Sunday, September 4, 2011

Spotlight Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway with Sarah Ballance

This week I am so very pleased to welcome Sarah Ballance to my  blog.  We've got an interview, Giveaway opportunity, and an excerpt from her novella, Hawthorne. So scroll on down and enjoy. ALL proceeds from sales of Hawthorne are being donated to support Japan Disaster Relief.  So, now, on with the interview.


Tell us about your current release.

I'm so grateful to be here today to talk about my novella, HAWTHORNE. This story is special for two reasons—first and foremost, because 100% of proceeds will be donated by Astraea Press to support Japan disaster relief, but also for the impact writing it had on me. As an author, the story presented a huge challenge: it was my first short, and trying to bring life and conflict to characters readers could connect with in such an abbreviated space was something with which I struggled. The feedback has been amazing, though. HAWTHORNE tends to draw strong reader reaction, which is both immensely flattering to me as a new author, and also a bit scary. I hope some of you will be willing to take a $3 chance on me as a new-to-you author in order to support such a great cause. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to make a global difference with my words, but I hope HAWTHORNE will do just that, however small.

Tell us about your next release.
I have a brand new romantic suspense series with Noble Romance that kicked off September 5 with UNFORGIVEN and an October 17 novella called FAMILIAR LIGHT which releases as part of the Noble Authors Blog tour. We've got dozens and dozens of great prizes on the blog tour – I hope some of your readers will join us! In the meantime, anyone who would like to see more of my work can check out the Six Sentence Sunday features on my blog.

What was your first sale as an author?
My first sale was DOWN IN FLAMES, which also happens to be the first book I wrote. Noble Romance was my first query, my first acceptance, and my first published title!

Do you hear from your readers? What kinds of questions do they ask?
The question I hear most often is, "How do you find time to write with all of those kids?" And my answer is this: I find time to write because of them. ;c) Our children range in age from one to 13 and we homeschool, so we're usually in a state of chaos, organized or otherwise. After being pulled in several directions throughout the day, to be able to settle down in the evenings with my WIP and allow my characters and their story to take me absolutely anywhere is aMAZing. In that sense, writing gives me a chance to get away from it all, recharge, and re-center. And trust me, they want that.  Because "when mama ain't happy…" LOL.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
I happen to be working on one as we speak! The series is called Packing Heat, and each plot connects in some way to a gun. In the first, UNFORGIVEN, a rare rifle pins my heroine for murder, but when the wrong man takes the bullet, the bad guy's perfect crime begins to unravel. Each book in the series will stand alone, but readers will recognize some of the characters from other books in the series and the theme will remain throughout.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For most of my childhood, I wanted to be a teacher. That changed when I got my first horse at age 15 and I switched gears to equine veterinarian.  To that end, I double majored in biology and biochemistry, but stopped short of vet school because my focus slipped to family.  My hubby and I married when I was 19 and the first of our six children was born three days before our first anniversary. Funny, though, with homeschooling it seems I followed my childhood dream of teaching after all. ;c)  As for writing, it was never even on the radar. Total whim, but I got serious fast when that first contract arrived! LOL.

Do you have a Website or Blog?
Yes, and I'm not above bribing readers for their attention. *grin* I have weekly giveaways on my blog, and the ONLY way to enter is to subscribe by email. If  you'd like a chance to win a weekly $5 gift certificate and be among the first to know about bigger prizes and special events, please head over to my blog and enter your email address. (I promise not to use it for evil!)  My blog address is and my website is - hope to see you there!

Website  |  Blog  |  Goodreads 

Enter and Comment for a chance to win a digital, PDF copy of HAWTHORNE.  One winner will be randomly selected using This giveaway is open internationally and ends September 17, 11:59 PM CST.

After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it took ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home.   She sought peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she found was an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she could right.

Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett never forgot about Emma Grace.  In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents revealed a truth that could cost him everything.  What he found gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?

BUY LINK:  Astraea Press

Chapter One

     The car slowed to a stop and a decade's worth of memories tumbled onto the sun-blanched asphalt.

Hawthorne Manor.

     The hand-painted sign hadn't changed in years. In the thick, damp air filling the Louisiana landscape, the wood display remain inexplicably unaffected. There it sat—every meticulously scripted letter as crisp and clean as the stark white walls of the manor it lauded, oblivious to the passage of time.

     Emma Hawthorne tensed in the seat of the Mustang convertible, staring at her past with ice sluicing her spine Anywhere else, the view would have been gorgeous. The drive, lined on both sides with live oak laden with Spanish moss, was the South personified. At the end, Hawthorne Manor held court. Pristine, proud, the boastful antebellum home beamed, lording over its acreage.

