Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sarah J. McNeal: For the Love of Banjo

For the Love of Banjo
by Sarah J. McNeal

Romancing The West welcomes Sarah J. McNeal, musician, animal-lover, and former registered nurse, now a full-time storyteller. Sarah is a multi-published author, and you won't want to miss Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, where we first met Banjo, or the almost-true story, The Violin. Today, we're talking about her latest release, For the Love of Banjo.

RTW: Sarah, it's nice to have you here! Tell us about your new book, please.

SM: Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.

Here's the blurb:
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.

Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.

Will either of them find happiness?

Details at the end of this post

RTW: What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into For the Love of Banjo?

SM: Although I never lived in Wyoming, I did live in Nebraska for a while and traveled extensively to all the neighboring states with my friends. Of all the places we traveled, the state that still lives in my memory as the most majestic and beautiful was Wyoming. The sheer magnificence of the open country and rolling hills of Wyoming not only stole my heart, but the character Banjo’s heart as well. During his stay in New York City and in the trenches of France during World War I, Banjo clings to his memories of his home in Wyoming.

RTW: If you lived in 1916-1919, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

SM: Between 1916 and 1919, most modern conveniences we know were available but not everyone had them in their homes. Many households longed for electricity and indoor plumbing but they were considered more of a luxury than a necessity. I can remember using an outhouse at my maternal and paternal grandparents’ houses and pumping water at the kitchen door of my paternal grandfather’s. I was a kid so I thought it was exciting but, if I had to go out to an outhouse in the bitter cold of winter or in the middle of a storm, I’m sure I wouldn’t think of it as exciting.

RTW: Are there any common errors in western historical romances that bug you?

Sarah J. McNeal, author
SM: The time period in which my westerns take place are from 1910 (Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride) to 1919 (For Love of Banjo). Industry took off in this ten-year period to the degree that people find amazing. It was tricky to write because of these innovations but I researched it thoroughly. Although many private homes did not have these modern conveniences, commercial establishments had radiator heat, electricity, indoor bathrooms, the streets of New York were lit with streetlights, and automobiles filled the streets including taxicabs. Still, the false beliefs persist that there were none of these modern conveniences.

RTW: Why is Banjo Wilding perfect for Maggie O’Leary?

SM: Maggie runs a ranch and knows her own mind. It takes a strong, street-wise man like Banjo to have the strength of character and self-esteem to handle such an independent woman. Maggie understands Banjo and his painful past better than anyone. Rather than being repulsed by his history or pitying his circumstances, she admires and respects him. Maggie is the love of Banjo’s life. He would lay down his life for her if need be.

RTW: Now for the part we've all been waiting for! Please set up your excerpt for us.

SM: Banjo is leaving for New York City in the hope of finding the father he has never known. In this scene, he is saying farewell to Maggie O’Leary who fears he will never return to Hazard, Wyoming and to her.

Excerpt of For the Love of Banjo by Sarah J. McNeal:

In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks. Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her. The kiss wasn’t his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek. He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside.

He tasted of coffee and mint. Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck. She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him. Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own. If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went. She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.

Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended. Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers. The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses. He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.

His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words. She would never forget them, not as long as she lived. Breathless from the kiss, he said, “Don’t forget me. Write to me every day and I’ll write back. You are the star in my sky and my compass home. I’ll come back, if it’s the last thing I do, I will come back. I swear it.”

RTW: Whew! (fans self) Excellent excerpt. Where can we buy For the Love of Banjo?

SM: Thank you. You can purchase the book at:Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble.

RTW: So what do you have for us next?

SM: I am writing the next book in the Hazard series. This one takes place in the Great Depression with the English boy that Banjo brought home from New York, Robin Pierpont, all grown up and in love with one of the Wilding sisters.

RTW : Anything else you’d like to add?

SM: Besides the Hazard, Wyoming series, I have a time travel, 1927 historical, The Violin, that has recently released with new revisions and editing from Rebecca Vickery Publishing and Gifts From the Afterlife, a short story in the 2011 Christmas Collection from Rebecca Vickery Publishing.

