Nancy Sartor Shares Her Journey From Reader to Writer

I’m thrilled to host romantic suspense author Nancy Sartor! In this interview, she shares her journey from romance reader to writer, made possible with the help of a loving husband and an encouraging editor. Just wait until you find out how her story idea came to her!

How long have you wanted to be a romance writer? When did you decide to write a book?

My love for romances began with the legendary Kathleen Woodiwiss’s THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER. I devoured everything she wrote and then began to search out other writers whose stories lifted me above the everyday life of an unhappy wife with two small children. Frankly, it never once occurred to me in those days that I could write a publishable novel. After a divorce, I put my energies into raising my children. When they were nearly grown, I met the love of my life and married him. He, a nationally-recognized composer of classical music, spent a lot of time writing music. He admired the things I had written and encouraged me to take my writing seriously. That’s when I decided I might be able to write a novel.

What inspired you to write this story?

Spooky as this sounds, it is the absolute truth. I woke around 3 a.m. one morning. On my way to the bathroom, a voice whispered in my ear, “My name is Neva and I fix the faces of the dead.” I closed the door so as not to disturb my sleeping husband and whispered, “Cool. What *else* do you do?” That was the beginning of BONES ALONG THE HILL. Of course, what I had at that point was a character and her vocation—an unusual vocation, to be sure, but that left approximately 82,000 words to be developed, not to mention several characters and, oh yeah, a plot.

Describe your process for writing this particular book.

I’m not sure I thought of it in terms formal enough to be called a “process.” I wrote huge volumes of text, left it to simmer, then rewrote it, handed it off to critique partners, blushed and rewrote, sent it to agents, blushed and rewrote. Meanwhile I was devouring everything I could find on how to write, taking classes with RWA and Donald Maass and sitting in rapt attention at the feet of published authors.

How long did it take to complete?

Five years, more or less.

Was this the first book you had written?

No. I had five other novels on the shelf when this one came to me. Several of them had garnered nice words from agents/editors. The first book I ever wrote snagged an agent, but it never sold.

Do you work on simultaneous projects?

No. I can’t keep more than one set of characters in my mind at any one time.

What was the rest of your life like while writing the book? 

I was a manager for a large government office, had a house and two acres of land to help keep up.

How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?

As mentioned above, my husband puts quite a bit of time into his composing, so finding time to write was a fairly simple matter except when my day job interfered—and it often did.

Were you involved in a writer’s group?

Yes. Two. The Quill and Dagger group here in Nashville was comprised of a published writer and several extremely talented not quite published yet writers. At this point, three more of our writers including myself have been published. I also worked with two talented writers online, both of whom have now been published.

Who gave you feedback as you worked through writing the book?

The aforementioned writer’s group. I also attended conferences during the writing process and gained insight from agents and editors.

What kept you going through the process?

Honestly, my husband’s unwavering belief I was an excellent writer who could publish if I would only take the time and trouble to send the manuscript out to editors and agents.

Did you have a market in mind when you started writing the book?

Not really. BONES is an extremely tense romantic suspense. So tense my editor couldn’t read it after dark. I wasn’t sure it would work as a romance.

How many submissions did you send out?

Five billion, three hundred million, four hundred thousand and twelve. Actually, I have no idea. A *lot*.    {Lol :)}

What did you do when you got the go-ahead?

I’d queried two publishers. One of them asked for the first fifty, then requested the rest of the manuscript, giving me hope that they would publish it. They ultimately rejected it. Two weeks later, I saw an email from the other publisher. Thinking it was also a rejection, I opened it without much hope. “Nancy, we love this novel. We would like to publish it,” wrote my editor. I’d been positive the day I received an acceptance, I would do the over eighteen-year-old person’s version of a cartwheel. In fact, I sat in my chair, staring at the email for a couple of hours. My husband was outside working in the yard. When he came in, I said, “I’ve got an offer for publication.” No cartwheels, no cheers. I was absolutely gobsmacked.

Who’s the first person you called?

Well, this is the age of social media. When I had signed the contract, I posted the good news on Facebook and thus informed everyone including my family.

What happened between hearing your yes and getting the book to print?

That was a most satisfying process. My editor is a lovely woman who believes in her writers. She said when we first began the edits that there wouldn’t be many. The novel was really pretty clean (for which I credit all those great critique partners). We spent about a month swapping edits back and forth. She asked for suggestions on the cover and I offered a few. They did not use any of my suggestions, but the cover they did design is elegant and lovely.

What has surprised you most about this process?

What a complete joy it was to work with my editor. I’d heard horror stories from other writers and was prepared to see my novel ripped apart and reassembled, had more than one conversation with myself about the difference between cooperation and capitulation. But I never once felt pushed or disrespected as I worked with this editor. Far from it.

What would you change if you could?

I would send the book out to editors/ agents sooner and keep sending until somebody offered publication.  {Great advice!}

Bones Along the Hill_coverSmall

Neva is a funeral facial reconstructionist whose legendary skill at making the dead look alive has earned her the title of best in the nation. But her talent cannot bring back Gray Ledbetter her first love, who inexplicably took his own life ten years ago. Neva’s new love interest, hunky architect Davis Pratt has his own tragic mystery. He searches for his younger brother, Stephen, who disappeared long ago. Chances are Stephen’s dead, but Davis won’t give up. When their separate searches lead them to the Oakley cemetery and a murder tied to a human trafficking ring, impossible crimes threaten both family and friends, crimes that cannot be ignored. Not even the Nashville PD can keep Neva safe. Can Neva and Davis work together to avoid a looming fate that is absolutely worse than death?


Nancy Sartor is a Nashville born writer, a charter member and current president of Word Spinners Ink, a member of RWA, MWA and SiNC. She is an enthusiastic graduate of Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop, Don Maass’s workshop on micro tension and the Writer’s Police Academy.

She lives in Rural Hill, Tennessee, just east of Nashville with her husband, classical composer, David Sartor, and two Maine Coon cats, Ginger (yes, that Ginger) and Autumn Fire, a kitten who does funny kitten things.


6 thoughts on “Nancy Sartor Shares Her Journey From Reader to Writer

  1. I love hearing about your journey, Nancy, and it gives me hope that it’s not always luck, but perseverance that makes a writer’s success happen. My ideas come to me much as yours did—in the middle of the night. They say that’s the time when ideas surface from the subconscious that we can’t access while we’re awake. I’m a firm believer. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with Bones Along the Hill!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s