Finding My Voice: Sarah Mayberry
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I used to “borrow” paper from kindergarten, fold it in half and staple it down the spine, then fill the pages with words and illustrations. (My Mum’s favorite is the one where a bowl of fruit – illustrated with eyes, mouths, arms and legs, naturally – go to Hollywood. Yes, the banana is wearing sunglasses. No, I don’t have a scan, sorry!)
I studied Professional Writing and Literature, graduated, and then had no idea what kind of writer I wanted to be. I suspected it was probably going to be Romance because that was what I ADORED reading, but I really wasn’t sure. I wrote a few Regency romances (boy, did they suck), and a few boss-and-secretary type romances. All of them were rejected by Mills and Boon Harlequin, the only publisher on my radar. I put the publishing dream aside for a while and concentrated on journalism.
Then I read Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You. This book was a revelation to me. The characters were funny, and instead of the hero being arrogant and supercilious, he was human and charming and sexy… The heroine was so smart and vulnerable and relatable. I finished that book and can remember thinking “I want to write like this.”
The next time I sat down to write a book, I put more of myself into it, instead of the things I thought a romance novel “should” have, like private planes and penthouse offices and a hero with a sports car (I’m joking, but only a little. Until then, I’d really struggled to see past the trappings of the high-octane romances I loved reading). I worked hard to make my characters feel human and like people I knew, instead of like the people I didn’t know (millionaires, for eg).
I discovered I really loved writing heroines with a bit of attitude, and that I really enjoyed making my heroes sexy and strong, but also – sometimes – baffled and angry and wounded. At that same time, I was also working as a story liner at “Neighbours”, and plotting a long term, slow burn romance between two of the characters helped me understand where I’d been going wrong with my plotting, as well as my characterizations and the style of story I was trying to tell.
It all came together. This time, when I sent the finished manuscript off to Harlequin Mills and Boon, I had this feeling in my gut that after all my failed attempts, this one had a chance. It still took a year to hear back, but when I did, the news was “we like it!”. That book became Can’t Get Enough, my first Blaze. I have now written more than 35 books, and I hope to write many, many more. And I definitely know what type of writer I am – a Romance Writer, and proud of it!
About the Author:
Sarah Mayberry was born in Melbourne, Australia, and is the middle of three children. From the time that she first “stole” paper from kindergarten and stapled it together to make “books,” Sarah has always wanted to be a writer. In line with this ambition, on graduation from high school she completed a bachelor of arts degree majoring in professional writing, then sat down to write a book. When inspiration didn’t strike, she began to wonder if, perhaps, she needed to live some life first before writing about it.
This still left the burning question of how to pay the rent. She found her way into trade journalism, working off the principle that it was better to write anything for a living than nothing at all. Her time there lead to the opportunity to launch a new decorator magazine for one of Australia’s major retailers, an invaluable and grueling experience that she found very rewarding.
But the opportunity to write fiction for a living soon lured Sarah away. She took up a post as storyliner on Australia’s longest running soap, Neighbours. Over two years she helped plot more than 240 hours of television, as well as writing freelance scripts. She remembers her time with the show very fondly — especially the dirty jokes and laughter around the story table — and still writes scripts on a freelance basis. In 2003 she relocated to New Zealand for her partner’s work. There Sarah served as storyliner and story editor on the country’s top-rating drama, Shortland Street, before quitting to pursue writing full time.
Sarah picked up a love of romance novels from both her grandmothers, and has submitted manuscripts to Harlequin many times over the years. She credits the invaluable story structuring experience she learned on Neighbours as the key to her eventual success — along with the patience of her fantastic editor, Wanda.
Sarah is revoltingly happy with her partner of twelve years, Chris, who is a talented scriptwriter. Not only does he offer fantastic advice and solutions to writing problems, but he’s also handsome, funny and sexy. When she’s not gushing over him, she loves to read romance and fantasy novels, go to the movies, sew and cook for her friends. She has also become a recent convert to Pilates, which she knows she should do more often.