Lake in the Clouds

interview with the wilderness crowd

Regarding this post: I thought I had posted this a long time ago, but I can’t find it in the database. If I did post it, I apologize for the repetition. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s a transcript of one of my meetings with my characters. It was written some time ago — at least six months — but it’s still pretty relevant. I ask questions; the answers in bold face.
So, who wants to get this story started? Elizabeth?

No thank you very much. It’s time for someone else to have a turn.


You know me better than that.


You can’t handle my story.

Lily. Come on.

Possibly. Let me talk it over with Simon. But you do realize we’ve been away from Paradise for a long time?


Look around this village, you’ll see I don’t have time. And please don’t ask Ben, he’s distracted enough as it is.

But Hannah, I can’t just ignore him. Ben?

Happy people make boring fiction, I’ve read that on your weblog a number of times.

You read my weblog?

We all do.

Jennet! You’ll get us started, won’t you?

Ye ken we spend half the year in Manhattan, aye? I fear I couldnae do it justice.

Carrie? Gabriel?

I mean no disrespect, but I hardly know you. And Gabriel isn’t here. He’s never here. Go up to Lake in the Clouds if you want to talk to him.


I don’t tell stories the way you do.

Curiosity. Hello.

Don’t you play games, missy. I know you’ve had your eye on me this whole while.

Shouldn’t I have my eye on you? It’s your turn.

You think you so clever, but I’m wise to you. I surely am.

I don’t know what you mean.

Is that so? And ain’t you the one who pulled me out of thin air? You know what’s holding things up, you just don’t want to face it.

Now I’m curious. Go on.

One thing you keep forgetting. You know us all because you gave us breath and bone alike, but we know you too. We know you down deep.

Wonderful. So tell me, why don’t you: why does every path I try dry up? Why won’t any of you talk?

You make me laugh, you do. You say you listening, but you ain’t. Not really. One of us whisper something in your ear and you turn away.

You mean that image I keep getting.

You know I do mean just exactly that.

The [] family around the table and the terrible silence.

Didn’t I tell you? You know already. You just don’t like what you know. Last time you come to stay with us was hard. Took a lot out of you. Took a lot out of Hannah, too, but it’s been ten years now for Hannah. She had the time to heal and catch her breath. Get her feet back under her. You got to rush back in. I ain’t surprised you dragging your feet.

Hey. I sit here writing and rewriting every day.

Uhuh. Like a child digging in sand with the tide coming in. Now, don’t you think for one minute I ain’t took note of the fact that you changed the subject. You said something about the [] family around a table and then you turned your back on it.

So I need to start with the []?

I ain’t said that. You the one tapping away, putting the words down. I’ll say this one more time, and you had best take it to heart. You forgot how to listen to us, because you lost your talent for sorrow. You want to tell a happy story, but there’s more going on here. We got happy, sure we do, but that’s just the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

I don’t think that’s it.

No? And here I was thinking you needed help. So what is holding things up?.

There’s just too much story to tell, it’s overwhelming.

Lot of story ain’t never slowed you down before.

That’s true.

Times so much happening so fast, my head like to bust but you sail right along.

Yes, okay. But this time feels different. It feels like–

The end of things.

I suppose.

Look here, you let me get this old. Now you got to show me it was worth it, all this long time, all these words. More than a million words. You got to pull it all together now, I been waiting long enough.

So you’ll finally tell all those secrets you’ve been keeping?

If you writing, I’m telling. Now or never.

supportive (and conflicting) email from readers

I’ve had some really nice email lately. Of course I have no time to answer it. Here’s proof: I’m so distracted and (shall I say it?) overwhelmed that the rate at which I lose, misplace or forget things has taken an alarming upturn. Last week I went to get the Girlchild’s registration renewed and new tabs. I took in the registration from my car instead of hers and handed it over to the clerk, who looked dubious and then downright worried. I’m surprised he didn’t call the cops on me.

Fixed that. Got the registration, got the tabs. Put them in my purse very carefully.

Then I couldn’t find my cash card and I was so irritated with myself that I sat right down and cleaned out my purse. And a miracle: I found the durn card hiding in a pocket where it doesn’t belong. Guess what came next?

That’s right, the registration and tabs are gone. Missing. Or really not so much missing; I’m pretty sure they’re in a trash can somewhere. I can’t even subject myself to going through the trash because I’m not sure where I was at the time this cleaning fit came over me. So tomorrow I have to go back to the DMV, confess my absent mindedness, and pay all over again.

However. I did write 1,500 words today, which is quite respectable.

So some nice emails:

I CAN’T SAY BONJOUR TO Hannah and Ben. I just finished “Queen of Swords”. I loved the pace of the story action and most of all its characters. I live in a tiny town in Newfoundland, Canada. When is the next novel in this series? We can’t let them go yet. (DPB)

I’ve just finished Queen Of Swords, and once again you’ve penned a great story. I’ve read all 5 books in the Wilderness Series and I really enjoy the character development of all the protagonists plus the scintilating plot twists.

