Kicking off a new season of author interviews, I’m delighted to welcome my dear friend and critique partner, Sharla Rae.
About the author: Sharla Rae and her husband live in California. She is a multi-published historical romance author whose first solo effort, Song of the Willow, was nominated for best first historical by Romantic Times Magazine. Sharla is also one of the original founders of Writers in the Storm, named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2014 by Writer’s Digest. Currently, she is preparing to publish How To Fell A Timberman, book one in her new historical series.
Welcome Sharla! To begin, please tell us how you began writing.
Lyn, I was reading romances like some people eat potato chips. One night hubby glanced over from his Time Magazine and said, “You’ve read so many of those $%#@ things, you could write one yourself.” I’d dreamed of doing just that but never dared. His words were a challenge I couldn’t resist and I soon discovered I loved writing.
LOL I’m glad you parlayed your addiction to romances into writing them. What’s your best time of day to write? On average, how many hours a day do you write?
My fav times to write are first thing in the morning when I’m fresh or very late at night when the world is quiet and I can immerse myself in my book’s world. I write at least four hours a days unless I’m on deadline and then it’s more like 12 to 14 hours, utilizing those quiet midnight hours.
Where is your favorite place to write?
In my office. It’s quiet and hubby knows not to bother me when I’m in there. That said, we’re moving soon and there’s a lovely patio with an ocean view so I can totally see myself out there working. We’ll see, I guess.
An ocean view sounds lovely. Do you ever wear your PJs or nightgown all day while writing?
Once in a great while I’ll get caught in my PJs all day but not often. If I’m up to it, I like to exercise in the mornings so that means a shower afterward and of course getting dressed for the day. Starting with the exercise gets the blood flowing to my brain and I think I actually write better.
Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you choose it?
I use Pen names for privacy’s sake. My first book was co-authored. The pen name was a combination of my name and my writing partner’s name. When I went solo, I wrote as Charlotte McPherren at my publisher’s suggestion. Just try writing Charlotte McPherren over and over at a book signing and you’ll know why these days I’m going with Sharla Rae. Rae is my middle name.
Are your books published by a large publishing house or a small press? Are you self-published?
I was originally published by Avon and then Leisure books. That was some years ago. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the idea of e-publishing – so much freedom! And for an introvert who develops a bad case of stage fright when she pitches, e-publishing is a gift from heaven. I also honestly believe e-publishing is here to stay and is the way to the future. Let me add that I will soon be e-published.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
This is any easy one to answer: Definitely a pantser. It’s just plain more fun. I read because I enjoy the adventure so writing has to be the same, an adventure.
How do you develop your plots and your characters?
It’s all about the characters for me. They just sort of pop into my head. I decide who they are, what they like and dislike, goals etc. Then I throw them into a situation that is the worst thing I can think of for their situation. I think a lot of writers do that. Again, it makes the writing fun.
How and where do you research for your books?
I have a relatively large personal library. I love everyday-life books, especially. So most of my research comes from my own collection. These days if I don’t have a book to answer a question, I turn to the Internet. Trouble is, anyone can say anything on the Internet. If I can’t verify the info on at least three different sites I won’t use it. I also find historical societies great founts of info.
Does your significant other and/or family support your writing career?
I can’t say hubby always understands my process and my need to be so solitary at time. He’s a scientist and businessman so he supports by going out of his way to make sure I have a nice office, a computer and all the other tools I need. And I discovered that while he might not say much to me about my writing, he actually brags to others.
Are your books professionally edited?
Yes. I’ve read my own book a zillion times so the tendency is to read into it what I “know” is supposed to be there. Having a set of new eyes seems the smart thing to do.
How do you unwind and relax when not writing?
Hubby loves to travel and of course I go with him. But when we’re not traveling, I dress like a hag and veg out in front of a fav TV show or I cuddle up in a big chair with a great book. I’m a boring homebody.
Do you belong to any social/community groups? What charities do you support?
I’m getting ready to move, so no community groups right now. I do belong to 4 RWA chapters and three or four non-RWA writing groups.
My husband and I lost our son to cancer a little over a year ago so we support the cancer research groups.
What a terrible loss for you both. I know how much you miss your son. I, too, support cancer research.
In closing, what advice would you give beginning writers?
Learn to take criticism good and bad because there’s something to be learned from both. Never stop learning and growing as a writer and be gracious along the way.
