Snow Leopard Sunday: Sarah Royce Weldon

Please welcome Sarah Royce Weldon to the Snow Leopard family! We're very excited to be her publisher and can't wait to release House of Death in early January!

Tell us about yourself!

Hi there, My name is Sarah Royce Weldon, I am a 59 years old with 3 children, the eldest two are married with children of their own, and my youngest, Sophie, is just 13 years old. Her father passed away when she was just 5 years old and soon after we moved from Normandy to Brittany.

Why did you choose to move to France? What are your favorite parts about it? Do you think that it's influenced your writing at all?

We came to France in October 2003 with the intention of converting our recently acquired 18th century Normandy farmhouse and outbuildings into holiday homes; unfortunately my husband was taken ill and the work never completed. When we arrived in France I spoke only ‘schoolgirl French’ and instead of joining the local English community I chose to spend my spare time with my French neighbours. ‘Total immersion’ is the only way to learn a language quickly, and even then it was a good 2 years before I could hold my own in a conversation. I am of course now fluent, but I have been ‘immersed’ for 12 years and sometimes when I am writing I have difficulty thinking of the right word in English!

One of the other reasons was to give Sophie a better education. Private schools here are affordable, even for a single mum,

What I love about our life here in France is the pace of life, and being able to live in the countryside as opposed to town life. I have visited Paris once, before we moved here…it was more than enough for me though I have promised to take Sophie but with the terrorist attacks in Paris it won’t be in the immediate future.

Yes, living in France has influenced my writing. My first novel, Cally’s Secret, a romantic comedy began in Derbyshire, England and moved swiftly into Brittany, and then on to Normandy for the final part of the book. It is always best to write about places you know well enough to allow your characters to move easily from place to place.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing seriously in 1998, entering several writing competitions with limited success but being born of the sign of the zodiac known for its stubbornness, Aries, I persevered until finally in 2010 I wrote Cally’s Secret.

I approached an English Publisher, Pegasus, in May sending them the first 10,000 words and a rough synopsis. They liked what they read and asked to read the full manuscript, leaving me with a bit of a dilemma, as I was only half way through! I finished in late September, and with the help of my good friend, Sharon Atkinson proceeded to read through and edit were necessary.

I submitted the manuscript to Pegasus in October and received their letter informing me of their wish to publish in early December. For a first time author it was a major ego boost, and I settled down to wait patiently for the contract, which in my eyes meant an end to just getting by! Alas, when the contract arrived and I read the small print they were expecting a contribution of almost £3000! More than a third of my income for the year, so I declined politely and self published with Create Space.

Tell us about The House of Death!

The House of Death is a paranormal romance loosely based (in the beginning) on an actual murder investigation in Nantes in early April 2011.

I was working on another story, Take Three Blondes, another romantic comedy, when the idea for the House of Death popped into my head. The lunchtime news was playing in the background when a reporter announced that ‘the house in which a mother, her four children, and the family dogs were murdered had been put up for sale by the executors of the estate of the late owner. The words ‘who would want to live in the house of death’ popped into my head and out of my mouth, and by the time my daughter arrived home from school that evening I had drafted the synopsis and written the first three chapters!

Why did you write your book? We've heard that it's based off of a true story, so how did that play into it?

I changed all the names, places and kept the detail down to the essentials relating to the actual event. The rest, as they say here in France is ‘histoire’.

I decided to start the book with a prologue (written after I had at least twenty or so chapters finished) as I felt it needed a little extra background information on how the murders in my story (or at least one of them) came about. In which I described the house and the events leading up to its sale by agent, Charles Dupont, to American, Charlene Hamilton-Davies, and her four children, Matt, Philip, Carly, and Jason. Husband, Troy, is still in Atlanta, where Charlene hopes he will remain, as their marriage is a sham. The story moves from France, to Atlanta and Troy briefly, before coming back to France for the grand finale.

The actual perpetrator has never been caught; the last sighting of him was from a security camera at a cash point as he waited for his money. Since that time nothing until recently when a daily newspaper received a letter supposedly written by him, declaring his innocence.

The police believe it to be a hoax.

What specific challenges did you face when writing and publishing your book? The House of Death isn't your first book, so does it get easier as you write and publish more books? Care to tell us about your other work?

Each book presents its own set of challenges, some are easier to overcome than others, and as a writer I try not to spend all my time glued to my computer screen. Usually no more than a couple of hours a day, if the writing doesn’t flow I don’t worry or panic, I just take out my embroidery, bake a cake, or make clothes for Barbie for my son’s stepdaughter!

One of my biggest challenges was juggling housework, cooking, and every day stuff whilst continuing to write, I stopped ironing clothes whilst writing Cally’s Secret. The ironing board having since been donated to the local museum…I hate ironing!

As I said earlier, Cally’s Secret was my first novel, written in just 5 months. A tale of life, love, and unplanned events. Cally finds out she’s pregnant which scuppers her plan to divorce her husband, Paul and start a new life. Her friend Sarah is unhappy, she’s been trying for years to get pregnant without success and when her doctor refuses to send her for fertility tests she is confronted with the possibility that her husband, Mike, has been keeping secrets. The skeletons in his closet are rattling. He knows he should have come clean about his vasectomy years ago, and his ongoing affair with his old flame, Dawn. All Daniel wants is a normal life, and to find out what happened to make his mother abandon him when he was 8 years old. She was there when he went to bed, but the next morning she had gone, along with all her belongings. They all know Daniel. Tall, dark, sexy and a male model for Calvin Klein underwear—some more intimately than others. Who will be the first to kiss and tell?

The Menorah Murders my second novel. A dark tale of murder and mayhem. Professor Abe Cohen is found dead in an upstairs bedroom, naked—a plastic bag pulled tightly across his face. An auto erotic experiment gone wrong. Or murder? The one they call ‘the Beast’ is back. Seven women will die, and the race is on to find him before he disappears like last time. But who will be the final candle, the sacrificial lamb, supper!

What's it like dealing with a US publisher while living in Europe?

As far as I can see there is no difference, we are in contact by email and when necessary by telephone the time difference is the only issue with the US being 6 hours behind France, but as I’m a bit of a night owl anyway, there are ways around it.

What has been the most rewarding part of writing and publishing your book?

Seeing my name on the cover of a book on a shelf in a bookstore or library still gives me goose bumps all over.

What tip or piece of advice would you give to unpublished writers?

The same advice I was given. Read your work through before starting writing at the beginning of each day. I read from the beginning right up until I pass the 20 chapter mark, and edit as I go. Editing is important, professional editing even more so, it makes life so much easier when you present an error free (or almost) manuscript to a publisher. Lol even the best editors and proof readers miss things, no matter how big a noise in the publishing world. I know I’ve fallen over errors when reading books by famous authors. Remember no-one’s perfect.

Also steer well clear of vanity publishers; if they expect you to pay them, they aren’t the publishers for you. You may as well walk up to a drain at the side of the road and drop your hard earned cash in, because you will never see your free copies or your royalties or anything else they promise.

And finally, never give up, no matter how many times the rejection letter says, thanks, but no thanks in as many words. Just shrug your shoulders and work out what needs to be changed in order to make it better ready for the next time!