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Writing swoon-worthy romance with sarah sutton + REVIEW

Tell me about yourself.

I’m gal from a tiny town in Michigan, with two adorable puppies that keep me company. I’ve been writing books since I was six years old, and recently published my debut!

Six. That's pretty young! How cool. What inspired you to pen your first story?

We had just read The Gingerbread Man as a class, and I remember I immediately checked out the book to take it home. There was something about the story that truly made me love it. So, I started up my mother’s computer, opened a document, and began typing out a story about the Gingerbread Man. It makes me laugh every time, because my first story was Gingerbread Man fan-fiction. How funny!

That’s pretty funny and different. Most of the times it’s Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings(*cough*like me*cough*), but I love that your story is unique. What has happened in your writing journey since then? You said you just published your debut--and congratulations btw!--but what led you to that point?

Thank you! And honestly, my Gingerbread Man fan-fiction turned into One Direction fan-fiction once I went into middle school, so I went mainstream!

But that's actually where I honed my craft and really learned how to know characters, from fan-fiction. It's easy to know a character's personality if you know them as a celebrity. Easy to research. There was a point between the end of middle school and the early years of high school where I didn't write much--I was too embarrassed to keep writing One Direction fan-fiction and school stressed me out too much to be able to think of anything original--so I just read obsessively and honed my craft that way! The summer after my senior year, I penned my first novel!

That's your novel What Are Friends For? correct? What inspired you for that particular plot/storyline? Actually, that story turned out to be Out of My League! The timeframe for those books is a bit strange--I wrote Out of My League first but am publishing it second. But I started Out of My League I think a week or two before graduation (we got time off school before the actual ceremony). I remember wanting to write a story involved with high school, since I was going to be leaving that chapter of my life behind. This was very new for me. Up until then, I only wrote original YA Fantasy. I hadn't written Contemporary since my One Direction days. But I knew I was obsessed with the Fake Relationship trope, and knew I wanted to write something about high school. The plot kind of formed itself from there!

Can you elaborate on why you published the books in the order you did?

Sure! So I wrote Out of My League first (2017) and ended up writing What Are Friends For? in April of 2019. When I queried OOML in April of 2018, I thought that this was it. It was going to get accepted right off the bat. Strangely enough, it did! An editor from a publishing company accepted the manuscript pending a few minor changes. But once I made those changes, I waited months and months for a response. It wasn't until July of 2019 (over a YEAR later!) that I finally heard a response from someone at the company--and it was them passing on the project. After a year of nothing, I knew I didn't want to wait anymore. I wanted this book out there. However, it was the end of July--I didn't want to publish a summer romance at the END of summer. That's where What Are Friends For? comes in. I had been working on that on and off in the few months since I first wrote it. I knew, as a winter romance, it would fit perfectly in January. So even though I wrote it second, it made the most sense to publish it first. I didn't want to wait any longer!

I'm so sorry that that happened to you. It must have been heart breaking. But I'm glad to see you pressed on and shared your beautiful stories with us. I'm so excited for your next book. You said you flipped genres from YA Fantasy. What inspired you to write romance? Particularly, young adult romance? I've always loved the idea of first-love and all of those raw feelings that teenagers tend to experience. I've always just been in love with the idea of love. Though I originally wrote Fantasy, I will be completely honest: it was horrible. Plot holes everywhere, strange magic systems, and just downright awful. It was fun to write and just let my creativity flow, but it was impossible for me to do anything beyond a first draft. My heart didn't belong in it. I believe I stumbled upon Kasie West and Sarah Dessen, YA Contemporary Romance writers, and I just fell in love with those kinds of stories. Almost immediately, I had ideas of my own (Remi and Elijah, Sophia and Walsh) and I just had to start writing in that genre. Little did I know that I'd fall in love with it! Well, having read your book, I'm really glad that you did make the change. You truly shine in that genre. What do you think separates YA romance from adult romance, other than the age of the characters?

Oh, thank you so much! And when I think of the difference between the two (and this probably comes down to my own opinion), it always comes back to mature-level. How mature the characters are, of course, but how mature and advanced the content is. Most adult romance novels, typically we don't see the main character falling in love for the first time. We don't see them have their first kiss or get their first bout of butterflies. We see them interacting with past lovers or people they once knew, and things similar to that. But in YA, it's all about those firsts. (I feel like I totally butchered that answer, but I don't often read Adult Romances, haha!)

