Wednesday 29 September 2010

The Call: Guest Post by Mindi Scott

We have a fabulous guest post today from author Mindi Scott. Mindi's YA debut novel, FREEFALL, about what comes next for a teen who was the last person to see his best friend alive and the first to find him dead, will be released by Pulse (Simon & Schuster) October 5th, 2010.

From the time I started writing with the intent of getting published, I knew that I wanted an agent. Once I felt that my work was ready, I set about trying to get one. Three years, two manuscripts, and 170 agent rejections later, I was way beyond prepared. I knew the questions I needed to ask. I knew all the steps that needed to be taken. I just needed an agent to call me up to give me the chance.

On January 6, 2009, I was gearing up for a new revision when my phone rang. I stared at the number on the screen, but I didn't recognize it. The caller definitely wasn't local. Whenever this had happened during all those months of querying, I'd hoped that it would be an agent calling to discuss my book. It always ended up being some kind of telemarketer or telephone-survey taker, though.

This time, I answered, expecting a telemarketer's spiel. Instead, the person on the other end said, "Hi, Mindi. This is Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. I finished reading your manuscript. I loved it, and I'm calling to offer representation."

I would be lying if I told you that I remembered much about what I said or how the rest of that conversation went. I just stared out the window in a state of shock, running through my mind that he'd just said that he loved my manuscript.

He kept talking to me, saying a lot of enthusiastic-sounding words.


Then he paused in whatever he was saying, clearly waiting for some kind of response from me. I said, "I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"

He laughed and said it all again.

When we got off the phone a few minutes later, I wasn't quite able to process what had just happened. Something great and wonderful and unbelievable! After all this time, I had an agent call to talk about my book! And I truly comprehend only about a quarter of what he said!

Wait. Did he say that he wanted to represent me? He did. HE DID!

I freaked out, ran around the house (literally), called my husband, my mom, my sister, my best friends. I left insane messages on people's voicemails. When my hands stopped shaking enough so that I could use my keyboard and mouse, I checked my email and spotted the agency agreement that I vaguely remembered Jim saying that he was going to send for me to check out.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Okay, so as you might guess, The Call didn't go exactly as I'd imagined. I'd wanted to be cool, calm, and super-professional and it didn't happen. To aspiring authors out there, I have to say that being prepared and researching the right questions to ask an agent is a very good thing to do. But if The Call comes unexpectedly like it did for me, try not to worry too much. You can and will get a chance to get into the nitty-gritty agent/client details in emails and later phone conversations. I promise!

Even though I don't officially remember much about what was said during that initial call, I do know that it is by far, one of the best that I've ever received!



Links about Mindi:

FREEFALL Book Trailer

Monday 27 September 2010

Interview with Laura Schultz

What? The weekend is over already? I think I can ease your Monday morning blues with my next interviewee. Laura Schultz is a fantastic writer whom I've connected with through Twitter and Facebook. She's always supportive and has a terrific attitude. Let's get to know her a little more.

Welcome, Laura. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in a small border town in California into a political family. My father was a farmer turned politician and mother was a painter/sculptor. As a child I was greatly influenced by what I saw there in the 1950’s during an idyllic time much like old American television shows. Meeting notable political figures was quite interesting. They came to our cozy little town to campaign for my dad who was running for a Senatorial seat from our district in 1964. We had horses and lots of great animals on the ranch we had. As with many of us my childhood influenced my adult life, including what I have chosen to write about now.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing poetry almost all of my life to get me through the good times and mostly the many tough years. However, I began writing professionally about 4 years ago and began by writing for national magazines. I write a myriad of genres including true crime, poetry, articles related to relationships, sexuality and book reviews for the New York Journal of Books in genres that I am credentialed to review. I have also been a licensed Psychotherapist for over 20 years which also influences my writing style.

Wow, sounds like you've got your hands in every jar. That's awesome. Tell us about the book of poetry you have out with a publisher.

My book involves poetry of love, loss and personal struggles of having an incurable but manageable physical illness for many years. The collection of poems is reflective of my philosophy about life and writing from the soul. There will be more details forthcoming when it gets closer to publication.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I gather my inspiration from many sources including other poets and writers--mainly those who struggled throughout history. But also those I have had the privilege to come to know presently. My mom’s fabulous artwork and gourmet cooking talents have also influenced my desire to create something artistic. I have no artistic talent per se like she had but I know that she would be proud of me now. She was way ahead of her time and was also a somewhat renowned artist for her generation of women. Unfortunately she is in the last stages of Alzheimers and cannot witness what I have accomplished.

