Author Interview: The Literary Spotlight with Author Sara Jane Woodley
I am thrilled to introduce an exciting new author, Sara Jane Woodley, whose delightful tales of sweet romances and romantic comedies have captured the hearts of readers. Sara Jane’s journey as a writer began with young adult romances, but she has since ventured into the enchanting realm of sweet romcoms, and she is absolutely loving it. What sets her books apart is not just the heartwarming love stories, but also the picturesque settings she creates in fictional small towns surrounded by stunning mountain or seaside landscapes. Sara Jane draws inspiration from her deep connection with nature and her love for outdoor activities, infusing her stories with the beauty of the great outdoors.
With a passion for crafting narratives about strong yet imperfect characters finding love, Sara Jane made the leap into full-time authorship a couple of years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since. Join me as I delve into the world of Sara Jane Woodley, exploring her writing process, inspirations, and the joy she finds in creating captivating love stories.
Cyra: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your writing background? What inspired you to become a writer, and how did your writing journey begin?
Sara: Hey there, I’m Sara Jane Woodley and I write sweet romances/romcoms set in beautiful mountain or seaside locations! I started out writing young adult romances, but have moved into writing sweet romcoms and I am LOVING it. One fun thing about my books is that I’m inspired by nature and love to do things in the great outdoors, and so all of my stories are set in fictional small towns that feature beautiful scenery. I’ve been reading since I was very young, and writing just about as long.
I started out with writing short stories and scenes when I was in high school, and took the plunge into becoming a full-time author a couple of years ago. I’ve been loving it!! It feels so empowering and fulfilling to spend my days writing these strong, but imperfect, characters and the ways they fall in love.
Cyra: Could you share a glimpse into your creative process? How do you approach developing ideas and turning them into stories? Do you have any specific rituals or habits that help you get into the writing zone?
Sara: As I mentioned, I love the outdoors and am lucky to live in an area with tons of nature. I tend to get into the mindset for writing while walking or doing some sort of exercise outside. That also helps me when I come to a writing block or story problem. And yes, I am a HUGE coffee lover, and so my favorite ritual in the mornings (when I find I write best) is to sit down with a big mug of coffee and just start writing.
My first drafts are often extremely rough and free-flowing because that’s normally how I get into the groove of writing a scene. Letting go of expectations right off the bat is key, I’d say.
Cyra: Who are some of your favorite authors or literary influences, and how have they shaped your own writing style? Are there any books or works that have had a profound impact on your writing career?
Sara: Good question! I have a variety of authors I love to read and keep up with, and I find that certain books can inspire my own settings or general feel of a story. I recently read The Simple Wild by KA Tucker and I loved how she did the small town in that book. I’m trying to do something similar with my next release – The Lying Game. And then, I’m obviously inspired by some incredible sweet romcom authors, such as Emma St. Clair, Julie Christianson, Sarah Adams, Kortney Keisel… just to name a few!
Cyra: What challenges have you faced as a writer, and how did you overcome them? How do you handle writer’s block or periods of self-doubt?
Sara: I’ve certainly struggled with writing blocks in the past – this seems to be pretty much a rite of passage with writing haha. I usually try to step away from my draft and do something else. Again, going for a walk or hike or ski or swim can be helpful to take my head away from a problem. I also find talking through story problems with friends or fellow writers can be extremely helpful.
As for self-doubt, that’s something I still struggle with quite a bit. In moments like this, I try to remember that this is something I love to do, regardless of how a new release might go or how a book is being received. Again, talking to friends or fellow writers is helpful.
Cyra: How do you approach developing compelling and relatable characters in your stories? Are there any strategies or exercises you use to ensure your characters feel authentic and three-dimensional?
Sara: This is one of my favorite parts of the writing process – developing three-dimensional characters that feel real and relatable. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology, and so I love to consider different types of personalities and personality traits. Sometimes, my characters are inspired by real people I know, and other times, a certain type of character just fits a particular story.
A lot of the female characters I write (and some male characters actually!) have a little slice of myself in them. People are never simply what they seem, and I feel that characters are the same.
Cyra: Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Are there any specific themes or topics you enjoy exploring in your writing?
Sara: Inspiration really can come from anywhere. I’ve been sitting on a bus before and randomly had an idea and had to note it down (and this idea did end up in a book I wrote). I’d say that being open and curious to what’s happening around you can be a great source of inspiration for writing. I love when I read or watch something (it doesn’t even need to be romance) and I have a thought of… “but what if this went another way?”.
On a less exciting note, some aspects of stories are also driven by trope convention (for example, my current WIP – The Lying Game – is a grumpy/sunshine romcom, and so some of the story arc is driven by this trope).
Cyra: Is there a particular book or project you are most proud of? Could you share the story behind it?What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer for you?
Sara: I am probably most proud of my first ever romcom release – The Next Worst Thing. This was an enemies-to-lovers, brother’s best friend romcom that was my first foray into writing comedy. I absolutely LOVED being able to exercise some humor around the romance and storytelling. E2L is also one of my favorite tropes and I loved playing around with it.
At the time, I was visiting a friend in the UK, and so this inspired the main male character being British, which was fun. I fell in love with writing romcoms during that book though, and I haven’t looked back!
Editing and Revision:
Cyra: How important do you think the editing and revision process is for a writer? Could you share your approach to editing your own work? Do you have any suggestions for writers on how to improve their editing skills?
Sara: I find editing and revision to be KEY to my own process!! I am not one of those writers who puts together a really seamless, clean first draft. My first draft is usually a bit of a mess that I then need to edit and fix to make some sort of cohesive sense haha.
My process for this usually involves Post-Its. I tend to write different story arcs or things I don’t want to forget on Post-Its, which I then move around my desk whenever the item is satisfied. I also have “Self- Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King, which has been a huge help.
Publishing and Marketing:
Cyra: What has been your experience with the publishing industry? Any advice for aspiring authors on finding agents or publishers? How do you navigate the world of book marketing and promotion? Any tips for authors looking to build their audience?
Sara: I’ve been entirely self-published during my publishing career and I have loved it! It’s been great to feel so connected with my readers and to be able to do my own marketing/promotion. I would say that self-publishing involves a fair bit of “business” that you wouldn’t have to do if going the traditional publishing route.
Advice for Budding Writers:
Cyra: What advice would you give to aspiring authors who are just starting their writing journey? How do you handle rejection and criticism in the publishing world?
Sara: My advice would be simply to start writing! Even if you think it’s a mess (been there), getting your ideas down on paper, creating worlds and characters, is pretty rewarding in and of itself. I’d say not to let any imposter syndrome/self-doubt etc get in the way of your writing, and when you come up to writing blocks/story problems, step away for a bit and give your brain a break.
One of the best things I’ve found is to drop all expectations of yourself and see where that takes you.
Cyra: What’s your favorite quote that keeps you going in life?
Sara: I have a ton of many favorite quotes, but one that I feel has really driven me is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
If you enjoyed reading this interview with author Sara Jane Woodley and got your dose of creative writing inspiration, do like, comment, and share. Subscribe to my newsletter to stay tuned for more inspirational interviews.