Excellent advice, Shar! Now, I know you have a new website with a beautiful banner featuring a majestic mountain scene. And, I also happen to know you snapped that photo. Yes, folks, she’s a terrific photographer as well as a writer. Don’t you agree?
To tempt your reading taste buds, here’s a sample of Sharla’s upcoming release.
Fleeing scandal, Texas schoolmarm, Noelle Bridger takes a job in Washington Territory. There she discovers yet another man has duped her. She’s to teach in a place called Whiskey Spit and her students are a bunch of brawling and profane loggers.
Vidar Bjornson, son of a Norwegian immigrant, is Noelle’s new boss and he isn’t any happier with Noelle than she is with him. He’d expected a plain middle-aged woman. Instead, the gorgeous Texan is already arousing jealousy among his men.
Bawdy loggers, bad men and lots of fun ensue as Noelle teaches Vidar the error of his ways and the mighty timberbeast is felled by the love of a good woman.
“My goodness,” Noelle gasped, “you weren’t exaggerating. There are so many men.” She was about to ask where their wives and children were when the steamer sidled up alongside the wharf with a jarring thump.
Sailors set to work securing the mail packet amidst the loud crowd of grinning lumbermen gaping up at her. A motlier bunch she’d never seen. All wore plaid shirts of various colors, stained canvas britches held up with suspenders and sturdy, high-top boots. With their hulking builds, shaggy hair and thick, untrimmed beards, they resembled grizzly bears more than men.
“Men, this is the teacher, Miss Noelle Bridger.”
Wolf howls split the air, barely eclipsing the thunder of stomping boots.
Reminding herself that Texas cowboys were just as boisterous, Noelle forced a nervous smile. Still, the uneasy feeling she’d experienced earlier returned twofold. “Mr. Gjerset, where are the –”
“Out of my way!”
Two men with arms like tree trunks stood on the gangplank elbowing each other. One grinned up at her, displaying a gold front tooth. The other man grabbed Gold Tooth’s arm and yanked him backward, almost dumping the man into the Canal.
“Where do you think your goin’, you damn Frenchie?”
“I escort ze teacher,” Gold Tooth growled in the other man’s face. “Leave off me!”
“Like hell! I’m escortin’ the lady.”
Gold Tooth threw a punch and in another moment, both men tumbled into the water, still slugging. The rest of the men shouted and wagered on the outcome. Then another brawl broke out. Two more men splashed into the drink. Somebody yelled, “Fly at it,” and they all hurled punches.
Whoops, hollers, and obscenities burned Noelle’s ears. She stared aghast, her entire body trembling at the sickening sounds of flesh pounding flesh. She told herself it wasn’t fear that gripped her as much as anger. She had more reason than most to abhor senseless violence.
“Mister Gjerset, do something!”
“Aa jo!” Gjerset exclaimed over the clamor. “Our bull of the woods is coming. The boss does not look happy.”
Noelle followed Gjerset’s gaze and spotted a long-legged giant charging down the spit. He must be Vidar Bjornson, she thought. Surely, he’d stop this senseless riot.
Bjornson cannoned into the boiling mass of bodies. She lost track of him but figured he’d start ordering the men to desist at any moment. Instead, another logger joined the others thrashing around in the green sea. A few feet closer to the gangplank, two more sailed off the pier. Bjornson was not putting an end to the heathenish row. He was slugging his way through it!
He punched, butted heads, and kicked backsides, clearing a path to the gangplank. When he finally reached it, Noelle got a better glimpse of Whiskey Spit’s pillar of the community.
Her breath caught.
Bjornson, was the epitome of a massive Viking raider gone berserk. His long nose bore a slight deviation at the bridge, as if once broken. Beneath it, a thick mustache flowed into a shaggy beard. A tawny lion’s mane scuffed his broad shoulders around a bull-like neck.
He mounted the gangplank, his torn shirtsleeve exposing a bulging bicep. Noelle noted the angry set of his features and retreated a few shaky steps.
…Without a glance in her direction, he glared below at the brawling men, fixed his fists on his narrow hips and bellowed, “Fun is over, boys.” Amazingly, the fighting ceased almost as quickly as it had begun. “This is no way to greet a lady. Get back to work. Daylight’s wasting in the swamp.”
Grumbling lumbermen sporting bloody noses, swollen eyes, and split lips splashed ashore. The rest tromped off the wharf with good-humored slaps on each other’s backs.
