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Author Interview: Nance Sparks Chats about Starting Over

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Get ready to learn more about the book Starting Over in this discussion with sapphic author Nance Sparks.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Nance Sparks about Starting Over, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Love After 40 category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Starting Over?

Sam’s story had been in the back of my mind for years. The loss of a spouse isn’t something easily overcome. It takes that one special person to help the survivor learn how to live again. Jennifer was just that person and their story is one of my favorites of all my novels.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love Sam, she’s more like me, but with fashion sense! That said, Jennifer became my favorite character of the story. She really came to life for me and I adore her sense of humor.

What inspired the idea for Starting Over?

I love reading about mature characters and there really aren’t that many sapphic romances written about characters my age. I also had Sam’s character in my head. The loss of her spouse and how it affected her. It was a perfect fit.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

My biggest challenge was making sure the emotion came through. I’ve experienced loss, but not of the other half of my soul (Thank goodness, she’s stuck with me). I hope I was able to share Sam’s sadness and the depth of her broken heart.

What part of Starting Over was the most fun to write?

The scenes where Sam and Jennifer started spending time together. The trip to the greenhouse and Amish bakery and the Wisconsin beer festival. All the feels and the fun were such a blast!

How did you come up with the title for your book?

It titled itself. Both main characters were Starting Over.

How much research did you need to do for Starting Over?

A TON! I now have a contact in the FBI to answer questions – If you know, you know. If not, you really need to read this book!

What is your favorite line from your book?

“Tell me, was it the Lonely Blonde that made you moan?”

What is your writing process like?

I’m trying to be a Planster… but I keep finding myself returning to my panster roots.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I write in my office. I need a glass of water and my hot tea, cherry almond from Stash. Sometimes I need music to get me into the book – each book has an epic playlist!

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

Every time I answer this question, I hurt a friend’s feelings. Real world author problems, because we have tons of author friends! Okay, okay, I’m thinking! I’m leaning toward a round table, all of us just making stuff up!

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

My favorite writing drink is my cherry almond tea. Bonus, if I add a few drops of almond extract then my office smells yummy!!

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

A happy dance and a cocktail. A whiskeyrita – it’s a Margarita but with whiskey instead of tequila and no salt. So pretty much whiskey and Simply Mixology Lime Margarita juice… Highly recommend.

Is there a particular genre you would love to write but only under a pseudonym?

No, so far I’m enjoying genre jumping under my own name. 🙂

Do you have any odd writing quirks?

If I get stuck, I blast a song from the epic playlist to try to find inspiration. That usually works, if not, I go for a walk and usually have a breakthrough.

Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?

No pets, not since we sold the farm.

What animal or object best represents you as an author or your writing style?

Squirrel… I wish it weren’t so, but I’m easily distracted and fear I best relate to a spastic squirrel, unless I’m in the zone and locked into a train of thought.

What are three words that describe your personality?

Thoughtful, laughter, music. I love to laugh. I love music… I have a playlist for about any mood or moment. And I’m told I’m a very thoughtful person.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

A book is regular life with the boring parts taken out. I love this advice and it’s really made a difference in my story telling.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

Probably both helpful and hindering, but I strive to make my manuscript perfect. I try to pay attention to all the arcs and plot points and sometimes get in my own head. My wife reminds me it’s supposed to be fun and just get back to making stuff up! It helps!

When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

I put myself into my characters shoes as best I can. I try to feel the feels and see the expression, etc..

What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?

I get to know my characters so well, that it’s easy to get into their heads. I know their favorite colors and food and music. I know what kind of car they drive and where they shop for their clothes. Kind of like an imaginary bestie. LOL

If you could be mentored by a famous author (living or not), who would it be?

I think someone who’s skilled at writing sequels or series. I struggle to come up with content for keeping a story moving over several books. Janet Evanovich comes to mind. I love her snarky characters.

What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?

Authors like Cari Hunter, Nicole Stiling, Michelle Larkin, who write romantic blend with an action / adventure twist or mystery / thriller slant. Blending romance with the mystery plot is an admirable skill.

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

I have, writing one of the scenes in Starting Over as a matter of fact. I teared up when Sam confessed her struggles to Jennifer on the couch.

Do you feel bad putting your characters through the wringer?

I do, but it’s always fun to see them come out the other side better for the experience.

Have you ever hated one of your characters?

Pat Adams, a secondary character in Starting Over was an unlikable character, so much so that my editor suggested I soften her tone. I did and it made her more important to the story.

Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?

I think adored is a better word. I adored Jennifer in Starting Over. Her confidence and honesty and openness made her an irresistible character.

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

I love contemporary romance and romantic blends. I love the depth of the stories. Being a fan of sapphic authors inspired me to share my stories too.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

Every book I read inspires me to become a better writer. I love hearing all the author’s voices and learning how they approach characters, scene, and plot.

What books did you grow up reading?

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and still love a good mystery. I think that’s where my love for blending a good mystery with romance started.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

Perfect Rhythm by Jae, Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest, and Not The Marrying Kind by Jae. I listened to the audiobooks and sometimes miss stuff because… squirrel! So, I listen to my favorites over and over and pick up on fun little treats or things I missed as well as all the favorite parts of the story.

What book do you wish you had written?

I wish I’d written Fried Green Tomatoes, because I love the book. I love the movie. I could quote most of the dialogue, but I totally would have had Ruth and Idgie share an intimate moment.

Describe your favorite reading spot.

I love to read on the patio. I love feeling the sun and the breeze and listening to the waves on the shore.

Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?

I read contemporary romance and romantic blends. I think I could get into sci-fi but I don’t have as much time to read now that I’m writing. It’s a give and take.

Have you ever thought you’d hate a book, but ended up loving it?

I have not. I have to feel the vibe from the blurb before I’ll crack the cover.

Meet Nance Sparks

Nance Sparks is an award winning author of lesbian romance. She lives in south central Wisconsin with her spouse.

Visit Nance’s Website

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Author Interview