Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to Sarah Gerdes, the award-winning author of twenty-two books (six reaching #1) that have been published in over 100 countries and three languages, about her writing and her upcoming title, Above Ground, a page-turning tsuspense thriller (read the review here).
Sarah Gerdes is an award-winning author of twenty-two books (six reaching #1) that have been published in over 100 countries and three languages. Sarah’s fiction books are suspenseful and sexy, many with underlying themes of technology. Her non-fiction work centers on success and entrepreneurship. The themes of perseverance, determination, hope and overcoming the odds carry through all genres. Her upcoming title, Above Ground, a romantic suspense is due Spring 2021.
In addition to being a best-selling author, Sarah is an internationally recognized expert in the field of creating alliances, her successes featured in publications such as Fortune Magazine, Inc., Entrepreneur and the Economist. Her clients have ranged from the development groups of Ireland and Britain, Microsoft, IBM, HBO, Amazon, and she has spoken at prestigious institutions around the world, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford and many centers for entrepreneurship. Today she sits on the board of several for-profit and non-profit organizations and represents clients in the technology and eco-friendly product categories.
Gerdes’ first book, Navigating the Partnership Maze: Creating Alliances that Work, (McGraw-Hill), hit the number one book on the Harvard list, and a “must read for any entrepreneur,” by Software CEO Magazine. Her second book, The Overlooked Expert: Turning Your Skills into a Profitable Business also reached number one and is a must-have for would-be entrepreneurs. Sue Kim: The Authorized Biography, reached number one for Celebrities and Entertainers in October of 2019.
In fiction, Sarah writes fast-paced romantic suspense/thriller novels where the lead characters must make moral and ethical choices, their strength of character sustained with by determination, perseverance and belief they can make a difference. She’s had three titles reach #1 in their genre.
“We have enough issues in this life without having to read about more in our fiction,” writes Gerdes. “I want my readers to feel the love, heartache, and very real struggles we all have in making the right decisions, hoping–but not knowing–that it will all turn out okay in the end.”
Tell us more about your book. What inspired the premise?
Three things happened at once within a very short period of time. The first was a law in California that changed theft of under a thousand dollars to from a felony to a misdemeanor. The second was watching a documentary on the three-hundred miles of underground drainage systems in Las Vegas that were intended to be used for the seasonal monsoons but houses thousands of people from all walks of life. The last thing was a conversation with my brother, who’s an estate attorney for a number of celebrities and athletes in Las Vegas. I was joking about these subjects, and off the cuff, I said: I bet the stolen goods are coming from San Francisco to Las Vegas and he laughed and said: “Sure! It’s well know the Bulgarians fence the auto parts, the Russians the jewelry…” and as I listened to him, the entire story line clicked in.
How many rewrites did you do for this book:
17 (COVID was brutal!)
Which character was the most challenging to write?
The primary individual involved in actual trafficking of people. Someone who’s that amoral and soulless wasn’t easy.
What is a special standout element of Above Ground?
I take joy in writing about places I’ve been and sharing the locations with readers is a joy. For instance, a clubs like Taos is known around the world, but most people will never have the chance to enter, or a meal at Buddy V’s where you will sit be a legitimate business person and a well-known (but not convicted) dark element. Writing a scene is like opening the door and taking the hand of a reader, and we are entering/exploring together.
What characters (if any) based on real people?
The primary romantic interest, Trey Bridger, is a merger of a man I know with the body and fantasy I want! An attorney, the UNVL tennis player and boyfriend are loosely based on a niece and her boyfriend. Lucas Weinstein, the Russian jeweler is also based on a wealthy, elegantly-slimy man I know in the pawn world. He takes it as a compliment, although he actually lives in Chicago.
Which scene changed the most from the first draft to the published book?
The final scene where a primary (antagonist) character dies. From inception, I always envisioned he’d float down the drainage systems in the monsoon, but with the plot curves, I thought that would be too pat. I also changed the dynamics of power between Shay Wilson and this man and wanted her empowerment to show through, but in a way that she, and the reader, would never expect. It made the book far more interesting for me to write and I hope for the reader.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
That very few people are truly unredeemable. Even the worst people will take care of their mothers or give to the needy, so we need to take or appreciate the good and without throwing away the entire human.
What makes this book important right now?
Like all my books in the suspense genre, fiction is built around fact.
How did you decide on this title.
Easy—there were a TON of books with the words ‘below,’ or ‘underground,’ so I switched it up, and talked about Above Ground, where the real criminals live and work side beside the rest of us, in broad daylight.
What inspired you for this genre?
I’ve don’t write in terms of genres, or at least I don’t think of it that way. I write books that inspire me and then it’s determined what category they best fit in. Page-turners without graphic details tend to be in the suspense genre, while thrillers can vary on a scale. My work is page turning while not graphic, and there’s a big difference.
How long does it take to write a book?
It completely varies based on what’s happening in my life and the world. During the last four years, I’ve averaged three books a year. But with COVID, Above Ground took nearly a year. My mother came to live with us, the kids—all of us were at home—and it was hard to maintain a single line of thought for more than twenty minutes!
Is writer’s block real?
Absolutely, and warrants an entire chapter in Author Straight Talk (AST), but the “block” is the symptom, the causes can be many. It just means a pause in writing. Fear can stop the writing process (will book 2 be as good as book 1?) Can I due to topic justice? Have I lost the touch? You can push through, walk around or over the fear and uncertainty, but eventually, the desire and courage will return.
Best money you spent as a writer?
Without a question, a good editor—but what most novice authors don’t know is that several types of editors exist, and they are stratified by genre and type. A great editor in the sci-fi genre won’t touch a romance book and vice versa. One of the biggest mistakes I make early on was thinking that an editor in one genre could cross to another. Once you have the right editor for the right genre, you need to the best ‘type’ editor. As I detail in AST, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on “strategic editing,” which focuses on plot, pacing, character development, reveals etc. It has been like getting a masters in each genre.
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