Sounds like she's an amazing woman.

Tell us, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers?

I don’t necessarily enjoy writing critique groups but my best friend is a prolific writer, scholar and film teacher. He has also been my writing mentor and best teacher for over 6 years now. I also recently created a writer’s group called Writer’s etc. along with my Co-Director Italia Trent. The group has over 600 members from many genres as well as members of the Hollywood Community. I have received and hopefully give support to all the writers in the group as much as I am able to do along with my many writing deadlines.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part for me, Dorothy, is maintaining a balance in my life between writing, friends taking care of myself and having some semblance of a healthy relationship. That will take more time for me to learn to do well. Many of my non-writer friends are disappointed that I don’t have much time to spend with them anymore and don’t understand why I work such odd hours, in their opinion.

I understand. I've often wished for a way to freeze time so I can do all the things I need to do and stay connected to everyone I'd like to.

Do you have any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

For me writing at night when it’s quiet is the best time for me to focus. I realize every writer has their own personal preference when it comes to this issue. I also feel that my outlook on life in general helps me get through the waiting or dry periods (so to speak) that can cause great angst for many writers including myself. I’ve been very lucky to have such great support for the writing life the past few years. Though I dreaded the thought of social media at first, I have learned to enjoy networking with other writers and sharing our mutual concerns.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Must haves for me are inspirational pix or quotes from people I admire, an old-fashioned writing pad that I carry everywhere I go and in my office I am surrounded by award-winning paintings that my mother created years ago.

Cool! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I am very grateful to the many people who have supported me in the last few years from all over the world especially Stuart McCallum, Italia Trent, Roz Morris, Anton Mueller, Don Odom, Nancy Denofio, Russ Bryant, Amanda Haines, Deborah Riley, Derek Haines and Dan Hays. All of them can be found on twitter or facebook or both. And all have special writing talents of their own. My stepfather Joel Rudof, cousin Mark Goldenson and brother Mike Schultz have been very supportive family members. And Dorothy you have also been very supportive. Thanks for interviewing me. This almost sounds like an Academy Award acceptance speech doesn’t it?

LOL, yeah, but it's fitting. And finally, where can people find you online?

The best place for people to read samples of my work is I am just getting my blog up and running but am enjoying people stopping by to leave comments, etc.

Laura, thank you so much for chatting with us today. I look forward to more information about your book, and I wish you lots of success with all your writing endeavors.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Interview with Anita Roysten and Joslyn Gaines Vanderpool

Today I have a special treat for you. It's a double interview with two fabulous writers. Anita Roysten and Joslyn Gaines Vanderpool are co-writers for the Brave, Bold and Beautiful book series. Let's get to know them.

Welcome, ladies. Tell us a bit about yourselves and hoow long you've been writing?

Joslyn: I've been writing professionally for more than 25 years. It was a fluke; in college I started with bonehead English. I was born with imagination, not proper syntax, but I became a congressional intern in Washington, DC and then I worked for a national public interest organization in the mail room, and began editing copy and writing about a myriad of issues from Apartheid to human relations, and nuclear defense systems. I attended press conferences and the like. Thereafter, I joined DC Black Journalist and worked as a freelancer for an urban magazine and as a staff member for a political magazine that covered issues related to federal, state and local policy affecting youth.

Anita: I have been writing since I was a little girl. I started writing short stories for people at church, then short plays that we would invite family and neighbors into the backyard to see. As a young adult, I started writing plays that had meaning and would entertain as well as teach such as "Are you in the Dark?", a play about acholol intervention and drug awareness. We took that one to schools, churches and social assistance organizations. I have always liked to snatch a thought out of the air and commit it to paper.


J & A: "Our Black Fathers" is a dream come true. It is a way to celebrate a demographic group that has not too often been written about from a positive perspective. All of our lives, we have noticed that there is a certain look of sorrow or burden in the eyes of black men, which signified some level of pain. They have lived difficult lives. The other books in our series are equally exciting because they will inspire and make an impact too. The key of the series to bring forth more understanding and appreciation of one another, regardless of where we come from and who we are.

How did the idea of putting together the anthology come to you?

J & A: We were at a meeting to discuss a program to prepare middle school aged children and their parents for college. One of the speakers totally savaged Black men stating that there were no fathers
around in our community and that was why many black students were failing academically or were either absent from the college landscape. We knew that wasn't true of any of our friends. Our fathers, had always been there in loving and supportive ways. Although we didn't know each other on a personal level, we struck up a conversation after that meeting when the handful of black women in the groupwere asked if we had experienced a "no father" childhood. Everyone adamantly replied, "no." So we were on to something. If our fathers had been there for us and were wonderful, we knew that many other black fathers were involved in the lives of their children and simply were not being recognized. Our love for our fathers, and the need to reveal a balanced perspective about Black men was too great not to write about. We started to write only about our fathers but thought that there had to be droves of loving, and present and accounted for Black fathers. Thus the idea of an anthology was born to share as many stories as possible to drown out the stereotype that there were no decent black fathers in our midst. We sent out a call for stories and the rest is history.

How long did it take to compile the collection?

J & A: It was like birthing a child -- nine months to be exact to collect stories, edit, rewrite and publish. It should have taken a lot longer but we put out a release date and many of our writers prepared to sell the book so we had to pull some late hours to make it happen in nine months. It's easier to have a baby!

What is the hardest part of writing for each of you?

Joslyn: I love words, thus writing is like rain. That's why I love it! However, when you're writing about a loved one, you want to get it right. There are also times when you have to let a story go. You've
already gone over it, rewritten it, reread it, etc. so it's hard once you've given birth to it, to set it free because of the fear it will be rejected. You have to write it for you. Of course you want to appease your audience, but ultimately, you have to like what you're putting on paper.

Anita: For me the hardest part is the editing. I like to say I am a re-writer. Putting down my thoughts is one thing. To go back and polish them up for public consumption is not my favorite part.

Who are your inspirations?

Anita: I am inspired by writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Guy de Maupsant who took the time to add enough detail for you to grasp hold of the time and place being described. There are also writers such as Sister Souljah and Theresa Gonzalves who boldly tell it like it is, pulling no punches, telling on themselves in order for the reader to better believe the stories. I am inspired by those four writers more and any because I feel I am not quite there yet.

Joslyn: It is not always a who that inspires me, but sometimes it is a phrase that inspires me or something someone says that makes me want to find out a little more. So in order for a story to evolve I just need something that interest me to begin the writing process.

Let's get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have
to have nearby when writing?

Joslyn: Nothing, only an urge or mood to write. I can stay transfixed all day at the computer.

Anita: Noise. I have to hear music and/or have a notepad and several pens nearby. Then I am ready!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Joslyn: To bring peace, comfort, happiness and a lot of fun to every person, and every pocket of the world.

Anita: My superpower would be to wave my wand and make sure everyone one is healthy, happy, educated,has enough money to pay bills and is free of racial and gender prejudices and other such hang-ups!

Quick writing test! Anita, use the following words in a sentence: racecar, chemistry, and centipede.

Because I took chemistry, with a little dip in my solution a centipede can move as fast as a racecar.

Joslyn, use these words in a sentence: rollerblades, eagle, and lime.

If I received a lime for every eagle that rollerblades, I could never make a perfect margarita.

Here's the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

J & A: We'd like to thank all of the fathers whose legacies have inspired us, as well as the tremendous stories from our contributors. We'd also like to thank our families and friends, the bookstore proprietors, radio and television hosts, workshop and book fair organizers, fellow authors, our graphic designer and all of those who helped us in some capacity along the way. However, our biggest thanks is extended to those who purchased the book and have validated its worth. When we show it to black men, many of them thank us or give us a hug. We ask that they continue to spread the world that black fathers' legacies must be read and preserved.

And finally, where can people find you online?

J & A: You can connect with us at
Our Black Fathers: Brave, Bold and Beautiful! can be ordered from our website or via Amazon and or by calling 1-800-277-2330.

Thank you, Anita and Joslyn, for chatting with us today. Your books sound amazing. I wish you much success! :)

Sunday 19 September 2010

Interview with Margo Rowder

Hello, blogosprites! Yes, I just made that up, and that's what I'm calling you today. So, what do I have for you today, you might be wondering. Or maybe you're not, but I'll tell you anyway. Today I've got a great interview with wonderful aspiring author, Margo Rowder.

Welcome, Margo. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Chicago, where I'm a Senior Copywriter for digital marketing firm Critical Mass. In my 11 years in this biz (What? Time flies!), I've been lucky enough to write for clients like Pampers, United Airlines, Heineken, and Mastercard.

