BIO: Sarah Maury Swan is the author of three novels, the last two of which she is selling at the upcoming Authors’ Sunday. She is pleased the say she has written stories for the Next Chapter Literary Magazine since its inception in January 2020. At the moment, she is working on a chapter book entitled SPACE JUNK, a young adult novel entitled BAD HAIR DAY, her first ever grown-up’s cozy mystery entitled SERENDIPITY’S CONUNDRUM, and a short story entitled FAIRY’S TOOTHBRUSHES. She lives in Fairfield Harbour with her handsome devil and their cat.
Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Café, she might look like a sweet little old lady but she’s a dynamo. She is hosting 34 other authors, myself included at an Authors’ Event at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th. Sarah, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Sarah: Aw shucks, Sherri. You’re definitely a dynamo yourself considering how you took over the reins of Pamlico Writers so seamlessly. And thanks for the delicious cup of herbal tea; the virtual scones were perfect.
Sherri: Well chai tea is one of my favorites. I think you are amazing. You didn’t grow up with computers like today’s kids but you’re fearless about trying new things. Congratulations on your website and blog.
Sarah: That’s because you’re not close enough to hear how much and how often I yell at my computer.
Sherri: I’ve yelled at mine a few times too. I’m very grateful for grandchildren who fix whatever problem I’ve created. How did you and the handsome devil end up in eastern North Carolina?
Sarah: We had a lovely horse farm up in Maryland, but we had to put down three horses, 2 dogs and a cat in the 22 years we were there. The three horses were in the last 5 years we were there. Dale was ready to retire from the consulting business he’d started 30 years earlier, but we both knew he’d never quit if we stayed in Maryland. We had friends who had moved to New Bern, which made the area even more enticing. We’ve loved it ever since we moved here in December of 2010. Of course, not having to deal with blizzards also made this area more inviting.
Sherri: You’re very active in the local writing community, just like organizing this event. What groups do you belong and what else do you do?
Sarah: I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, HTTPS://SCBWI.org; North Carolina Writers Network, HTTPS://NCWN.org; Carteret Writers, which I was the president from 2012 to 2014, HTTPS://CarteretWriters.org; HTTPS://PamlicoWritersGroup.com, and locally, I belong to 3 critiques groups: Seascribes, where I work on my Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, plus short stories, etc; Kitchen on Trent critique group where I concentrate on short stories and my first ever “grown-ups” novel; and Bogue Group, which is my children’s’ books/stories critique group. Because of COVID, I’ve become fairly proficient on running the groups via Zoom. When I’m not writing, I try to do “retired persons” kinds of stuff like going out to lunch and having my weekly manicure. I read a lot and play some computer games, and I ride my tricycle which I named Gertrude. By the way, Veronica Krug, who is also going to be at the Authors’ Sunday event, is a member of Seascribes as well.
Sherri: Oh, my word, you’re as busy as I am.
On your blog you mentioned you review books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (www.CLCD.com), what is the CLCD and how did you get involved in this?
Sarah: CLCD was founded early in this century to review children’s books for various publishing houses and sending the reviews to libraries and schools. I started reviewing for the company in 2006. At the beginning the books had to be traditionally published, but nowadays self-published/indie books are being considered. I got a 5-star review through the organization for my novel Earthquakes. I did a happy dance then. It’s a very good way to learn what is accepted by publishers and what book buyers are looking for.
Sherri: You’re a horsewoman, is that correct? You mention on your blog that you and the handsome devil had a small horse farm in Maryland. Was your book Emily’s Ride to Courage inspired by true events? https://books2read.com/u/mvX0D2
Sarah: I wrote Emily’s Ride to Courage because we had to put a 9-year-old horse down. That’s very young and he was a sweet horse. Putting any animals down is sad, but horses are big and don’t necessarily go down easily. So, I’m in the house grieving and Grandpa’s voice pipes up in my saying, “Won’t have me no white-hoofed horse. White hooves is weak.” I said to him: “I don’t write for grown-ups, Grandpa,” and made-up Emily. The horse had to be a blood bay because the handsome devil always wanted a bay and we never had one.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you first decide to publish?
Sarah: I come from a long line of writers/readers and started telling stories when I was not even a teenager. My career jobs all had to do with writing one way or another, but I didn’t actively try to get published until I was in my late 60s. My first successes were with magazine like Country, Country Extra and also their cookbooks, and the “Fun For Kids” magazines.
Sherri: Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Sarah: I eventually went the self-publishing route because I’m too old to wait around for traditional publishing to publish my books. Emily’s Ride to Courage was the first novel I finished but the second one I published. I sent to Dutton first because I had friendship with one of publishers there. He liked it so well he sent up through all the editors there and they sent it to the marketers who said, “Good book, but we already have a horse book series in the works.” Now if you’re going to get a rejection, that’s not a bad way to get one, so I sent it to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there said, “I like the story line and I like your writing, but I’m not connecting with Emily.” I rewrote it in first person and again it went all the way up to the marketers who rejected it because they already had a horse book in the works. Sigh. But at least I knew I had a good story on my hand. Then I wrote the book I published first, Terror’s Identity, which is, at the moment, only available as an e-book through Amazon. Then I published Emily and now I’ve published Earthquakes.
