May 10, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: Sarah Mayberry

You know how I keep saying that Sarah Mayberry is one of my favorite writers and one of the best current Contemporary Romance authors out there? Well, I’m having a fangirl moment today because she’s with us talking about her new book, self-publishing, and lots of other things. I’ll leave you with her, treat her well so she comes back soon!

Welcome to Romance Around the Corner, Sarah!

Q. For all our readers who may not be familiar with your books, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

SM: I write for Harlequin, although I have just self-published my first book, also. I started writing for Blaze, which are fun, sexy, playful books, then moved on to Super Romance, which are a bit more realistic and heartfelt  - but also, pretty sexy, too, hopefully. I am really into exploring people and why they do things and my heroes and heroines are always flawed but they also have the best intentions. Like most of us, they’re just trying to muddle their way through life. The bedroom door is never closed in my books, and I love writing banter and back and forth, a side-effect from my “other” job as a script writer. 

Q. What do you think is the main appeal of Contemporary Romance? Have you ever considered writing a different genre?

SM: Contemporary Romance comes in many forms, even though it’s all set in the present day. There’s the romantic fantasy stuff with fast cars and billionaires, there’s more heartfelt stuff, etc, etc. I tend to go for the more heartfelt stuff, even if it does have a dash of rich guys and fast cars (think Susan Elizabeth Phillips) and I think the appeal there is commonality of experience - it could be me or a friend that this is happening to. It’s very relatable, and often very moving or funny to see your own life and concerns reflected in a novel. It makes you feel less alone, and sometimes it helps you understand yourself a little better, or someone that you know. Historical romance works for me, also, for the opposite reason - it’s pure escapism. But I love both genres, and if I ever tried to break out of contemporary it would be to try my hand at Historical. But I am not sure that my voice would be very suited to period fiction. 

Q. I would like to know more about your writing process. What comes first, the characters or the story? Where do you get your ideas from? Is there a particular trope that you hate and would never use? 

SM: I think I usually start with a story idea, sometimes just a scene. With The Best Laid Plans (which I learned just this week is a finalist in the Romantic Book of the Year Awards down here in Australia!), my story brain got busy when I read an ad in the local newspaper from a women seeking a sperm donor. I started thinking about who this woman was and what would drive her to this decision, and the rest of the story unfolded for me. I’m working on ideas for some more self published books at the moment, and I decided that one of them would be a reunion story. So, sometimes, taking a well-established trope and doing my interpretation of it also gets me started. But once I have the basic premise, it always come down to character. Who are these people, what are they afraid of? What do they want? How will they push each other’s buttons? My plots always unfold from character, because I want to challenge my characters with their fears and preconceptions, and usually that leads to lots of emotion and conflict and forces them into corners. In terms of tropes that I am not a big fan of, the secret baby is one that I often have trouble with. Denying the father the right to know he is a father and to know his child and participate in his/her life always makes me so angry, I have trouble forgiving the heroine. Other than that, I am pretty open, I think. If something gets my story brain revved, then I’m there!

Q. All your books are Category Romances, and the Super Romance line is as close to a single title as it gets, but have you ever considered writing a single title?

SM: I have, and I did. It’s languishing in my bottom drawer because it needs a lot more work before it can see the light of day. It’s called Before and After and is about a woman who hits thirty and realises that she’s somehow allowed herself to become morbidly obese. How did that happen while I wasn’t looking, she wonders? The story chronicles her battle to lose weight, the issues she has to deal with within herself and the men she gets involved with. It needs quite a bit of work, particularly because I wrote it in first person and now I want to shift it into third. I have a couple of other ideas, too. It’s more about finding the time to write them than anything else!

Q. In your books, you have dealt with different situations that may not be easy to write and/or read, but that are real and touching. Having lived with a person who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, I must say that I was personally invested and touched by All They Need, and how you portrayed the consequences that such a terrible disease has not only on the person suffering it, but also on the immediate family. I was wondering what type of research was involved in the creation of that book, and if it was hard for you to find a balance within the story as to not make it overly dramatic and sappy, especially considering that it also deals with domestic abuse. I was very touched by it but not once found it melodramatic. 

SM: Aww, thanks. I’m pleased it resonated with you, especially since it touched on something you’ve personally experienced. I have a friend whose father-in-law has Alzheimer’s, and I have heard a few of her stories. I did a lot of reading on-line. I found a wonderful on-line diary written by a woman with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s (the researcher I spoke to said they prefer this term to Early Onset, even though it got changed in the book), and her descriptions of her life and experiences gave me great insight and allowed me to imagine how things might play out for Flynn’s parents. Once I had the book partly written and knew where I wanted to go with things, I spoke to someone at the Alzheimer’s Institute here in Australia and she confirmed that all my scenarios were believable and possible, and gave me some ideas for later scenes. She told me, for example, that an Alzheimer’s patient would probably panic and be helpless in an emergency situation, which gave me great grist for when Flynn’s mother burns herself. 