No, actually that was exactly what I was hoping you would say. It's all about the firsts. What does your writing process generally look like--from outlining to editing to publishing? I'm a sort-of outliner. I like the idea in theory, but I get way too impatient to finish my outline before jumping into my draft. I'll get the bare minimum down (vague chapter outlines and big plot points) before I can't stop myself from beginning to write. As far as editing goes, I typically write my first draft, edit that. I polish that 2nd draft up as much as I can before sending it to beta readers. That turns into my 3rd draft, and I'll incorporate that beta feedback and polish it up as much as I can before I send it to my copy editor. From there, I edit that feedback and then begins my proofreading process. Find all those small errors and typos and kick them to the curb. And then I begin the process of self-publishing! Upload to vendors and start a preorder! It really differs from how long it'll take me--it took me 8 months to get What Are Friends For? ready for publication, but then it took me so much longer for Out of My League, so it really varies!

Thank you for all that detail. I love all the different steps you too, because I think those are all needed. It made for a very polished manuscript, which I don't always see in self-publishing. But moving on... Your Instragram has so many beautiful pictures. Do you have a defined

writing place? If so, what does it look like? Oh, thank you so much! And I don't really have a defined place, though I do have an outdoor office! A she-shed, haha. Whenever I can, I'll go out there and write distraction-free. It's super cozy out there, with a TV and a big comfy chair that I can snuggle up in. That's also the place where I film my videos because the lighting is just perfect! Sarah in her She-Shed

Um...I'm officially jealous. I'm going to have to tell my husband he needs to remodel our shed into a writing office. So you make videos? Tell me about that Haha, it's amazing! Ever since I heard the term “She-shed“ I HAD to have one! And recording videos is actually something I've recently started. I've always loved the idea of tracking my process via vlogs, but never really thought about doing it. However, on Instagram, I've recently gotten into livestreaming, and it's made me brave enough to start my very own YouTube channel. I'll have to check it out! Besides your she-shed, is there anything that inspires you to get into the writing/romantic mood? Music has always been a big part of my inspiration, but recently I've begun watching the music videos that go along with the songs to watch the story of the lyrics play out there. That's been a new source of inspiration that I've been loving!

Music is a huge inspiration for me too. Do you make playlists for mood, character, project, and relationship like me? Or am I just a crazy person?

I've actually never made playlists for writing before, but I made one for What Are Friends For? and it was so fun! Definitely something I want to do more of in the future!!

What elements do you believe you need for a good romance? Ooh, that’s a good one. For me, there has to be some detail on emotions. Reading about a character brushing the other character’s shoulder is great, but I’m a sucker for that in-depth description of what exactly that shoulder brush does to the character. What kind of emotions does it make them feel? Is it driving them crazy? Are there butterflies? Goosebumps? A pinching feeling in their lungs? I want to know! I want it all!

Besides, friends to lovers and fake relationships -- what are your favorite romantic tropes? Ooh! Enemies to lovers is really good, forbidden romance, and best friend’s brother!

Oh, enemies to lovers and forbidden romance are both great. In What Are Friends For, there are some pretty epic kiss scenes. In your opinion, how do you write the perfect kiss scene? For me, it’s all about balance. Balancing physical feelings and emotional feelings. I want the reader to feel like they’re in the moment with the characters, not watching so-and-so touch so-and-so‘s cheek or anything like that. I want them living it with the character. For kissing scenes it’s really about balancing show and tell for me!

So, you're pretty young, right? What do you do when you're not writing? I am, haha, I turn 21 on April 9th! As of late, if I'm not writing, I'm usually working on beta reading/proofreading for friends and clients as well as binge-watching Netflix and YouTube videos. And reading, of course. My life isn't very exciting, but it definitely keeps me entertained, haha! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! So you do proofreading professionally? I offer the service on Fiverr, just as one last set of eyes to comb over a manuscript. It's really just for fun, since I'm not trained to know all of the intricacies of a “professional“ proofreading, but I know some can't pay the mega bucks for a professional proofread, so I offer them an affordable look-through, if that makes sense!

It does. That's a very needed service. So tell us more about Out of My League, your upcoming novel.

Hmm, well, if anyone is a fan of the fake relationship romance, they’d love this book. A nerdy girl and a popular jock—what can go wrong? I need to get better at my teaser game, I’m so bad!! [link to description]

So Out of My League is coming out in June. What's next after that? Haha, thank you! After that, I have a YA Halloween Romance coming out in October! I'm working on incorporating the beta edits for that project now, and absolutely can't wait to share this one with the world as well! CONGRATS! I can't wait to hear more. Okay, last two questions I ask every writer?What is one random fact about you?

