Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Author Interview: Sarah Woodbury

One of my favorite independent authors is Sarah Woodbury. Sarah has written 16 books.  Her After Cilmeri series focuses on a family of time travelers who are transported to medieval Wales. The Fallen Princess, the fifth book in her Gwen and Gareth Medieval Mysteries Series is available for pre-order and scheduled for release in just a few days. 
Sarah graciously agreed to an interview her.
Sarah, I am always interested in the writing process of authors and you’re one of my favorite independent authors.  You are, also, one of the most prolific writers I have come across. You’ve published 13 novels and two novellas, and keep a very active blog. Where do you get your ideas and how do you keep track of them?
Hi Marie!  It’s great to talk to you!

<a href=""><img border="0" src="" ></a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />Those are two very different questions, actually. I have no shortage of ideas. In fact, my trouble is not having time to create novels out of all my ideas. I have dozens of stories, from 8 pages to 80, on my laptop. Some stories didn’t pan out once I started writing them. Some I just haven’t finished because other projects are more pressing. As to the story ideas for series I am currently working on, often the seed of it comes to me in a flash, after which I scribble ideas madly into a notebook until I have a basic outline. Often, I’ll work through some basic plot points with my husband or son (both very logical thinkers) before I start writing.

The aforementioned notebook is where I keep track of my ideas and the plots for my novels. It’s somewhat odd, since I type everything else I do, but somehow notebooks work better, both for a work-in-progress, and for future ideas. It’s where I create lists of character names, birthdays, and important plot points that are hard to retain from one year to the next and from one novel to the next. 

 Some writers consider themselves organic writers, “pantsters,” if you will. Other writers create a detailed outline.  Once you have your idea for a novel or story, how do you develop idea?

 I started out as a ‘pantster’ and thought that those magic moments of discovery would disappear if I outlined. What I found as I wrote more and more books, however, is that the magic still happens, just in a narrower field. I have a general outline, usually about four pages of notes. At the same time, I feel as if a detailed outline, like I might do for a non-fiction work, would sap the creativity and fun out of writing for me.

What are your writing habits?

I write every day, and by that I mean 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with time off only for holidays that I can’t get out of. I write on vacation because writing is what I do for fun! It does require discipline, but the habit of writing 1000 words a day is something I value for myself. I am not always adding new words. During the editing process, I focus on getting through chapters instead of producing more words. Either way, it’s something I do every day. Keep in mind, however, that being an independent writer includes far more than just writing. Marketing, networking, formatting, beta-reading fellow writer’s books, and keeping up with social media are part of the job too.

Have you ever experienced a time when you felt like your writing was stalled? If so, what did you do to get past that “block?” If not, to what to you attribute your steady flow of creativity.

Until I was in my thirties, I routinely would say that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. And I meant it. This attitude, I think, came about in large part because I’d spent my entire life in school and had done very well at conforming to the school agenda. Creativity, however, isn’t about conforming, or following procedure or a step-by-step system. It’s about running a bit wild inside your head and taking risks, and it took until I was in my middle thirties before I’d sloughed off my years of schooling enough to do that.

I think it’s also important to point out that while the creative juices need to be flowing, writing really continues to be the best job in the world and I know it. What could be better than to be paid to sit around and make stuff up? It’s a job, but it’s one I have actively chosen. 

That’s not to say that I’ve never had a bit of writer’s block. After I wrote my second book, Footsteps in Time, I spent a year submitting it to agents while revising it at the same time. It took exactly a year for my first agent to take me on, and it was like I was freed, finally, to write again. Having experienced that once, I feel like I am able to recognize those moments when whatever I’m writing isn’t ‘working’. If that happens, I try to find people to brainstorm ideas with in order to get me unstuck, or if that doesn’t work, I put that work aside and move on to something else. My readers will notice that I haven’t written the sequel to either Cold My Heart or The Pendragon’s Quest. I am ‘stuck’ with both series and thus have not gone back to them. In this, I’m not referring to those days when I sit down to write and find that producing 1000 words is like pulling teeth. Those days happen to every writer, and to get through them, I do just have to stay in the chair until I get unstuck. I do hope to write those books someday, but I can’t force it if it isn’t coming.

 Who has had the most influence you as a writer?

 My dad and my husband. My dad taught me to write and always loved to read what I had written. Once I started writing fiction, he was at first afraid to read it in case he didn’t like it, but once he did read it, he became my most ardent supporter and fan. Sadly, he died two years ago, just at the time my books really started selling. I would have loved to be able to share my success with him now.

My husband encouraged me in my writing from the start. After I’d written my first few books but was lamenting my inability to find a publisher, he would shrug off my concerns and say, “give it five years and then see.” I interpreted that to mean, “give it five years and see if you still haven’t sold anything,” but he meant “and see if you still love it.” I did, and do!

 The Fallen Princess, your fifth Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mystery is now available for pre-order.  So what’s your next project?

I started writing the next book in the After Cilmeri series the day after I sent off The Fallen Princess to my first beta reader. At the moment, I am working on both books simultaneously, and plan to continue to do so until The Fallen Princess releases on January 21, 2014. 

More about Sarah Woodbury:

With two historian parents, Sarah couldn't help but develop an interest in the past. She went on to get more than enough education herself (in anthropology) and began writing fiction when the stories in her head overflowed and demanded she let them out.  While her ancestry is Welsh, she only visited Wales for the first time while in college.  She has been in love with the country, language, and people ever since. She even convinced her husband to give all four of their children Welsh names.  She makes her home in Oregon.

Visit Sarah  for more about her books and medieval Wales at
I hope you'll give her books a try and find her stories as delightful as I do.


  1. I loved reading this interview with Sarah Woodbury and I have gleaned the wisdom from her experience, too. I really needed to hear some of these tips today, even the "waiting 5 years" part, at the end :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Susan,
      Writing is definitely not a vocation for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great interview and blog, Marie. Very feminine and pretty! I have a book review blog and would like to talk to you about something. I will be sending you an email through your contact page soon. Serendipity finding you today!

  3. Thank you for stopping by and I look forward to hearing from you. I am intrigued.