Hello, Declan, thank you for being with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’ve been writing for about 20 years in one form or another. I write under 3 aliases: Sam Cheever for sensual and erotic fantasy and mystery/suspense; S.I. Decker for young adult; and Declan Sands for m/m and ménage fantasy, contemporary, and mystery/suspense. I started my writing career in business, as a writing/editing consultant for several corporations. I still do a little of that work, but mostly I focus on my real love, which is writing fiction.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first published work was ‘Tween Heaven and Hell, a fast paced paranormal romance about angels and devils in a futuristic world. I wrote the initial draft as a weekly serial, one chapter a week, for a few dozen subscribers. When it was complete I sent it out to several publishers and received an acceptance from Ellora’s Cave a few weeks later. It was very exciting!
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I’ve only been writing m/m romance for about a year. I got hooked on it through the books of Josh Lanyon and L.B. Gregg. These authors write excellent stories and their characters are wonderful. I actually have always liked writing from the male perspective and m/m fiction just doubles my fun!
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
Getting published was a journey. I got a lot of rejections before I wrote a book that was ready to go live. #:0) I probably sent proposals out half-heartedly for a couple of years. I’ve published more than 40 books so far, I have three more waiting to release, and I’m currently working on 4 others. LOL, suddenly I’m feeling very tired.
Do you write full time?
For the most part I do. I still occasionally work with corporate clients, providing writing/editing services, but I spend most of my time working on my passion, which is writing fiction!
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I always wanted to write. I believe everyone is good at something, the trick is just finding out what that something is. #:0) I discovered at an early age that I had a knack with words. But I didn’t think I was going to be able to make a living writing. Then I found a degree program at a local 4 year college called Professional and Technical Writing. It was the happiest day of my life! I was able to use my BA degree in writing to offer my services to Corporate America until I could get my writing career underway. I feel very blessed to have been able to do what I both love and have a skill for.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
I get up at 4 or 5 a.m. and go through my emails, respond as needed, and then do some promotional work. Then I take care of my critters, eat breakfast, and settle in to do some writing. I write until about 4 in the afternoon, taking breaks to eat and walk my dogs. After 4 I spend time with my family and do whatever chores need doing. I’m usually in bed reading by 8 or 9 pm and asleep before 10 pm. Pretty exciting huh? LOL
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I do both. If a scene has flowed fairly well the first time I write it I just keep writing. Occasionally I have trouble getting a scene down and I realize it’s not my best work so I’ll go back and smooth it out before moving on to the next scene.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
When I start a book I do a very high level plan that I rarely stick to, LOL, then I go where my muse takes me as I write. It helps to have some idea where I’m going when I start a book but it’s really more of a binkie than anything else. I rarely follow my initial plan closely, although I do keep most of the high points.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
It really depends on the subject matter for the book. For my futuristic fantasies, because their worlds are so completely different from the real world, I don’t research much, I create. #:0) For my romantic suspense stories I have certain subject matter experts whom I contact when necessary. I also do a lot of research on the Internet and if I’m dealing with something very complex I’ll buy a reference book to make sure I get the facts right.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I know that many of my characters have a little of me in them. It’s impossible to resist doing that as an author. LOL But the real trick is making each character unique, with different characteristics that are appealing and challenging enough to be interesting. Obviously characters develop as you continue to write them, which is probably why series do so well. Readers can really get to know the characters in a series like they can’t a single title. The best way to develop a character is to challenge them. Like real people, fictional characters show their true colors when they face a difficult moment or a dangerous situation. And just like us, they sometimes fail to live up to expectations. But that’s okay because perfection is boring…even irritating. Flaws are something to embrace in a character. Having said that, there are some things readers can’t forgive in a character. So I draw the line at those things. A man who beats a woman, rapes, mistreats children and/or animals…those are irredeemable traits. A woman who whines too much, is weak and foolish, or who lets her man mistreat her…who wants to read about that heroine? Other than that, however, all bets are off! There are as many ways to write a character as there are people in the world. And that’s a LOT of ways! LOL
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I pretty much write straight through and then revise. I can complete a 50k book in about 6 weeks if I stay on schedule.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Absolutely. We all do. I usually work on at least 2 books at a time to alleviate that problem. If I get stuck on one I can usually still work on one of my other projects. But, I’ve discovered that, for me at least, being stuck means I’ve lost my way in the story. I know where I’ve started and where I need to end up, but things in the middle have gotten a little muddled or disappeared entirely. So I can usually work through it if I sit down and create an outline for how the story needs to flow. I won’t always stick to the outline (see earlier response on planning vs pantsing LOL) but it helps me get back to writing again.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I consider my books mind candy. Real life can be hard and sad. I don’t want my books to be hard or sad. A lot of authors strive for angst and a lot of readers look for it in their reading material. Those readers probably won’t like my books. I don’t do angst. That’s just not my style. That doesn’t mean one of my books won’t touch a lot of emotions as you read, they just won’t drop you into a vat of angst and leave you there. ROFL! If you don’t laugh out loud at least once during one of my books I’m disappointed. But you may also cry, scream, and even have an “awe shucks” moment. I want the reader to jump on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride, arms in the air and screaming. But I cut the analogy short before the puking. No puking. Puking is bad. LOL!
