The Tales of a Contemporary Romance Writer

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Talkin' Tuesday with Sara-Jayne Townsend!

Good morning everyone. Okay... late morning, but it still counts! Today I'm getting Sheetrock on my walls and ceilings. YEAH If you haven't been following my blog and it's your first time hearing this, at the moment I'm in temporary housing with 4 cats, 3 kids, 2 fish, 1 dog a turtle and a husband. LOL Good times...good times! Looks like we're 3 weeks out of moving back in and we  can't wait. We're all going to have a new appreciation for Home Sweet Home. :)

Today visiting in my Mobile Home I have Urban Fantasy/Horror/Thriller author Sarah-Jayne Townsend. She's fun and lovely with a slightly twisted side! Please give her a warm welcome. *loud applause from our guests and my kids.*
RR-What's you favorite read & series? 
SJT-There are many. I love Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series. Stephen King got me reading horror, when I was about 14. Sara Paretsky’s private eye VI Warshawski got me reading crime, in the late 1980s, and I still look forward to reading each new VI book.

RR-What/who got you reading?
SJT-My mother used to read me bedtime stories and I think my love of reading developed from there. I remember being quite young when I starting following along in the book she was reading, and I would correct her if she missed a word out, or skipped a section she thought was inappropriate. I was taken to the library every few weeks and I would wander round the kid’s section looking for books that looked interesting. This was the 1970s and libraries weren’t so hot on age-appropriateness then, and I would often pick out books that were actually for a rather older age group. Sometimes in reading them to me my mother would attempt the skip the more gruesome sections, so I read them myself before I’d let her carry on.
 My husband and I were just talking about that last night. He was saying how he read Jaws in 5th grade!

RR-Was writing a natural thing for you, what part of it is the hardest?
SJT-To me, it’s as natural as breathing. I don’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. Composition was my favourite lesson of school, as a kid. I think I was 10 when I decided I wanted to be a published novelist. I wrote my first novel when I was 11. It was terrible, of course. When I read books at that age I wanted the characters to be real people. I didn’t like the fact that people in books never had breakfast, or brushed their teeth, or went to the bathroom, or the store, or did the things that real people did. So I put all those things in my first novel. It was an overlong and very boring novel.
LOL That always has bothered me. They don't do it in movies either!
SJT-I think the hardest part of writing is that most writers are their own worst critic. We all seem to go through stages where we feel our writing is rubbish. Most of the time it’s because we are being too tough on ourselves, or putting too much pressure on ourselves, or imposing unrealistic deadlines. All writers go through it, though - so talking to other writers can make you understand you’re not alone, and others feel the same as you. :)

RR-Too organized Plotter or Maniac Panster?
SJT-Too organized plotter. I do a great deal of plotting before I start writing. First I’ll work out a three-page plot summary, and from there I go to a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I then use that as a guide as to what’s going to happen in each chapter. Sometimes the book veers off a bit, in which case I will amend the chapter breakdown accordingly. The chapter breakdown is my guide to what happens in the next bit I write. It might sound a bit anal but I’ve learned the hard way this system works best for me. I’ve got too many half-finished manuscripts languishing in the drawer that I gave up on because I never managed to figure out what happened next.  

RR-Do you have a day job that gets in the way of your writing?
SJT-Yes, I work as a personal assistant for a medical college in London. It is, to be fair, quite a nice job in the sense that it is a lovely place to work and I am able to leave the job at the office at the end of the day - there’s no pressure to take it home with me. But it does take discipline to juggle the writing with the day job, and it’s often difficult.
I couldn't have said that better.
RR-You helped found the T Party Writers' Group. That must take up a lot of your time! Can you explain to our readers what it is?
SJT-Back in the late 1980s when I started writing horror, I joined a writing group of fellow horror writers.  When it folded, there were three of us that felt there was a shortage of writing groups in London focusing on sf/fantasy/horror, so we started up our own. It eventually became the T Party Writers’ Group. The name came from the fact that we had a couple of members really into Alice in Wonderland, and someone suggested ‘the Mad Writers’ Tea Party’ as a name. We shortened it to the T Party. Recent political developments have led us to believe this is not such a good name anymore, but we maintain we were here first, and we have absolutely no affiliation to the other Tea Party…
The first time I saw it, I have to say being a Massachusetts woman in the US, I thought of the Boston Tea Party. Heeeheeehee
SJT-The T Party Writers’ Group has now been around for 17 years and we have writers from all walks of life. In recent years we’ve had a lot of members find agents, and get publishing deals. We now have nearly 30 members. It’s very exciting to see how the group has grown from the start, when there was just a handful of us and no one had been published.

RR-Is there any thing we all would be shocked to know about you?
SJT-The fact that I write horror seems to shock people, but I’m not, on the whole, a very shocking person.  I hope I occasionally surprise people. I am learning to play the bass guitar. That’s a little-known fact about me.

For Fun

Red & sexy or Black & mysterious?
Black & mysterious. Keep ‘em guessing; don’t give too much away.