I grew up in Texas, about a mile from Southfork Ranch – the one seen in "Dallas." (And I may or may not know who shot JR.) Since then, I've been an alto, an artist, an equestrian therapy volunteer, a drummer for musicals and jazz combos, a teetotaling magna cum laude nerd, an indie-film set dresser, a late-blooming beer drinker, and a high-green belt in mixed martial arts (skills I've surely forgotten by now... or have I?).

I'll stay on your good side, just in case, lol. How long have you been writing?

When I was nine, I started keeping a journal. Exceptional stuff, if you're riveted by endless blathering about boys. Fast-forward to college, where I discovered fiction-writing in an odd way. I studied art direction for advertising, and part of each assignment was to write a target market profile: a made-up persona our campaign should attract. A quirky meet-cute for sure, but that's when I fell in love with creating characters and toying with voice.

Over my first several years in the workforce, I art directed and/or wrote copy for many clients including Sears, Heineken, Mastercard, Breyer's, and Dove. Copywriting built up my confidence to finally make a deeper dive into fiction. I signed up for a class at the Institute of Children's Literature, and have written fiction consistently ever since.

What is the name and genre of your manuscript?

THIRTY DECIBELS is a young-adult dystopian novel.

Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

At the ceremony on Ava's fifteenth birthday, the candle on her cake will determine whether she’s a Whisperer or a Leader.

Though everyone says it’s “written on the wind,” Ava won’t let some weird fairy-tale tradition control her fate. She blows out her candle with a fan hidden behind her back, making herself a Whisperer: one who must not speak or laugh louder than 30 decibels, sing solos with the choir, or cry in public.

The Whisper Rules have kept the world placid and catastrophe-free ever since food riots known as the Great Scream killed half the world. But Ava can’t seem to fit in with any part of this society, so she opts out by remaining silent. As she looks and listens more closely, she sees cracks in the system and hears rumblings of change to come.

Ava finds one glimmer of light in the Rules: they allow her to continue singing with the town choir, next to a certain heart-stopping tenor. She also escapes regularly to the library, the only place Whisperers may hold authority. While discovering others' writings and recordings, Ava finds her own voice. When her mother’s high-powered politico boss plans to forbid Whisperers from music and libraries, Ava is ready to take a stand.

Sounds like a cool premise! How did the idea of the story come to you?

The idea started with a unique ICL class assignment: pick three words from a list, and build a short story around them. I picked "candle," "whisper," and "sing."

All the major points of my story hit me while I flew in a packed airplane from Chicago back home to Dallas – the girl, the society, even the plot. Then again, let's consider the context: I was writing a dystopia in late, post-election 2004.

My resulting story, "Say It, Sister," did not want to remain short. Sure enough, my instructor wrote a note at the top of my finished assignment: "Intriguing – maybe even the beginnings of a book?"

Awesome. So, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I am writing THIRTY DECIBELS through another ICL class, so I get professional critiques with every assignment. I've spent this year in multiple single-focus edits (characterization, conflict, sensory detail, pacing, de-padding, etc). I highly recommend this focused method – because then at least something at the desk is focused!

That said, I have much work ahead. I won a three-chapter critique from in a recent Evanston library fundraiser. The resulting comments from (fellow SCBWIer) Trina Sotira were invaluable, so I've gone back for more. Trina is critiquing the full manuscript as we speak. After that, I hope to send the story to two rounds of beta readers. (I'm looking for more readers. Please contact me at the info below if you're interested!)

Sounds like an excellent plan that's already succeeding! What’s the hardest part of writing for you?


Let's go back to art: My mom used to do pointillism with pen and ink. Essentially, she'd make each picture from thousands of dots. Painstaking, right? But part of the prep is planning where the dots should go. Writing can be just as harrowing, but much less efficient. Instead of putting down a dot right where it needs to go, as a writer you sketch in where you think it might go, cut away the extra, move the dot, give it a different center, and then cut it down again. But hey, it's fun. Especially when you get the chance to use an esoteric art metaphor.

Okay, my head is spinning, lol. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

The "what" isn't so tough: Laptop, earplugs, and water. Food every few hours, as long as I remember to hunt, gather, or... um, order.

I'm much choosier about the "where": I write more easily away from home. I can totally relate to the writer in a movie scene who rents a hotel room to work. I usually write at The Book Cellar. When John Green (one of my favorite favorites) was in town this spring promoting WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, he mentioned he used to write at The Book Cellar. How cool is that? Maybe after I pay my "coming-of-age writing at Book Cellar" dues, he can pass me some sort of jewel-encrusted torch.

