Sarah Echavarre Smith is a copywriter turned author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight years old, and she discovered her auntie's stash of romance novels. She's been hooked ever since. When she's not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and her adorable cat, Salem.
In this post, Sarah discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, On Location, how it taught her to go for the out-there ideas, and more!
Name: Sarah Echavarre Smith
Literary agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary Agency
Book title: On Location
Release date: September 21, 2021
Genre/category: Contemporary Romance
Previous titles: Faker; Simmer Down
Elevator pitch for the book: Filipino-American television producer Alia gets to make the series of her dreams: a show about Utah’s national parks. It’s the career break she’s been working years for, but she’ll have to navigate working with the hottie who ghosted her and a diva host to make her professional—and romantic—dreams come true.
What prompted you to write this book?
The pandemic and subsequent quarantine! Like everyone else, I was stuck at home dreaming about all these places I wished I could visit. Southern Utah is one of my favorite getaways in the world with its breathtaking desert landscape and jaw-dropping red rock formations.
I used that as the setting for the book, and kind of came up with the actual idea for the romance around that (two warring outdoor TV crew members with an undeniable attraction trying to film a show with the host from hell who’s making filming near impossible). Writing it was such a lovely escape and gave me all the happy feels.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I pitched the idea for On Location to my publisher in February 2020. After getting the outline approved, it took me about six weeks to write the first draft. I spent the next couple of months revising it. And then I sent the finished manuscript to my brilliant editor Sarah Blumenstock at Berkley in September 2020.
The overall idea and story arc didn’t change a whole lot during the writing and editing process, which was a big shock to me. Usually I’m the kind of writer who does these big sweeping revisions up until the final draft is due.
I definitely tweaked and changed a lot in this story—I refined some of the scenes set in the Utah wilderness to make sure I was being as authentic as possible, and I revised Alia’s backstory a bit to make it more compelling and personal. But so much of the meat of the story stayed the same (the character arcs and conflict, the meet-cute, the love scenes, and the ending).
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I learned that sometimes the most "out-there" idea is what will resonate with your publisher (and readers!). When I pitched the concept for On Location, it felt like kind of a long shot (choosing Utah as the setting was a bit "out there," and I had no experience writing about TV production). But they totally went for it!
And when I revealed the book blurb to readers, I was so surprised at how excited people were about it. In my head it was kind of a long shot to pitch a sexy rom-com set in the middle-of-nowhere Utah, but I think the destination and adventure aspect of it appealed to a lot of people, especially during quarantine/pandemic times when people couldn’t travel much.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I was surprised at just how quickly I hammered out that first draft (six weeks)! My first book Faker took me about five months to write the first draft, and about four months to write the first draft of Simmer Down. I notice I’m writing a lot more cleanly and quickly now that this is my third book.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope that this book will feel like a fun, adventurous, and romantic escape for readers. I think a lot of us are still really limited in where we can travel, and I hope that On Location will serve as a kind of destination read to Utah.
I also hope that reading it will feel like an escape. There are so many things in life that are stressful to deal with, and I’m so honored anytime a reader reaches out to me and says that reading my book was a lighthearted escape from their everyday life.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Anytime a reader reaches out to you to tell you how much they loved your book, try to respond to them. I know we’re all busy writing and doing a million other things, but readers are who we owe our success to, and a quick message thanking them for buying and reading your book is a small but meaningful thing you can do to show how much you appreciate them.