[Interview] Emma Sanders

Emma Sanders lives in Texas where she works in the district attorney's office.

She writes romantic suspense novels and short stories in her spare time and has published two novels, Holding Fast (Wild Rose Press, 2006) and One Wrong Move (Wild Rose Press, 2007), both of which are available as e-books and as trade paperbacks.

Two of her short stories, "Christmas Bells" (Wild Rose Press, 2006) and "Hope, Love and Treats" (Wild Rose Press, 2006) are also available as e-books.

Currently, she is working on a third novel.

In a recent interview, Emma Sanders spoke about her writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I've always thought about writing but it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I knew I had to write if I wanted to maintain my sanity. There was something missing in my life that I can't quite explain. A restlessness that could only be cured when I was writing.

How would you describe the genre in which you do most of your writing?

I write romantic suspense, which can be and has been described in several different ways by different people.

To me, though, romantic suspense is a blend of romance and the mystery of falling in love … the how, when and where, the inner conflict, etc. It's also the suspense of something bigger out there that seeks to destroy a person or a love. Impending danger that usually isn't there with a contemporary romance novel. Whether it's a serial killer or an unsolved mystery, as long as the suspense keeps us wondering, I believe that's what makes a great romantic suspense.

What motivated you to start writing romantic suspense?

I always thought I'd write contemporary romance novels but I got hooked on romantic suspense when I started devouring Sandra Brown's books.

I love the way she blends words without making me feel like I'm reading something someone actually wrote and the way she balances the romance and suspense. I love the way she describes things without going into full detail and when I'm reading her books, I feel like I'm in the same room with the characters. I love the way she puts me in the character's head and there's no question who's feeling what and I love the way she makes perfect characters out of imperfect people, even the villains.

You've suggested that contemporary romance and romantic suspense are separate genres. What's the difference between the two?

I love the contemporary genre as well as romantic suspense but the way I define it separates it from romantic suspense because, even though it may offer a touch of suspense, imminent danger doesn't await the characters at every turn and there's usually not a mystery to solve.

A contemporary romance is built mostly around the romance. A romantic suspense is half romance, half suspense, where the couple gets together in the end, but the mystery is also concluded.

Also, the contemporary genre, in my opinion, doesn't have a true villain, someone out to destroy the main characters, in a way that romantic suspense does. One of my favorite contemporary authors' books, Susan Elizabeth Philips, are a perfect example of this.

In the writing that you're doing, who'd you say has influenced you the most?

My mother, though she isn't here anymore and died when I was 15, before I truly knew I wanted to write.

She wanted to be a writer but I never knew how much until I started reading her journals after her death. She got sick when she was young and she wrote, off and on, for years up until she died.

We lived in a small town, and in that day and age information was harder to come by. We never talked about our writing dreams, so I'm not sure why she never got around to publishing some of the things she was writing. A lot of people don't ever get around to fulfilling their dreams because of the lives they lead and duties they have or their fears that they just aren't good enough. That's one of the reasons I decided to go for it … because I didn't want to regret not pursuing my dreams.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Personal experiences are a huge part of my writing, not necessarily in what happens in my books but in what I've learned in this world. Creating characters, creating plots and subplots, creating emotions. I can always pull a part of my personal experiences into my writing.

I love to listen to people and consider learning about their individuality a huge experience. I've taken aspects of the knowledge I've gained about people and put them into my characters. Most of my legal knowledge has stemmed from my full-time job because I work for the district attorney and have done so now for nine years. Every experience can be a learning experience, if you let it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Time … if I'm good enough to sustain a writing career … getting my name out there and promoting myself (which is the hardest part of what I do because I'm very modest).

There's always the fear that you have only one story to tell, and others won't come afterward (though the voices in my head don't stop.) It's difficult, because I actually have a full-time career and do my writing on the side, so it takes a lot of time management, self-discipline and giving up things you might want to do, like enjoying a summer day at the lake.

How I'm dealing with all this is, I look at the future and not the here and now. Writing is my passion. I know I have to set deadlines for myself, appointments for writing, and I have to discipline myself to get it done. When you have a passion for something like this, you'll make the time to do it.

How easy or difficult is it to stick to these appointments?

I have good days, bad days and days when I sit down at my computer and the words won't stop coming. Then, when I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, I'll take a recorder and pen and paper to bed because I have to jot down or record my ideas. I've lost many ideas because I couldn't remember them, so I've learned my lesson. It may only be a line or two that comes into my head that I can go off of later.

Other times, it seems like my words are dry and stale and I couldn't tell you the basic color of the sky. During the good days, I write as much as I can. During those stale times, I still write -- I do a lot of reading, journaling, researching, watching movies, even coloring… anything to get my creativity juices flowing again. I also remember that this too shall pass.

Do you write everyday?

I hate to admit that recently, I haven't written everyday but I make up for this during those times that I do write.

I used to write everyday for a couple of hours but sometimes life gets in the way of writing and I have to readjust my schedule. I try to write some in the morning before work and some in the evening.

What's been happening that's made it difficult for you to write?

As I mentioned before, I go through spells, but I usually resolve them because I won't buckle under the stress and writing is my passion. There are weeks or even months in my job that are more stressful than others, such as trial weeks, grand jury weeks, etc. that make it difficult to write.

Also, I work at a computer most of the day and sometimes the last thing I want to do is come home and sit down again at the computer.

When you do write, how do you approach each of these sessions?

I don't have any type of tradition or ritual to precede my writing. I usually just sit down and begin where I left off, usually by reading what I wrote the day before. If I'm having a hard time, I'll sit in silence with my eyes closed, breathing and thinking about my story, or about nothing.

It's usually not too hard to stop and then continue later if I'm on a roll, and I usually stop writing for the day when a particular scene I'm writing concludes and I don't feel I can do anymore. I'll make notes to myself for the next scene, which helps me to get started at my next session.

How many books have you written so far?

I have two novels published and two short holiday stories, all with The Wild Rose Press.

What is your latest book about?

One Wrong Move focuses on a journalist, Rayma O' Riley, who's just moved from a bad relationship and has met Camden, a chef for a restaurant that is the center for a drug-smuggling ring. Rayma and Camden's worlds collide when she releases a story on this and gets a contract put out on her life.

Which aspects of the work that you put into One Wrong Move did you find most difficult?

Research is always the most difficult but also one of the most enjoyable. I have to do enough research so that I understand the mechanics and then fuse the material into the book. The amount of research I do depends on how well I know my subject and how much I still need to learn. For example, I know a lot about the legalities of Texas because of my experience working with the district attorney's office and can usually get any questions answered through them or the various law enforcement offices. The Internet, the library and individuals are also wonderful places to learn.

Also, when I was writing One Wrong Move, I particularly enjoyed those moments when the words seemed to fly off my thoughts and onto the page … those moments when everything just seemed to flow together the way it should. That was the best experience ever.

What sets the novel apart from the other things you've written?

It's spicier and sexier than either my first novel or the one I'm working on now. It's also not really a "who done it" plot but a "how will they get out of this" plot.

One Wrong Move is similar to Holding Fast in that Rayma O' Riley was a secondary character in Holding Fast and she's also a journalist. And of course it's mysterious and romantic like my others.

What will your next book be about?

I don't like to talk about my works-in-progress but I'm very excited about this one.

This article has also been published by OhmyNews International.


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