Not only that, my friend and fellow YA writer/SCBWIer James Kennedy (he of THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH) also visits the shop to write and chat. Hilarity usually ensues. I also spied Audrey Niffenegger this summer, waltzing in looking fabulous to sign copies of HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY. The store has such a great vibe for writing, the people are fantastic, AND they serve gelato and fine beers!

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: trampoline, onions, and nuns.

Onions at lunch, trampoline at recess – the nuns must be hazing that gassy new girl.

Hehehe, excellent sentence! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

My son's father Jed, first and foremost. Because of his help, I wrote my first draft of THIRTY DECIBELS during our son's first year – quite possibly the worst timing for such an undertaking. Jed and his mother (who helps us so much with Archer) are simply amazing. 

I also have to thank all the writers, poets, bloggers, and readers I've met on Twitter (you know who you are!).The writing community there is exceptional. They consistently open my eyes to new ideas and cheer me on when I #amwriting.

My fellow SCBWI'ers have been a tremendous support – James Kennedy and Trina Sotira as I'd mentioned, plus Adam and Ronni Selzer. And Crystal Chan and Jane Hertenstein for keeping our Chicago chapter so active. This city is a phenomenal place to be a writer.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I blog semi-regularly at

I tweet @margorowder

I contribute poetry to
I commit dumb Facebook acts at

Thank you so much, Margo, for letting us get to know you. I wish you continued success with your book. Let us know when it's on the shelves!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Interview with Jill Wheeler

Hello, blogosphere friends! Today I bring you a fun interview with a fantastic up-and-coming writer. Jill Wheeler is represented by Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary.

Hi, Jill! Tell us a bit about yourself.

*sets down Diet Pepsi and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups* Well, hello! Fancy meeting you here! I’m Jill Wheeler. I teach high school English and enjoy World of Warcraft and Buffy reruns. I live in the Midwest with my husband and one-year-old daughter.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for a while. I kept journals and wrote poetry in high school, produced several zines in college, and started writing novels about three years ago.

What is the name and genre of your novel?

SLIDE is a YA novel.

Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

Sylvia Bell is used to sliding into other people, but when she slides into the body of a killer standing over a dead cheerleader, she’s beyond freaked.

Whoa! Okay, I've GOT to read this. How did the idea of the story come to you?

Last year I was bouncing ideas off my colleague, and we just thought that scenario sounded really crazy. Like something we’d want to read.

Definitely does! Tell us about Sarah Davies at Greenhouse.

Sarah is amazing. I signed with her in June, and it’s like she invited me and my little manuscript in out of the rain. And fed us cake. With her help, SLIDE has developed into a much beefier, more satisfying story.

Mmm, cake! LOL. But seriously, she sounds awesome! Besides your agent, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you do most of your editing yourself?

Shout out to my mom. And Sara Raasch, Shayda Bakhshi, Megan Miranda, Susanne Winnacker, Amber Johnston, Rebecca Rogers, Stephanie Kuehn, and Kate Walton. If I’ve forgotten you, I’m sorry!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Revising. Oh, revising, how I hate thee. (Unless you’re Sarah, and then I totally love revising!) I used to think revising was just printing the darn manuscript off and crossing out a few paragraphs and moving a few commas around. Sarah has taught me how to really revise. And it can be PAINFUL. But, really, it is so rewarding. Kind of like exercise.

Wow, great comparison. Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

I subscribe to Stephen King’s idea of the sweetheart reader. My mom is definitely my sweetheart reader. She reads without judgment and tells me the things she loves and doesn’t tear it apart too much. Once I’ve finished the rough draft and gotten some distance, then I invite in the hardcore betas. And Sarah.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

-Diet Pepsi
Most importantly, my daughter has to be asleep or in a different room.

That helps, yeah. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I wish I could write like Jandy Nelson, the author of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. It’s like poetry shines from her fingertips and into the computer. It’s magic. THAT is a super power.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: prevention, designated, and tomato sauce.

On Spaghetti Wednesday, I designated my best friend to oversee the prevention of tomato sauce in the region of my Super Cute top.

Excellent sentence! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Ooh, I kind of did this with the beta readers question. Well, all the people I said before, plus my husband and my baby. And the Pepsi company, of course.

