Indie Support Sunday: Sarah Wallace
This is a great year for debuts and while Sarah has published two novellas, Letters to Half Moon Street is her first full length novel. And having read it, I can confirm that it is a completely unique kind of story. A queer historical romance told entirely through letters, this book blew me away. And it’s made me very excited to see what other kinds of stories Sarah is going to tell with the rest of the series.
Get to know Sarah Wallace better through this interview, including some really interesting reading recommendations, great advice for aspiring authors and teasers on what to look forward to from her for the rest of the year!
What inspired you to write—was it another author or books you read as you grew up?
I was always an avid reader and I come from a family that highly values creativity, so I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little.
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in?
I love the guaranteed HEA of romance. Romance novels are comforting to read and when I started getting back into writing again, I went at it from the direction of: what book do I want to read/do I wish existed? And tried to write that.
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
I ultimately decided to self-publish because I wanted creative freedom. I also liked the idea of being in charge of the timeline a bit more, in terms of when my books would be released.
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
Best part is being able to write whatever I want and never being told I need to compromise for the sake of what someone else thinks is marketable. Worst part is having to wear so many hats at once.
Do you write full time or is this something you do on the side? And would you want to write full time?
I write in my free time, outside of my full time job. I would love to write full time. Being an indie author while working a full time job is tough because as an indie author, you’re basically launching a small business and it’s a lot of work.
Other than writing, what is something you enjoy and are really good at?
I am the designated bartender for my group of friends. I love mixing cocktails and learning about mixology.
If not romance/or subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
I wrote a couple of mystery novellas years ago. I enjoy cosy mysteries a lot and would really like to try my hand at those again. I’m not very good at solving mysteries though so I don’t feel like writing them is my strong suit!
What are some of your all time favourite books—ones that you recommend to people or can reread multiple times?
I have so many favourites. Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, Sorcery & Cecilia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Cotillion by Georgette Heyer, and all of Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse books are among my top favourites. Also, not a romance novel, but The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan was a very formative book for me and one that I return to regularly.
What are your top 5 tips or pieces of advice for aspiring authors?
Write the story you want to read.
The market may be saturated, but there are readers out there who need/want your book.
When it comes to writing, my favourite advice I was given was that plot is what happens when you determine what your character needs and create barriers between the character and the need. This advice has gotten me out of writer’s block many times. (Also keep in mind that there’s a key difference between what a character wants and what they need)
This may not be good advice but I’m going to say it anyway: Everything is difficult right now, so write the story that will be most fun for you. As an indie author, you have the freedom to set your own pace. So if you’re struggling to write the current WIP, or if you are feeling inspired to try a new project, follow the inspiration.
You get to make your own rules. If you’re feeling stuck after following the advice or roadmap from another author, you have the freedom to redraw the map.
Can you tell me about your book(s)?
Letters to Half Moon Street is a queer historical fantasy romance, set in an alternate Regency period in England. The story is about a shy young man who goes to London and inadvertently befriends a dashing gentleman. It’s a slow-burn romance following how he gradually falls in love with his new friend, and has to find the courage to admit it. The overall series will primarily follow the same group of friends/siblings as they form a little found family and meddle in each other’s lives.
Of the books you’ve written, do you have a favourite character?
This is like choosing my favourite child! I cannot! Although I will say that I think Charles Kentworthy is quite sexy (in my humble opinion).
What inspired your published stories? How and when did you come up with these stories and plots?
I came up with the stories by trying to meld two loves—Regency romances like Georgette Heyer’s and queer romance. I wanted a historical romance where the two characters had the freedom to get married at the end, which meant reinventing the world. I think of my stories as escapist queer fiction. I want to write historical romances where characters are openly queer without fear of punishment and where all of the hindrances are the same hindrances that fill cis-het historical romances.
How much of yourself do you put into these characters?
I try to avoid putting myself in my characters. But my characters do often struggle with mental health, partly because I struggle with mental health. So my characters work through anxiety, depression, self esteem/self worth, and trusting their own judgement. Oftentimes when another character will advise the main characters, it’s a way for me to advise myself. It’s very therapeutic!
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
I want readers to feel hopeful, cosy, and comforted.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
I am a huge fan of old movies and I really want to do a historical fantasy series set during the Golden Age of Hollywood. I want to explore how magic would be integrated with technology, which Hollywood icons would have magical power, and how they’d use it. But before I write that one, I want to finish this series and write some sequel series I have in mind for the Victorian era.
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
Letters to Half Moon Street the first in a series. My next book in the series will focus on a new character, but we’ll see plenty of familiar faces. The main character is aromantic, and there isn’t exactly a romance, but her ultimate relationship is a bit of a side plot rather than the primary focus, so I’m not sure I’d call my next book a romance novel. But it will be sapphic and it will end happily. The third book will focus on the love interest of a character you meet in book one.
What are your most and least favourite tropes?
Favourites include fake dating, marriage of convenience, opposites attract, and only one bed. Least favourites include secret baby, love triangles, and anything that hinges on characters lying to each other (I realise fake dating hinges on falsehood but I don’t like when there is lying between the couple). And this isn’t exactly a trope but gambling stresses me out, so anytime gambling or betting is a major plot point, I get very anxious.
What are some tropes you want to write in the future?
I would love to do a marriage of convenience. I have an idea for a story where the characters are caught in a compromising position and must marry. I love that trope. But that idea is way down the line in the series. So we’ll see if it pans out.
What are some topics (sensitive and otherwise) that you think should exist more in romance?
There are different types of representation I’d like to see more of: aspec and arospec in particular. I’d love to see more disability rep, particularly in historical romance. I think abortion is a topic that we should see more in romance. I’m not opposed to stories ending with pregnancy/babies/children, but I wish we had more couples actively choosing to not have children.
What is your favourite thing about the romance genre?
I like the comfort in a guaranteed Happily Ever After. I like the way it allows readers to see characters pursue and find joy, in various forms.