It’s Wizards with Words time, and I’m tickled pink to have Sarah Ballance on my blog today! Sarah is an outstanding author with a catalog of must-read novels and an active blogger who graciously promotes other writers. Today I have the pleasure of inviting her to share her new release, LAST CALL. So let’s get started! 🙂
Sarah, you’re an established author with a number of books already to your credit (several of them on my Kindle, the others on my TBR list). I’d love to know how you got started.
Sarah: *blushes fiercely* Um, wow. What an intro! I’m incredibly flattered—thank you, and thanks so much for having me! I honestly never wanted to be an author. About four years ago a friend of mine told me I should write a book. I said no, I couldn’t do that. Then I proceeded to write my first book precisely because I don’t like to be told I can’t do something—not even by ME. I figured I’d shelve the book, but my crit partner wouldn’t let me. I submitted to precisely one publisher and was offered a contract, and that’s how I ended up with the dubious honor of having my first work of fiction (DOWN IN FLAMES) out there for the world to read. Not long after I finished it I fell in love with romantic suspense via Harlequin Intrigues and I was hooked.
What a fascinating start! I love your reaction of rising to the challenge! Your current release, LAST CALL, is now available for purchase. Can you share some tidbits about the characters and plot?
Sarah: Eight months after accidentally shooting Rhys during a bad drug bust, Nick returns only to see her image on the late news as a murder victim. Something doesn’t feel right, but before he can ask too many questions he’s led to her “body” and ordered to keep her safe or they’ll both end up dead. The forced proximity, unseen enemy, and unresolved feelings from their past combine to create a mound of tension that doesn’t quit until the last page.
I love romantic suspense, and Rhys and Nick certainly sound like they’ll have great chemistry together. There’s nothing like romantic tension and danger to create a mesmerizing book cocktail! Do you find it hard to balance the two elements—romance and jeopardy—or do they blend easily as you write?
Sarah: The blend comes easily to me, but I wish I could say the same for the plot points, LOL.
Given your genre, do you find it necessary to do a lot of research when crafting a story? I’m imagining things like police procedure, ballistics, and crime scene techniques (to name a few). How much research goes into a novel like LAST CALL?
Sarah: With one exception (UNFORGIVEN, which is my favorite of my books) I haven’t needed to do a lot of research, probably because I’m a constant peruser of all things true crime and I don’t go into a lot of technical detail, though I do fact check anything relevant to a specific locality. UNFORGIVEN, however, was a beast. I had to find the perfect firearm for the job and rig a crafty explosion. These were not things I knew off the top of my head, and in fact I went back and forth between my husband and google for an entire day trying to get the right weapon. (He’s still speaking to me, yes.)
LOL! Okay, technique time. Do you decide on setting or characters first?
Sarah: Must I be difficult? LOL. I start with the story idea, and the setting and characters seem to fall in place from there. I don’t actively plan how it happens, but I’m thrilled to put the pieces together as they come.
Tell us something that readers might find surprising about your two lead characters.
Sarah: They used to be other characters. LAST CALL was originally plotted as a sequel to UNFORGIVEN, with Maverick taking Nick’s role. When I decided not to develop the book into a series, I had to figure out who my hero was all over again.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book? Can you share a bit about it without giving too much away?
Sarah: There’s a part after they, uh, flee their hotel room where Nick is trying to piece her wound back together and she’s just grinning at him. I love the moment between them because it’s the first time they really shed the past and find that old dynamic they shared.
Which do you find hardest to write—the beginning or end, and did that hold true with LAST CALL?
Sarah: Normally the beginning is tough and the end comes easily. This book was the total opposite. I had the beginning quite clear in my head, but the ending was so difficult I nearly tossed the entire manuscript into the great recycle bin in the sky. (Well, mine is actually on my computer’s desktop, and the story nearly ended up there more than once, lol).
Thank goodness you didn’t! Do you work with a critique partner(s)? Do you belong to any writing organizations and have you found them beneficial?
