Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cheryl Shireman Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write? 

That has varied over the years. When I had babies at home, I wrote while they napped. When they were young children, I wrote early in the morning or late at night. When I worked other full time jobs, I wrote on the weekends or whenever I could. Now that I write full-time, I like to start writing as soon as I wake up. In fact, I prefer writing (especially fiction) before I am fully awake. I think there is something about that time of the morning, fresh from the world of dreams, that is conducive to creation and imagination.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

For years, I did all of my writing with paper and pen. After a couple of revisions, when the work started to take form, I would then enter it into my computer and continue the writing process – revising many times on the computer as the work takes form. Now, I write on my laptop. Sometimes, though, if I am having a tough time on a piece I might print it out and do revisions by hand with an ink pen in the margins of the print out. Obviously, writing directly on the computer is much more productive, but I have to admit that I miss all of the crumpled balls of paper scattered across the floor and under my desk at the end of the day.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

I usually start with a character and a premise. I begin wondering what would happen if a certain character faced a certain situation. I then go immediately to a document on my computer entitled “Book Ideas” where I quickly describe the idea under some sort of working title. This description may be as short as a single sentence or as long as a couple of pages. Right now, I have ideas for 17 books. Will I write all of these books? Who knows? But I do know that I probably would have forgotten about many of the ideas had I not captured them in my “Book Ideas” document.
For my first novel, Life is But a Dream, I imagined a woman trying to redefine her life as she faces the possible failure of her marriage and her only daughter moving across country for college. I then started thinking about where she might begin to redefine her life and I imagined a secluded lake cabin. Once I had her in the cabin, the ideas began pouring in. She feels as if her identity has been taken away from her, because her husband and daughter no longer need her. Her husband is dealing with depression. He has lost his job. Their home has been repossessed. Alone, in the cabin, she ponders her fate. And then, it hit me – she cannot swim. Her cabin is on an island. She has, literally, surrounded herself with the option of death. Now the premise becomes more urgent – will she redefine her life or will she end it?

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

No. I would guess that I average about 2000 words per day when writing fiction, but when I write I focus entirely on the writing. Sort of all or nothing approach. On a given day I might write for as long as twelve hours.

5: Are you a published or a self-published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas. A Kindle I did not want, because I love traditional books – the way they feel, the heft of them in my hands, even the way they smell. So I did not want anything to do with reading a book on any sort of electronic device. One month after opening that unwanted Christmas gift, I not only had over 100 books on my Kindle (love my Kindle!), my own novel was published as a Kindle eBook. In mid-January I read an article on how to submit a manuscript to Kindle for publication. Literally, within 72 hours my novel was available for purchase on Amazon as a Kindle book. I had finished the novel previously and was just beginning to market it. Instead, I decided to independently publish it. Within three more weeks, it was also available through Barnes and Noble for their Nook and as a paperback.
As I started the process of independently publishing, I also started a blog (The Journey of an eWriter) to share everything I am learning about this adventure. I am hoping the blog might make it a little easier for the next writer who decides to publish independently. I am including all of the things that are going great as well as mistakes I have made along the way. I have gotten a lot of positive response from it so far and that has been really fun. You can find the blog on my website http://cherylshireman.com/
I usually begin with the feeling that I want my cover to create. The front cover of Life is But a Dream portrays a lake scene with a pier and a red canoe. It reveals little about the novel, other than the setting will probably be on a lake. The back cover, however, is much darker and reveals an underwater scene with the rays of the sun pouring from overhead. The combination of the two covers is meant to prompt curiosity and a bit of intrigue. 
Once I have a feeling I want to convey, I begin searching for photos that convey images relevant to the novel. I look through various online photo services and once I find a compelling image, I purchase it. I then play with font for the cover(s) by opening a word document and roughly creating the placement of the text. I then turn to my husband (a website designer) and say, “Honey, would you help me with this cover?” (Yes, I know – very convenient!). He then does the technical stuff until we have a cover that we both like.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

I LOVE being a writer. On any day of my life, if you were to ask me – What is your dream job? I would have answered – writer. What is better than working from home in your pajamas? Creating worlds with words. Possessing the ability to make a reader laugh out loud or cry a tear – all within the same chapter. Creating characters that the reader remembers long after reading the final pages of your book. What could possibly be better? 
And I am not sure that any of us “choose” to be writers. I think writing chooses us. It is up to us, though, to give our writing the time it deserves. To nurture and develop the craft.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

Yes. My now beloved Kindle. I love my Kindle so much that it almost makes me feel guilty when I pass my bookshelves and look at my books. I read it every day and am usually in the process of reading four or five books at a time.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

I love John Steinbeck and Elizabeth Berg. My favorite Steinbeck book is East of Eden. Right now I am re-reading Berg’s novel, Home Safe (this time on my Kindle). I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It is an amazing memoir and I would highly recommend it.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

I’ve never watched one. But it is something that I am going to look into as I start to think about ways to promote my novel.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

As I was writing Life is But a Dream I wrote a chapter (at the time one of the earlier chapters of the book) in which the main character wakes from a bad dream. That dream became pivotal to the plot of the book and I moved it to the first chapter of the novel. Eventually, I decided to open the novel with the dream scene. There are also instances in the book where the main character, Grace, must learn to row a boat (something she is terrified to do because of her fear of drowning). As I continued working on the novel, with the images of Grace dreaming and rowing the boat, the title, Life is But a Dream seemed a good fit.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

I have two reference books on writing that will be available through Amazon in the immediate future – Heart Breathings: How to Inspire and Ignite your Writing, and Character Profile: How to Bring Your Characters to Life. Both are workbooks for writers. I am also at work on a second novel. I hope to have it published before the end of the year. And then I will get to work on those seventeen other ideas….

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