NG: Today, I'm welcoming newbie author Sarah Ballance! I'm honored to be the first to interview you on Simply Sexy Stories! What do you enjoy the most about being a writer?
SB: I have a husband and six children ages 4 weeks to 11 years. The laundry is never done. The dishes are never done. The writing … that, I can finish. And, unlike my children, my characters actually listen to me. (Um, sometimes.) Writing gives me a sense of accomplishment, and for that I love it dearly.
NG: Your commitment and love of writing is obvious. What do you find the most challenging about being a writer?
SB: Making the transition from my world to that of my story. When I can only steal 30 minutes to write, I need to hit the zone and hit it fast. When I began my second novel, I figured out that music was the key. For 45k words and counting, I’ve listened to the same CD - Miranda Lambert’s Kerosene. As soon as the first notes fill the room, I’m right where I need to be.
NG: That's cool! I use music to get in the zone too. What genre(s) do you write and why?
SB: Down in Flames is a romance. I started with that genre because I read a lot of romance – and live one in real life thanks to my hubby - but I made the jump to romantic suspense with my second novel. There’s just something delightfully evil about delving into the diabolical mind of the bad guy, and more than anything I love the challenge of pulling it together in the end.
NG: Adding a bad guy always spices things up. What's the one thing you wished you had known about the publishing world before you took the plunge?
SB: I don’t think I knew anything about the publishing world. I started Down in Flames last spring (’09) as a challenge to myself because, as a nonfiction writer, fiction terrified me. Six months later I was finished and, on a whim, sent off my first query. Less than a year after I typed the first word I had a contract in my hands from Noble. Considering Down in Flames was my first attempt at fiction, I’d say I have a lot to learn about the way the biz really works, LOL.
NG: Are you a plotter or panster?
SB: I have a bit of both in me, but I lean towards panster. I start with a simple 10-pt outline, list of characters and stats, and find a photo for each one just for my own reference. But that’s the prep; once the words start to flow, all bets are off. The characters tend to dictate their own paths, and my outline changes to keep up with them. I’m a stickler for keeping some semblance of organization in my work, but it’s just as important for me to go where my story leads me.
NG: Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors?
SB: Don’t let your first words bog you down. I tried for way too long to get the first chapter of Down in Flames “right.” I would have saved myself a lot of time and grief to skip the initial attempts at editing, but I didn’t figure that out until I went back after the first draft was complete. By then I had fresh eyes and months of writing experience to draw from (not to mention a healthy amount of abuse – er, guidance - from my awesome crit partner.)
NG: Having a great crit partner is invaluable. What other hobbies do you enjoy?
SB: I decorate cakes, mostly for kids’ birthdays, and love to cross stitch. I also like to cook big meals from scratch, but I’d skip out on all of the above to spend the afternoon on the boat. Just don’t tell my husband I said that because he had to lobby hard for that particular toy!
NG: I used to cross stitch! You have to have a lot of patience for that hobby. *whispering* I won't tell your husband about the boat. ;0) Let's talk about Down in Flames. What's this romantic tale all about?
SB: In many ways, it’s a comedy of errors. Jack returns home with the intention of making up for an old mistake, but he realizes he can’t outrun his past when his wild reputation catches up with him in a big way. In the end, he’s willing to sacrifice everything – including the woman he loves – to make things right for her, but it turns out Molly would much rather have him.
NG: Mmmm...sounds intriguing! What inspired you to pen this sexy tale?
SB: I originally had another plot planned, but my brilliant crit partner took notice of a detail in one scene – a photo on a desk – and had an “uh oh” reaction. She saw what I missed, and suddenly I had a whole new conflict for my characters. Things really fell into place from there (for me – not so much for Jack and Molly, LOL).
NG: What’s the one thing readers can always count on when they pick up a book written by you?
SB: An undercurrent of humor. I like my characters to take good-natured jabs at one another. I tend to skip the obvious and go for the double entrendre or throw out a quip at some of the most inappropriate moments, which not only makes them human but really amuses me as a writer.
