A: Setting is indeed a character in my novels. In fact, setting is usually the first thing that comes to me when I get an idea for a book. My favorite thing when writing a novel is to go to the location and soak up atmosphere—the look and feel of a place, the way people talk, their mannerisms. That said, I ought to set my stories in Hawaii or Southern France.
2. You have written both fiction and non-fiction - do you prefer one over the other? Or find one easer/more enjoyable to write?
A: Nonfiction is easier to write, because you know what has to go into the story. You have a notebook full of information that has to get into your computer in some fashion. With fiction, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you rely on the creative process, which doesn’t always work. With nonfiction, subject generally sells the book, and writing is secondary. But with fiction, everything depends on the writing. Fiction is more emotional with both me and my readers. I’ve never had someone come up to me with one of my nonfiction books and say, “You’ve changed my life.” I much prefer writing fiction.
3. I would be so afraid of getting something wrong with non-fiction that my first thought was that fiction would be easier. I really like the titles of your novels, which include some of the following: Whiter than Snow, Prayers for Sale, The Persian Pickle Club, and The Quilt that Walked to Golden. Do you have much input in the titles and covers of your books?
A: I usually come up with the titles, although my agent named Whiter Than Snow when I couldn’t think of any title except The Snowslide. Sometimes, as in The Persian Pickle Club, the title comes halfway through the book; it was originally called The Interesting Hour Club until I came across a fabric called “Persian pickle.” With Prayers for Sale, I had the title before I ever came up with the content.
4. I would love to see what Persian pickle fabric looks like! What is a day in the life of Sandra Dallas like?
A: It’s pretty boring. I get up at 5:15 a.m. three days a week to work out. I stop at Starbuck’s on the way home and usually am in my office at home by 8 and start writing. I write about a page a day, which can take an hour or three or four hours. Then I answer emails, work on promotion (answering questions such as these,) and work on a column I write for the Denver Post on regional nonfiction books. I work in household tasks—laundry, cooking, yard work and so on during the day. I read a great deal. And I eat a lot.
5. Are there any books on your nightstand currently?
A: Loving Frank, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and So Rugged and Mountainous. The latter is a history of the development of western trails by Will Bagley, a Utah historian.
6. Did you find yourself influenced by any particular author or book growing up?
A: Nancy Drew. She was the only female role model in girls’ fiction. The rest were wimps, always dependent on boys to rescue them from their own stupidity.
7. I like strong female leads, too! Is there a particular book that you think everyone should read at least once?
A: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I also like her Traveling Mercies. And of course, my books.
8. What is the most interesting thing that a reader has said to you, or that you have had happen on a book tour?
A: “Your character gave me the courage to leave my husband.” That was also the scariest comment I’ve ever received.
9. Wow - that is quite an experience - I don't even know how to respond - so we will just move on! Do you have anything currently in the works?
A: Yes, and it’s driving me crazy, so I’m not going to talk about it.
10. So now you are going to make it drive the rest of us crazy wanting to know what is coming up! Is there anything else that you would like the readers to know?
A: Writing is the best career in the world. I am blessed to be able to do it.
We are happy that you are able to do it also! Thanks again!
I have one copy of Whiter than Snow to giveaway to a lucky reader! This contest is open to U.S./Canada. To enter, just leave me a comment with your email address (we are going to continue those simple summer rules!) This contest will end on June 20.