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Sandy Lender Interview

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m Sandy Lender, and I get obsessed with stuff easily. I’m obsessed with writing, obsessed with Nigel Taiman (the main male character in my new fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods), obsessed with Duran Duran, obsessed with sea turtles (I’m a member of the volunteer group Turtle Time and patrol beaches from May 1 through October watching for nesting and hatching activity), obsessed with my cute little bird Petri (who owns me), obsessed with baseball (because I’m from St. Louis), etc. Once I let a good idea take root, it can grow out of control pretty quickly.

I’ve been in journalism and magazine publishing for 15 years since graduating with an English degree from Truman State University (then NEMO). I live in the warmest climate I could find in the United States . I believe in dragons and wish my muse would let me get more sleep. (He tends to shackle me to my desk in my writing den and leave me there for hours at a time.)

When did you decide to become a writer?
Becoming a writer wasn’t something I decided to do. It’s a directive from some force I can’t identify that I’ve obeyed since I was a child. I started writing little stories for my great grandmother when I was in grade school and I’ve just not stopped. I remember my two earliest stories were about a squeaky spider and some mice picking berries. Don’t ask why these have stuck with me here thirty-plus years later, but I remember those poor little mice being chased by a cat and one of them fainting from the stress. Funny that even back then I was influenced by stress…

The current fantasy novel about Amanda Chariss came to me when I was in high school and it has been the thing burning through my head to get me to become a published author. If not for Nigel and Chariss, I would probably still be sane.

What was your first published work?
Mrs. Zeller’s first grade newspaper! Seriously, we each had to write “an article” for the newspaper that went home to our parents. I still have it (for some reason…). I wrote a fiction piece that was a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird in high school that won first place in a district-wide contest of some sort, but I don’t remember if they published it anywhere. So I guess my first, real-life published work was in the college newspaper. Then I got real articles published when I became an editor with magazines out in my journalism career. Choices Meant for Gods is my first novel.

What is your dream as a writer?
It’s coming true right now.
Amanda Chariss, Nigel Taiman, Hrazon of Mon’dore, Master Rothahn, Kora Taiman, Henry Bakerson, Jamieson Drake…these characters that I’ve lived with since high school meet the world April 2007 thanks to ArcheBooks Publishing. I have a publisher and my career as a novelist has begun. That’s the dream that started way back when I was a little girl writing books that began with the table of contents (complete with page numbers, don’t you know).

Now that the novel is about to be reality, I keep having these “overwhelming” moments. Working on the cover was overwhelming. Sending the galleys back to the publisher was overwhelming. Opening the publisher’s website to discover my book was plastered all over the front page was overwhelming (surprising, too). (I think it’s still there, also, so you can see it at www.archebooks.com. It’s amazing.) So each time something happens in this process, a little bit of “oh, wow, the dream is coming true” hits me and I feel blessed by the events taking place.

What writing avenues are you currently pursuing?
I’m still writing and editing magazines at my day job, but I have the editing and writing of novels as my “second career” under way now. I’m also creating an online serial novel called Saving a Vampire from the Summer Sunrise, which is an entertaining, comedic, romantic thriller that takes place in sunny Naples , Fla. , during hurricane season. It has a little something for everyone so the audience in my yahoo group is varied. People can sign up to read it at http://yahoo.groups.com/group/sandysvampiresunrise/join. I’d also like to get some of my short stories published to help promote my name in the fantasy genre.

Is there anything you wish you had been told earlier in your career?

Yes. Don’t waste your time querying literary agents. They are the gatekeepers set in place to police the publishing industry so unknown writers don’t get in and disturb editors and publishers. You can waste a lot of money (and time) buying books on how to write glowing query letters and where to send them. Don’t bother. Your query letter lands in an in-basket with about 50 to 75 others Monday morning. Tuesday morning, another 25 to 50 land on top of it. Wednesday morning, more land on top of those. By Friday, an intern is assigned to wade through the pile and send form rejection letters to everyone in the stack that doesn’t have a recognizable name. So if you aren’t Paris Hilton, Monica Lewinski, etc., guess what you get in your SASE.

The way to get a literary agent is to accost one (oh, did I type that?) at an industry event. Schedule an appointment to meet (for fifteen minutes, if you’re lucky) at the bar, after a panel discussion the agent is part of, after the agent’s presentation on how to write glowing query letters, etc.

I got my agent because I walked up to her at my publisher’s workshop in Ft. Lauderdale just over a year ago and introduced myself. Now, did you catch that? I already had the relationship with the publisher. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it can be done.

What advice can you offer writers just breaking into a serious writing career?
You will be expected to market and promote your book like a product. Even those big-time New York publishers like TOR and Random House have limited marketing budgets that they distribute cautiously among their top-name authors. Newbies don’t get any of the marketing monies. So new authors, and even established authors who are enjoying a reasonably sized audience, need to get a handle on marketing and promotion and how to write an effective press release (and I’m assuming the visitors to this site know that a press release about a new book is never about the release of the new book).

When you’re ready to convince New York Agent A that you’re the author for her to represent, you should do so professionally. If you come into the game like a professional, agents, editors, and publishers will look upon you favorably. I got lucky because my career has included oodles of marketing and public relations experience, so I had that side of the equation to offer to the publisher listening to my pitch.

Anything else you want our readers to know?
Writing is an amazing outlet for much that happens in a writer’s life. It has carried me through some difficult times and has provided me much-needed release. It has also provided me fantastic opportunities to make friendships that my life would be poorer without. The authors in the ArcheBooks family have become wonderful peers. We’re starting a forum at http://archebooks.com/phpbb.index.php where we’ll be sharing all kinds of information about books and publishing tidbits, and I recommend that sort of communications vehicle for any writer or aspiring author. Also, I have a blog where I offer grammar, writing, promotion, and vocabulary tips on a rotating basis. It’s at www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com. I recommend that to anyone who wants the grammar/English lesson in layman’s terms, if you know what I mean. I guess what I’m trying to say in this last little section is that there are resources for writers and authors, like this site, where you can get real information, real tips, real guidance, and you can get it for free. Some days, you just want the dragon to win!

4 comments:

  1. Excellent interview. Somethings about Sandy I didn't know, but I do know she is one fantastic writer and if your own love of Dragons comes anywhere near Sandy's you will run, not walk to your nearest bookstore and claim your copy of "Choices Meant for Gods"! Don't you just LOVE that title? I know I do!
    Major congrats, Sandy on the release of your book, and major kudos to Writers and Authors for recognizing true talent!

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  2. Sounds great Sandy. I am sure I could learn a lot from you.

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  3. Sandy is also extremely good with developing her characters. You feel like you know them personally by the time you finish.

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  4. Linda, Karen, M.B.,
    It's a pleasure to hear from you ladies today. Thank you for your kind comments. (And, Linda, I love the title, too. Have you seen the font my publisher chose for it on the front cover? www.archebooks.com Amazing...)

    I want to thank Jo Linsdell not just for inviting me to be a part of the Writers and Authors blog, but for offering this resource to writers and readers alike. This is a clever way to bring publishing and writing information to the masses, and I applaud her hard work. (And believe me, I know this is hard work. I manage five blogs in the marketing and promotion of Choices Meant for Gods.)

    I welcome everyone to stop by www.archebooks.com/chat.htm this evening (April 10) at 7 eastern to have a live chat with me if you'd like to discuss any of the elements in today's interview. It should be a rollicking good time. If you miss the chat, well, I hope to "see" you 'round in the blogosphere.

    Sandy L.
    "Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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