Ooh, I first learned how to say the Alphabet backward before I learned how to say it forward! LOL that's awesome. And last question, if you could give one piece of advice to other writer's, what would it be?

Don't let anyone discourage you from your dream. Not your family, not your friends, not people in the industry. If publishing a book is what your heart longs to do, do it! You don't need permission. There's going to be bumps along the way, but keep going and enjoy the ride!

That's great advice. Thank you for giving me your time today. Readers, scroll to the bottom to see my review of What Are Friends For?


Sarah's books:


My Review of What Are Friends For?

Let’s get one thing straight. I tend to be pretty critical of books. I rewrite words in my head, and when I have to do it too much, I just give up on the book entirely. But I gobbled down this book in a matter of days (Something I DON’T do) and I gave up precious sleep to do so. Despite some minor critiques, I ultimately adored this book. If you're looking for a book that gives you the same feeling as curling up in a warm blanket, drinking hot cocoa, and watching a Hallmark Christmas movie-- THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!


• CHARACTERIZATION: Every single one of the characters was written so that their personalities POPPED off the page. The same went with relationships. I could completely understand the relationship between Remi and Elijah before the end of the first chapter. And the book was filled with other relationships: parent and child, girlfriends, enemies, boys after you who you didn’t like. All the characters and relationships were portrayed skillfully.

• EMOTIONS: The heartache, the love, the anger, the passion, the teenage ANGST! The author showed it all BEAUTIFULLY! I could really feel what the characters were feeling. Again, what was most beautiful was the author rarely stated the emotion. She showed it in the actions and I just…. God, it was beautiful.

• THE PLOT: Was it predictable? Absolutely. But I’m a sucker for a friends-turned-lover saga, and this held enough twists and turns, sub-plots, and other important relationships that kept everything fast-paced, fresh, and interesting. Can we make this a movie? Because I’ll watch it every Valentine’s day with my fav movie snack -- skittles and popcorn (don’t you judge me). It made my heart so happy.

• THE WRITING!: The compliments above are all true, but that author also had a brilliant handle on dialogue, as well as descriptions, showing and not telling, scenery, and playing with the five senses so that everything was extremely vivid. You truly felt like you were there.


• There were a few awkward sentences that I had to go back and read multiple times. These were few and far between though—maybe 3-4 occurrences in the book. The only one that truly bothered me was a piece of dialogue that occurred during a big moment. I read it three times to understand what he was saying.

• Repetitiveness. Throughout the book there was some repetitiveness in the writing. For example, “lips twitched” was used a lot of times, to describe multiple people, and it seemed in some places to occur every couple of pages. I would have love to see other descriptions for this, and the author certainly has that talent as there were many wonderful descriptions. The other was Remi thinking “I’d never thought about him this way”. It was fine for the first two or three times, but it happened far more than that, even until almost the end. By then it was VERY clear that she HAD thought about him like that before.

• [SPOILER ALERT – AVERT YOUR EYES] This is probably just my personal preference, but the way things ended with Savannah felt too neat. This took a great deal of maturity and self-awareness in Savannah that she had not proven she possessed. The same goes toward Remi. She forgave without any anger, and she showed she had a hot temper. I would rather have seen this relationship remain strained, but I understand that this was a ‘happily ever after’ type of story, and that I tend to be a cold, dark-hearted writer who finds pleasure in making my readers cry (and not in a good way).

• [SPOILER ALERT – AVERT YOUR EYES] Again, possibly my own personal opinion, but Elijah deciding to see his brother two months later and this showing up as an epilogue seemed far too late for me. I wish this had happened prior to the climax of the book. I would have loved a scene of Elijah and Remi visiting his brother, and having this be part of why Elijah realizes that Remi is the girl for him. Doing it in the Epilogue and never actually getting to the visit made that subplot feel unresolved.

• I also wish that college was discussed more. It was only briefly mentioned, but I think this would be hot in people’s mind, especially when think about a new relationship. I wanted to know that these two weren’t going to end up halfway across the country from another in a few months. Not knowing that made me a little anxious.

I want to make it really clear that though there is room for author improvement, that what was good about this book far outweighed these minor imperfections (hence why I gave it 5 stars), and I cannot wait to read more of this author’s work. It made my heart so happy, and it'll be a book I'll be tempted to read my favorite parts in again and again and again... (okay, I already have)


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