Sarah: I find an extra set of eyes to be invaluable. I have a couple of crit partners plus a reader I trust to be honest, so I feel I’m lucky in that regard. I just recently started attending my local RWA chapter and I’m mostly terrified and plastered to the wall, but I think if I ever start breathing while I’m there I’ll learn SO much.
If you could have a coffee date with an author of your choice to discuss technique, who would you choose and why?
Sarah: I’m totally cheating here, but there’s a loophole, so I pick my editor with Entangled. (She has co-authored a book before, lol). And I had coffee with her just last week and we did in fact discuss my writing, which was completely awesome. I learn so incredibly much from her I’m >this< close to stealing bathwater. Yeah, it’s like that.
And now let’s learn about Sarah through some quick one word answers. 🙂
Favorite color: blue
Favorite animal: horse
Favorite food: chile relleno
Chocolate or vanilla: chocolate
Casual or dressy: casual
Silver or gold: silver
Thanks, Sarah, that was fun! Before we wrap, would you like to share a teaser about what you’re working on next—because I know you’ve got to have something up your creative sleeve!
Sarah: I’m writing a historical romance, and I really don’t know how that happened. Like, I really don’t know. I’m still waiting to hear from acquisitions, though if they don’t want it I’m going to finish it anyway. The early feedback has been staggering-in-a-good-way, and I’ve gotten some of the most amazing compliments of my writing career as a direct result of this manuscript. I just wish I could figure out how this all happened. Because … seriously. I don’t know.
Amazing! I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be waiting to see what happens with that ms. I do love a good historical every bit as much as I love romantic suspense!
An accidental witness to a murder-for-hire, ex-cop Rhys Clark becomes the target of ruthless killer—one determined to silence her at any cost. Playing dead seems to be the most likely way to stay alive, but when her protection comes in the form of mega-sexy former adversary Nick Massey, Rhys can think of a few fates worse than death.
Nick Massey may have walked away from his troubles, but he never got past wanting Rhys. Once paired undercover, they’d been nothing but fireworks until a botched assignment ended her career, sending his into a tailspin. Now a mysterious client threatens Nick’s life if he doesn’t keep Rhys safe, but it isn’t until fate takes a critical turn that he realizes the devastating truth: he’s been her greatest threat all along.
LAST CALL EXCERPT:
A man stepped into [Rhys’s] line of sight, his weapon at the ready. Before she could stop herself, she locked eyes with him. Big mistake. The decision threw her into a cloud of emotional shrapnel, the past flying at her in shards.
She’d been shot once before.
It hadn’t ended well.
The gunman opened his mouth and formed an ugly grin, his breath coming in visible puffs through yellowed teeth.
“Looks like a double header tonight, T,” he said, never taking his gaze off Rhys.
“Whaddya mean?” came the reply. The voice . . . she blinked until the second man shifted into focus.
She knew him. From where? She couldn’t think.
She glanced to the dead man, and her vision wavered. Panic shifted her world into a screen of jarred pixels, the flashback jagged and severe.
“Rhys! Stay with me, Rhys. Do you hear me? Rhys!”
Blood. So much blood.
“Nick.” She touched his face, feeling stubble beneath her fingertips. Then the weight of her arm was too much; as gravity won he slipped away. The world twisted into a sickening spiral until all that was left was his voice, the desperation in his tone bringing warmth to the darkness.
Motion jarred her to the present.
The gunman gestured. “Our witness here is about to have an unfortunate accident.” He raised the weapon, aiming for the kill.
It was a short view down the barrel at point blank range. She expected that.
What she didn’t anticipate was the speed with which he pulled the trigger.
Or how quickly the pain hit.
LAST CALL is available from: For the Muse Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (formats: .mobi, .epub, HTML, PDF, RTF, LRF, PalmDoc, and Plain Text). Click here to add to Goodreads or here for reviews.
Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or seeking that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.
She loves creating unforgettable stories while putting her characters through an unkind amount of torture—a hobby that has nothing to do with living with six children. (Really.) Though she adores nail-biting mystery and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Sarah writes in many genres including contemporary and ghostly paranormal romance. Her ever-growing roster of releases may be found on her website.
You can find Sarah at the following haunts: