Today, I’m welcoming Sarah Ballance as part of our All Things Romantic Suspense Blog Tour. Hi, Sarah! I appreciate you spending time with me. I know these same questions are getting a bit monotonous, but when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Sarah: I started with nonfiction on a whim, and stuck with it because the income was insane. I made more writing a few hours a week from home with my herd of kids underfoot than some folks with “real jobs” did! The transition to fiction came when a friend suggested I write a novel and my response was “I can’t.” I’d never before considered it, but I didn’t like feeling like I couldn’t do something … so I just did it. That first novel was DOWN IN FLAMES, and I’ve been in love ever since.
Jerri: My first book was title, May to December and it was bad. I keep it as a reminder of how far I’ve come. So, where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Sarah: RUN TO YOU was first inspired by a walk on the beach with my hubby. On the edge of a storm, the night was dark and scary, and all I could think about was someone coming from behind and killing us both. Then the plot came to me in a dream, and the rest was easy.
Jerri: Scary for sure. I love how stories come through dreams. I’ve written two books from them. Besides walking on the beach with your hubby, what else do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sarah: I don’t have much free time. I’m a stay-at-home mom of six kids, ages 8 months to 12 years. We home school four different grade levels, plus I write nonfiction for clients. We live on the coast, though, so whenever possible we drop everything and head for the beach or any of the other dozens of water spots around here. The perfect day is one spent on our boat, and I’m miserable because it’s too darn cold for that right now. Blech.
Jerri: You definitely have your hands full. No wonder you write suspense. What do you think makes a good suspenseful story?
Sarah: Tension. A story packed full of tension – romantic or otherwise – is an automatic page turner. Even a good suspense plot loses some oomph without the tension. It’s what gets the reader invested in the story, and any time a author can make the reader’s heart pound or breath catch, I think they’ve nailed it!
Jerri: I say a big yes to that. Now let’s talk about your characters. Which of yours is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?
Sarah: Oh, gosh, I’m nothing like Mattie from RUN TO YOU. She’s impulsive and confident, and that alone makes us polar opposites, although I do share her loyalty for loved ones. I’m much more like Wyatt, who is cautious and thinks things through … and still won’t dive in. (Boy, I’m just a barrel of fun, huh? At least he catches bad guys!)
Jerri: I think we were separated at birth. So, which of your characters would you most/least want to invite to dinner, and why?
Sarah: I imagine Wyatt would get along great with my husband, which would either be the reason I’d love to have him over or the very reason I’d ban him from the yard, LOL. (My husband SO does not need a cohort … he’s trouble enough on his own.)
Jerri: LOL. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Right now I’m all over a romantic suspense I’m calling UNFORGIVEN. A year before the story begins, Gage tore Riley’s world apart. She did the unthinkable in forgiving him, but did so with the condition that he stay out of her life for good. He had every intention of keeping that promise until he found his brother dead on his back porch, but once Gage realizes who pulled that trigger, all bets are off. The next time Riley lays eyes on him, it’s at gunpoint. Needless to say, that’s where things get interesting.
RUN TO YOU blurb:
Mattie James can’t pinpoint exactly when she lost control of her life, but the moment she decided to take it back made the front page of the local paper. Desperate to dodge the fallout— and the tabloids—she jumps at the chance to spend an off-season week in a tiny resort community by the sea. Making the trip with her ex-lover is a complication she can live with; coming face to face with a dead woman is not.
The last thing Sheriff Wyatt Reed expected to find on the storm-ravaged beach was a beautiful blonde with a jealous sidekick, but one look at Mattie left him wanting more. Their first date takes an ominous turn when he gets the call that a woman was found murdered. With a killer on the loose and a troubling lack of suspects or motive, Wyatt has to put his feelings aside to focus on the case. But his vow not to become personally involved is shattered when he discovers Mattie’s life is on the line, and this time the truth leaves her with a deadly choice . . . and nowhere to run.
RUN TO YOU excerpt:
Over the course of the evening, he gave up trying to figure out why she wanted to go out with him or what made him agree to it. He no longer gave a damn who she was or what she’d done to her ex to make the news. Hell, he didn’t even know her full name, but he knew one thing: he wanted her.