Standing a mere two feet from Noelle, Bjornson shifted and glared at her with startling ice-blue eyes. His gaze journeyed slowly down her body, then up again in rude perusal. A tremor of alarm gripped her gut, but she stood her ground and returned his impertinence in kind.
Up close, he seemed as lofty and strong as the mighty trees he logged. And twice as intimidating. Noelle pressed a hand to her stomach in an attempt to calm the squall erupting there.
His gaze followed her hand to her stomach, then ambled upwards again, pausing at her breasts before meeting her gaze. “Freya’s tits! You’re Noelle Bridger?” he bellowed.
Noelle gasped in outrage. She didn’t know who Freya was, but crude was crude, and she refused to be bullied by this . . . tree trunk. Squaring her shoulders, she stared him in the eye. “Yes, I’m Miss Bridger, and I’d like to know –”
“You are not what I expected.”
“This place isn’t what I expected,” she shot back. Her “new beginning” no longer looked so promising.
Vidar stared at the angry young woman, unable to believe his eyes. He cast a quick, questioning look at Ole, but his cousin merely lifted his shoulders in a bewildered shrug.
Damn. His specific needs demanded he hire a female teacher rather than a male, but he’d asked his brothers to find a plain, old-maid schoolmarm who wouldn’t stir up trouble among his men. One who wouldn’t faint at the sight of scruffy loggers.
After months of waiting, Vidar had almost given up hope. Then Garth’s telegram arrived, insisting he’d found the perfect woman. Ha! His brother was either blind or this was another one of his famous practical jokes. …
Instead of the sallow skin of a prune-faced old maid, Noelle Bridger’s creamy flesh blushed with youth. Her big eyes, the color of moss on the forest floor, tilted up at the corners with thick, brown lashes. Hair the color of polished oak was swept from her heart-shaped face into a neat braided bun at her nape.
Likewise, she was no dried up twig or a lumpy matron. Her parted cloak revealed a slender figure with a generous bosom, a trim waist, and hips that flared into gentle curves.Trouble. That’s what a pretty woman was. The men were already fighting, and she hadn’t even set foot off the steamer. He should send her packing before they killed each other. Unfortunately, time had run out.
He sighed in disgust. Well, at least she was female and so far, she hadn’t fainted.
The teacher’s slow southern drawl evoked visions of wild sex on a fur rug in his cozy fire-lit cabin. But Vidar didn’t miss the angry spark in her pretty eyes. The schoolmarm was building up a good head of steam. If he meant to keep her in Whiskey Spit — and like it or not, she must stay — he’d have to do some fancy talking.
He combed his fingers through his beard and offered a well-practiced grin, one that charmed every female he aimed it at. “I hope my men didn’t scare you, Miss Bridger. They’re rough around the edges, but they mean well. Come. You must be anxious to see your cabin, and you’ll want to rest before dinner.”
“No. That is, I want to –”
Ignoring her half-formed protest, he captured her arm and hauled her down the gangplank.
Noelle gritted her teeth at Bjornson’s high-handedness, but didn’t dare fight him on the wobbly plank, for fear of falling into the cold waves below. Once safely on the wharf, however, she planted her feet and wrestled free of his hold. Just as she opened her mouth to give him what for, she spied Gjerset directing the sailors to unload her trunks.
“Y’all can leave those, right there!” she called up to them.
His face coated with impatience, Bjornson jerked his thumb toward the lumber camp, signaling the sailors to proceed. “The Excelsior has a schedule to keep. Take them to her cabin.”
“Just a darn minute.” Noelle fumed, clenching her hands at her sides. “Something isn’t right here. Before I take another step, I want some answers.”
Seeming impervious to the chili sea breeze, the hulking logger, stood hip-shot and crossed his thick arms over his chest. “Just what is it that you think ‘isn’t right here?’”
“Plenty. I thought I was hired to teach in Seabeck. Then I find out that’s not true. I’m to teach in a place with the ridiculous name of Whiskey Spit. Fine, I told myself — a simple misunderstanding. Then I arrive at this . . . this wart of a town, and I’m greeted by a bunch of brawling hooligans. I might be willing to overlook them, but I demand to know where all the women are. And where are the children, my students?”
He quirked a tawny eyebrow and his mouth twitched. “Hmm. Students.”
Noelle heaved an impatient sigh. “Mister Bjornson!”
“The men what?” she asked.
“The men are your students.”
FIND SHARLA ON THESE SITES