NG: *g* I love laughing out loud when I'm reading a book. If you could be any mythical/fantasy creature what would you be and why?
SB: I’d have a couple of extra arms and endless patience. I don’t know if that answers the spirit of the question, but to be a mom and writer with six kids and endless patience is both myth and fantasy from where I’m sitting!
NG: You know what you are sooooo right! I can't let you go without asking you what do you think is sexy?
SB: I’ve spent the last 13 years married to a man who puts the average romance book hero to shame, and everything he does is sexy. (Might be why we have the aforementioned half-dozen kids). When a man can glance at you across a chaotic dinner table and convey in a single look what he plans to do you later that night, “sexy” is an understatement!
NG: Awww! That's so sweet and VERY romantic, just like Down in Flames! Sarah, thank you so much for stopping by Simply Sexy Stories! I wish you all the best with this release and many more on the horizon!
Caution! Super Hot Excerpt!
The back door slammed open with such force Molly thought for sure it was broken. She didn’t care. She and Jack fell through the doorway in a feverish tangle of arms, legs and panting breaths that left her seeing stars.
Jack stumbled backwards, trying unsuccessfully to kick off his boots. He almost landed himself and Molly on the floor in the process.
"Just leave them on," she choked out just as he succeeded in freeing himself.
"Hang on," he said, breaking away from her for a torturous moment. He pushed the back door shut and locked it. Before he could turn around, Molly had her arms around him from behind, her fingers following the naughty trail of hair down his abdomen and into the waist of his jeans.
Jack grabbed her wrists and gently tugged them out of his pants, turning in the circle of her embrace until he faced her. Molly shivered at the raw emotion that clung to his features, the way his eyes darkened with need. But the charge hung between them for only a moment before he picked her up. Ignoring her squeals, he held her straddled against his hips in a deliciously erotic twist on her earlier piggyback ride. She hooked her ankles behind him and clutched his neck, wasting no time in delivering a path of teasing kisses from his ear to the soft underside of his chin.
"Dammit, Molly, you’re going to get wetter," he said with a throaty growl. "Let’s go upstairs."
She started to tell him she was already wet, but the light vibration of his voice against her skin left her senseless. Instead, she nodded without a clue as to whether or not he noticed her consent. He didn’t appear to be waiting for a response, either; in fact, the rock of his gait suggested he might be taking the stairs two at a time.
Molly thought she’d dissolve when he lowered her onto the bed, his lips meeting hers in a slow, silky kiss that left her deliciously unsure of which way was up.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" He moved his hands from her thighs to her belly, taking her dress with him.
"Are you kidding me?" Pleasantries forgotten, he ripped the dress over her head and playfully pushed her down to the bed, sinking down after her. Her eyes fluttered closed as he took the tip of her bare breast into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the peak and sending an avalanche of wet heat tumbling through her.
Molly moaned and arched into him in a futile attempt to get closer. He was delightfully preoccupied with an award-winning assault on her nipples, teasing one side with his thumb and finger while his tongue worked a number on the other.
For a few sweet moments, Molly couldn’t remember her own name, let alone what kind of hare-brained thinking led her to turn him down years ago. She was only half aware of his hand as those fingers slid down to her side, even as they blazed a hot trail along the curve of her waist, past the swell of her hip. She barely felt the fabric of her favorite tangerine-colored panties as he tugged against them. But when he managed to slip a couple of very talented fingers under the wet fabric, she almost shot off the bed.
"Duly noted," Jack said wryly, not giving an inch in spite of the way she writhed helplessly beneath him. Or maybe because of it. Instead, a teasing grin casting an impish glow to his eyes, he wedged the rest of his hand under the drenched fabric and slid those two devilish fingers deep inside of her. She didn’t know what in the world he did at that point, but with his thumb caressing her arousal and a deep, rolling sensation filling her, Molly didn’t stand a chance. She was already gone.