     But it harbored the unspeakable. No amount of time could erase what happened to her on the other side of the expanse of green lawn. Nothing could change what she'd seen there. Some might say she was crazy—that she'd imagined or invented the whole ordeal—but her scars were all the proof she needed. Whether the shadows lurking behind the façade of the picturesque plantation were real or born of an overactive imagination, there was no way she was going back into that house.

Especially not for a dead woman.

     Sparing a glance in the rearview, Emma steeled herself against a trembling in her hands that threatened to overtake her body. She released a pent-up breath, her heart settling into a less acrobatic rhythm at the thought of leaving. She didn't have to stay here.

Let the South win this one. She was going home.

A split second after she decided to go, something caught her eye. She blinked, trying to see through the swaying canopy of leaves and moss, certain a figure stood atop the widow's walk straddling the roofline of the house. But no one—

Something brushed the car, rocking it. Swallowing panic, Emma tried to tear her focus from Hawthorne Manor, but fear kept her from looking anywhere else. Time and distance hadn't done her any favors; she was a fool for coming anywhere near this place, much less with the ragtop down.

The car rocked harder. The something refused to be ignored.

Fighting the grip of panic tightening her throat—fighting the ghosts of her past—Emma forced herself to look away from the house, toward the intrusion over her left shoulder.

The first thing she saw was an aged set of gnarled fingers resting on the door, blue automotive paint showing through an ugly translucence.

The second was the face—withered, centurion, and expressionless. Haunting.


Emma screamed.
     It couldn't be her.

     Noah Garrett tore down the drive, slapping through a muggy afternoon haze comprised of mosquitoes and humidity. He couldn't know that scream, but he felt the connection the moment the sound of her fear pierced the thick air.

     Emma Grace.

     The one reason he allowed himself to stagnate on the old plantation, long after life and reason moved on without him. Long after she had.

     A blue Mustang sat at the end of the driveway. He wondered if it could be hers—even as he knew it impossible—but she was nowhere in sight.

He slowed to a trot. The sprint left him drenched with sweat and not entirely disappointed his imagination had gotten away from him. His  dream of one more chance to see Emma Grace had never included himself as a dripping mess. He wiped the moisture from his brow, fast concluding the car must belong to a tourist. They often parked at the end of the drive and took pictures of the condescending mansion most thought beautiful. He assumed the intrusion seemed small to their frequent guests, but the constant ding of the hidden bell announcing a visitor could drive a man to the edge.

As if losing Emma Grace hadn't already accomplished that.

Noah closed in on the convertible, giving the nearby grounds a cursory look. The lawn was meticulous, the beds overflowing with sprays of purple garden phlox which trailed around the bend in the road and disappeared. A riot of white and rust-red irises backed the smaller purple flowers, their leaves deep green and glossy. Overhead, Spanish moss swayed only occasionally atop a maze of live oak, more likely a result of a passing swarm of insects than an actual air current. The land was still. If there were tourists snapping photos of the historic plantation—or doing anything else—he didn't see them. But someone had been there, the seemingly familiar scream so real.

Wasn't it always?

Resigned to another night alone with his memories, Noah pivoted.

And found himself nose to nose with Emma Grace.

Astounded, he opened his mouth, then closed it. He wanted to reach for her, but his arms refused the notion; they hung uselessly by his sides, the effort futile. His mouth wasn't much on cooperation, either. Finally, he found his tongue. "Em—"

Her expression cut him off. Green eyes wide, skin pale, her small frame shaking, she spoke. "I saw her, Noah. She's back." The words, nearly soundless, seemed to catch in the thick air. Lingering. Threatening.

And ripping the heart from his chest.

-----End of Excerpt----- 

Enter and Comment for a chance to win a digital, PDF copy of HAWTHORNE.  One winner will be randomly selected using This giveaway is open internationally and ends September 17, 11:59 PM CST.


aobibliophile™ said...

hi Laurie! old mansions, secrets and hauntings! sounds good to me. please count me in. thanks for hosting the giveaway! c",)

aobibliophile™ said...

oops, here's my email addy! aobibliophile(at)gmail(dot)com

donnas said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing!!

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Karen C said...

I purchased Hawthorne earlier in the summer and absolutely loved it; one of the best short stories I've read. It's definitely worth your money and time.

sarahballance said...

Thank you so very much, Laurie, for hosting me and helping to spread the word about HAWTHORNE! (It's on sale this week, by the way. Only $1!) You have an amazing platform here and the exposure will be great for the charity!

Abibliophile, Donnas - Thanks so much for your comments. I sure appreciate your interest!

Karen C, Thank you so much for your continued support. It means so much to know you liked it SO much! ;c)