I am presently submitting my paranormal book, The Light of Valmora, to publishers. It is the third book in the Legends of Valmora series. First two books once published by New Concepts Publishing are now out of contract. I have several other stories in the paranormal series that I’m working on for the future.

RTW: Thank you for visiting with us today, Sarah.

To find out more about Sarah J. McNeal, visit her website, her blog, or contact her on Facebook or Twitter.

Contest: Winner's Choice!
Sarah will give away a copy of Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride or the revised edition of The Violin (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to include your email address or we'll hae to choose another winner.  For print books, USA mailing only.

Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 31, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time and announced on Sunday's Chicken Dinner.


  1. Hi Sarah, I didn't realize you wrote in such a variety of genres. I had you pegged as a western writer only. This is a great excerpt and I wish you the best of luck with the book's release. The title is compellig. When I first saw it, I thought it might have to do with a frustrated musician! Linda

  2. Thank you so much for having me here at your fabulous blog, Jacquie. I think it's a beautiful place.

  3. I do write in several genres including fantasy and paranormal. Of course, I like frustrated musicians--and sexy ones, too. LOL I am so happy to see you here, Linda. I really appreciate your support.

  4. Hi Sarah. You are an excellent writer. I always enjoy your excerpts. One of these days I'd like to read your time travel novel. If you ever want to do a blog swap, please let me know.


  5. Sarah--don't you hate it when you read in a Western Historical that the heroine is making "sandwiches?" That just makes me grind my teeth. And when a character says, "Gotcha covered." Or "Your place or mine?" Ugh. Please, authors, use an etymology dictionary!
    The premise for your book is very appealing. It's on my buy list...the next time I buy. I've got to finish some others first. I'm buried in books....
    Good interview, but then, Jacquie always does things right.

  6. Thanks, Sarah, for being such a great guest! We're in for another treat on Friday when your article on Mother Featherlegs is published. One of the advantages of operating RTW is I get to read all the articles before anyone else. :)

  7. Hey Sarah. Your new book sounds very intriguing. I've never written a western before, I'm too much a city girl to make it plausible. I'd probably have the characters "making sandwiches" like Celia said, or worse! Speaking in New York lingo! I've never been either to Nebraska or Wyoming. Been to many places overseas, but never explored the western parts of the U.S. Go figure. Nebraska sounds romantic. I actually have a story that I situated there. Had to do lots of research to capture some of its beauty.

    Best wishes for this work, past ones, and future projects.

  8. James, thank you for that compliment. I would be very interested in doing a blog swap. Email me and we'll see what's what.
    starcriter at yahoo dot com
    And thanks for always being so supportive.

  9. Thank you for coming by Celia. Oh girl, I have read some doosies where the author used modern terminology and it just ripped me right out of the story and ruined it. Reasearch and editing. What can I say? I have said a few things but they were fortunately caught by the editor. I had a lady saying a curse word. Thank goodness no one saw it.
    I don't know why, but the image of some Indians chasing a stampeding herd of buffalo came to mind and then a red and white 1957 Chevy convertible filled with squealing teenage girls wearing sunglasses runs through the scene. LOL
    Thank you so much for coming by, Celia.

  10. Evie, I just have to have a little chuckle here. I live in a city--Charlotte, North Carolina for most all my life. But I did live in Nebraska for a year. I hated it. Flat as a fritter, hot in the summer and way too cold in winter. I about busted a gusset getting the heck outta there--headed down to Texas. Texas is a very diverse state and I loved it there.
    But Wyoming was just heart-stopping beautiful. I'm glad I got to see it.
    I wish you great success with your story in Nebraska. Just once you ought to go there. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving your very kind comment, Evie. I really appreciate it.

  11. Hey Jacquie. Oh yes, I can't wait to get the reaction to the monument to a prostitute in Wyoming. LOL

  12. HI Sarah and Jacquie,
    Just had to drop by to say I loved Banjo in both Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride and in his own story.
    Can't wait to see what happens to these characters in the next one.

