyed them, especially their Australian flavour. Now I'm really exceited to hear you are writing for linked Presents: my favourite kinds of books are linked books!!I really enjoyed YOUR story too!!!

  2. Thanks 2Paw. The Cruise Ship continuity I worked on with Presents is called Mediterannean Nights and includes one of my Exploding Cigar friends, Karen Kendall, as well as lots of other talented writers. I'm book 10 - don't think you'll be seeing Island Heat until 2008 sometime, but it was certainly a lot of fun researching a book set in the Caribbean (the last four books are set during the cruise ship's "winter" cruises in the Caribbean rather than the Mediterranean). Cheers for now

  3. What a great and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing!