Monday, November 2, 2009

Seekerville Welcomes Sandra Byrd

Hey! Thanks for inviting me into your online "home!" Here's a little biographical info so you know a bit about me and then I'll toss in a few writing thoughts. I'd much rather field your questions than yammer on, so post them at will and I'll check in often.

Sandra Byrd biography:

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd went on to publish more than three dozen books including her widely-acclaimed adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake and it's sequels, Bon Appétit and Pièce de Résistance. Keep an eye out for her forthcoming tween/teen fiction series, London Confidential.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra is also an accomplished non-fiction writer and author. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications such as Radiant, Focus on the Family's Clubhouse Magazine, Christian Parenting Today, Today's Christian Woman, Pockets, Decision, and Guideposts. During the past eight years Sandra has mentored hundreds of students through the Christian Writer's Guild.

Sandra Byrd Online:

What made you start writing?

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 and gave myself a bad red dye job 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. Although I loved talking to my customers, especially Holocaust survivors, and watching them slice a clover-stained cow's tongue, writing was the real passion. And it stuck!

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

The hardest part of anything is getting started. Getting started with a new book, a new chapter, a new page, or just sitting down at the computer and staying there till I've done my word count. First hard part - outlining, and I outline religiously. It's the most difficult, and most important, part, of writing my books. Then, of course, it's sitting down and writing the book every day. Once I get a page done, I'm on a roll and I can stay in the zone. Jim Bell calls those first words the "nifty 350" and he's right.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

I have a pretty well-established process: I think through the concept and ask a few questions of my focus group, which consists of likely readers and a couple of readers. Then I outline and then I write. I send the manuscript to the focus group and when it comes back I make corrections. My rule of thumb is that if one person suggests a change I may or may not do it depending on how I feel about it. But if two people mention something, I clearly need to address it, whether I feel like it or not.

After this rewrite I am comfortable sending it to my editors. I think too many "voices" giving direction can be confusing and undermine a writer's confidence. So I have a very few people I trust to read. I listen to them. But I also listen to my "gut." I try to listen to reviewers, if I can sort out things that help and things that hurt.

Much of this series revolves around food. Do you like to cook? What kind of research did you have to do while writing this book?

I do like to cook and bake! I got my first serious cooking instruction book, by Jacques Pepin, when I was 17 years old. La Technique. My first "real" job was for a caterer, and I've been a home cook and baker every since.

For the book, I went to France, of course. You feel bad for me, don't you? I also job shadowed a baker at a French bakery here in town. And I visited a baking school for a day. It was great fun, but I also so how very hard they work. The physical endurance required of bakers and chefs is amazing. Something we lay people don't often think about.

Do you write for yourself?

Yes, and no. When we're professionals, we're not diarists, so we can't actually write for ourselves. I have a "customer" in mind, and that customer is a reader. My goal is to provide pleasure and encouragement for the reader. That's what he/she is paying for. However, if I write about things I love, I enjoy, feel passionate about and interested in that passion is going to come through in my books. As Robert Frost said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader."

There are some lyrics from a song my kids listen to called, "Remember The Name," by Fort Minor (clean version, of course!). They were written about a kid who writes rap, but honestly, I think the same percentages are true for all writers. Of course in the case of Christian writers, the Name we're interested in people remembering is not our own. :-)

You ready?! Let's go! Yeah, for those of you that want to know what we're all about It's like this y'all This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill Fifteen percent concentrated power of will Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!


Sandra is our kind of guest, she writes, she cooks and she eats! Today she's giving away a of copy of Piece de Resistance together with a package of "fabbo Barefoot Contessa cookies" to one lucky commenter. Drawing to be held at 8 pm MST.

Additionally, (see I told you she was our kind of guest) she has offered to give another copy of a Sandra Byrd book to a commenter who signs up as a Facebook fan/friend or signs up for her newsletter. So you must let us know in the comments if you did this. Drawing to be held at 8 pm MST.

Today is not the day to lurk, join us as Seekerville welcomes Sandra Byrd!


Tina M. Russo said...

Good morning Sandra. In true Seekerville style, we have chocolate croissants and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.

I have the entire series on my Christmas wish list.

How did this series first niggle into your mind? It has ties to Seattle, and Whidbey Island as well, right?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Sandra and welcome to Seekerville.

Sure is fun to read about your journey to become a writer. I love that you received your first rejection at age 13.

And wow, just the covers of your books are yummy.

So do you live in Washington? We just spent a month there along the coast this summer. Gorgeous country.l

Tina the hot chocolate hits the spot.

Rose said...

Hi Sandra,

I just signed up to become a fan of yours on Facebook. I love your covers but they make me hungry!

It sounds like you had hands on research, can you tell us more about the demands of being a chef/baker?


RRossZediker at Yahoo dot com

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Sandra,

I've got to read some of your books. On every cover are two of my favorite things: romance and food. Gotta love that.

Sandra, I only kept the barbies that survived my hair styling attempts. Unfortunately, those were very few ;-)

Thanks so much for being here.

Thanks for the CHOCOLATE criossants. Yummy! and hot chocolate. Oh wow, my day is starting out so well.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am so totally in on the hot chocolate and chocolate croissants...

Oh, yum.

And Sandra, yes, this sounds enchanting and fun. Great coupling of wonderful things, food and romance...

This is me looking for your theory on...

How much romance does a girl need to offset good food caloric intake and HOW on earth do we do that while causing ourselves as little pain as possible?

Just wondering, kid. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. :)

Welcome aboard,Sandra, and I want to hear more about the upper West Coast. Our Sandra has tempted me with tidbits in her writing, and Nora Roberts set a series up in the Washington Olympic National Park, didn't she?

I remember being in awe of the descriptions. Can't wait to read these books.


Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Sandra, welcome to Seekerville!! Love your covers and titles ... especially with a cup of hazelnut coffee! With covers like that, sounds like I need to devour your books, so count me in -- I became a fan on FaceBook.

And I am so impressed you went all the way to Paris to research your novels and yes, a little bit jealous ... :)


Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Sandra! Welcome to Seekerville!

I'm so sorry you had to actually go to France for research. You poor dear. How did you survive?

More importantly, did you bring back lots of yummy ways to recreate the pastries and desserts : ) I mean, you have to have your priorities in order!~!!!!

Besides the chocolate croissants, Tina had a marvelous idea: I've added your series to my Christmas wish list, too. Great idea!

Unfortunately, my french is limited to *fax paux* so though I'd love to sprinkle in a bit of the flavor of the day, I'm afraid I'd only make a fool of myself. Can't have that!

So glad you joined us today, Sandra! Looking forward to hearing about all your research ties today!

Okay, pass the croissants.

HOMEMADE marshmallows? Gotta try those...

Melanie Dickerson said...

Tina, I want the recipe for homemade marshmallows.

Sandra, since you write for adults and children, what do you like to write most? How did your first contract come about? I'm curious.

Jane Wells said...

Sorry about the France trip. The things we have to do as writers. . .
What is the difference between a focus group and a critique group? I appreciate your opinion on limiting the number of 'readers' for a WIP. Kind of like, too many cooks spoil the broth?
Thanks for your post,
Jane Wells

Anonymous said...

I would love to win and read this book! Want to read all of Sandra's books. I have signed up for her newsletter. Please enter me. Thanks.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Mmm, I think if I wrote a series like this one, I would gain too much weight. Just seeing those front covers has me craving chocolate! :-) What a fun series idea!

Sandra said...

Good morning! I'm answering the first batch of questions before the morning latte, so if the later answers make more sense, c'est la vie!

I do live in lovely Washington State. Although I am originally from Minnesota, and have lived for a couple of years each in New Jersey and Arizona, we've lived in the Pacific Northwest for nearly two decades and I consider it my home. The leaves are nearly all changed around my house, and the lake behind our house is beginning to reflect gunmetal skies more often than blue. But it's not raining today!

So ... as for becoming a chef/baker. Although we don't have a formal apprentice program in this country, like they do in France, most chefs/bakers actually do apprentice either with or without formal schooling. They work their way up in kitchens, learning as they go. Dishwasher, prep chef (chopping and slicing), sous chef, chef. "Chef" is a formal title, like "Doctor." So the kitchen staff would say, "What time would you like that today, Chef?"

Baking is more precise than cooking. Ingredients must all be meaured right and recipes followed more exactly. So bakers tend to be much more precise people and chefs perhaps a bit more spontaneous. They all keep insane hours, 15 hour days.

There are a lot of culinary programs throughout the country, hosted everywhere from community colleges to Art Institutes to private schools. Of course the Creme de la creme is the Culinary Institute of America, located in upstate New York, with a brance in wine country, California.

G.R.I.T.S. said...

Hi, I just signed up for your e-mails and as a friend on Facebook...can't wait to read some of your books!!!

Rae Byuel

Sandra said...

I have to say, while I do love a good chocolate croissant (called pain au chocolate, or chocolate bread, in French) Almond Croissants, when done right, are my true favorites.

Hmm. Wonder if I have time to drive up to Belle Pastry this morning...

Ruth - we need lots of good food AND lots of romance. All the time!Tee hee. If the French have anything to teach us, surely it's that. Somehow, they don't let the love of either become an obsession!

