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Sarah, I understand you’re not only a writer but also a veterinarian. Has your work with animals influenced your writing?
Oh! That’s an excellent question! I do enjoy including animals in my stories because they are so much a part of my own life. But I also think that as a veterinarian I experience life in a microcosm almost every day. The joy of someone bringing in a new puppy or kitten, the anxiety of someone with a sick pet, who perhaps also doesn’t have enough money to find out what’s wrong, helping clients make some of the hardest decisions they will ever face in their lives. All of those stressors and emotions get bound up and saved for later—I find writing very cathartic. I also find it helps having a medical background when writing trauma scenes!
When did you first begin writing, and what inspired you?
I began writing stories when I was quite young and continued writing all the way through high school. Mostly self-insert Mary Sue adventures for my own pleasure. When I reached college, however, I got this idea that I needed to put away all childish things, and I completely shut the door on my creative side. I concentrated exclusively on my career. About six years ago, I was introduced to a favorite television show. I fell in love, discovered online fanfiction for the first time, and realized that those stories I’d written when I was in high school didn’t make me weird at all—that lots of people wrote about their favorite characters! Over the course of five years, I wrote more than seventy fanfic stories. On a whim, I submitted an original story to a publisher, and the next thing I knew, I was an author. I’d always been a writer, though.
What books have most influenced your life?
What books have most influenced your life?
That’s an interesting distinction from ‘what are your favorite books?’ Because there are some books I love and will re-read again and again, but they don’t influence my writing at all. Certainly not stylistically. I am influenced by the depiction of relationships in stories, however, and in fact, am working on a blog post I’m calling ‘Bicker vs Banter’. I look for healthy relationships in stories, so I am attracted to stories where the main characters meet as equals. It’s one of the reasons I am drawn to M/M romance.
The most influential series of books, however, are the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. The mystery is definitely the reason you read the novels, but the interactions between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane take the novels beyond the simple whodunit and into the territory of commentary about what a real relationship should be. If I had to spend the rest of my life with only one novel to read, it would be Gaudy Night.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading John Scalzi’s Redshirts, which was hysterical and disturbing. I started Aundrea Singer’s Black Hawk Tattoo last night and am already deeply enthralled by her world of tattoo artists and broken fighter pilots.
What do you find the hardest part of the writing process?
Finding the creative energy to write after putting in a ten to twelve hour day at work. Recognizing that all the time spent at the keyboard means I’m not playing with the dog or riding my horse. Writing is just so addictive. It is the only thing I want to do most days, and when the words won’t flow because I’m exhausted and burnt-out, it is very frustrating.
What’s your writing environment like? A quiet, tidy desk; a bustling café; middle of the living with the news on TV?
I write at my kitchen table. I used to sit in a little cubby where I still have the wall decorated with book covers and ‘inspirational’ photographs, but I’ve developed some neck and shoulder issues and it works much better for me to sit looking down at a laptop then to tilt my head back to look at a desktop monitor. I give the dog a big meaty bone, I shut the cats in the bedroom. Because having a German Shepherd chase a cat across your lap when you are deep in the throes of a sex scene kinda interrupts the mindset, if you know what I mean.
I really don’t know how people manage to write at work, or in cafés, or in the middle of the living room with the television on. If I catch the flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye, I’m going to look at it.
Do you ever listen to music while writing? What kind of music do you enjoy, and do your characters enjoy the same music?
I don’t. I can’t. If I do, it becomes incorporated into the story, and since I tend to listen to the same music over and over, that would be a little awkward. I do listen to music and brainstorm while doing other things—like washing the dishes or making the long commute to work. I have several playlists that are awesome for freeing my mind and letting it wander while I do some mindless task. I listen to a little of almost everything except hip hop and rap—I find those rhythms too discordant and jarring. I tend to find music through fandom—through other friends, through fan videos. Because I also sing, I tend to listen to music that I can sing along with—so a lot of female artists like Eva Cassidy, Joan Osborne, and Anna Nallick.
I did write a scene in Crying for the Moon in which everyone in the room had a potential reason to be good at singing—and I had them all singing a song from Les Miserables. It made me ridiculously happy.
Do you have any foods/drinks on hand when writing (coffee, snacks, dinner, bottle of red?)
I recently had to give up all caffeine—I’ve become extremely sensitive to it. My heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket when I have a single 12 ounce can of soda, so no more sipping hot tea while I write. I try not to snack because it slows down the typing! I do sometimes have a glass of Merlot, but I find I get more done when I don’t. These days, I usually just keep a bottle of water handy.
Who are some of your favourite literary characters?
Ah, well, definitely Lord Peter Wimsey. Sherlock Holmes is on the list too, though I think he’s one of those characters that has superseded his creator. The incarnations of Holmes we see today bear little resemblance to the Conan Doyle one, and in many ways, have improved upon the legacy. When I am feeling down and want to cheer myself up, I’ll re-read the Amelia Peabody stories by Elizabeth Peters. I love the Honor Harrington series by David Weber and Paksenarrion from Elizabeth Moon’s The Sheepherder’s Daughter series.
Which of your own characters are your favourite?
Oh dear. I am deeply partial to Rodney, the philosophical gargoyle from Raincheck. I think of him as a combination of Pinocchio and Grumpy Cat. Tate Edwards, from Crying for the Moon, is irrepressibly cheerful, and I have no idea where that came from because I am definitely not!
At the moment, however, my favorite is David McIntyre, from The Boys of Summer. I just love his internal dialog and the way he steps up to the plate and gets the job done, even when it is not in his job description.
And finally, can you share a little of your current work with us (or at least tell us what it’s about)?
Well, The Boys of Summer started off as a little adventure story, only I had this image in my mind of one of the characters as a pilot in the RAF during WW2. In my head, I could picture him leaning against the side of a Spitfire—only my story wasn’t about Britain during the war. I decided to incorporate that image into a dream sequence and began doing the research to get the background details right.
Before I knew it, I’d become deeply involved in the history of the time period, and realized that I couldn’t begin to do justice to the sacrifices these young men made unless I spent more time on the ‘simple’ dream. And it was important to me to capture at least a fraction of the essence of what their lives were like. For some people, this is going to be a jarring departure from the typical will-he-or-won’t-he dance of your average M/M romance. I knew I was taking a risk when I wrote it that way. I just hope readers will take a chance on the story and judge for themselves, rather than shrug and give it a pass. This story means a lot to me, and I hope others will feel the same.
Bio: Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a busy practice, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. When she is not wrestling vaccines into a Rottweiler, or deworming a snake, she can be found at the keyboard, working on her latest novel. Most days, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her when dinner is ready.
You can find her on the web at www.SarahMadisonFiction.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org as she loves hearing from readers!
Thanks for hosting me, Jessica! This was great fun, and these were some great questions!