1) Embellish the battle scenes with more specifics of the fighting.

2) Be more specific when descibing the physical traits of the characters so we readers can picture them more clearly.

3) Your love scenes could be a little “steamier”.(BB)

But K is of a different mind on the last point at least:

I just finished Queen of Swords and I absolutely loved it! The best one yet! The last 50 pages took me 5 days because I didn’t want it to end and I read very slowly and made myself stop. I crawled in bed at 10 pm last night with chapter 63 and put it down. I finished it when I got up at 6:40 am :(

I tell everyone about these books. I’ve had to speak directly to my librarian at the West Bloomfield, Michigan branch at Westacres. Believe it or not they have Lake in the Clouds, Fire along the Sky and Queen of Swords but NOT Into the Wilderness nor Dawn on a Distant Shore!!!! I have requested they add these two to the collection. Has yet to happen.

I love the way you write your stories. I really appreciate your ability to capture love and passion without all the “steamy details”. So much better left to one’s imagination. We get the picture (K)

Just felt compelled to thank you for the unforgettable journey of the Bonner’s… The only setback that results from reading this series is the feeling of desolation that comes from leaving these characters at the end of the novel…

But this at least, is short lived, as time and again I have found that they yet have persevered and off I go
tailing after them on yet another most memorable adventure.
And most incredible being that after all my years of reading a vast multitude of stories – I am yet unable to for-see well, what plot may lay ahead… Marvelous!!!

Thank-you for the gift of many hours spent in breathtaking adventure and learning! (DD)

These emails mean a great deal to me. When the going is rough, they give me a boost I couldn’t get any other way. For all of you who have emailed me and are not included in the bunch, please know that I do read everything that comes my way. If we ever hit it big on the lottery, I’ll have a full time assistant to take care of things like car registrations and misbehaving printers. Then I could answer all my mail.

G or PG or Nothing: Unhappy Readers

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series The Art and Craft of Writing Sex Scenes

This email came in today:

I started out really enjoying the book Lake in the Clouds, but quickly lost that enjoyment when you described the sex scene. How I wish that all books had a rating like the movies so one’s money would not be wasted. If you have any family rated (G or PG) books please let me know.

A-Would-Be Reader

It’s unfortunate that she started with Lake in the Clouds, as the scenes that (I’m guessing) bother her are (in one case at least) more about violence than sex. I really do try to avoid gratuitous sex scenes. If there’s nothing to be gained in character development or plot, I’ll skip over the details.

So I’m sorry to lose a potential reader, but I don’t really see a way around this conflict. I write the story — which isn’t always pretty — to the best of my ability. Some will like my stuff, and others won’t. Such is the nature of the beast. In the ten or so years since the first novel in the series came out, I’ve had a handful of emails from people who tell me why they can’t or won’t read my work.

There’s was the guy who was outraged that a dog was shot (the many human deaths didn’t seem to bother him); there have been other people who objected to violence or sex. A few people decided they didn’t like me personally and so they don’t want to read my novels. All fair enough. I make similar decisions every day.

On the other hand it wouldn’t occur to me to write to an author and tell her (or him) what steps would be necessary for me to become a faithful reader. I might write and express an opinion, but I can’t imagine telling somebody how to tell a story.


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some questions and some answers re: the next novel in the series

I had a very kind email today from C.S. in England:

Dear Sara

I would just like to email you to say that I think the ‘Into the Wilderness’ series is just simply fantastic. I have only recently discovered them but have now read (and re-read) all 4 four books and have loved every one. I am now desperate for Queen of Swords! I have read a plot summary of the book on Random House’s website which tells me that the main focus is the Luke/Jennet/Hannah story. But I have two burning questions though which I would be so happy if you could answer: are Elizabeth/Nathaniel/Lake in the Clouds mentioned in the new book or is it completely the Luke/Jennet story? And, is the Queen Of Swords the end of the series or are you planning on writing any more?

As a UK resident, I am planning on pre-ordering the book so that it can be shipped to me straightaway!

Thank you so much for transporting me to a world of adventure and romance!

So let me answer the two questions:

1. While Queen of Swords is primarily about Hannah, Luke and Jennet, you will see something of [two other main characters] at some point. Also, there are lots of letters exchanged so even if you don’t see some people directly, you certainly hear their voices and know what’s going on with them.

2. It had seemed until very recently that this might be the last novel in the series, as publishers are very wary of historical fiction these days an not so keen about investing in it. However, Bantam raised the topic of another novel in the series and so we’re pursuing that conversation. It won’t be quick, I have to warn you, but at this point I can say that it is likely to happen, one way or another.

I’m so glad C.S. has enjoyed the story thus far. For some reason unclear to me, the books haven’t done nearly as well the Brits as it has with the crowd Down Under or here in the States. But I’m ever hopeful that more people will discover the novels, as C.S. did.