Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Member Spotlight on Sarah McGregor!

by | May 22, 2021

Do you write full-time or part-time?


I’m Sarah McGregor. I live with my husband of 37 years (!) on a small farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. I’m the mother of two grown daughters and the grammy of an eighteen-month-old. Right before Covid (BC?) I retired from working as a speech/language pathologist and now I guess I could say I write full time, except there’s a limit to how long I can sit in front of a computer so it’s more like half time. I run every other day; my husband and I have run several half marathons in the area, and I’m a lifelong equestrian and keep two horses (and two cats) here on the farm.


What’s the hardest part of writing?


I have two books out. Indecent Proposal is a contemporary romance (50 Shades of Hay meets Pride and Prejudice) and was published through a Canadian publishing company. He Loves Me Knot is a Regency Time Travel and I published it myself. I am an abysmal marketer and despite taking several classes on the subject, I’m still terrible at it. I have just finished my third run through of a Regency Romance which I plan to self-publish and I’m starting the hunt for an editor. The Duke’s Promise is based on the amazing story of the Duke and Duchess of Wellington only I’ve changed it to have a happy ending.

The hardest part of writing for me is…forming a complete sentence! My verbal speech is littered with “you know what I mean”, “kind of like”, and “one of those things like we saw at that one store when we were on vacation and I couldn’t sleep so I drank too much coffee, and it has purple on it and…” etc. etc. You get the picture.


What’s your favorite historical movie?


My favorite historical movie is Pride and Prejudice – the one with Colin Firth. I’ll watch the Keira Knightley version in a pinch.


Who’s your favorite historical figure?


The Duke of Wellington is presently my favorite historical figure and I doubt he will be overthrown any time soon. I stumbled on a book that compared his life with Napoleon’s and I was fascinated. I continued to read about him and then when we got the chance, my husband and I visited Apsley House, the Duke’s townhome in London, Stratfield Saye, his country estate in Reading, and Walmer Castle in Kent which is where he died. If the pandemic ever ends, we plan to go to Portugal where I’ve read, they have a Duke of Wellington tour that visits battlefields and other sites of interest over the course of several days. He would definitely be the person I’d like to meet – and maybe shake some sense into him regarding the way he treated his wife. Hmm. Maybe the duchess would be the better choice. We could create schemes to get him to…mend his ways.


If you could time travel, what era would you visit?


Of course, if given the choice, I would time travel to the Regency era – see my book He Loves Me Knot, where I did exactly that.


What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?


The best writing advice I ever received came from a beta reader of my gargantuan 330,000-word debut manuscript. She told me, “Too much, of everything.” Fortunately, she was the only beta reader for that version, and it was advice well taken. Had she picked and poked I’m sure I would have been overwhelmed and defeated. That simple, apologetically delivered summation said it all.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


I have always enjoyed writing and reading and got a lot of praise and encouragement from teachers along the way. However, my dad once (or twice) informed me that English majors were nothing more than waitresses with a good vocabulary and as a result I never considered it as a serious vocation. I had come up with a few ideas while running or sitting for endless hours on the tractor mower, but I didn’t sit down and write anything until a thirteen-year-old friend of my daughter’s wrote and published a book. Just like that! She didn’t wait for the planets to align or anything! I decided that if she could do it, so could I.


Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?


Every book I read influences me as a writer. If I read a book that I don’t think is particularly well written, it gives me hope that I can do as well. When I read a book that is superbly written, along with marveling over word choice, images portrayed, and the way an author can make me laugh or cry or feel that thudding heart flip like when you start the downward glide on a Ferris wheel, I am often completely demoralized. How could I possibly ever write something like that? As a result, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey may be the most influential books I’ve read. Yes, I know neither of them are considered to be well-written. But I enjoyed them both. I liked them so much that I watched every one of the terrible movies after I read every one of the books, twice. And I thought, I can do this.

Another author that influenced me is Kresley Cole. I don’t typically read sci-fi/fantasy stuff, but I had a several hour long wait at Temple U’s graduation ceremony so I went down to the campus bookstore and that’s what I found. I loved the book and read as many of her other books as I could find, and I read an interview with her. She said that when she decided to take writing seriously, she made a goal to keep 25 balls in the air at all times. The balls consisted of taking classes, entering contests, sending out query letters, etc. etc. She didn’t do one thing and wait to see how it turned out. She kept trying things in hopes that at least some of them would pan out. I find 25 to be a daunting number, but I can keep at least five balls rolling.


Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?


I started out as a pantser which (see above) is how I meandered my way into a 330,000-word manuscript. After taking myriad classes (see above again), I have learned to be more organized and rein in my tendency to ramble. I fill out a goal, motivation and conflict chart and sometimes a character interview before I begin something. I also keep a notecard for each chapter – noting the basic scenes included, page numbers and number of pages.


Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?


As per Kresley Cole’s advice (see above yet again), I am constantly entering contests. While I was waiting for the editor to return what was really my first book, I started writing a second and entered it in a contest. Indecent Proposal was my “gee, I think I could do that” reaction to 50 Shades of Grey and I didn’t really have plans for it. It won a contest, and I was told that the editor judge “wanted it”. After a few weeks, I emailed the contest lady to ask her what that meant and sure enough, this company wanted to publish it. They are a lovely company – organized and friendly and helpful. They kept my title, I liked the cover, and was impressed with the editors. Meanwhile, poor He Loves Me Knot, got rave reviews from beta readers, won tons of contests, and was requested by several publishers but… No one judging a contest requested it, and the publishers that wanted it also wanted major aspects changed or omitted. The company that took Indecent Proposal would take it, but I discovered that most of my readers go to Amazon where I get 25 cents for a print book. They (the company) do no marketing other than offering the book on their website. As terrible as I am at marketing, at least when I self-publish, I have control over price, sales, Kindle Unlimited, etc. so I decided to take the plunge and now that’s my focus.






Share This