SLAYTON - Lisa Saner of rural Slayton has occasionally wondered what her life would have been like if she had pursued writing in college instead of working with numbers.
An accounting technician with the Murray County Highway Department, Saner once considered journalism, but quickly decided writing the truth was far less exciting than embellishing a tale through plot twists and character development.
“Real life is just too …. I get enough of that in a day. I want to make up things,” Saner said with a laugh.
On the heels of her third self-published book, Saner is now taking a break from her creative outlet, waiting for inspiration to strike. Her next project may be a continuation of the tale she’s weaved through her first three novels, “Mistress of Serenity,” “Masters of Destiny” and “Shadow of Deception” - or it may be something entirely different.
“I would love to just do something totally different, but I’m afraid some of my biggest fans (among them the ladies from church) would be disappointed,” Saner shared. “I like crime stories. I don’t know if I can write them, though.
“They say, write about what you know. I like music, so that’s where I went with (my first three books).”
Saner grew up in Watertown and graduated from Lake Area Technical College there. She’s resided in rural Slayton with her husband, Darren, for more than 25 years, and they’ve raised two children, Melissa (now married with twins), and Kyle, a junior at the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks.
She first began writing when her kids were young, filling up notebooks with her fictitious story of rock superstar Brandon Vant, whose drug abuse and scandal sent his ambitious career spiraling to the bottom. After overcoming addiction, he became a successful record producer and multi-millionaire, but felt a nagging call to return to the stage. In his search for a new voice to add to his band, Brandon discovers Jesselynn Wyatt, the daughter of Wyoming ranchers who dreams of performing despite working in a 9-to-5 job as an adult. She participates in local theatre and fills in for nightclub musicians - far from fulfilling her dream of fame.
Brandon convinces Jesselynn to leave her secure life in Wyoming and follow him to California, where she signs on to be his background vocalist.
Add in some romance, a vengeful enemy, tabloid gossip and escalating conflict and Jesselynn’s eyes are opened to the dark side of fame.
The saga continues in book two, which picks up the story after their one-year music tour. Jesselynn has found success with the launch of her debut album, but more conflict and drama ensues as new family characters are introduced.
Saner’s first two books, “Mistress of Serenity” (self-published in 2011) and “Master of Destiny” (self-published in 2012), were actually written as one book, but as she transferred her handwritten scrawlings from paper to the computer screen, she realized it was just too long.
“I would always have notebooks around and write and write,” said Saner, whose writing time in those early years was after her kids went to bed - typically from 8 o’clock at night to 2 o’clock in the morning.
“I can’t do that anymore,” she said with a laugh.
Her third book was written entirely on the computer, and the experience has her looking back to pen and paper for her next book.
“I think when I was on the computer all day (at work), I didn’t want to be on the computer at night - it felt too much like work,” she said. “I think writing by hand, I have more creativity.”
Just as she’s taking a break from writing now, Saner did so as she wrote her first three books.
“There were many times that I didn’t look at it for months,” she admitted. “There were times I thought, I’m just going to delete the file and forget it, and then there was something that would get me interested in it again.”
Saner has learned she can’t just take a day off from her full-time job to write - she has to be in the right frame of mind.
“Some writers talk about going to sit in their favorite café and write and I can’t have noise around me,” she said. “You can’t just sit down and be instantly into it.
“I took a day off of work and (the urge to write was) not there, so I’m just going to clean the house,” she added with a laugh.
Sander said she’s always loved writing and reading, and her interest spans all genres, even though her works are categorized as romantic suspense.
It was actually her love of reading that propelled her into writing.
“I remember reading books and thinking, ‘That was a stupid ending. I would have done that differently.’ And then I thought, yeah, I’m going to do it,” she said. “I didn’t really have a plan to finish (a book). It was just a hobby.”
Family and friends who had read Saner’s manuscripts convinced her to publish the books, so she started by sending her stories to literary agents. When that proved unsuccessful, she shrugged it off and set the manuscripts aside. Then, while on the computer one day, an advertisement for a writing contest popped up.
“I sent (a copy) in … I didn’t win, but they offered a coupon to print one of the books for free,” she said. “Then I got more printed off to give to family; that’s how it started.”
Saner’s books are available at all libraries affiliated with the Plum Creek Library System, or may be purchased online through amazon.com. Her first book is available in ereader format, and all three can be purchased as paperbacks.
The author hosted successful book signings in Slayton when her first two books were published, and plans to have a book signing sometime this year with her third novel.
“I sign my name on my timecard every week and nobody gets excited about it,” she said with a laugh.