As for the melodrama thing...I think keeping things small and human makes them more poignant. Sometimes we make grand, sweeping statements in real life, but more often than not, that moment is ruined by the dog farting or the baby throwing up. I think having real life intrude makes those moments more believable, and therefore more touching. Another thing I always try to do is to let my characters hang on to their pride, but not to the detriment of their happiness. Balancing between those two things can be tough for anyone, but it often makes for nice scenes, especially when things are getting emotional. 

Q. Let’s talk about your new book, Her Best Worst Mistake, and your road to self-publishing. Why did you decide to self-publish this story? What are the differences and similarities between regular publishing and self-pub? 

SM: I decided to self-publish  because I felt as though I owed it to myself to give it a try. We’ve all heard the amazing success stories. It would be naive to imagine that anyone who self-pubs is going to trip over ingots of gold the moment we put a book out there, but it would be great to find a way to make enough from my books to enable me not be strapped to the computer, day-in, day-out. At the moment, I pretty much write every second of the day, and having the luxury to think and dream a bit is so vital to good writing, I think. I would love to be able to find a balance between self-pubbing and my Harlequin work which allowed me to have a little breathing room to imagine new projects and, sometimes, make mistakes and then fix them without having a deadline breathing down my neck. 

In terms of the differences and similarities, the writing process is exactly the same. When I’m finished, however, I don’t have my editor to rely on to diagnose problem areas and suggest fix ups. That’s pretty scary, having worked with her on something like 26 books now. She’s incredibly talented, and not having her input makes me feel a little sweaty. This time around, I relied on the help of a friend and some beta readers, who are all smart, talented ladies, to get me through. The moment where I decided I had done everything I needed to do and hit the send button to send it off to the formatters was a nerve-wracking one, and I felt a little naked and exposed. But also excited! I am not sure what I will do with future efforts. People with strong story chops, in my opinion, don’t grow on trees. But I will be searching! As for the more technical aspects of it, controlling the back cover blurb and cover etc was good fun, and a pleasure more than a pain for me. I have a background in magazine publishing, so I liked working with the cover artist to get the cover to where I wanted it. For the technical side of it, I had the incredibly generous and wonderful Marie Force holding my hand via her E-book Formatting Fairies service. They were brilliant and totally got me over the line in terms of uploading stuff to the various vendors. 

Q. What else can you tell us about Her Best Worst Mistake

SM: This story started life as a subplot to Hot Island Nights, my last Blaze. I got about two thirds of the way through the writing of the book and realised I barely had enough words left to tell the main story, let alone the subplot, so I had to pull Martin and Violet’s story out. I left the ending in place, however, where Martin and Violet are clearly together, much to the surprise of the hero and heroine from Hot Island Nights. I didn’t intentionally try to create a demand for their story to be told, it was just the way the story felt right in my head because of that subplot, so I kept it in. I got a lot of fan mail afterward from readers asking for Martin and Violet’s story, however, and it got me thinking. I had a lot of their story already, so when I had time I started piecing it together, writing the beginning, then fleshing out the end. It got bigger and bigger the more I got to know Martin and Violet, shifting from a novella-sized idea that I thought I would put up for free on my website to a full-length category novel. I thought about the best way to get it out there, and then I realised that it was my chance to give self-publishing a shot. 

The story itself was so much fun to write, because Violet and Martin are convinced they dislike each other. Finding a balance between their animosity and their preoccupation with each other was a hoot, and then watching them explode once they worked out what all that animosity was really about was even more fun. 

Q. I see that you have two more books set to come out this year: Within Reach and Suddenly You. Can you give us a little preview? Maybe tell us what they are about?

This is her newest cover!
Thanks for sharing it with us.
SM: Within Reach was called The Grief Book while I was writing it. Which sounds grim, but hopefully it isn’t! It’s the story of Michael and Angela and Billie. Billie is Michael’s wife and Angie’s best friend, and she dies suddenly, leaving Michael shell shocked and heartbroken with two kids to care for. Angie does everything she can to help him out, even giving him a kick up the butt when he needs to get his life back on track. But as they work hand in glove, they slowly begin to realise that the person they consider a friend and helpmate is also a vital, sexy, attractive person. Neither of them expect desire or love to coming knocking, but it does, bringing all sorts of denial, guilt and conflict with it. And some pretty smokin’ bedroom times, I might add!

Suddenly You is a sequel, of sorts, to All They Need, and tells Mel’s brother, Harry’s, story. He’s big and tough, with tribal tattoos and muscles on his muscles. He works as a mechanic and lives the life of a confirmed bachelor - partying on the weekends, no strings, enjoying hot chicks when they come his way, but avoiding any whiff of commitment. Pippa, the heroine, was once going out with Harry’s best mate. She got pregnant to him, however, and the relationship ended when the friend washed his hands of Pippa. When the book begins, Harry stops to help Pippa out when her car breaks down on the side of the road. Harry has always liked her, and when he learns that his mate has refused to step up and support her and her child, he feels honor bound to try to do something about the situation. The only problem is that mixed in with his good intentions is a whole lot of lust. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination!

Q. And finally, what’s your favorite romance novel?

SM: It’s impossible to choose one. I have a handful that all occupy top position equally - Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Philips, See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, Just One Of The Guys by Kristan Hiiggins, and both Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer the questions, I hope you visit us again soon.

