WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
CS: Hi everyone!! And thank you Winnie for inviting me here today. I'm Charlene Sands and I consider myself a Californian though I was born in New York and lived there for the first seven years of my life. My father had a vision of how he wanted his family to be raised, which meant wide-open spaces, a spectacular environment for children and lots and lots of trees. We moved to Southern California and all of that came true. In his later ailing years, I remember thanking him for bringing the family to California. It suited us...and I love living on the West Coast.
I married my childhood sweetheart. We've been together for four decades and I'm really NOT that old. We married young!! I have one son and one daughter, both of whom are married. Two cats own us. Snickers and Skittles ... the girls.
My hobbies range from reading (which I don't have enough time to do) to bowling once a week in woman's league, to playing cards with the family and exercising. I do love to get on the treadmill (I know I'm crazy) or take a long walk with my hubby at night. We live on a hill, so the climb back home is always a great workout! We also enjoy the Wii Fit, a fun way to burn some calories.For the past twenty-five years, I've worked part-time as a childbirth and baby-care educator. I LOVE babies and the whole journey to parenthood, so even though I'm busy with my writing, I still manage to teach two nights a week at our local hospital. It's a great way to interact with people at a very exciting time in their life.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
CS: Oh yes. RWA (Romance Writers of America) was instrumental in giving me the guidance and business acumen I needed to get started. I learned so much about the writing craft through their workshops. And Winnie will enjoy this, the very first class I took before learning of RWA, was Margaret Brownley's workshop at the Learning Tree about writing romance. You could say she was my first mentor. She was the one who introduced me to RWA.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
CS: I have always loved reading romance. I think the first romances I've read were from authors, Kathryn Woodwiss and then, Sandra Brown. I LOVED LaVyrle Spencer and thought that she was so good and I could never do what she did. But after a few more years with my kids in junior high and me with time on my hands, I gave it try. I remember writing 25 pages on the first day. All unusable, but I had done it. I had written the beginning of a story. A romance! I was hooked. I took a writing class, then joined RWA. I remembered how excited I was when I finished my first story, got a request from my query and then in turn, got rejected. I was actually happy, because it meant a real live editor read my work! I started writing and submitting, writing and submitting. At one time, I had 11 manuscripts out (some were duplicate submissions). Three years and about a dozen stories later, I got the call from Hilary Sares at Kensington. I'd sold my first book!! A Precious Gem called Chance in a Million! I remember the tears of joy and happiness. It was the best feeling. And the kicker was, that I'd sold my first book before I'd gone to my first RWA conference.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
CS: I love it. It's who I am. Not what I do. I can't imagine life without writing.
WG: What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
CS: The business side of being an author is daunting. The amount of promo I have to do. Sending out for reviews, keeping up my website, having contests, judging contests... the list goes on. I spend half my day writing and the other half doing promo.
WG: What about your writing process: Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
CS: Oh, you don't really want to know! But since you asked:
It's up at 7 AM - breakfast at the computer while I go through and answer my mail.
9:00 AM - start re-reading and editing the work from the last day.10:30 AM - start on a new scene. Lose my head and all concept of time 12:30 PM - Decide if I want to stop for lunch or keep going. 1:30 PM - Stop for lunch - watch Days of Our Lives for about 30 minutes 2:00 PM - Exercise if I haven't already. Wii Fit or treadmill 2:45 PM - Take a shower, get dressed (yes I'm usually not dressed until mid-afternoon) 3:30 PM - Back at the computer. Check emails again. Edit work. Write again 4:30 PM - Start dinner. Hubby is home. Eat dinner. 6:30 PM - Depends on if hubby wants to do something. If not, I'm back for some more writing/editing 8:00 PM - Spend time with hubby, watch TV or read 10:00 PM - Hubby goes to bed - work on blogs, website, interviews (it's 10:30 pm as I'm writing this. 11:00 PM - Off to bed
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
CS: All the time. I have short range goals and long range goals. My short range goals might be to write a scene a day or two chapters a week. My long range goals might be to finish a book by a certain date in the future. Or work on another book. Or set up a proposal. I'm always setting goals. Usually I attain them.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
CS: No. I don't. I know some writers do. But I need total silence. I can't have distractions when I write. BEFORE I write, I'll read a book from a favorite author to get me motivated, or listen to country western music, but while I'm writing, I don't even open the window, because the outside noises disturb me.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
CS: I just dive in. See me swimming for my life?
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
CS: I have no set way. Sometimes I picture a character, sometimes an occurrence sparks the set up of the story. It's whatever strikes me.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
CS: Hunky alpha men! I have a blog dedicated to Heroes and Hunks.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
CS: I love dialogue and I love babies.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
CS: My advice is to be persistent. Study the craft. Enjoy the process. And be more persistent.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
CS: I can't say that they don't hurt me sometimes. Writing is so personal. You put your heart and guts out there. I give myself a day or so to lament and then I jump back in. I always try to think of the positives. There are so many. I've made lifelong friends and nobody knows what it's like to be passionate about writing then another writer. They "get" me. I "get" them. The pluses far outweigh those snarky reviews and rejections.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
CS: Carpe diem. (Seize the day!) I'm a big believer in grabbing the brass ring. I don't like to let opportunities pass me by. And I don't mean business opportunities. Do the things you want to do. Don't put off. Life has a way of slipping by if you do. It's a simple saying, but it's the way I live my life.
CS: My Napa Valley Vows trilogy is available now and the three stories involve the hunky Carlino brothers, their father's Last Will and Testament and the women who stumble into their lives. It was fun to develop three different, diverse heroes and set them in such lush surroundings. MILLION-DOLLAR MARRIAGE MERGER (May), SEDUCTION ON THE CEO'S TERMS (July) and THE BILLIONAIRE'S BABY ARRANGEMENT (August).
Two of my favorite movies are French Kiss and A Walk in the Clouds. I guess I'm intrigued by the romance of wine and vineyards. I'd always wanted to do a series set against in California's Wine Country. It's beautiful there and I learned so much about the wineries and grapes when I traveled on wine train!
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
CS: I'm writing a Desire which I hope will be part of a series in 2011 called Red Ridge Rivals. It's millionaire ranchers and cattlemen. What could be more fun? I've loved combining my western heroes with a contemporary setting and it's been a while, so I was eager to get back to my hunky cowboys, modern-style.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
CS: I'd love for readers and friends to visit me at www.charlenesands.com. I have two ongoing blogs on the site including Let's Talk Heroes and Hunks where I talk about my current book hunks and real life heroes who have made a difference in the world.
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!
CS: Thank YOU! It was a pleasure being here. You are a great hostess. And to all ... Let's raise a glass (of wine or lemonade) and toast romance!