The Writing Life of: Sara Butler Zalesky
Sara Butler Zalesky
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Sara Butler Zalesky. Sara will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Wheeler‘, which was released on 4th July 2016, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Sara
Sara has never lacked for imagination, but it wasn’t until the Fates decided to give the string of her life a tug, and bring her romantic leanings together with her passion for the sport of cycling and ‘Poof!’ She can call herself a (self)published author.
The author resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with her husband and their son. She is a paralegal for a boutique law firm in Chester County, Pa, an avid road cyclist and indoor cycling instructor at a national chain.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I dreamed I would do a lot of things, but a writer was not one of them. I remember wanting to be a jockey, a firefighter, a police officer, a nurse. When I grew up, all I wanted was a job that paid well.
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Walter Farley (The Black Stallion), Judy Blume. Then I stumbled upon David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey, and a completely new world opened up to me.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t set out on this path, although I was always making up stories in my head. I rarely wrote them down or showed anyone if I did. It wasn’t until 2015 when I accidentally (on purpose maybe?) emailed a friend the draft of a chapter.
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I just kept writing and writing, day and night, and self-published a draft that should never have seen the light of day. My biggest regret. Since then, I hired an editor and together we made my first novel, Wheeler, something I am proud of writing.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
I write whenever I’m inspired, because if I don’t write it down immediately, I will forget it. Occasionally I’ll record myself on my phone or handheld recorder but I hate the sound of my voice. I loathe word counts and being a total pantser, I can’t stick to one anyway.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did consider it since there is another author named Sara Butler, and she’s a nun. I batted around using my Confirmation name, Veronica, but in the end, nobody can identify me in a police lineup so I use my full name.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
I have to be doing something while I think, and as I was developing the story, I rode my bike quite a bit. Luckily, there’s a great rails-to-trails system where I live and I can ride fast without ending up getting hit by a car. I also crochet, but mostly while editing. It’s like a palette cleanser. Getting up and walking around would be better, but then I lose my train of thought.
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
Always on the computer.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I have written two books, Wheeler and Wheeler: In Darkness, There is Still Light, which completes the story of Loren Mackenzie. Mostly. I haven’t decided whether or not to make it a series.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Total pantser, but having a calendar as a timeline was my savior. Otherwise, I think this story would have ended up like every other one: in the trash.
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
I do read all the comments, and after the one terrible review by a cycling magazine, I took Wheeler off the market. I had a long conversation with myself about what I wanted and decided to take the reviewer’s advice and hired an editor. That same editor worked on the second book with me.
Concerning your latest book:
Pages – 458
Release Date – 4th July 2016
ISBN 13 – 978-1533356314
Format – ebook, paperback
Loren Mackenzie has overcome many obstacles in her life to be an elite professional cyclist in the Women’s World Tour in Europe. Known as the Ice Queen of the peloton, Loren rarely shows emotion in the heat of competition; she inspires her team with quiet strength and determination. But her cool confidence masks a dark past filled with horrors.
A change in management of Loren’s cycling team brings her face to face with a life she thought she left behind, adding to the pressures of competition. When a chance meeting with an A-list celebrity quickly develops into a whirlwind romance, the cameras of the tabloid-media focus on Loren, revealing the cracks in her facade. The love affair also exposes a menacing rival, threatening not only her chances in the World Championship but her life.
When love and obsession collide, Loren stands in the center of a storm. Can she find the courage to fight her inner demons, or will her fear and shame consume her?
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
I started writing the story of pro cyclist Loren Mackenzie in the summer of 2015. It was far too long so I decided to cut it into two books. Book one took two years, from first word to the re-release in January, 2017. Book two didn’t take quite as long, but editing and rewrites have taken nine months, at least.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Loren Mackenzie is named after Loren Rowney, a former pro cyclist who I admire. For the other characters, I tried to find names that were indicative of their nationality. Graham Atherton is very British. Felix Lalonde is French.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Loren Mackenzie is a survivor. She is intense, a little too serious sometimes, but has a big heart even though she tries to hide it. The tragedy she has faced in her life shaped her into a champion, but because she’s avoided dealing with her past it comes back to haunt her.
Graham Atherton is a White Knight in a shiny Jaguar. He is a proper Brit, a little full of himself and has his own baggage. He brings out a side of Loren she didn’t know existed, the romantic side.
While Felix Lalonde would be the antagonist, I tried to weave into the story that both he and the relationship between Loren and Graham were the antagonists. Felix wanted to own her, which took her attention away from her goal of winning. She wanted to love Graham, which also took her away from her goal. Ultimately, though Mr. Lalonde is just as damaged as Loren is, which makes their connection hard to sever.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
Hands down, the sex scenes. It took me a very long time to be comfortable enough to even show anyone those. One of my betas said this: “That’s great, love the build-up, but if you come at me with just a sentence to finish it off, I’d be disappointed.” Apparently, I wasn’t descriptive enough.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
Coming up with the titles has been harder than writing the story! The type of cyclist Loren would be is called a wheeler and the French word is Rouleur. Typically, these types of riders are endurance specialists, they have the ability to ride for long periods of time at a high effort, which make them ideal time trialists. For the sequel novel, In Darkness, There is Still Light, I wanted to my readers to know there is hope.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
Of course, and while I love my friends and family, they were not the right people to give me an opinion on my writing skill. That’s why my advice to any author is to hire an editor.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
It has been long, arduous and painful. Full of strife, self-loathing and agony. I’m self-published because having a romance about a female pro cyclist is a hard sell. I stopped sending queries at rejection number 122.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
I got my first full night of sleep in three years.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
I have to decide whether Wheeler will become a series or just the two books. I like mixing romance with suspense and I have some ideas percolating in the back of my head.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Pizza. Oreos. But not together.
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
Black, because you outline the shape of you want to color in black.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
Captain America, Winter Soldier.
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
My musical tastes are so eclectic, I can’t choose a favorite. At the moment, I’m listening to a lot of post-rock instrumentals.
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
A bigger house.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
‘For Pete’s Sake, woman! You really need to clean this place up!’
You can find out more about Sara by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Sara Butler Zalesky for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.