Sherri: I was reading the information for your first novel, Terror’s Identity, it sounds like an interesting read. I had hoped to get a print copy when we meet for our Authors’ Sunday, but I’ll have to settle for eBook. Tell us how you came up with this idea for this book, your research and any other details you’d like to share.
Sarah: Terror came to me after 9-11 when people were being so nasty to any Muslim they come across. So, I wrote the story to make the point that not all Muslims are terrorists. I was very lucky to a have Secret Service agent living behind us and he was quite helpful in learning the way they run things. I wanted the main character to have a lot changes in his life, so I started him in Lake Forest, Illinois, because it’s quite ritzy, and then sent him to Dundalk, Maryland, which most decidedly not ritzy.
Terror’s Identity, Sixteen-year old Aidan Knox’s life turns upside down when he, his sister and his mother enter a witness protection program and begin a dangerous new life because of his father’s work investigating a terrorist organization operating in the U.S. How will he remember the details of his new life with a new name and a made-up past? And will he be able to settle into a new school and all that entails? Whom can he trust, and can he keep his mother and sister safe?
Published January 2016 and is for sale as an e-book through Amazon Books https://books2read.com/u/mqXQAZ
Sherri: It takes a lot to be a published author these days, especially having to wear all of the hats from writer, editor, formatter, publisher, marketer, and promoter. What is your key to keeping your sanity in this business?
Sarah: What? Me sane? I’m glad I have a lot of computer savvy friends who are willing to enlighten me. I also use publishing houses like Sable, Amazon and Jera because they will do a final edit for me. Of those, I liked Sable and Jera. Amazon is quite fond of squeezing as many nickels and dimes out of you as they possibly can. Sable doesn’t have the marketing arm that the last publisher I used has. Jera has connection with IngramSparks/LightningSource which has a page in national/international publishing magazines.
Sherri: I have to ask, what is the weirdest pet you’ve ever owned. We had ferrets and they were unique and stinky, but they had funny personalities. We had a dog we nick-named Houndini because he wouldn’t stay in a pen or on a lead. He got out of his collar, a harness, and even escaped from the local pound when he was picked up for not having his collar.
Sarah: A quirky animal we had was my dressage horse that I had trained from the time he was 4 months old. But he was lots of fun to ride and ended up his life as a therapeutic riding horse. You should have a photo of him there. I took our Tennessee Walking Horse, Rippy, to a clinic one time because I didn’t know much about the breed and what to do with it. Everybody fell in love with him. Turns out you can do just about anything you want to with them, especially jumping. Our dogs were always characters and loving, including our last dog who was a spectacular bird hunting German Shorthaired Pointer named Jake. Now we have a calico cat named Pandie because she was born in August of 2020. Guess why she’s named Pandie.
Sherri: I love World War 2 stories. Your story, Earthquakes sounds like a thriller. Do you like scary stories? Have you ever been in an earthquake?
Sarah: I hate earthquakes. They scare the livin’ bejeezus out of me, but I do like scary stories. I wrote this one in part because it has elements of my mother’s life and my life because I was born in May of 1941. My mother graduated from M.I.T in 1934 with a degree in Physical Chemistry, and then married my father whom she had met through her brother Bill at West Point. After Daddy was shipped to the Philippines the day after I was born, we moved from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Los Angeles, California. When war broke out my mother went to work for Lockheed and became their first female Tool & Dye designer. She became a “Rosie the Riveter” and was used in all kinds of roles to promote the “War Effort.” After the war she was fired for no other reason than she was a woman taking a man’s job. She was told the men would need to support their families and she should go back to being a housewife. Her question was, “I’m a widow with four children to raise. Who’s going to support us?” Fortunately, she had friends in the Washington, DC area who were instrumental in getting the Cancer Chemotherapy project started at the National Institutes of Health. So, off the Maryland we went. That’s the state I consider my home state.
It’s hard enough dealing with the effects of World War II sending his father and grandfather to the Pacific theater, but now seventeen-year-old Jonathon Thomas has to deal with real and imaginary earthquakes. To make matters worse his school principal has warned him and his schoolmates of potential spies in the neighborhood. How’s he supposed to recognize a spy? And why are his neighbors being murdered? And why are people sneaking into his house to search for something? The only comfort Jonathon finds is when he talks with his girlfriend, Jennifer Murphy. What’s he going to do when he’s banned from leaving his home? Will his recurring nightmare of being swallowed up when an earthquake splits the ground open under his feet turn into reality?
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Maury Swan join us at the New Bern Famers Market, Sunday, November 20th 1-4 pm for Authors’ Sunday with 35 local authors.
Emily’s Ride to Courage, https://www.amazon.com/Emilys-Ride-Courage-Sarah-Maury
The Rosie the Riveter photo is in Earthquakes and is a photo of my mother doing a Rosie the Riveter event. The photo of me riding my horse is for Emily’s Ride to Courage.
Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity, Emily’s Ride to Courage, and Earthquakes: https://sarahmauryswanlovesbooks.com