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Three things I’ve learned…hmm…okay here goes:
1. Rejection is hard
2. Reviews are wonderful
3. Reviews suck #:0)
4. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to do what I love!
Huh? Oh, that’s 4 things? What do you expect, I work with words…not numbers. ROFL!
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
I usually try to think of the title as soon as I get the idea for the story, before I start writing it. Sometimes it changes once I start writing because I think having a title that exactly fits the story is important.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
This will probably surprise you but I’m a bit of a snark. No really, I am. I love great snark, just slightly mean but not really. I like interfamily squabbling, that’s a lot of fun, probably because it’s based in truth. I write characters who are able to laugh at themselves, ‘cause if they don’t their friends and family will! LOL
What is the most frequently asked Delcan question?
Where do I get my story ideas. The answer is from everywhere. I’m an observer of human nature. People are a rich source of creative inspiration.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on an erotic paranormal and a paranormal mystery. When I’m done with these, I need to start work on book 3 of both my Hoale Construction series and my Blood-Hound series. There’s a long list of stuff waiting behind those. Sigh… #:0)
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
I’ve always taken poor reviews very hard. They’re unavoidable. We all have different tastes in reading and not everyone is going to like a particular story. But a successful, self-published author once told me that I should look at those reviews as being from readers who are outside of my target audience. If a book gets several 5 star reviews and then someone gives it a 2, I know that person is not one of my target readers. That helps me take it less personally and it makes perfect sense.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
If I go overboard it’s usually with buying special promotional items. I’ve never been the type of person to just stock up on pens and bookmarks and call it a day. I love to find the promo item that’s different from all others…the one the reader will get excited about and actually hold onto. If the promo item stays with the reader so does my name, so I’m willing to spend a little more to have that happen.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
I try to avoid negativity. It’s not always easy when there are so many people who feel the need to share their negative vibes with you. LOL Nothing kills my spark like having someone dump their bad mood on me, or for something bad to happen to me or someone I love. When it all gets to be too much I take my dogs for a walk and just try to enjoy them. At the bottom of it all I’m very blessed. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that and all the bad washes away.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read the same kinds of books I write. I love romantic suspense and fantasy, both m/m and mainstream.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I actually studied to be a dietician before I realized I could get a degree in writing. Once I knew I could make a living doing what I loved, being a dietician no longer held any appeal! LOL
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
I think most authors are observers. We watch and listen to everything around us and that feeds our creative core. When it comes time to create a story we have a deep pool of stored information to draw from. Of course there is always the story idea that pops into your head when you least expect it. Those are the most fun.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I love a cover that fits the storyline. That seems obvious but I’m always amazed at the covers I’ve seen that seem to have nothing to do with the book behind them. I have to admit that I have an inner raccoon. I like bright, shiny things, so I tend to be most partial to more colorful covers.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I spend my free time reading, walking my dogs, riding my horses, and going to the movies with my daughters. If I have any energy left after all that I like to do yoga. LOL
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
I just published book 2 of my Hoale Construction Series, Hoaley Ill-Manored.
Here’s the blurb:
A 200 year old manor house, a questionable death, and a cache of stolen jewelry. Who will kill to keep their secrets?