That's okay. I'm sure there can't be enough appreciation in the world. And finally, where can people find you online?

E-mail: jillewheeler (at)
Twitter: jwheelerwrites

Jill, thank you so much for letting us get to know you and your book. Please let us know when it's available! I wish you lots of success.

Monday 13 September 2010

Author Update

Good morning! Hope you all enjoyed your weekend. I greet you this Monday morning with great news.

Back in March I interviewed writer JM Tohline and learned about his fabulous-sounding book The Great Lenore. Well I'm pleased to say that JM now has a publishing deal with Atticus Books! The Great Lenore will be available Summer 2011.

You can read all about JM's journey to publication here.

Congratulations, JM! I wish you much success for your book release!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Awards in Waiting

Hi there! Told ya it'd be spotty blogging once I started my new job.

I was going to post all the super cool blog awards I've been given recently, but I'm supposed to pay them forward. And though I've got some super cool bloggers in mind to pass the awards onto, I think I'm supposed to have a list of 15. So that means looking through my list of blogs I read. In any case, my time is limited this week (parent-teacher conferences up the wazoo and staff meetings at my new job) so I'll have to post them on the weekend when I'll hopefully have more time.

Just wanted to pop in and say I'm still alive, just slightly delayed.

I hope you're all surviving September. Miss ya! More interviews coming next week!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Interview with Sharla Scroggs

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. I know, I know. It could have been much longer if you had your way. Well, to ease the sting of the work week, let's chat with another great aspiring writer, Sharla Scroggs.

Welcome, Sharla! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Well, when I was five... LOL... I know, let's not get crazy. I live in Southeast Texas, down by the coast, with my husband and two nearly grown kids, 15 and 20. Well, I guess 20 is grown, I have 2 dogs and 9 cockatiels (We breed them. The birds, not the dogs) and I work full time. Oh yeah, and I write. One day I'd love to put that further up the list, on that day when I can call myself a published author. But until then, I write every day. It may be 2000 words or it may be a sentence as short as "Jesus wept." but I try to do something after work before supper and laundry and drivers ed for my 15 year old. Maybe I should write about that.

Sounds like dedication to me. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since I was a kid, but I took it seriously eight years ago, when I started writing short stories on an online critique site. I'd never experienced feedback from other writers before. That was awesome and I was hooked. I wrote my first novel then, which took me a couple of years around some difficult times, but I did it. What was funny is I knew no rules back then. I ended up with a rambling, all-over-the-place whopper at 215K words. LOL! Yeah. Imagine my bewilderment when I found out it should be under 90K. I learned all about editing.

What is the name and genre of your current manuscript?

My latest is called Seeing Alex, and it's Women's Fiction with a Paranormal Romance twist. I can never seem to just fall in a category that's easy to query.

Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

Haven't written a pitch or synopsis for this one yet, so bear with me as I wing it.

Seeing Alex is like Ghost Whisperer meets Hope Floats. It's about a woman having to trudge back to her home town after twenty years to start over, and reinvent herself in a town that won't let her. She sees spirits, and that didn't go so well for her growing up as she talked to people no one else could see. Especially Alex. Now she's gone from ad exec to filling shrimp buckets at an old bait shop, is falling for her hot but moody boss, and keeps having hot flashes over Alex. Alex is hot enough to melt her shoes...but he happens to be dead. Add in a mouthy teenage daughter that inherits the ghostly trend, and a well hidden family secret that will shake everyone's shoes...

Sounds a little bit like True Blood with ghosts—how cool! How did the idea of the story come to you?

Honestly, it ended much different from where it started, but don't they all? I was watching Moonlight at the time, and I loved the romance idea with someone you can't have. Granted, that was a vampire, not a ghost, but it got the seed planted, and I already had the "mom and daughter coming home" thing just grew from there. These things always take off on their own for me.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I don't chapter my writing until I'm completely done, it's just one long document. Then I self edit to within an inch of its life, till I can't find anything else, then I have a handful of trusted crit partners I run it by, and I cringe while waiting to see all the red notes. Eeek. And they are always right.

