Friday, April 13, 2007

Sarah Reinke - Award Winning Author of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Ms. Sarah Reinke. She is an award winning author of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance novels.

E. I. Thank you for stopping by and please tell us about your latest book An Unexpected Engagement and how did you come up with the title?

Sarah Reinke: "An Unexpected Engagement" is a historical romance available now in mass-market paperback from Medallion Press. It's set in the year 1748, a time when romance was irrelevant and adventure was thoroughly unladylike. Charlotte Engle is anything but your average, conventional socialite in Georgian, England. A political activist and author, she also packs a pistol and stands her ground, even when being robbed by a band of notorious highwaymen. The only person she feels powerless against is her mother, who is equally as strong-willed. While Charlotte is determined to marry out of love, her mother is equally determined to arrange a marriage with a suitable, wealthy husband for her.

The title, "An Unexpected Engagement" is a play on words, taken from one of the pivotal and more comical scenes in the book. Charlotte's mother has indeed arranged a marriage for her to a man Charlotte would as soon strangle as wed. The engagement is announced at a grand social function, when Charlotte is helpless to refuse or protest. She finds rescue, however, in the form of Kenley Fairfax, a young nobleman with a sordid past for whom she's taken a fancy -- and who her mother cannot stand. Kenley announces publicly that Charlotte cannot enter into any arranged marriage, because she's already agreed to marry him. This comes as news to everyone -- especially Charlotte.

E.I. What can we expect from your characters?

Sarah Reinke: I try not to rehash the same characters over and over again from book to book. Too many authors I know do that -- suffer from the "cookie-cutter character" syndrome, so to speak. I also try to avoid "stock characters," or ones that feel like cardboard-cut-outs of characters from another story or book. (Like "insert stereotypical villain here.")

In "An Unexpected Engagement," I try to present characters that are both fun, realistic and sympathetic to readers all at the same time, each with his or her own personal motivations, each with his or her own personality. There's a strong thread of humor woven throughout the book, and through many of the characters. That's probably as close as my characters get to me; a sarcastic or humorous edge to things is my personality creeping in. Otherwise, they tend to "write themselves." I start off with a basic ideas and backstory in mind for them, and let them grow and develop as they will as the story progresses.

E.I. Some authors after spending so much time creating their character they become an extension to their life. Is that how you feel about Charlotte Engle, Lord James Houghton and Kenley Fairfax? Do you now think of them as part of your family?

Sarah Reinke: I become very attached to my characters while writing, so much so that I often go through a period of a sort of mourning when I'm finished with my manuscript. I think that's because, as a writer, creating a book-length work is a major investment of time, energy and emotions. We do come to feel that our characters are separate from us, acting on their own -- and sometimes in ways we've never planned or imagined! There's definitely a sense of loss when the work is completed, at least for me, because I have put so much into it. I wouldn't want readers to see something in which I didn't feel attached to my characters. After all, if I didn't fall in love with them in the course of the story, how can I expect someone else to?

E.I. How much of Charlotte Engle life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with her or with any of your characters?

Sarah Reinke: I try to narrow down the specifics of a character's backstory, their chronology, the general details of their personality, all before I ever begin writing. This gives me a basic handle on them, a sort of springboard from which I can further develop them. As the book unfolds, I find that they often tend to write themselves, as I mentioned above. By that, I mean they take those basic building blocks I've given them, and run with them, often times in directions that are completely opposite of my original intentions. As an author, you just get a sort of sixth sense, a gut feeling, when something will or won't work, both with characterization and plot, and you learn to trust those instincts. At least I do, particularly when it comes to my characters, and that's why I like to let them grow and develop on their own.

E.I. Do you have any fascinating experiences while writing your book, or while researching for your novel?

Sarah Reinke: I enjoy learning new things with each writing project I undertake. With "An Unexpected Engagement," it was familiarizing myself with the Georgian period in English history, which precedes the Regency period -- which is far more well-known among romance fiction readers. 1748 was a very dynamic year; England was poised on the cusp of a major industrial revolution, as well as the American Revolution overseas. They were still the dominant force in the world as far as politics, but it was a tenuous grasp at best, and they were constantly at war, or on the brink of war, with other countries like Spain and England.

A lot of what we know today of that time period has been romanticized or portrayed through rose-colored glasses in movies and books. Debt was an enormous problem facing the English gentry during that time period, while drunkenness was a huge concern among the poor. This was the era of debtors' prison, highwaymen, the Gin Revolution. People tended to have poor hygiene; disease spread rapidly and medicine was dictated more by superstition than any factual or scientific foundations.

Researching the book was a real eye-opener for me, amazing because so many of the vices people struggled with are exactly the same sorts that folks today often face. It was easy for me to sympathize with what they had to go through, and fascinating to learn about all of the different events that went on to shape and effect our own country's sense of history.

E.I. How long does it take you to write a book? And how do you go about your research for your new novel?

Sarah Reinke: As far as research -- I usually begin with the basics for a particular time period. Common names, maps, food, clothes, hairstyles, mannerisms, cultural influences, etc. I put together binders where I keep all of this information organized, so that while I'm writing, I can flip easily through it to find things I need when and as I need them. While I'm writing, I'll often find that I need to know more specific things about different areas -- for example wedding traditions in Georgian England -- so I will do more detailed and comprehensive research in these areas. The internet is an invaluable tool for me.

