I’m delighted to host Sandra Masters, author of the Duke series, published by Wild Rose Press. Sandra has had a fascinating and varied career working as an editor, a life coach, and a vice president for a broadcasting company. Throughout Sandra’s life, writing has played an important role; before she wrote the recently released Once Upon A Duke, she had written twelve novels! Her love of writing is so infectious, she will make you fall in love with romance writing all over again.
How long have you wanted to be a romance writer? When did you decide to write a book?
I’ve been writing romance since the age of thirteen. I wrote my first novel book for my high school English teacher a year or two after.
What inspired you to write this story?
Once Upon A Duke started out with a different title and was written about eight years ago. Previous to this, I wrote about twelve novels for the pure joy of writing. Didn’t take lessons, attend seminars, conferences, network, critique groups, etc. This story HAD to be told. Have loved the Regency genre all these decades and in particular, I came away with the realization that women in the 1800’s (and before) were treated no better than chattel, a prize horse, or cow—not to mention that aristocratic men needed a breeder. No, it wasn’t right. So my heroine is bright, articulate, strong willed and knows what she wants. A victim of a sadistic husband, she was fortunate when he was killed in a duel by an irate husband. She retreats into her art for comfort and healing. Quite accidentally, on her brother’s estate, she meets the Duke of Sutton, an acknowledged and professes rake. The attraction sizzles, but she does not succumb to his advances in the beginning, afraid of what a man could do to abuse. Over the years, this first book in the Duke series had many reiterations. About four years ago, I decided I wanted to get published before I left the planet and so I joined writing groups, in particular the Yosemite Romance Writers’ chapter of RWA in Fresno, California. I was amazed at their generosity of spirit and their encouragement. We attended conferences, took online classes, had fabulous romance presenters at our monthly meetings, and contests on writing one liners, beginning hooks, ending hooks. In particular, the presentation by Bonnie Hearn Hill and her craft book DIGITAL INK, opened my eyes wide. I studied it religiously and it resounded with me. I do credit her and the book for guiding my way to publication.
Describe your process for writing this particular book.
I have always been a prolific writer, and in retirement I sat BIC (butt in chair) and just wrote. I’m a plotster so the dreaded synopsis was my outline for my story, my characters, my settings, my romance. I believe in fairy tales. So I wrote and wrote and wrote. Brought it to my critique partners and we did just that.
How long did it take to complete?
Once I got serious about honing my craft, it took less than six months. Then came the polishing. Then it rested. I read it out loud (to my dogs) and completed the final edit. This was the first book I wanted to submit to a publisher.
How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
Of course, life got in the way. Married, had two wonderful sons, got divorced, had a high powered career, but always I traveled with a pad and pen. I have volume upon volume of ringed binders at the base of my closet with ideas, stories, phrases, words, marvelous words, sad words, and then back to just words again. When I dedicated my heart and soul to getting published and doing the right things, events started to happen.
Who gave you feedback as you worked through writing the book?
I mentioned my critique group, writer friends, networked, got excited, I could do this.! when I decided to actually submit, I had my market defined and submitted to three small press publishers.
What kept you going through the process?
The first rejection was from an editor who took the time to advise me what I had to do; where the story was deficient; where the craft was lacking, and she directed me to websites that could be helpful. Wow, for a first rejection, if one can be happy about such an event, it emboldened me. The second publisher, The Wild Rose Press, rejected me too, but again it was so uplifting, and I worked my proverbial off to improve the writing. It was a two-page rejection which specifically cited some plot weaknesses, setting difficulty, etc. My content editor was Cindy Davis, and I owe an awful lot to her. Completely re-edited and re polished the novel, and I remember e-mailing her and saying, “The third time is a charm. This is very much different. Please take another look.” She did. She replied with the words, “Want a contract?”
How many submissions did you send out?
Three, but I had a list of other publishers I was going to submit my novel to, but I developed a rapport with my content editor. She pulled no punches, but I saw what had to be done.
Did you work with an agent?
No, didn’t need to. I’m currently on my fourth book in the Duke Series. The fifth book needs a new look over. The sixth book is partially complete.
What happened between hearing your yes and getting the book to print?
Edits. More Edits. Final edits. Deciding on the cover. If they asked for something, they got it the next day. So my path to publication went quickly. Above all, I was humble. I did not argue. They gave me leeway and again, if they requested or suggested a change, if I thought they were right, it happened right away.
What has surprised you most about this process?
It went quickly. Then my editor told me to start writing the second book, etc.
What would you change if you could?
Would have gotten serious about honing my craft 25 years ago. Would have surrounded myself with other writers. That’s where the motivation and drive came into play. If they could do it, so could I. Birds of a feather, etc.
Serena, an artist and widow, has no desire for another husband. When she meets Geoffrey Austen, attraction sizzles to a scorch. Stolen days and nights ignite forbidden passion. Geoffrey asks Serena to become his mistress, but she wants commitment, love and marriage, not an affair with a notorious rake.
Geoffrey realizes Serena might be the one woman who can care for his tortured soul, and maybe release his demons. The magic they shared is shattered when he learns she’s been forced into betrothal with another and held captive. He vows to save her even at the cost of his own life.
Will Geoffrey’s gallantry prove he truly loves Serena?
If he survives, will Serena surrender all to him?
Retired executive, Sandra Masters, rose from a humble beginning in Newark, NJ, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the board rooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, she has always traveled with pen and notebook. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few miles left. She left her corporate world behind and never looked back.
Nothing she expected, but everything she dreamed.
MY DIVINELY DECADENT DUKE Release date, January 29, 2016.
THORN, SON OF A DUKE Release date March 9, 2016