Author Interview: Sandra Byrd
When did you realize you wanted to write for a living?
When I was a kid I wanted three careers: to be a hair stylist, to be a waitress, and to be an author. After I mohawked my Barbie I knew I wasn’t cut out for the hairstylist career. I actually was a waitress in a Jewish deli when I was a teenager, and I worked for a caterer. Writing, however, was the real passion. And it stuck.
Tell us about the London Confidential series.
LONDON CONFIDENTIAL, published by Tyndale House Publishers, is a new Tween/Teen series where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide, and where an all-American girl learns to love life and live out her Christian faith. A nub of doubt rose inside me—the kind that popped up, unwelcome, anytime I tried to rationalize something that wasn’t exactly true or right. This time I swallowed it back. I lived in London now. It was time to take matters into my own hands. When her family moves to London, 15-year-old Savvy Smith has to make her way in a new school and in a new country. She just knows the school newspaper is the right place for her, but she doesn’t have the required experience. Can she come up with a way to prove herself and nab the one available position on the newspaper staff at Wexburg Academy? Along the way, Savvy finds out a lot about herself, her family, and her God and in the process she learns to love life and live out her faith.
Is Savvy’s story connected somehow to your own life?
I moved quite a bit when I was growing up, so the challenges that Savvy faces in relation to that are ones I can relate to as well. I do love London, too! :)
Has Savvy’s story ended, or will there be another installment in the series?
You can find Savvy’s story in four installments: Book 1 – Asking for Trouble; Book 2 – Through Thick and Thin; Book 3 -- Don't Kiss Him Goodbye; and Book 4 -- Flirting With Disaster.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
I am currently writing a series for adults set in Tudor England, called Ladies in Waiting. I have been a lady waiting to write about this time period, waiting for a long time, so I am pinching myself, if you'll excuse the cliché, that it's finally happening! I am so excited about this project. It's a series of three historical books that take place at the Tudor Court. Book 1 is set during Anne Boleyn's reign, and as told from the point of view of her true-to-life best friend, Meg Wyatt. Book 2, Best Kept Secrets, will be set in Katherine Parr's court and features a young woman with a gift of prophecy. Book 3, Queen of Hearts, shows a daring young woman whom Queen Elizabeth befriends, but then who may lose it all. These were strong, educated women that had a major impact on the world and on the reformation. I hope you'll love reading them as much as I am loving writing them. Book 1, To Die For, will release in August 2011.
What is a typical day in the life of a writer like?
Coffee. Email. Coffee. Responding to lessons I am reviewing or coaching other writers through their manuscripts. Coffee. Writing for several hours to meet a word count. More email. Coffee.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
1. The first and foremost qualification for being a writer is being a reader. If you don’t love to read – reward yourself with books, talk about books with others, find yourself reading late into the night with a good one – it will be hard to be a writer. A lot of writing structure is assimilated by osmosis – reading.
2. Next, you have to be a dedicated craftsman. Be willing to write and rewrite and rewrite again till you get it perfect. As Michelangelo said, the David was inside the marble waiting to come out. A good sculptor can carve it out of the stone. So it is with a book. The good book is in there, but it must be patiently worked and reworked. Part of the key to this is to not worry about getting it “right” the first time. It won’t be right the first time. The first draft, you’re often just laying out all the pieces on the table and then looking at them to see how they fit together.
I believe that one reason people want it right the first time is that they’re afraid that if it isn’t, they aren’t a “real” writer. Real writers keep working on a book till it’s all the way done. Sometimes I think that computer technology has done a real disservice to writers, because we can type fast, and email, the expectation is that we can create quickly. And that’s not always true. I think that new writers are shocked by the amount of work it takes to write and rewrite a book till it’s “done” too. It’s a hard job with mostly mediocre pay. But the satisfaction of having finished the book and reached into peoples’ lives in a fun and meaningful way is satisfying
3. Find a mentor. There are excellent organizations, the Christian Writer’s Guild is one, that offer mentoring courses. If you don’t want to enroll in a course, find someone who writes and take them out to lunch. Ask them how to begin, ask for tips, ask for anything except the contact to their agent. If an established writer sees you constantly working to better your craft they may be willing to help in other ways. Attending writing conferences is another excellent way to better your skills and make good contacts.
4. Be patient and persistent. Don’t give up. Be willing to start small, and stay there, if that’s where your ministry lies. I’ve written many books, but some of my most satisfying published works are small pieces. One piece I wrote to honor a high school teacher who made a significant impact on the pre-Christian me. Another fulfilling writing project was a small speaking part for a child who didn’t have a place in the church’s Christmas program. Don’t discount “little” ministry, it’s often the very thing the Lord wants you to do.
5. Keep an open hand. Let God put in it what He wants, and take out what He wants.
Besides writing, what do you enjoy?
Cooking and baking, spending time with my family and friends, music, and, of course, reading!
What do you feel God has been trying to teach you lately?
My favorite piece of scripture at any given time is whichever one God is using to speak to me at the moment, because when He does, I know He is attentive to my concerns and hears and loves me in both hopeful and ashen circumstances. He has already prepared a plan and a way.
What message do you hope girls will get from your books?
Be strong and courageous. Dream big. Trust God even when it seems very dark. Love people but don't let them walk on you. Live with joy and faith.
For a review of Sandra's book Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, click here.