So - how was this series conceived? I had mainly written for teens, and was ready to write for adults, too. A lot of the girls who had read my teen books had kept in touch and were emailing or writing with the concerns they had as adults. Mainly - they felt like they'd done everything "right" but still had no guy, no good job, no ministry. And they distanced themselves from God. I thought a lot about how we often, as women, feel intimidated about pursuing dreams we feel might be silly. Mix up all those ingredients with my love of France and baking and voila! French Twist.

Julie - be sure to look at the photo album of Lexi's visit to Paris for some insight into both my Paris trip and, even more charmingly, the small village I stayed at nearby. We walked the cobblestoned streets to get bakery and produce each day. You could smell the oranges in the air as Cointreau had been made there for hundreds of years.

Sandra said...

Okay, Audra, you have to read the series. Faux pas play a supporting role in the second book. :-) Faux amis, which means, false friends, are words that sound like they should have the same meaning in French and English but which mean very different things. YoOu can get in big trouble with thos!

I love writing for both teens and adults, Melanie. It's fun to be able to have an expanded palette on which to create. And it's good for the creative juices to move back and forth. I have a bit more freedom with adults, both for subject matter and word count, but I realize I am impacting lives more with the teens. So both have their rewards. I am finishing up my teen series, London Confidential, right now. And then it's back to adults! I have to stop myself from saying that, "I write adult books, too," because people misunderstand!

My first contract came about in a wonderful way. We were living in Portland, OR, where my husband was going to seminary. We lived very close to the school but had few Christian neighbors. One day the house acrosss the street from us became empty and available for rent. I told my husband, Quick! Run up to the school and tell them a house is available. He did, and Ross and Robin Gunn were there just then looking for housing. They rented the house, Robin and I became friends, and she put me in touch with Lisa Bergren, who eventually picked up my series

Now, I was working as an editor at the time, so I wasn't completely unpracticed. And I did submit many other places, most of which rejected the series (one of them twice! There's a story!). But I had learned to look to God and not the odds. So I pressed on.

Suzie Johnson said...

Sandra, I really enjoyed reading your interview. I know we're not supposed to be jealous of others, so I'm trying really hard not to be jealous of your trip to France!

I love your French Twist series. It's wonderful. If anyone wants to read a review, it's halfway down the page on my blog:

No need to put me in the drawing since I have the book. I can't wait to read what you have coming next.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sandra! Thanks for an inspiring post. You said, "The hardest part of anything is getting started." Amen to that!

I love the covers of your books. They make me hungry for food and a peek at the goodies inside.

The lyrics of Remember The Name with their elements of luck, skill, will power, pleasure and pain ring true. I'd only add the power of prayer.


sherrinda said...

Just having lost 16 pounds on WW, I probably shouldn't even LOOK at the delectable covers of Sandra's books! YUM! They all sound like wonderful reads. Great interview too!
I'd love a chance to win!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

I have to know....those recipes in the books...yours or from someone else? Just reading them makes your mouth water.

Loved your books, Sandra!
The Character Therapist

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, welcome!! I'm so glad you've joined us today!

My kids love that Fort Minor song! Man, just reading the words made me hear the song in my head (just like it were blasting from my son's bedroom!). LOL But it's funny that I've never really thought about the words. Thanks for drawing the parallel to our writing!

Tina M. Russo said...


I see what is coming up on the tween front. But what's brewing/baking in your head for the adult types?

Since I know how busy you are from playing email tag. WHEN DO YOU WRITE?

And I too am curious re the focus group. Are those first readers?

Sandra said...

Thank you so much for your review, Suzie! And Sherrinda, you're my hero. I am trying to lose some weight, too. I'm glad to know WW is working for you. I have just started. You can eat the French Onion soup and the Chouquette recipes in my books on WW. Save the pastries for your extra 35 points. :-)

Hey Jeannie. As for those recipes, they are all recipes I tailored myself. No one truly "invents" a recipe any more, the basic principles are all in place. But you can tinker with almost anything and make it your own. I made these over and over again till we were all tired of them. Well, the boys never tired of Boyfriend Bait Beef Stroganoff. And I tried to tweak them so casual cooks would be comfortable making them.

What's up next for adults is a series called, Ladies in Waiting. All three are books that take place during the Tudor times. I am a Tudor fanatic, so the history will be true to times. But, as you all know, I write with a bit of chick-lit sensibilities, so I will blend them both to make, hopefully, an enjoyable and compelling read. The first book is about Anne Boleyn and her best friend, who, in real life, actually did stick with her all the way to her beheading. But the stories are not gory. They are about life, and love, and faith, and friendships. I hope you'll all stay tuned!

Sandra said...

Okay, Tina, so how do I find time to write. I don't think any of us can find time to write. Nearly everyone has family and friends and church and other social commitments. And most of us have other jobs (I teach writing, too.)

