It seems unbelievable that a man would look for a girl he met only briefly when they were children for the purpose of marrying her.

Here’s the real deal about the most misunderstood aspect of this story. Gus didn’t look for Sarah for most of his life for the purpose of marrying her. He looked for her to make sure she was all right.

For some inexplicable reason – perhaps Sarah’s weary acceptance of being picked on even at the age of 6 – Sarah’s reaction to his bullying struck a chord in preteen Gus. Then, when his mother made him watch as Sarah’s family harangued rather than comforted her, something in him woke up to his behavior toward others and caused him to turn away from how he’d been and start down the road to change. His own sister, when telling Sarah about this, admitted that he changed after that day. Because she was a fairly dramatic instigator of that change, he never forgot her, always remembered her for how she had inspired the change in his life that day.

Gus’s intentions were never with the end goal of marrying her, although some in his family seemed to think so (as demonstrated by his brother Dee, who makes more than one reference to Gus’s “fairytale”). His intentions were purely to assuage a niggling dread that she would not be well cared for and nurtured by her family, a need to see that she had risen above her unhappy home life as she reached adulthood. See, having been one himself, he recognized bullies when he saw them, so knew her family for what they were. It’s obvious by his three-year relationship with Gretchen Clark that he’s explored romantic relationships without thought to Sarah Quinn.

By Gus’s own admission (in the H&L women’s room after they delivered Frannie & Sam’s baby), Sarah was nothing like what he had expected. As he begins to learn about her, gets to know her, his need to see that she was okay changes to a desire for her romantically.

The assault scene is graphically violent and doesn’t fit with the story.

Au contraire, dear minions. In fact, it’s the pivotal moment in the story.

The most important aspect of Sarah’s story – more important than Sarah’s relationships with either Coleridge Tate or Gus Haldemann – is Sarah’s relationship with herself. She longs to be first on someone’s list – but she’s not even first on her own list. Her upbringing, devoid of emotional nurturing and validation, made her meek and submissive while inside she is frustrated and lonely.

With people who have been beaten down emotionally like Sarah has been, it takes a huge catalyst to shake them from the cocoon of “safety” they create for themselves as a measure of protection. Sarah’s catalyst is the assault.

After the assault, the most important event that happens to Sarah is NOT finding that Gus has made her his first priority. It’s not clearly seeing the myriad flaws in her relationship with Collie and realizing she wants more than what he can offer her. It’s not marrying Gus or being welcomed into his extended family. It’s Sarah finally accepting herself, standing up for herself, making herself the first priority in her own life. She demonstrates her move to emotional independence and self-worth when she breaks her ties with Collie and with her family. The assault made her understand that the person she allowed herself to be, shaped by her upbringing, opened the door to people like Eric Edwards to hurt her.

The very most insightful and influential thing Gus says to Sarah is this: “A lot has happened in your life that you have to learn to live with. Agonizing over it will change none of it; doing so only tells people you’re easy to manipulate. … So breathe in. Breathe out. Now move on and take what you want from life, Sarah.” This conversation allows her to fully realize the control she has over her life and over her feelings of worth.

The blog posts were added as an afterthought and have no bearing on the story except in the case of the one Lauren throws at Gus Haldemann.

If it’s in the story, it has a purpose. Sarah’s blog – shown in between every three chapters – is a reflection of Sarah’s disintegrating state of mind as she becomes increasingly torn between Collie and Gus.The posts were written as the book was being written – in fact, this book is probably the only one I’ve written mostly in chronological order.

I’ve noticed that many readers who don’t like the blogs in the story have a lot of action-driven books in their review history. Action-driven books are written much differently than a character-driven book. The character arc is what drives a character-driven book, so even while there may be a good deal of action in the story, it’s the character’s state of mind and the character’s arc of change that drives the plot toward fruition. People who prefer more action and fewer cerebral passages are generally dissatisfied with a character-driven story. And that’s okay – I’m the first to admit my work is not everyone’s cuppa joe.