The gang flips a 200 year old manor house in the beautiful, rolling hills of Brown County, Indiana. Unfortunately the house is the site of a suicide, the result of a broken romance, and is rumored to be haunted. Adam and Maddy get caught up in the story of the young couple who were torn apart by family, local events, and something sinister that still seems to be stalking the house. It might not be a ghost, but whatever it is, it has the potential to be deadly.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Never stop listening and learning from others. No matter how talented you think you are you can always learn more and improve. Nobody starts out the best they can be. But the ones who succeed never stop improving their craft.
What future projects do you have in the works?
I’m planning on adding another romantic suspense series and another paranormal series to my book list. But that’s down the road a bit, once I get caught up with the work load I have now. LOL
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
I thought you’d never ask! The following excerpt is from my new Hoale Construction series release, Hoaley Ill-Manored:
Adam blinked and focused on Dirk. Edgar was standing next to Dirk, his eyes glazed with reminiscence. “Thank you for sharing your memories, Edgar. For a couple of minutes I was right there with you. It must have been a beautiful sight.”
“It was, yes. I’m sure I’ve made it larger than life in my mind, but those were wonderful times in this old manor. I’d like to see them come again.”
Dirk smiled at Edgar. “I can’t thank you enough for giving me the tour. I really enjoyed it.”
“You’re more than welcome. Now that Mr. Hoale is here I’ll let him show you around the rest of the place. I’m afraid these old bones don’t have the stamina they used to.”
Adam patted Edgar on the shoulder. “Maddy’s in the kitchen. I think she’s got some tea brewing for you.”
Edgar’s wrinkled face split in a wide grin. “That sounds lovely.” He tottered off and Adam and Dirk stood together in uncomfortable silence for a long moment.
Finally Dirk said, “This is a real gem, Adam. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.”
Adam frowned. “I think I just realized what a huge responsibility I’ve taken on here. This place needs to be recreated carefully, lovingly. It’s going to take a lot more money than I’ve budgeted.”
Dirk touched Adam’s face. “I know you’ll do a wonderful job, Ads. You always do.”
Adam stepped away from Dirk’s magnetic touch. “You promised not to contact me again.”
“Nope. I promised not to call. I came as soon as I could get away.”
“How’d you find me? No…never mind. I know how. Peter told you didn’t he?”
“Don’t be mad at him, Ads. I tortured him until he gave the information up.”
“Let me guess, you offered him a weekend in Las Vegas for two?”
“Don’t underestimate the loyalty of your employees, Ads. He held out for four days and two shows.”
Adam swore softly. He started walking, not knowing where he was going, but suddenly too restless to stand still. “You wasted a trip. I’ve told you before, Dirk, I can’t deal with the stress and worry anymore.”
Dirk grabbed his arm as Adam reached for the handle to one of the veranda doors. “There’s a very simple solution, Ads.”
Adam shook off Dirk’s touch again and wrenched the door open, nearly diving through the doorway. Panic sluiced through him. He didn’t think he could stand the pain of another break up.
“Adam, for god’s sake, will you just stop and listen for a minute?”
Adam whipped around, pushing his face into Dirk’s. “No! Because there is no solution, simple or otherwise. You just don’t have it in you to be faithful…monogamous…whatever you want to call it. And I can’t be anything else. We’re not compatible, Dirk. We never were. I’m just getting too old to fight it.” Adam stalked across the slate tiles of the veranda and down the steps, heading across the rough cut expanse of grass toward the lake.
Dirk fell in beside him and they covered the distance to the lake in silence. As they approached the gazebo Mike the swan did his whole, “Halt! Who goes there!” shtick, spreading his wings and bobbing his elegant head in a patently aggressive manner. But when they ignored him he gave up and returned to pecking at the grass along the water’s edge.
Adam stepped into the gazebo and dropped onto the bench, feeling suddenly numb. Dirk leaned against the frame and looked at Adam, his expression tight with emotion. The silence between them was uncomfortable but Adam didn’t want to be the one to break it so he stared at his shoes and waited.
“You could trust me.”
The words were spoken in a pain-filled whisper that cut through Adam like a knife. He closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the pain to stop slicing his heart to ribbons. “It sounds so easy doesn’t it?”
“It does, Ads. Because it is. I know you think I’ve been catting around in California. I’ve told you I haven’t. I never would. Because I love you. All you have to do is trust me enough to believe that.”
Adam’s laugh was bitter. “Is that all?”