About Sarah Jo Smith:
I’m the author of contemporary women’s novels The Other Side of Heartache, a semi-finalist in The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Awards for Literary Fiction, and my newest release, Entangled Loyalties (2016). A lifelong reader, I’ve had a book in my hands since my grandmother Rosie taught me to read at the age of five. Victorian literature was a favorite genre of study and I’m a big fan of North American writers such as Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Anne Tyler. Two novels that have influenced me greatly are The Bluest Eye and East of Eden.
My novels delve into the female journey and the healing power of family. I write stories where women characters face unexpected challenges and, through their struggles, emerge stronger and with a better understanding of themselves. I believe women will never stop reading books when they can relate to characters and gain insight into their own lives. I hope my novels are those kinds of books.
I was born in Los Angeles and raised in a high desert town in southern California. A former English teacher, I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from California Lutheran University, a single subject teaching credential in English, and a master’s degree in education from Santa Clara University. I have stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books for the Adopted Soul, My Resolution, Teens Talk High School, and Say Goodbye to Stress.
As the mother of three adults, I live in picturesque Bend, Oregon with my husband, Gregg, of 35 years. When I’m not reading or writing, hiking or snowshoeing in the Cascade Mountains, you’ll find me on the pickleball courts.
What inspires you to write?
Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” My novels, THE OTHER SIDE OF HEARTACHE and ENTANGLED LOYALTIES are results of that advice.
Tell us about your writing process.
I wrote a brief outline for both novels. I knew how I wanted the stories to begin and how I thought they would end, but each time the endings surprised me. The characters changed during the writing process, grew in unexpected ways, and when they didn’t react or conform as I expected, the ending had to be different than the outline. One exciting part about being a writer is there’s a point in the story, usually early on, when the characters you’ve created develop a separate personality and they no longer think, act, or speak through the author’s voice, and they demand to be heard. When the writer doesn’t listen, the story doesn’t work.
I make sketches of all my characters and include a picture of what I perceive them to look like, which I keep in the novel’s computer file. During the writing process, I often look at the pictures and review my notes to make sure the characters are staying true to their personalities.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Not only do I listen to my characters, during a long writing day I find myself immersed deeply in their lives to the point that I think as they do; I become them, experience their emotions, their struggles. Finally, when I leave my desk, turn off the light, and close my office door, it takes me several minutes to return to the real world; to become me again.
I interact with my characters by trying to figure out what they would do or say in a scene. When I keep erasing a dialog, deleting their reaction to something, I have to stop, take a walk, and think of something else. This is when I figure out the reason I’m not able to write the scene is because I’m forcing a character to react a certain way, and she/he is resisting me because that’s not what she/he would do. It’s what I want her/him to do. When I step aside and really listen to my character, I’m able to write a believable passage, staying true to her or his personality.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write your story. Then rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. When you’re not writing, read, read, read.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
After receiving many rejections from literary agencies while seeking representation and, although coming close on a few occasions to being accepted, the answers were still no. I checked out Kindle self-publishing and decided to give this method a try. I became a KDP Select author and I’m pleased with my book sales and the reviews I’ve gained for both novels.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
While people may always enjoy the feel of a paperback or a hardback book in their hands, and I don’t think that will ever change, reading on mobile devices is on the rise. For example, a Kindle is easy to read, to carry, and you can download as many books as you like, all bundled into one small device.</p>
<p>Indie authors have a great deal of power in the industry today because of the many choices they have on how to publish. New and better ways to market their books in order to reach their target audiences are being created as a result.
What genres do you write?: Women’s literary fiction
What formats are your books in?: eBook
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.