May 10 2017 1:00pm

A Hollywood Actress’s Transitions to Writing Romance—But How Are They Different?

Solace Island by Sara Flynn

Today we're thrilled to host Meg Tilly, writing as Sara Flynn, to Heroes and Heartbreakers. It isn’t often a award winning actress decides to write romance novels, but that’s exactly what Meg Tilly is doing, as Sara Flynn, with her debut romantic suspense novel, Solace Island. So Meg/Sara is here today to discuss which she likes better—Hollywood or writing—and how they're different. Thanks, Sara! 

When I’m on book tour, I get asked quite frequently, “What’s the difference between Hollywood and writing, and which one do you like better?”

That’s a difficult question to answer. It reminds me of when the children were younger, wanting to know who I loved the best.

I don’t love one of my children more than another. The three of them are as different as chalk and cheese. The relationship I have with each one is as different and unique as they are. However, I can definitively say that the love I have for them is of equal proportions, because I love each one of them with every cell in my body that’s capable of loving.

The interesting thing about the question, “What’s the difference between Hollywood and writing, and which one do you like better?” is that some of the very things I love about acting are the polar opposite of the things I love about writing.

Hey, I have an idea! I’m going to make two lists. This will be fun!

What I love About Acting

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1. The hustle and bustle of being on the set. Collaborating with the director and writers. It’s fascinating, hundreds of people all working toward one goal, to make a good show. The sound crew hiding radio mics under the actor’s wardrobe, checking sound levels. They have on-set microphones hidden outside the shot as well. The on-set wardrobe person hovering by, to make sure the sound department doesn’t accidentally damage the clothes, as the two departments have different ideas as to what’s the best way to make sure a mic doesn’t get dislodged and plummet downward during a shot and ruin the take. The camera crew is setting up multiple cameras. The electricians are setting lights and running huge cables that must be hidden in the shot. The actors are going through the scene, the blocking, getting used to the props, making sure that they can make it believable that these items belong to their characters and have a history.  All the while the hair and make-up departments are dodging in, making adjustments, once they’ve seen how things look under the lights on the set. And all of that is only one tiny fraction of all that is happening on a set at any given time.

2. While shooting movies, or TV shows, lots of times I have to get up super early. I love that quiet time, before everything gets crazy. A 5:30 a.m. call is not unheard of. I slip out of my warm bed, quiet as a mouse, tiptoe to the bathroom, shower, get dressed, grab my script bag and coat, and exit the house.

A car or van is waiting outside, exhaust blowing, the city still asleep. There’s the smell of the driver’s coffee as he slurps on it, bleary-eyed. On the drive in, we don’t talk much, just a “Hello,” “Sleep well?”

I put on my headphones and run the day’s lines. If it’s a long drive, I review the upcoming week’s work as well.

Getting up that early, I get to watch the world wake up, the sunrise streaking the sky.

3. On a set, there are people whose entire job is to make you pretty. They put on your makeup and do your hair. Wardrobe dresses you and even adds the appropriate footwear, etc. Props gives you your watch/ring or anything else you might need.

4. When the children were young, it was so amazing to go to work, have people listen to me, and think I was talented and smart! I enjoyed the luxury of being able to finish sentences. To be creative with other people. And not only that, but to be paid for all this! Heaven!

5. Diving into other people’s skins and lives and playing make-believe with other actors.

6. Getting to meet fascinating people and live and work in exotic locales.

7. Per diem! The money they give you on location for daily living expenses. That always feels like mad money.

8. After a show has wrapped you can buy the articles of your wardrobe that you like for cheap. This was always great for me, because the clothes would fit, and I don’t really like shopping.

9. I love the collaboration. The joining together of a huge group of people, all with the same goal, to make a movie. All of us, thrown together. Strangers when we start, and over the months of the shoot, becoming an odd sort of functional/dysfunctional family. And then BOOM the shoot’s over, and you don’t really see each other again. Oh, you might bump into each other at some event or awards show, but it’s just not the same. It’s almost awkward.

What I Love About Writing

Source: Shutterstock

1. I love the quiet. The solitary pursuit. Being alone in my writing room, with only my imagination to keep me company. Every once in a while, a deer, rabbit, or river otter will amble by my window. It turns and looks at me, and I hold still, a smile in my heart, as we regard each other. It feels like a luxury. My time is my own; no one is expecting anything from me or relying on me for anything. I dive into the imaginary world of my novel, laugh with my characters, cry with them, give them the happy ending that makes my heart happy. I am creating what I want. Whereas, being an actor, my job is to fulfill and flesh out someone else’s creation.

2. I love being able to sleep in. To have no clock ticking. I get up when I wake up and have a bite to eat, make a hot beverage, tea or hot lemon/honey/clove/and ginger. Then I putter out of the house, up the drive, along the path through the trees to my writing room.

3. I love my writing room.

4. I love that I can wear the doggone ugliest clothes to write in and nobody knows or cares.

5. I love that it doesn’t matter if I don’t remember to brush my hair until dinnertime.

6. I love that I don’t catch every virus that is making the rounds on the set. I can go days without seeing anyone but my husband and dog.

7. I love not being looked at.

8.  I love when I am stuck, or my body feels cramped up from being hunched over the keyboard, that I can walk out my door and go for a lovely hike in the woods or a walk on the beach. My time is my own as a writer. On the set, if I need to go to the bathroom, an A.D. will follow me and will announce what I am doing over the walkie-talkie. Everyone knows when you are going to the bathroom AND how long it is taking!

9. I love being in charge of what the characters say and do, and the world they live in.

10.  I love not having to collaborate with anyone, unlike acting, where you need to be chosen by the director and okayed by the studio. With writing, I can be creative, whether people want to publish me or not. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be creative. I have tons of manuscripts that I’ve written over the years that I’ve never submitted to anyone and probably never will. Manuscripts I wrote for me. For the sheer need to examine some situation/relationship or another. They are ones I don’t want to share with the world. I also have manuscripts I’ve written that I might someday send out, but they need to percolate a little longer, need another draft. 

I could go on and on with the lists. But this is a blog, not a manifesto. The point I’m trying to make is, if you look at the two lists you can see what I mean about loving the things I dislike, and disliking the very things that I love.

So, which is better?

They both are good. Acting and writing, while they seem from the outside to be quite similar, they are actually very different types of lifestyle. They complement each other, and I am lucky that I’ve been able to enjoy both.


Learn more about or order a copy of Solace Island by Sara Flynn, available now:

Buy at Amazon



H&H Editor Picks:

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Meg Tilly launched her romance author career at the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta, where she skillfully co-emceed the Awards Ceremony—and signed that debut novel, SOLACE ISLAND. As for her latest movie, catch “War Machine,” debuting May 26 on Netflix, with Meg playing Brad Pitt’s wife in the war drama set in Afghanistan.

For more about Meg as Sara Flynn, visit

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1. wsl0612
I like these lists, this is very interesting. I don't think I could ever be an actor because I would find it exhausting to have that much focus every day! And just like any other job in the world there are always days you hate doing one thing and wish you could do another, and then remember back to the time you were doing that "another" and didn't like it so much :-)
1. wsl0612
I like these lists, this is very interesting. I don't think I could ever be an actor because I would find it exhausting to have that much focus every day! And just like any other job in the world there are always days you hate doing one thing and wish you could do another, and then remember back to the time you were doing that "another" and didn't like it so much :-)
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