You can find Sarah in the following places:

To purchase Her Worst Best Mistake visit:


Sarah has kindly offered 3 copies of Her Best Worst Mistake to give away among our readers. For a chance to win leave a comment for Sarah, or tell us why you like Contemporary Romance.


  • Each winner gets one (1) out of three (3) e-copies of Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
  • Contest open internationally.
  • Ends on 05/13/12
  • Comments must include an email address.
  • Winners will be announced here and through email and will have 72 hours to respond.
  • For more details visit our Giveaway Policy.


  1. Great interview ladies! It was very interesting to hear :)

    I was most interested into knowing the reasons why Ms Mayberry tried self-publishing. As a reader, I admit that I don't really like self-pub work ^_^; However, I'm really glad I got to know why Ms Mayberry decided to try self-publishing and I really liked her reason :) I hope this will be a successful attempt! Though I'm glad to hear she still plans to continue writing for Harlequin :P

    Sounds like 2012 is a busy year for Ms Mayberry! I'm looking forward to read some of the books ;)

    Should I read Hot Island Nights though to get Her Best Worst Mistake or should it stand alone well?

    1. Hey nath! I think it stands alone well, but maybe you'll enjoy it more knowing the background that comes from reading HIN.

    2. Hi Nath. I AM busy! And we're about to start renovating. I think I'm a little crazy. Or I will be afterward, anyway. And probably during. As Brie said above, both books should stand alone, but I think they probably benefit from being read together.

  2. I love, love, love Ms. Mayberry's books! I'm not sure if I like All They Need or The Best Laid Plans best, but they're outstanding! Thanks so much for the giveaway & I enjoyed the interview immensely.


    1. Hi Rebe. Thanks for your kind words. Hope you enjoy Her Best Worst Mistake, too, if you get a chance to read. And the interview was both interesting and fun, thanks Brie's great questions.

  3. Wow, this was such a great interview! I'm a huge fan of Sarah's work. Her writing is witty and heartfelt and those smexy scenes are fantastic! Best wishes on Her Best Worst Mistake! I hope it yields you the space you need to think and rest that brain. And, I can't wait for Suddenly You! I love, love, love good baby stories (like A Natural Father) :)

    lea (at) verizon (dot) net

    1. Thanks, Lea. I'm in the middle of revisions on that one right now. Alice is but a babe in arms, but Harry (the hero) is putty in her hands.

  4. What an in depth interview. I'm amazed at how many books and stories she's written and how she gets nspirations fornew ones. I also think it's awesome she stepped out and decided to self publish. What a way to believe in yourself.

    Contemporary romance is so fun because t's easy to drop yourself into a story and many of them are stories that can actually happen in real life. It's easy to relate to the characters and stirs up all the warm fuzzy feelings you get when your're in love.

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  5. I love contemporary romance because they are more relevant than others (even though I still love reading historical and other sub-genres), but sometimes I just want to see a good story about something I can relate to, maybe not have to imagine a different world but a world that I recognize.

    I have added s couple of your books to my TBR list!
    bas1chsemail at gmail dot com

  6. I love this interview! I'm also so glad to find someone else who lists See Jane Score among their favorites - I always thought I was the only one who loves Jane and Luc's story. IMO, his tattoo is one of the best male attributes of any hero in any romance novel. :) Best of luck on self-publishing! (You don't have to enter me in the contest - I already downloaded the book!)

    1. Sarah, Jane's obsession with Luc's tattoo is one of the hottest things about that book. When she tells hims he wants to lick it....Yeah. That books gonna be on my keeper shelf for a long time.

    2. Is that the one with the horseshoe framing his manhood? Or was it a snake? Either way I loved that book! That whole series is awesome ;-)

    3. Oh, it's the horseshoe! It's pretty memorable. :)

  7. With the addition of Her Best Worst Mistake to my stash, Hot Island Nights has officially passed Her Secret Fling as my favorite Blaze. Although both are fabulous standing alone, reading them together is such a treat, as they are basically happening at the same time. So thrilled to read about Harry from my very favorite book All They Need next...maybe you could check in with Jake and Poppy soon--she does have that annoying sister who probably isn't quite so annoying once you get to know her?!?

    And I don't need one of the free copies, obviously I bought the book as soon as it became available. Great interview!

  8. I enjoyed the interview and Her Best Worst Mistake sounds like a good story. I do like stories where the hero and heroine can't stand each other at first since it's fun to watch them realize how wrong they were.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  9. I noticed right away some of your favorite authors and books are some of mine as well. One of my favorite contemporary romance is Blue-Eyed Devil, and Kristan Higgins and Susan Elizabeth Phillips's books are so fun. I have a couple of your books on my wishlist and I am looking forward to them. ALL THEY NEED sound so emotional but also hopeful.


  10. I like contemporary romance because it gives me a chance to wear someone else's shoes for a few hours. Reading is an escape and it's also a chance to be someone else :)

    Great interview! I've read 2 books by Sarah Mayberry so far and both were good reads. Can't wait to read more by her.

    thebookvixen at gmail dot com


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.