Wine with cheese or Beer with TV?
Wine with cheese. I’m a wine drinker - never been very fond of beer. I love cheese, in spite of the fact that I’m lactose intolerant and shouldn’t really eat dairy. But I love it so much I eat it anyway (the same thing can be said for chocolate). And it could be argued that everything in life that’s enjoyable is bad for you in some way.

Paperback or ebooks?
I’m an e-book convert. As a commuter, and a traveler, I love the compactness of e-readers, and how you have so many books stored in a small device. We have two e-readers in our household - the Sony and the Kindle, with loads of books loaded on both. So saying, I haven’t stopped buying paperbacks. I love browsing book shops, and I will still impulse buy if something catches my eye. My husband and I are both bibliophiles, and our house is full of books. Since discovering e-readers we’ve just ended up buying far more books, because we are now buying a lot of e-books as well as print books. E-books are so easy to buy and we don’t have to worry about storing them.

Independent kitty cat or adoring lovable dog?
Independent kitty cat. I’ve always done my own thing, and am not too worried about what people think. Their independent nature is what I love about cats, and I’ve always had cats in my home. I have two fat lazy cats, Misty and Misha, who are getting old these days but they’re part of the family.

Romance, comedy, or horror movies? (I think I know the answer to this one!)
Horror! The creepier the better. I like to say I don’t like too much romance tainting my violence!

What's your biggest pet-peeve, in the world, that makes you want to beat something/someone?
Reality shows - particularly the endless stream of so-called talent shows where a bunch of nobodies who think they can sing are paraded and humiliated in front of a judging panel. It’s sensationalist television that the TV producers like because it’s cheap and easy to produce and nobody has to pay any script writers or actors, or indeed do any real work. I can’t stand the fact that so many people keep falling for it and watching this rubbish.
Back to Work

Suffer the ChildrenRR-Are you insanely organized or are there note written on everything?
SJT-People perceive me as organized but I do have notes written on everything, so maybe both. If I don’t write things down I forget them. Since I started using the PC for writing I’ve been able to give up the hundreds of bits of papers with notes on them, and I keep notes on the PC. But when I write, I have half a dozen documents open - my chapter plan, my current chapter in progress, and all the various documents in which I have written notes, so I can keep referring back to things.

RR-What's the biggest misconception people have about you & your writing?
SJT-I had a fair number of non-writers coming up to me after I got the contract for the first book to say “I guess you’ll be quitting work now, now you’ll be making all this money as a writer”. I just didn’t have the time or the energy to tell them all the reasons why that just wouldn’t be happening any time soon.
Ohhh, but authors are sooo rich! lol 
RR-You have a Page Readers Blog Talk Radio Interview coming up on June 30th. Are you nervous?
SJT-This is my second time on Page Readers blog talk radio, so I know what to expect this time. The concept of speaking in public doesn’t make me nervous - my years acting on stage in amateur dramatics cured me of any fear there. What I am a bit nervous about though is the fact that it’s an American show. I worry the American audience won’t understand my English accent!
Just remember what form of Football we play!
The blog talk radio show is live on Thursday 30 June at 8pm London time.  The link to the show is: - clicking the link will also tell you what time it will be on in your time zone.  The show’s recorded, so anyone who can’t listen live can catch up with it later.

RR-Do you ever get so overwhelmed you want to quit?
SJT-Oh yes. All the time. I frequently get to the point when the WIP (work in progress) isn’t going well, and I think I’m rubbish and should just quit pretending to be a writer. I try to take a step back from that - maybe leave the writing and go do something else – I find that blasting Resident Evil zombies is a pretty good tension release. This feeling always passes, so it’s a case of riding it out.

RR-What's the writing pet-peeve that makes you want to scream?

SJT-‘Head-hopping’ – when people write from the POV (point of view) of three different people in the same paragraph. A good editor should pick this up, but it surprises me how often I see this in books published by major publishing houses, and it always really turns me off a book.
RR-LOL You look so innocent yet you're a little on the 'dark side'. Ever scare your parents/friends?
SJT-My parents and my friends know me well enough that they don’t find me scary. I think my colleagues find me a little strange, though.

RR-Any advice for aspiring writers?
SJT-Go to writing conventions/conferences and meet other writers. Be prepared to accept their advice. Don’t get offended by criticism - see it as a way to make your writing even better. Even the best writers feel they still have things to learn. And don’t give up. Everyone has their down days, and with constant rejections it’s easy to get discouraged and start to believe what you’re writing is rubbish, but you have to keep faith in yourself and believe that you’ll be published one day. Patience is also key. It took me thirty years to get that publishing contract.

Sarah-Jayne has shared her latest novel blurb with us. You can also find her at  
Blog:  ENJOY
Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEATH SCENE - available from Lyrical Press, Inc on 4 July 2011

Hope you all have a Sparkling Day! Next week I'll have my buddy, Donna Beckley Galanti
Rebecca Rose 


  1. Interesting not about your T Party...yeah, some political confusion would occur!
    Writing horror...don't think I can, although I like to watch some horror movies that have just enough to be scary.
    Head-hopping...drives me nuts if done too often in a chapter.

  2. OMGosh, Marianne. I'm so glad you stopped in! I could never do horror, either. I think I'd give myself nightmares! lol