The Second Shot series is your second with Avon Books, what is your favourite part about starting a new series? (The character development? World Building? Etc.)
SJS: First, let me just say that I love writing sexy stories set in timber country. And I’m so thankful that Avon allows me to follow the characters and find the story. The first book in a new series always sets the tone for the series. And it never leads where I initially expected. That certainly held true for the Second Shot series. I didn’t anticipate the suspense element until Caroline walked into the story.
To be honest, I don’t develop my characters. They just walk into my imagination and start talking. And the story unfolds around them. I’ve tried following strict outlines. But in general, I prefer to follow the characters. They show me their world.
(And wow, reading over that, it sounds a little crazy. As if I’m sitting at home talking to imaginary people all day . . .)
You have written romances in small towns and in large cities, do you have a favourite setting for a series? Do you find one easier to write, or more fun?
SJS: I love writing series set in Oregon Timber country. Both the Independence Falls books and the Second Shot stories are set in small towns that share many similarities with where my husband grew up. This part of this country is completely different from where I was raised in southern Florida. The first time I visited Oregon I walked away in awe of the land’s natural beauty. I’m also fascinated by the timber industry.
And no, one is not easier or more fun to write. The easiest story is always the one I’m revising. And that one tends to be the most fun too. Until the next one hits that phase of the process.
Noah and Josie have quite the abrupt ending to their secret rendezvous in RUNNING WILD, the free novella which kicks off the Second Shot series. Did you know ahead of time that they were going to be former lovers or did that “event” take shape after you began writing SERVING TROUBLE?
SJS: I knew from the beginning that this couple would be former lovers. I’ve wanted to write Josie Fairmore’s story the past four years. She’s a character who walked into my imagination before I sold my first book and never left. But it took a while to find her perfect hero.
Most of my stories feature military heroes or heroines. With the Second Shot series, I wanted to write about couples that met before the hero joined the armed forces and continued when he returned. I truly believe that time and life experiences change people. And sometimes it allows for a second chance at loveJ
Did you have to do any special research on the “Mechanical Bull Ride Scene”? (hee hee)
The short answer—no. But there are two funny stories about this scene.
First, I was writing the early draft of Serving Trouble and realized that the story was a little different from my original pitch to my agent and editor. So I reached out to my agent and let her know. My agent read the first few chapters. She liked some of the “cowboy” elements and the bar setting. But somehow the follow-up phone conversation led to an I-need-an-X-rated-mechanical-bull scene. Fast forward a few months and I was on the phone with my agent again. We were talking about the mechanical bull scenes. (Yes, plural. They continue in Serving TroubleJ) I told her something she said gave me the idea. There was a moment of silence followed by: “what did I say?”
Then there was the time a close friend at Avon wrote and asked if my husband inspired the mechanical bull scene. I jokingly told him that he should ask my husband the next time he saw him. I then explained to my confused love, who does not read my books, that he might receive a few questions about sex on the back of a mechanical bullJ
How did the Second Shot Series come about?
Four years ago this March, before I sold my first book, I was pacing my apartment in Brooklyn. My daughter, who was born premature and very little, was only a few months old. And she cried every night from about 8pm until midnight. So I would put my son to bed and then walk laps around my bedroom with the screaming baby. The walking seemed to help a bit even though she still cried. At some point during my paced, Josie Fairmore (she had a different name at the time, but the same character) walked into my imagination.
A few weeks later, I stared writing. I sat down at my computer whenever the kids napped. I wrote the first hundred pages of Josie’s story and sent it to my agent. She pointed out all of the problems. I kept working on it. Eventually, I sold another book. Then I another and another. But Josie was still there, waiting for her hero. It wasn’t until I met Noah while writing the Independence Falls series that I thought maybe—maybe he’s just right for Josie.
So I wrote up a proposal for a new series and sent it off to my agent and editor. Avon accepted and I proceeded to write Josie’s story. Once I went back and looked at the old pages that I initially sent my agent, but I started Serving Trouble from scratch and followed Josie’s lead.
Who’s head do you more enjoy being in, your hero or heroines? Does it change with each story?
Both honestly. It depends on where I am in the story. I can generally feel when I should shift. If I’m having trouble writing a scene from one perspective, then I switch. I’ve found if I trust my instinct it usually works out.
Do you have a favourite book of all you have written? Do you have a favourite couple?
No. I love the book I’m revising at the moment. Never the first draft. That always feels horrible. But once I’m taking it apart and putting it back together, tinkering until it feels just right—that’s my favorite. Until I reach that stage with the next one.
I don’t have a favorite couple. But Josie is my favorite heroine. I’ve spent the most time with her. And Chad Summers from Hero By Night will always be my favorite hero. He was so much fun to write. And oh so hotJ
What’s next in the Second Shot Series or from you in general?
In April, I’m releasing the third installment in my Sin City SEAL series. And in June, STIRRING ATTRACTION will come out. I’m super excited to share Dominic and Lily’s story. (I’m revising this one now, so it is my favorite at the momentJ) This story starts in a different place than my previous stories. It opens with a bang in more ways than one. There is also more suspense to the plot. And Dominic has some of my favorite lines. Even his thoughts blew me away. He returns battered and broken from his time with the Army Rangers. And he’s gone this bearded, long haired look . . .sigh. I hope readers are