As far as how long it takes me to write a novel -- that depends on several things. First off, what deadlines am I under? If I have made a commitment to have it finished by such-and-such a date, then I work hard, and dedicate more time more often to seeing that deadline met. As a mother of a toddler now, I don't have as much free time as I once did for my writing, and that's something to juggle into the mix and consider, too. I would say on the average, from starting the first draft to going through for a self-edit round, I can complete a novel-length work in no more than three months. It used to be much quicker for me, but then again, my life was less complicated, LOL.

E.I. Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?

Sarah Reinke: LOL - have I chosen one yet? I actually write in a wide variety of genres, but in many ways, they're all inter-related. I cut my teeth, so to speak, writing fantasy fiction, and my world-building experience there introduced me to historical fiction, because I try to base my fantasy cultures and societies on actual historical ones. Historical fiction introduced me to romance, and I've been able to parlay that into writing paranormal romance fiction most recently. In July, 2007, the first in a new vampire series will be released from Kensington Books' Zebra imprint -- "Dark Thirst" -- and I'm really excited about it. It combines a lot of the supernatural and imaginary elements key to a good fantasy, along with the more love-driven plots of romance novels.

E.I. What can fans look forward from you in the coming months? Do you have something new coming up? If so, please share it with us.

Sarah Reinke: "Dark Thirst" is my big upcoming release. It's the story of Brandon Noble, a young vampire who longs to be human. He's part of an ancient clan called the Brethren who live secret, secluded lives among the rolling acres of Kentucky's Bluegrass horse farms. When he shuns the ritual of the first kill, he earns the Brethren's lasting wrath. When he runs away from Kentucky and falls in love with Angelina Jones, a human -- which is forbidden among the Brethren -- his fate is sealed. Can he protect Angelina from his enemies, and his own dark thirsts?

The most fascinating aspect of Brandon, to me, is that he is deaf and mute. He relies almost exclusively on handwritten notes or American Sign Language to communicate, and in addition to that, as a writer, I had to rely on his physical reactions to things, descriptions of his expressions and gestures, to convey his thoughts and feelings. It was a wonderful character examination, and Brandon is an amazing character to have watched develop. I've had the story idea in mind for many years, and the secondary characters have all gone through major changes since their original incarnations -- but not Brandon. He was always deaf, from the moment I first thought of him. That he sees being a vampire as his true handicap is one of the most fascinating and poignant things about him.

E.I. What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

Sarah Reinke: Sometimes it feels like this business is designed to cut you down over and over, with relentless determination. It's so easy to grow frustrated and discouraged -- and it's okay to feel that way. But don't let it crush your spirit or your dreams. Learn what you can from rejection; find ways to make something positive out of the experience. Forget the rest and keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Don't be afraid to set high goals for yourself, and to hold yourself to those standards. Surround yourself with people who support your ambitions, and find friends and mentors from those authors with whom you share similar goals and objectives. I wouldn't be where I am today without a lot of help from authors more successful than myself helping me get my foot in the door -- seize those opportunities unabashedly and go for it. Don't be afraid to hear the word "no," because you might be surprised one day with a "yes." I think writing is a 50/50 mix of talent and luck, so work on improving your writing skills and talent, and wait for luck to happen. It will -- if you keep trying. No one ever caught their big break by never sending out a query, or putting their neck on the line.

E.I. Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

Sarah Reinke: I'm definitely character-driven. While I enjoy the technical aspects of storytelling, too, such as research, to me, the greatest enjoyment comes from imagining different characters and breathing life into them through my words.

The hardest part of writing? Hm. Anymore, it's simply doing it. It's difficult when life grows complicated, and you have all different sorts of demands and obligations pulling you this way and that. It's easy to get distracted and sidetracked, so it's important to make time whenever possible, even if it's not every day, to sit down and dedicate yourself to the craft, to getting words out there, and writing. I try to set goals for myself each week when I have a new project underway, and stick to them. I've recently started using my blog ( to record my progress on a new manuscript, and feeling that I have that sort of accountability, even if only to cyberspace, helps keep me going.

E.I. Would you like to close the interview by telling your readers any writing tips for the young aspiring writers?

Sarah Reinke: I've been writing since I was at least four years old. Short stories, poems, plays, novels -- you name it. I was writing it from grammar school clear through college. I've explored a wide variety of genres over the years, won a lot of awards for my writing, and had a blast the whole time. If you love to write, you just have to write. You can't avoid it, no matter how hard you try. It's in you, irresistable. So go for it. It could take you years to make a go of it, or it could happen in the blink of an eye. I've met a young author named Stephen Chambers who signed a three-book deal with Tor when he was still in high school. And look at the kid who wrote "Eragon." You never know when luck is going to turn your way, so in the meantime, just keep writing. Keep learning how to improve. Practice honing your skills so that you develop your own unique voice, your own narrative style, your own way as a storyteller that sets you apart from everyone else out there. And no matter what, if it's what you want -- if it's what is in your heart -- then don't give up, no matter what, because you can make it. I'm living proof -- and so is every single author on the shelves at your local bookstore.

E. I. So great for you to do the interview. Thank you so much.

Sarah Reinke: Thanks so much for having me, E.I.!

To learn more about Sarah Reinke, please visit her at:

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