Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sarah Stuart: The IAN Interview

Sarah Stuart

I live on the edge of a quiet English village where wildlife sightings are common. The subliminal theme of my published novels is a plea for animal protection from exploitation worldwide. Many of my dogs are, or were, rescues, and I donate 50% of my royalties to animal charities. 

My passion is the theatre and I’ve been lucky to see so much from the inside out, and to meet so many stars of stage and screen. I’ve watched performances in Europe and the USA in addition to London’s West End and Northern Ballet productions, and it’s fascinating; I know so much about what goes on behind the scenes. 

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

S. Stuart: ILLICIT PASSION is the second book in the Royal Command series, but it has been written to be read as a standalone novel. It is set partly in the Western Highlands of Scotland on the Kinloch Wildlife Reserve, and in London, whilst a concert tour of Europe opens at the Opéra Bastille in Paris and concludes in Kraków, a city in Poland. 

Showbiz superstar, Lisette Marsh, is blackmailed with a threat to expose illicit love, a secret that she, and her father, thought safely hidden forever. Michael, touring with her to promote the music of Kit Marsh, initiates an audacious plan to free her from a life of humiliation and pain that puts the whole family in peril, both from the paparazzi and in physical danger from the blackmailer.

Meanwhile, their daughter, Harriet, the new owner of the Book of Hours, deciphers coded entries made by Queen Margaret’s great-granddaughter, Lady Harriet Allanach. Will she too follow her namesake’s example and comply with the queen’s command "I direct and beseech my heirs to find love where they may", or walk away from the twin she loves, and shouldn’t love, before it’s too late? 

I’m delighted that it has been awarded 5 stars by Readers’ Favorite. 

IAN: Is Illicit Passion published in print, e-book or both?

S. Stuart: Illicit Passion is published only as an e-book at present. A print copy will follow in time for Christmas.

IAN: Where can we go to buy your book? 

S. Stuart: Illicit Passion is available at all Amazon sites at 

IAN: Do you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

S. Stuart: The Royal Command books are character-driven: I never knew the end until I reached it. There was a point in Illicit Passion when I didn’t know whether someone would live or die. Dangerous Liaisons began as a love story, which it is: readers familiar with the queen’s command “to find love where ye may” will understand how that grounded Lisette’s reaction to acting lovers opposite her father onstage. The promise to obey the queen’s decree, asked of every heiress, creates a potential minefield.

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

S. Stuart: Yes, I do. I never use dialogue tags; I see no need for them. Each chapter may be divided into two or three parts: each uses the POV character’s name once and after that everything that is done or said, is done or seen to be done, said or heard, by that character, and all thoughts are theirs. It seems to be fairly unusual: judging by the reviews, it works well. 

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Illicit Passion?

S. Stuart: That they will question the morality of killing for fun, whether an animal species is endangered or not. To understand that being a Christian isn’t about being perfect; it’s the ability to recognise one’s wrong-doing, try to make it right, and to forgive.

If that seems a serious answer when my novels tend to be regarded as steamy, it’s because nobody likes being preached at and I avoid doing it. The primary purpose of a novel is to provide entertainment and escapism: I hope my readers lose themselves in a different world. 

IAN: How much of Illicit Passion is realistic?

S. Stuart: All of it. Where I have used actual historical characters, like Margaret Tudor, Henry VII’s eldest daughter, the fiction fits into her recorded life, even to the degree of her being in the right place at the right time. Kinloch Wildlife Reserve, featured first in Dangerous Liaisons, was a working shooting estate: I know a lot about wildlife but I owe an ex-gamekeeper for facts about the running of such an estate, and the financial risk of converting it to a reserve. The theatre, and the basis of many of my characters, comes from my own experience. I was living in Wales when a producer of the musical “Annie”, to be staged at the Arts Theatre that is part of Aberystwyth University, asked for a dog to play Sandy. I had several obedience-trained dogs at the time and I supplied one whenever required for six years. A dog-handler must be present at all times so I had the opportunity to meet countless directors, performers, and all the backstage staff. Some of the musicals and plays were on their pre-West End premiere run and the actors and actresses were truly international stars. Hounding by the paparazzi occurs more in London, and it can be vicious if they scent a story. 

IAN: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

S. Stuart: I was lucky enough to have a mentor, the late, great, “first lady” of romantic suspense, Mary, Lady Stewart. Some years ago I had an article about the rescue of a stranded dolphin published and in it I referred to the knowledge I’d acquired from reading about a similar situation in “This Rough Magic”. She contacted me, which was a great thrill. She read one of my early, unpublished, novels and told me the main protagonists, the lovers, should meet in the first chapter, not a third of the way through the book. I followed that advice in Dangerous Liaisons, and introduced Lisette and her blackmailer in the prologue of Illicit Passion. If I could choose a writer to replace her it would be Nicholas Sparks; a reviewer compared my writing to his, specifically “The Notebook”, which I hadn’t read. I did, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

IAN: What book are you reading now?

S. Stuart: Screamer by R. E. Wood. It’s a thriller, gripping to the point of being frightening and very well written.

IAN: Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?

S. Stuart: Several: Sharon Brownlie (Betrayal), Bruce A Borders (Inside Room 913), Robert K. Swisher Jr. (A Circle Around Forever), Ica Iova (She Never Got to Say Goodbye), Rebecca Bryn (Touching the Wire), May Panayi (Malbed Mews), Tara Ellis (Bloodline), Bethany Turner (I’ve Loved These Days), and John Fioravanti (A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching). 

IAN: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

S. Stuart: My “one entity” includes a vast number of people I have never actually met. It astounded me after I hit “publish” for the first time and asked around on Twitter and Facebook for advice on publicity, how many other authors made practical suggestions. The group spread rapidly to encompass “strangers” from all over the world, many of whom weren’t writers, but all had something to give, and willingly still do. I make a point of doing the same for new authors when I can. “Indie”, to me, means freedom, but it can be lonely too. One example of a friend I haven’t met is a reader fan from Texas who found me on Goodreads and sent me a message quite recently. “I hate you. I’ve read eight chapters, can’t stop, and I should be at work!” Later, she wrote one of my best reviews on Illicit Passion.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

S. Stuart: Dynasty of Deceit will be the last book in the Royal Command series: another standalone. It is plotted and the first two chapters are complete. I’m also committed to writing a short story for a charity anthology in 2016. However, the Royal Command series is on hold for the present. I’m working on a new novel, still based in show business but with a very different slant.

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