My best advice is to outline religiously and plot your word count on a calendar. Outlining helps me know that when I sit down to write I will have some direction. It makes it a squitch easier to get started. I don't go to bed that day till the word count for that day is done. And I try, I really do, to give my books my best work hours during the day.

I could use a 28 hour day, though. :-)You, too?

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Sandra,
Thanks for spending the day with us. The books sound great.

Susanne Dietze said...

This series is on my wish list, so please enter me in the drawing! I've put in the FB request, too.

srdietze at sbcglobal dot net

I am a terrible baker, probably because I'm an inexact cook. I'm one of those that likes to add extra of this, less of that. Doesn't work with petit fours.

Project Journal said...

Tina! You stole my question about what's coming next : P

From the sounds of it, Sandra, you must've LOVED the extra hour this weekend : ) I think everyone is just crazy busy right now...haven't figured out why exactly, but I think it applies to everyone...

Nice answers to some nice comments...I'm trying to think of a question for you....

Walt M said...

Hi, Sandra

I used to live in Portland and love the Northwest.

I sent you a friend request on FB. Would love to hear more about your nonfiction articles.



Tina M. Russo said...

Oh my gosh. Tudor times. I love it. What a wonderful time period.

Yes. 28 hours would be just perfect.

I love the word count calendar concept. I've done that with the library. If I write at the library I can't go home until I write xx pages. It always works.

Sandra said...

Mary, thank you for inviting me into your circle for the day!

Susanne, petit fours are so hard to make. Have you discovered You'll probably hate me for the heads-up. :-)

Walt - will look for your FB request. Writing at Starbucks works, too. As long as you stay away from surfing using wifi. The web is a real production killer. I keep telling myself I use it for research and not to read Dear Prudie...

Audra Harders said...

Oooops, Sandra! My french spell-check must be on the fritz : )

Can't wait to read the series. Sounds great no matter what the language, LOL!

Tina M. Russo said...

You're killing me here, today Sandra. I went to Divine Delights. The chcolate ones!!! AAAHHH

Cara Lynn James said...

I love food based themes!Thanks for coming to Seekerville today. I really enjoyed your post.

Sandra said...

Thank you all for inviting me. I am off to teaching writing now, but will check back once more before I close the computer for the night just in case I've accidently overlooked a question!

Holly said...

I've read the first two in the series and loved them; they're such fun reads. I haven't seen the third book anywhere yet. Please add me to the drawing. I also became a fan on Facebook.


Anonymous said...

Please count me in...what a fabulous interview...

karen k

robynl said...

please count me in as I am signed up for the newsletter.


Jessica said...

I've heard of your books and that they were great! Congrats on your success and thanks for those writing tips.
I find it SO hard to just sit down and write. And then sometimes making my word count is painful. Other times it's bliss. :-)
Thank you again!

Linda said...

The book looks delicious! Are there recipes? Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Tina M. Russo said...

From the conversation here today, Linda I am guessing there are recipes. This is getting better and better. Real tried and true recipes no less.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Aww man am I too late to enter?? I would love to get books 1 and 2! I just won book 3 from another blog and have been dying to read it...but I heard this series is best enjoyed when read in order! Oh well I hope I can get the books soon! Thanks for another great interview!

xoxo~ Renee

Tina M. Russo said...

Not too late Renee. You have until 8 pm MST.

Head over to Sandra's Facebook or webpage for an extra chance at winning.

Tina M. Russo said...

By the way, Melanie asked about homemade marshmallows.

Here is the recipe:

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Awesome! I signed up for the newsletter and I became a fan on Facebook! Woohoo!! Extra chances for me! :-P

xoxo~ Renee

Tina M. Russo said...

Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Sandra. I now have a note taped next to my puter listing the four thing I must do before bed, so you have been inspirational to this writer as well.

We wish you continued success and look forward to eating. ...I mean reading your books.

Our winners are Susanne -Pièce de Résistance and cookies and Sherrinda-book to be determined.

Please send you snail mail addys to tina at tina russo dot com so I can forward all the info to Sandra's assistant.

Again, thank you, Sandra!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hey, Sandra! Loved reading your blog. Great to hear how you, too, sometimes struggle getting those first lines on paper. I agree the pre-work is so important. I've been battling a synopsis that just won't fall into place for far too many days. Hope to have it in the bag tomorrow.

All this talk about food has made me hungry. I'm raiding the fridge and then going to bed to read Seeker Myra Johnson's, ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS!

Thanks for being with us today, Sandra! Wishing you continued success on all your many project!

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Congrats Winners!

xoxo~ Renee

Sandra said...

Hey - thanks all for a wonderful visit. Will send those gifts out asap (and seek out Myra Johnson's book, too)!

Colletta Miller said...

I have Let Them Eat Cake and can't wait to read it. Now I need the other two of the series.

Thanks for the interview!