THE JAMES GANG
Each month I interview an author or publishing insider who has “James” in his/her name. My March James Gang interview is with Bookstrand author Sandy James.
1. Let’s get the most important question asked first: Why James?
James was the name my husband gave me in 1983 when we were married. I was thrilled to replace my maiden name. It wasn’t that I disliked being a Demeter, it was that I was tired of people not being able to pronounce it or spell it. I had a criminology professor at Indiana State who could never say my maiden name correctly no matter how many classes I had with him. (Waves to Dr. LeBeau!) The semester before I graduated, he suggested I get married to change it. My reply was to tell him I was getting married to a James, but that I would hyphenate my last name just to continue to drive him crazy. Now, I’ve been a James longer than I was ever a Demeter.
2. What fiction genre(s) and/or sub-genre(s) do you write?
I like writing all types of romance, but my current releases are all contemporary romances. I write what “speaks” to me, and I try not to think about things like trends. If I don’t write what pleases me, how can I expect to please anyone else? I’m currently working on an urban fantasy series that my fantastic agent is trying to sell. I also have a time travel that was my first book, but the mechanics were so “rookie,” I’m rewriting it from scratch. Great story; inexperienced writer. I want to do the story justice this time.
3. Tell us about your latest release.
Murphy’s Law (http://www.bookstrand.com/product-murphyslaw-13949-330.html) released in ebook on February 24th. It’s truly a book of my heart. My husband and I own a small stable of harness racing horses. I wrote Murphy’s Law to introduce readers to that world and as a way to thank all of the wonderful horsemen who taught me how to care for my animals. They have truly been a blessing in my life.
When I wrote Murphy’s Law, my problem was how to teach about harness racing without the story sounding like a “Racing for Dummies” book. That’s where my hero, Seth, came in. The reader sees everything through his eyes, and as he embraces the sport, the reader learns.
Here’s a blurb for the story, which is the first in a four-book series I call “Damaged Heroes”:
Seth Remington had a fortune at his fingertips, but something was missing in his life. Purpose.
Knowing he has one last chance to redeem his son, terminally ill Sterling Remington rewrites his will. To earn his inheritance, his son Seth must labor as a groom for a horse trainer.
Katie Murphy’s orderly existence is turned upside down by Sterling Remington's will. Raised on hard work and dedicated to her harness racing stable, Katie agrees to take Seth on as a groom. How can she ever fulfill the challenge of instilling a work ethic in Seth and still keep her faltering stable running?
Kept at arm’s length by the strict terms of Sterling’s will, Seth and Katie are forced to struggle with their growing attraction until a devastating racing accident forces them to take a hard look at their relationship. How much is he willing to risk for her love?
4. Is there a core story and/or a theme(s) in your books?
At the heart of all my books is the emotional connection between the hero and heroine. I have a hard time with stories that have the characters jumping right into a sexual relationship without first establishing that bond, that heartfelt bond that changes the act from simple sex to really making love. I also write heroines who aren’t your stereotypical romance heroines. My women are strong, empowered, and not afraid to speak their minds. And they have the same foibles and flaws as all women, from their weight to their insecurities to their bad habits. After spending so much time crafting all my characters, they often feel like friends, especially my heroines.
5. Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?
Wow. That’s a really tough question. I’ll have to go with Seth in Murphy’s Law as my favorite hero. The guy is such a horse’s ass in the beginning. But watching him grow and change to become a hero worthy of a heroine as virtuous as Katie Murphy is a delight. My editor brought tears to my eyes when she told me his redemption was a “work of art.”
For my favorite heroine, I would have to choose Joy Kovacs from All the Right Reasons. That is the third book in the “Damaged Heroes” series that Murphy’s Law kicks off. Joy is a Hungarian gypsy. My family on my father’s side is Hungarian. By learning about Joy’s culture, I learned quite a lot about my own ancestors. Plus, Joy is a little firecracker who embraces life no matter what curveballs it throws her way, and she’s named after my mother.
6. What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Giving voice to my emotions. I’ve always felt so much in my heart that I could never express. Once I started to write, I found the perfect channel to communicate all that was inside me. I can “be” anyone I want to be – from a faith healer to a gypsy. I can “do” anything I want to do – from eloping to Las Vegas to living on a Montana horse ranch.
7. Do you have any awards, reviews or kudos you’d like to tell us about?
I’m a contest diva, and I wear that crown proudly. I have been lucky enough to final six different manuscripts in fifteen national contests. I’m most proud of Faith of the Heart – the last book of the “Damaged Heroes” series. It won two contests and finaled in almost every contest I entered with it. In fact, all of my “Damaged Heroes” were finalists in at least one RWA chapter contest. I’m also thrilled that my first book, Turning Thirty-Twelve (http://www.bookstrand.com/product-turningthirtytwelve-13909-330.html), recently won the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for Best Bookart for 2008. I’m still impatiently waiting for professional reviews, but my reader ratings are fantastic, and that means more to me than I can express. It’s wonderful to know I’ve pleased my audience. Turning Thirty-Twelve released in print on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com the end of February.
8. How do you promote your books and your author brand?
I spend quite a bit of time on reader loops, but I probably don’t promote as much as I should. It’s just not my personality to say, “Look at me! I write great books!” I am planning to go to Lori Foster’s Reader-Author Get Together in June, and I’m hoping that I gain confidence from experiences where I can interact with readers. I suppose I always hoped that a good book would just…sell. This is why I’m grateful to have a fantastic agent like Maureen Walters in my corner. Her faith in me gives me faith in myself.
My brand is easy to promote because it’s so much a part of everything I write. Thanks to my friend Kay Cassidy’s workshop, I was able to summarize what my writing was all about – Empowering, Old-Fashioned Romance with Heart. All of my stories, different though their plots and their characters may be, can be boiled down to a first-class romance that I hope makes my readers feel good about themselves.
9. What is your next project?
I’m finishing the third book in my urban fantasy series, and the fourth story is screaming in my head. I have high hopes for my Amazons. Those heroines are very near and dear to my heart. After I finish that fourth book, I am going to take a deep breath to see if I want to continue the Amazon series or follow a new path entirely. Isn’t it great to sometimes go the way the wind blows? That’s where Turning Thirty-Twelve came from – I just sat down one day and started writing about the “thrill” of being in my forties.
10. Do you have a bit of wisdom you'd like to impart or a favorite quote?
My children are the ones who have all the wisdom. When I started to write my first book, I wondered if anyone would think I was odd to suddenly choose to become an author. My daughter Laura and my son Kevin both encouraged me to try because I’d always wonder what could have been if I didn’t and I would regret not at least giving it a whirl. So their advice – to never be afraid to try something new – is the best wisdom I can pass along.
Thanks, Sandy! Next month I’ll interview Freya's Bower author Ava James!
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