    1. So happy to see you dropped by, Rebecca. You're always so supportive of us. Thank you for your compliment about Banjo. Ah yes, I'm working on Robin Pierpont and Lilith Wilding's story. It takes place in the Great Depression when everyone was poor but some had dreams of a better tomorrow.
      Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to drop by, Rebecca. I really appreciate it.

  13. Sarah, great excerpt!! I'm looking forward to the read. Research is half the battle in historicals, but you seem to have done your homework and I know from the research that I've done it takes hours. Well done, you.
    I wish you all the success in the world.

    1. Neecy, I am so sorry I missed your comment earlier. You are so right about research when we write historicals. If we screw up something, you can be sure someone will point it out and we'll feel like idiots. It's a fortunate thing when you love to research for a story--and I do. It's almost as good as being able to travel in a time machine.
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

  14. Sarash and Jacquie what a great interveiw.. Sarah you can bet I will be putting this book on my tbr list.. That excerpt was great..
    I think I have Harmonica Joe'e Reluctant Bride on my Kindle..
    Always nice to chat with you both.

    1. Kathleen, first let me thank you for buyinf Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride. You'll get an introduction to the homeless teenager, Banjo in it.
      Thank you for your kind words and for visiting me here.

  15. Hi Sarah!
    Better late than never is becoming my motto! LOL You know how much I loved Banjo and Joe, both, and their ladies. My heart just ached for Banjo and all he goes through. Great interview, of course! I always enjoy reading your posts and interviews. You are one of my favorite people and one of my favorite authors! Can't wait to see what's in store for Rob!

    1. You're a busy gal, Cheryl so I really appreciate you taking the time to come by and comment.
      Rob is working on an old broken down WWI plane but, in it, he sees an exciting future. He has no idea of the things that will make or break him. But, of course, Lilith Wilding is paying attention--a lot of attention. LOL
      Thank you so much for all your kind words. They mean a lot to me.

  16. Sounds like a wonderful premise for a story. I enjoyed the excerpt and your interview, Sarah. Congratulations on another wonderful release.


  17. Hi Sarah. I would LOVE to win The Violin. I am so intrigued by the blurb.
    I always enjoy reading your blogs.

    1. Jenny, thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate them and your time in coming by here. You are every where, girl. I can barely keep up with you. LOL
      Thanks again for coming by.

  18. Sarah, I love the time period you write because it's so intriguing. We had indoor plumbing, but not a lot of the common people had access to them.

    Great excerpt. The kiss was just perfect - a nice tease.

    I enjoyed "The Violin" a lot, especially the twist at the end. Wishing you much success with Banjo, Sweetie.

    1. You and I write in many similar time periods--even though our subject matter is very different. I've never written a werewolf tale or come up with the exotic places that you do. Your early years in the service are really paying off for you now with your wealth of memories for settings.
      I'm so happy to hear you read and liked The Violin. That story was written from my heart. Thank you so much for coming by, Steph. I appreciate it.

  19. Sarah, Great interview. I loved having an excerpt included...a great intro to your voice. Guess one of your novels is next on my "get acquainted" reading list. Though I don't often read romance, I do love westerns and historicals, so you've got me hooked.

  20. Well Judith, that was such a wonderful thing to say. I'm so glad my book interested you and thank you so much for visiting me here and leaving a comment. I really appreciate your kindness.

  21. Sarah when I was a kid I visited my grandparents and bathed in an old round tub, with several other cousins at the same time, what fun. And the folks had to keep adding hot water. Drank water from a well, used the old outhouse, and believe it or not there were actual sears catalogs out there, but I had no idea, why? LOL

    They had many things at the turn of the century, but in the west it took longer for the average person to have those things. Texas and Oklahoma used outdoor toilets for a long time and a pot inside the house during bad weather and storms. But a lot of the things invented were only seen in the cities, not the rural areas of the west. People in the country in Texas used well water long after the second world war.

    I even remember picking cotton with my folks one summer. Hard work to fill those long sacks with let me tell you.

    Love and blessings


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