The decision made, he drained his drink and threw enough cash on the bar to cover their tab. When he grabbed her hand and led her outside, she followed willingly.
Wyatt didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. As soon as they made it through the door, he pulled her as close as skin and clothing would allow. When his lips met hers, her mouth was already open to him. He was hungry, eager, and reckless with his need of this woman, and she matched him move for move.
He laced his fingers through hers and used the gentle hold to pin her arms over her head against the rough exterior of the building. The move left them both helpless to reach for more, but the suggestion of danger made him dizzy with desire. The way she bit her lip and whispered his name led him to believe she shared his excitement.
The night moved around them. The ocean waves washed the beach a couple of blocks to the east, the distant hush of the tide setting the pace for the ragged cadence of their breaths. Salt hung in the air, and unkempt dune grasses swished in a chorus under a star-studded sky. Music drifted from the bar on the heels of cigarette smoke. Mattie’s skin was fire against the cool night, and she tasted of beer and woman. The combination made him crazy.
She crooked her leg around his, sliding her bare calf and thigh against his own leg—a dangerous move with his limbs growing weaker by the second.
He released his grasp of her fingers and let his hands trail down the flesh of her arms, past the generous swell of her breasts and the feminine curve of her waist. When he got a little lower, he slipped his arms around her, lifting her off her feet.
She wrapped her legs around his hips, clinging to him like she was meant to be there all along. Her fingers caught in his hair; her soft cheek grazed his rough one.
He didn’t know how he made it across the sand without stumbling. He couldn’t guess how he got the truck door open with her nibbling at his neck and his earlobes. He still didn’t know much of anything about her. He just knew that he wanted her, and the planets must have aligned up there somewhere because damned if she didn’t want him, too.
They still hadn’t spoken. Not since she’d sunk that last eight ball on Arnie, and now he couldn’t even remember what he’d said. He was fairly certain he hadn’t mentioned a quickie in the parking lot, but she’d accepted the unspoken invitation nonetheless. The little bit of denim between her legs did nothing to hide her arousal, and there wasn’t anything in the world that could hide the evidence of his need.
Effortlessly, he lifted her into the cab and let her fall backward on the bench seat. He climbed up after her and pushed between her legs, the ache of his erection antagonized when he felt her heat through their clothes.
She reached for him and fisted his shirt, pulling him on top of her. One kiss tumbled into another—a hot, seductive dance of tongues and need that left him on the verge of an explosion.
He found enough space between them to slide one hand under her shirt, and the softness of her skin taunted him. He took his revenge on her hard nipples, pinching and rolling one with his fingers and bringing his mouth down on the other through her shirt.
Mattie moaned and raked her fingers across his back. Desire shot through Wyatt as she worked her way to his abdomen, then ended in an explosion when she found his zipper and unbuttoned his pants.. He didn’t move his mouth off her shirt or release the breast he mauled through it when she grasped him. Wyatt didn’t think; he sailed, letting the power of his need overwhelm him.
His cell phone rang, startling them both. Son of a bitch. Panting, he fumbled for it. Mattie didn’t relent her grasp, and he wished more than anything he didn’t have an obligation to answer the phone. Finally, he found it on the floor and glanced at the caller ID. Dwight.
He flipped the phone open and tried not to sound breathless, but Mattie still stroked him shamelessly, grinning like a cat.
“This better be good, Edmunds,” he told the deputy by way of greeting.
“Good, bad, whatever you call it, it’s worth a phone call.” Dwight sounded a little breathless himself. And distraught.
“What’s wrong?” Wyatt sat up, disengaging himself from Mattie’s grasp. For a moment, he wondered if the concern on her face was a reflection of his own and flashed her a quick expression of apology. So much for not playing sheriff for the night.
Dwight sounded like hell, though. Years of experience on the sleepy, crime-free island, and not once had a late-night call hit Wyatt with such urgency.
“You’d better get out here.” Dwight paused as a siren wailed over the line. “There’s a dead woman on the beach, Sheriff, and this was no accident—she was murdered.”
I want to thank Sarah for coming by and giving us a peek into her clearly busy life.