Eager to hear more about the first book in the Puffin Island series – First Time in Forever – we caught Sarah for a quick Q & A to get as many juicy details out of her as we could!
Hi Sarah! So tell us, where did the inspiration for The Puffin Island trilogy come from?
I knew from the start that I wanted the link between the characters and stories to be the strong friendship between the three heroines. I write romance, but I also love exploring the other relationships in my characters’ lives, including family and friends. Emily, Brittany and Skylar met in college and formed an instant bond that has deepened over the years. They know each other, accept each other without judgment and they’re always there for one another. They have the type of friendship we’d all love to have!
Having decided on the characters, I needed the perfect setting for their stories. I’d finished my O’Neil Brothers series, which took place in the beautiful mountains of Vermont, and I wanted a completely different setting for my new series. I decided on an island, a coastal retreat that would be a sanctuary for Emily, Brittany and Skylar when life was hard. There’s something so uplifting and refreshing about being by the sea, and I want readers to dive into the stories and enjoy that ‘beach holiday’ feeling while they read.
Can you tell us a bit about the first book in the series, First Time in Forever?
At the start of First Time in Forever, Emily has recently become guardian to her celebrity half sister’s child – a six-year-old girl called Lizzy. Emily had a very difficult upbringing, and vowed never to have children herself, so finding herself responsible for a little girl throws her whole life into disarray. She heads to Puffin Island, which has always been a sanctuary for her and her friends, and tries to adjust to her new life and protect Lizzy from the attention of the press. Once there she meets Ryan Cooper, a gorgeous local businessman. He helps Emily meet her fears head on, and encourages her to push herself out of her comfort zone. Eventually, Emily has to take a leap of faith, and trust that while opening yourself up to the possibility of love is scary, in the end it’s definitely worth the risk.
Why do you think people are so fascinated by celebrity culture?
I think what ultimately fascinates people about celebrity is the perception of the glamorous lives they all lead. People see the dresses, the shoes, the swanky cocktail parties, the red carpet events and perceive a perfect world they can only dream of inhabiting. But of course celebrities are real people with real problems, and in First Time in Forever I explore one of the disadvantages of being in the public eye – lack of privacy. Emily is a very private person and takes her new responsibilities very seriously. She is determined to protect Lizzy from the media and to do so she must learn to trust Ryan, and the rest of the residents of Puffin Island, to keep her and Lizzy safe.
How did you plot the narrative of your book?
I’m definitely a ‘seat of my pants’ writer, but I do have a rough idea of where the story’s going before I start. I know my characters well and understand the conflict, but the detail evolves as I write. I do find it helps to think about the ending right from the beginning of the process. If you know where your characters are going to end up and how they will change over the story, it forces you to think hard about what decisions they might make, and lessons they might learn, to affect that change.
What do we need to know about your lead character, Emily?
Emily is the most cautious of the three friends. She’s guarded, but very loyal to Brittany and Skylar. After a difficult childhood, she protects herself emotionally by keeping tight control over her life. She lives well within her comfort zone, avoiding responsibility for anyone but herself. So, when she finds herself responsible for a child, everything changes for her.
And what do we need to know about your hero, Ryan Cooper?
Ryan has grown up on Puffin Island, and is an integral part of the community. He first meets Emily because he is asked by their friend Brittany to check on her. Initially, he is simply fulfilling a duty, but he senses that she has secrets and he’s intrigued. Ryan loves a mystery and, of course, he’s very attracted to Emily. Once he finds out more about her, he wants to help her, and encourages her to do things she’s never done before. In helping her, he’s forced to take a long hard look at his own life, and think about what he really wants for his own future.