Today we sit down with California author Sara Beth Williams. She is going to share her inspiration, some of her work, and a bit about herself with us. Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to write since I was in fifth or sixth grade. After I completed a book report on the book, Heidi. As a teen, I wrote countless stories and poetry.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Finishing the stories I started had been a struggle for me for many years. I used to edit as I go and that would slow my progress so significantly that I would never finish anything. Finally, about five years ago, probably after reading a slew of online advice, I figured out that it’s best to bust the first draft out without editing, and then go back and edit. That’s the only way I can ever finish.
If you’re talking from the first word until the draft is completely polished, it has taken me a while, mainly because I am still in the process of becoming a published author. I completed my 2nd full manuscript in about 3 months. As I was writing it, it morphed into a 3 book series. Once I finished the first manuscript, I wrote books 2 and 3 simultaneously. I didn’t return to book 1 until about 6 months later. Then it took me another 3 months to polish it to send off to Beta readers.
Of course, the entire time I write, I’m also constantly scouring the internet for writing advice. Every week it seems, I learn something new. Because of this, and to maintain continuity, (issues that have come up in my 2nd book that I have had to go back to my first book to address) I’ve gone through my 1st book’s MS several more times to polish it up. So it has taken me about 2 years from start to finish. If I actually had time, It would not take nearly as long.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I currently stay at home with my two girls during the day. The only time I have to write is after everyone is in bed. So about two hours per day. As soon as everyone goes to bed I drop everything and write.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am an extremely outgoing person. Except when it comes to writing. When it comes to writing, I want to be completely alone. For me, that is weird.
Q5) How are your books published?
I’m not currently published, but hope to be soon. I’m leaning toward e-book self-publishing.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I have gleaned ideas from past experiences, from books I’ve read in the past, from dreams, from church sermons.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you (or how many years ago was it)?
Technically, I completed my first full-length manuscript about 5 years ago. A YA historical fiction/action adventure. I pushed hard to finish it so that I could enter it into a contest. I feel my writing has grown exponentially since that MS has been completed. I need to take the time to go back and edit. However, I’m not sure I want to commit to write in the YA genre at this time, as I’m focusing my efforts on the Christian Fiction/Christian romance genre.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love reading, watching movies, playing guitar, balloon twisting, going out with family or friends,
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Of all time? The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Currently, there are quite a few I have enjoyed reading in the last year. Couldn’t pick a favourite.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I have very few people in real life who understand anything that I’m going through, and how big of a deal it is to me. My parents are my biggest supporters. Everyone else seems to be waiting to see if I’m actually ever going to become published.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Writing is organic. I never understood what people meant when they said that. But when I set out to write, I did not intend to write a series. The story, the characters themselves, seemed to demand more and expanded on their own, even know still, they do this. They are alive it seems. The story may have an outline, (I do that to keep it under control) but it flows, and moves, and expands on its own. That’s one of the main reasons I have to write my first draft without editing as I go. The story comes to me while I write. I have to have huge blocks of time. Stopping and starting constantly impedes the organic flow of story ideas.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
That I don’t have enough time. That the process takes so very long! I’m not an especially patient person. I also dislike having to edit my own work.(There’s that impatience again). I also dislike the idea of marketing, even though I am confident that I could be good at it. Lastly, I dislike forcing ideas out onto the page, even though that is essentially necessary if you want to maintain a long-term profession.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Out of the four manuscripts I’ve completed, I am in love with Book three in my series. Sadly, no one will see it for some time, as I have to publish books one and two first, right?
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Learn to write anywhere. Do not complain about not having an office space, or a desk with a huge window allowing brilliant sunlight to stream in (that would be my wish). But, I have written on a laptop in the bathroom. I have written at the kitchen table with earphones on to deter people from bothering me. Write wherever you can. If you can’t write down full scenes, carry a notebook or your phone or tablet. I don’t like notebooks, but I use my phone to jot down ideas.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I have had a terrible time getting feedback from the people I’ve asked to read. All they say is, “It’s good,” Some of them are afraid to give me bad feedback. One beta reader didn’t like my book initially. I had to force her to tell me why! I’m currently looking for another round of Beta readers. Now that I have a blog, it may be much easier to gather beta readers. As for the feedback I received, (when I did finally get it out of her) she encouraged me to remember to ground the scene; as in, make sure the reader knows where the characters are at, always. Otherwise while they talk, they’re floating in space. This particular piece of advice has been some of the best advice I could have ever gotten.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
Young adults 18 to 30. Women. (It is romance after all)
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Both likeable characters and characters you love to hate. A story with all likeable characters would be boring. Other contributing factors that make a good story: conflict, misunderstandings. For me, some action and a romantic arc draw me in the fastest.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a secretary.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
You can find all sorts of excerpts, and the synopsis to each of my stories, on my blog. Come connect with me! http://authorswilliams.wordpress.com
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favourite works?
Here’s an excerpt from my first WIP, Second Chances. Context: Jay (our main protag) is in a coffee shop studying with a friend.
Every so often, while he attempted to skim the highlighted portions of his text, he caught himself glimpsing Lacey instead. The inexplicable desire to talk to her again overwhelmed him. In fact, he definitely wanted to do more than talk. He wanted to know everything about her.
Like you’re ready for any kind of relationship. He had to get a grip. Get used to college before involving himself with a woman. Feel her out before he disclosed his past. Likely the first inkling she hears he’s a felon she’d be gone in a flash.
He turned a page in his textbook.
About Sara Beth
Sara Beth Williams is a Christian, writer, blogger, wife, mother of 2 girls. She loves a good story, regardless of platform. Therefore, she hates watching TV episodes out of order! (God forbid she should miss something vital to the overall story line!) She lives in Sacramento, CA with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Her time is currently divided between working, raising her daughters, and writing every spare moment she can.
Current Work in Progress: Second Chances: A three-book Contemporary Christian romance series.
Connect with Sara Beth
You can connect with Sara Beth on Twitter @WilliamsSaraB and through her blog.