But helpful, right? I love it when crit partners point out things I completely miss. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time. I've tried a set time every day, like punching a clock, but it never lasts. Life gets in the way and tells me otherwise. So I now grab whatever I can get, and force myself away from the internet. Yes, that is my weakness when those characters get ornery and don't want to run lines with me or just go awol... Facebook and Twitter and blogging wave their shiny little flags and beckon. Sometimes I have to unplug.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Sweet tea. Or coffee. Other than that, red spiral notebooks and a medium pt blue rollerball pen. I usually write longhand first because I can be messy and scribble and cross out and not edit. When I type, my inner editor comes out and I can't be free. And this I can take anywhere and write in the doctor's office or at a red light. (don't honk if you're behind me) And the pen? Yeah...I'm a little OCD about that. :))

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I would want to be The Invisible Woman! So I could spy on people and conversations and really get the goods on my kids! LOL

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: chimpanzee, orchestra, and yo-yo.

He looked crazed as he directed that orchestra, jumping up and down on the podium and flapping his arms like a chimpanzee working a yo-yo.

Heehee, that's good! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I thank everyone!!! My family for putting up with me. My friends for nodding and smiling as I keep calling myself a writer and keep plodding along. I thank all my amazing online writer friends I've made through blogs and AbsoluteWrite and Facebook and Twitter. And my wonderful crit partners I met online and also at the DFW Writers Conference! I am constantly humbled and awed by the talented people I've met, and who have helped me.

And finally, where can people find you online?

AbsoluteWrite forums
Twitter (sharlascroggs)
RWA-Womens Fiction online chapter
My blog

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Sharla. Let me know when you get published, I'd love to read your book!

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Interview with Jonathan Weyer

Half-way through the week! Woohoo! To celebrate, let's have a chat with author Jonathan Weyer. Jonathan's debut novel will be coming out October 1st. Let's get to know him.

Hi, Jonathan, and welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Short phrase answers: Follower of the Ancient of Days. Husband. Dad. Presbyterian minister. Atheist friend. Reader. Writer. Geek.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was a kid. However, I stopped in college because of a bad experience with a creative writing teacher. My wife encouraged me to pick it back up in seminary and so I wrote a YA fantasy novel based on American mythology. The story worked very well, but the writing didn't. I worked hard with a writer's group and read a ton of books on writing itself, Stephen King's book being the best. During that time, I came up with the idea for The Faithful.

What's your book about?

The Faithful is a novel of horror/paranormal suspense. Here is the blurb from the back of book:

Adian Schaeffer is a young pastor at a crossroads. Conflicted with his faith in God and the hypocrisy of the church, he feels alone and depressed. His only companion is his dog, Bishop. When he begins to doubt his faith, he knows he is entering a spiritual battleground. He panics and starts searching for answers.

Then he learns his ex-fiancĂ©e is murdered in a possibly demonic ritual and he finds himself catapulted into a deeper fight. Tormented by supernatural entities, Aidan becomes a medium that will hold the key to solving this murder mystery. Readers will find that The Faithful tears at the emotions and doubts of humankind.

Wow, kind of spooky! How did the idea of the story come to you?

Ha, in my shower! Well, the real answer is more complicated. I first come up with the idea of a "paranormalist pastor", who investigated the unexplained. At the same time, I had been jotting down thoughts for a nonfiction book meditating on the passage in the Gospel of John about Doubting Thomas. And finally, I have always wanted to write a good ghost story. So, one day in the shower, all three of those strands wove together into a plot. I really wish all my showers could be that productive.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I can't turn of my edit button during my first draft. I know everyone says you are supposed to just let things flow, but I can't. I wish I could, it would make things so much easier.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Music and caffeine. As for the music, it's usually Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens. Something about their music that open my brain to write. As for the caffeine, diet soda or hot chocolate. I can't stand coffee which, I know, is the ultimate writer betrayal. I have to do all my work in a coffee house because I have three kids at home.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Teleporting. There are days where I just want to teleport to the beach or the Grand Canyon.

Sounds like a great idea.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: mechanic, leopard, and pudding.

The mechanic opened the steel leopard and saw that it's insides had been turned into electronic pudding from the intense heat.

Wow, the visuals! Okay, here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Lets hear your shout outs.

Writing Mentors: Naked Writers Group, Stephen King (without knowing it), Charles Williams (Dead mentor)
Networking Support: Italia Gandolfo-Trent movie producer, Michelle Porter, Time Magazine Journalist
Friends and Family who helped with the book: Steve Lutz, Sara Denson,Mike Mattes, My wife.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I'll be riding the blue Tron bike (I told you I was a geek)

Thank you so much, Jonathan, for letting us get to know you. I wish you much success with your book!

Be sure to look for Jonathan Weyer's debut novel, The Faithful, out on October 1st.