Did your sister steal your prom date and spark an epic fight that you used in the book?

I broke my dates for both junior and senior proms all on my own with no interference from my sister. She never swiped any of my boyfriends.

That being said, the epic makeup-compact fight described actually did happen. I can’t even remember what we were fighting about, but it very definitely was not over a boy. Both parents were gone, we got pissed at each other and started hurling our makeup down the hall at each other. I can’t remember if I hit her or she hit me, or if neither of us were struck by our Maybelline missiles. I do remember that we had to clean it up before the parents got home, and it was a real bitch to get the eye shadow off the white walls.

The conversations between Sarah and her family are unrealistic. Family members don’t talk that way to each other.

Yes and no. To the lucky person who grew up in a well-adjusted, “normal” family with a good home life, I can see how Sarah’s interactions with her family might seem unrealistic.

To those who grew up in dysfunctional homes, the conversations aren’t just realistic, but quite familiar.

You wrote Sarah’s family particularly nasty to get back at your own family.

Ah … No. Anyone who knows anything about me personally knows I’m not on a speaking basis with my family. We are quite content to keep that silent distance between ourselves for the sake of peace in our own lives. Our parting of the ways was preceded by events in which everyone made grave mistakes and behaved poorly.

While my family was inarguably dysfunctional, the only aspect of my upbringing I’ve inserted into the story is my lack of feeling as though I was worth something to my family.

There’s a lack of continuity in the story.

Ah, you noticed that Allison’s hair changed from auburn to sliver-blonde in one chapter without the benefit of Clairol or L’Oréal (it was supposed to be Lauren I referred to in that paragraph, not Allison), and that I missed a couple instances where Mary-Anne was spelled “Mary-Ann” (curses on Word’s autocorrect). While it was corrected in all versions , I’m not so sure Amazon made the new version available to previous purchasers. I am humbled to admit that I cannot claim infallibility.  😉

There was no reason to make Collie into a jerk to excuse Sarah’s throwing him over for Gus.

This, of course, is speaking about Sarah learning (after she marries Gus) that Collie was sleeping with Brooke Fields while he was dating Sarah. Without giving anything away, let me just say that Sarah didn’t get that information from Collie himself, and Collie’s redemption comes in a spin-off book in the future. For those on Team Collie, don’t throw poison darts at me yet; your passion for him is well placed.

The swearing is unnecessary.

Oh, so many things in life are unnecessary! However, it would be unrealistic of me to portray a world in which no one uses a curse word or three on occasion. I am a wordsmith; “profanity” to me is unnecessary vulgarity and tearing down someone’s character, and those can be done without ever uttering a so-called swear word. This particular writer views “profane” words as simply words, and tools to be used for realistic worldbuilding in my craft.

In short, I’m sorry that you don’t like “profanity.” However, I’m unlikely to stop using it.

Is Gus’s mother based on a real person?

Gus’s mother is entirely based on my high school boyfriend’s mother, who was from Germany and was a wonderful woman. I adored her tremendously, and kept in touch with her for several years even after I married.

4 thoughts on “The Secret Dreams of Sarah-Jane Quinn – Special Content

  1. Nancy Smith says:

    I love the book exactly as written. I can’t imagine why people questioned you on so many things. I recommened your book to five people who read it and loved it as I did. Your writing style is warm and wonderful.

    1. Sharon says:

      Nancy, thank you so much! I am perplexed, too, why some people questioned anything about a book they themselves didn’t write. I get a lot of feedback through this site about what “should” have happened as opposed to what did happen, and it seems to be centered mostly on this book and on CONDEMNED (in which the heroine does some TREMENDOUSLY stupid things – all of which are in keeping with her character traits and necessary for the plot). I dunno – maybe I should just be flattered that the readers felt so strongly about the story?

      Thank you for reading and recommending – I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂

    1. Sharon says:

      Oh, thanks so much for letting me know! I admit, it’s my favorite so far of all I’ve written. I just completed the follow-up novel, which should be released sometime in August. 🙂

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