Sarah Morgan has written over 65 books for Mills and Boon, as well as writing for other publishers. She has been nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America and has won the award twice. Today, she has answered a few questions for us about her writing and most recent novel for Mills and Boon, Sleigh Bells in the Snow.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
The morning is my protected writing time so I’ll switch off the phone until I’ve made good progress on my current story. I set myself a minimum word count, but always try and exceed it.
I carry on writing throughout the day, usually with a short break for lunch and exercise, but in the afternoon I’m also dealing with the other aspects of being a published author. I receive a lot of messages from readers, both by email and via social networking so I respond to those. Then there are blogs to write, revisions, emails, art queries, cover queries, title discussions, website updates, interview requests, conversations with my agent and editor and research for the book. Around release time I do a lot of promotion. Being an author is not just about writing.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I sometimes use photos for inspiration, but not always celebrities. For Sleigh Bells in the Snow, I saw a picture of a girl with blonde hair in a red coat kicking a pile of snow in a forest. I stuck it to my wall and it stayed there as I wrote the book. She had her back to the camera, so it wasn’t her face that inspired me but the overall ‘feel’ of the image, which was perfect for my story.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I read widely so picking one book is hard. I love Rosie Thomas. I am always drawn to her characters and I enjoy the way she explores relationships but most of all I love her wonderful, lyrical prose and her skill at conveying a sense of place. I sweltered in the heat of Cairo when I read Iris and Ruby and shivered in the harsh climate of Antarctica in Sun at Midnight.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I’m not naturally a planner, although writing for a publisher requires me to submit a detailed outline so I’m forced to put something on the page. The detail usually changes by the end of the book. Each book develops in a different way, but usually I start with an idea for a character or a scene and build the story from there. For example, when I was writing Sleigh Bells in the Snow, I knew I wanted a heroine who found Christmas a difficult time of year. Her character and conflict were clear to me, so from there I had to develop the story in such a way that she would have to face the one thing she feared most.
As for how many drafts, the answer is as many as it takes to get it right. I edit and revise constantly as I work, and sometimes I show pages to my editor and we talk about how the story is going.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I always loved writing (I wrote my first story when I was eight), but I didn’t think it was something that could be a career, so I wrote alongside other jobs for many years. I trained as a nurse so when I started writing seriously, it seemed logical to start by writing a Medical Romance. I submitted to Mills and Boon in the UK, received encouraging feedback and sold my third story. I wrote 65 books for them and had so much fun, but I’d wanted to write a longer length contemporary for a while so I was thrilled when Harlequin offered me a contract for three mainstream novels. I love the challenge of writing different story lengths. At the moment I’m writing novels (100,000 words), novellas for the Cosmo Red Hot Read programme (30,000 words) and series romance for Mills and Boon Modern (50,000 words) Each form demands something different from the writer and I love the variety.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writing is ‘easy’ and that we ‘churn out’ stories. Writing a book is hard work (so is churning), hours spent alone in front of a screen producing words from your imagination that people want to read.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write. Don’t just talk about it. Sit down and write and do it every day. Writing is a habit.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m about to start the third book in my O’Neil Brothers trilogy and I’m excited about it. Tyler is the ‘bad boy’ brother and he has played a role in both the other books. I can’t wait to give him a story of his own.