Hi Marion, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. My name is Sara Benfit, writing as S. Durham. I have completed four full length novels, with three of them published by Muse It Up Publishing. The Powers, is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance chock full of Angels and Demons, and the ongoing battle between good and evil. The Lycan Moon, Wild Magick Series ~Book One, and The Jaguar Sun, Wild Magick Series ~ Book Two, are paranormal/romantic suspense stories with werewolves, witches, sorcerers, shape shifters and a good dose of crime stuff thrown in. Of course I had the good fortune to have you, Marion, do the outstanding cover art for The Jaguar Sun. You captured beautifully the element highlights of the story! As evidenced by the tons of compliments I’ve received for the cover. And I thank you again for that:)
Marion: I'm so glad you love your cover! It was a ton of fun to make! What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?
Sara: The Chronicles of Narnia come to mind. I was hooked after reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I yearned to see what would happen to that small band of children in each installment. I remember being thoroughly immersed in all the characters, and racing through each book, hungry for the next. For this school age child, Aslan’s character was the perfect representation of what I imagined God might be like, wise, strong and sometimes brutally hard on the children he loves.
Marion: How do you start thinking about a book? Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot? Where do you usually start?
Sara: That is a good question. I’d have to say that I’ve done a little of both. In The Powers, the character Angela Sullivan came to me first, because she had a painful past, and at the time I was of the mindset to ‘write what you know”. What I knew then, is what it’s like to be a nurse in an Emergency setting, so naturally Angela’s occupation had to be an ER nurse in an urban hospital. In The Lycan Moon, however, I knew I wanted to write a story about a werewolf with elements of history, witchcraft and romantic suspense, so the plot really came first, then emerged the characters, who would live through my story.
Marion: If you could invite five writers, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
Sara: Tami Hoag, Dean Koontz, C. S. Lewis, Tess Gerritsen, Nora Roberts
Marion: When you’re writing, what game do you most often play during “breaks”?
Sara: That would be the game of housework, paying bills, playing with/walking the dog, and exercising. I’ve never been able to get into those electronic games for some reason:) And while I’m doing housework, paying bills, walking the dog, and exercising, I’m also thinking about and chewing over plot points, obstacles, trouble spots in the manuscript, and what facts I need to check:)
Marion: Ah! Healthy games. Yeah, I never really got into those. ;-) Have you ever tried to shake up your writing routine? Writing at a different time? Writing in new places? Writing nude? *waggles eyebrows*
Sara: I’ve never written in the nude; that might scare the living bejeesus out the Jehovah’s witnesses who come to the door on a regular basis, but I do tend to frequently change the room I write in. I think about what mood I’m in, and where I’m feeling the energy at any particular moment, whether it be in my office, the front room, or the family room.
Marion: What is your absolute favorite sentence--just one sentence--from your book? Why?
Sara: “Harrison, trust me on this, take the blue balls over the black eyes, because Sonja Walker is no longer in business.” Why: Because Aiden is without a doubt staking his claim, and I love a strong male lead, who isn’t afraid to say what he wants. And this statement is so Aiden!
Marion: What one scene do you think you spent the most time editing? What was it about it that you couldn’t seem to get right?
Sara: It might surprise you, but love scenes sometimes completely get away from me, and when I go back and reread them I find myself laughing hysterically at what I’ve written. I think those are the scenes I stress the most over, because I don’t want them to sound ridiculous or cliched. The one that comes to mind is the first love scene between Camael and Angela, in The Powers. It is such an epic based story and characters, that I wanted it to come off reasonable, to show the emotion and newness, and not come across as silly.
Marion: Oh, I believe it! Love scenes can be hard, and there are so many ways they can go from serious and sensual to silly. *nods* How do you ‘get into character’? Are their certain characters you find it harder to write than others?
Sara: I imagine the scene in my mind, and I think about the emotions and what it might be like for my character in a particular situation. If they are in the jungle, and they are desperate to save a life, what are they feeling, thinking, what are they smelling, seeing. I love using the senses, and I certainly can draw on personal experience when pulling those intense emotions to the surface for a character. So far I haven’t had trouble writing from any of my character’s viewpoints.
Marion: There are a lot of concepts about what writers are like, what’s the one you hate the most? Like the most?
Sara: I don’t hate much of anything, but I think the idea that writers are a little weird or touched, is actually pretty accurate:) That we are daydreamers, that’s the truth. That we are wasting our time, maybe, but it’s like those games you mentioned above, we all have our time wasters:) The one concept I like the most, is that we are born story tellers. And perhaps we are not all born to it, because some of us have to work really hard at it. But we are definitely drawn to the mystery, the magic, the elemental questions of our existence; we are knowledge seekers, and we explore that through our writing. At least that’s how I see it. It is my own curious nature and the yearning to tell an interesting story, which makes writing such a wonderful creative outlet!
Marion: What a lovely way to put it! I totally agree. What project are you currently working on?
Sara: I have just finished the 2nd Draft of my forth novel, a romantic suspense with a parallel historical storyline, and the synopsis for that manuscript. I’m doing more fact checking, then I will be ready for submission. I’m also working on the 3rd book in my Wild Magick Series.
Marion: About how long does it take you to get from first draft to polished manuscript? What does that process look like?
Sara: So far it’s taken me about nine months to a year. I’m trying to work on that. Of course my family and day job our my priorities at this time in life:) I write the first draft without much regard to grammar, spelling, or hard facts. I just try to get the story and emotions down on paper. I do a fair amount of research before starting the first draft, and more research during the writing process. With the second draft, mentioned above, I nail down the spelling, ninety five percent of the facts, plot point problems, and the character’s names. With the third run through, I hope to solidify anything I missed the first two times around: last minute facts, more spelling, then polish, polish, polish. I’m usually working on a synopsis between the 2nd and 3rd draft.
Marion: What’s your best book-related memory? Your worst?
Sara: Best was when I finished The Jaguar Sun. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to write a decent sequel, let alone make it better than the first. I think it is better than the first, and now working on the third book, I feel far more confident that I can and will finish it. I don’t have a worst book related memory...yet.
Marion: What did your “favorite” rejection letter say?
Sara: That would have been from Miriam Kriss at the Irene Goodman Literary agency. “Your writing shows promise, but unfortunately the story doesn’t resonate with us at this time.” You can bet I hung onto those four little words: ‘Your writing shows promise’ like a mantle and shield all these years:)
Marion: Name a book that, if you find out someone likes it, you know you will get along with that person.
Sara: Anything by Tami Hoag, Dean Koontz, or Stephen King
Marion: Is there a writer whose style or talent you envy? What is it about their writing that draws you in?
Sara: Dean Koontz has a wonderful way of storytelling, with prose that gets to the grit and heart of life’s big picture, and he always has a dog in his stories. Tami Hoag does such a nice job of character development that I can only hope to one day grow up to be like her.
Marion: Any parting words?
Sara: I love to hear from readers about what they liked or didn’t like about my stories! I have an author’s corner over at Coffee Time for Romance, where readers can connect with me, or they can email me at s.durham49ATgmailDOTcom. Thank you so much Marion for having me as guest, you ask some very interesting questions!
Everyone have a wonderful week!
Thanks so much for joining us today, Sara! And readers, Sara is kindly giving away a copy of Lycan Moon and one of Jaguar Sun to lucky commenters!