Author Interview Questions
1: Hi, and thanks for joining today. In your own words tell us about yourself, not you the author, but just you!
A: Well, there’s a question. I’m just your typical Wife-Mother-Author-Computer-Scientist-Turned-Copywriter.
And in the back of my mind, I hear a friend of mine from long ago saying, “That’s what you do… tell me *who you are*” My website for a good number of years was titled, “The Irish Gypsy.” It fit… I played Irish music and I roved the land with a wild spirit and a free heart. Now I call myself “The Interpreter of Inspiration.” At this point in my life, I’m a (somewhat neurotic) mish-mash of myself and a bunch of voices vying for air time.
2: Why did you decide to become an author and what’s the best part? Yeah, it’s a double-whammy of a question. So unexpected!
A: I didn’t choose the write life. The write life chose me.
When I was in the first grade, my school hosted a writing contest. I wrote and illustrated a guide to all of the horses I’d ever met. It won “best nonfiction, first through third grades” division. In the first grade, I was reading at a junior high level. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read. I know I learned at some point, but I really don’t remember the process. So, from very early on, I loved, loved, loved all-things-written. You would think I would have dedicated my life to writing… yeah, no.
I had a lot of influences in my life pushing me to “the career that makes the monies.” I studied math and science, and ended up going into software engineering. My rebellious half (Aka, the half of me with a solid clue) made sure I got a minor in English writing. Over my 20-year software career, I wrote short stories, longer stories and halves-of-novels-never-to-be-finished. I also wrote web content, took copywriting gigs, helped people (mostly musicians) build websites, and taught myself all-things-content-marketing. And yes, my IT career did what it was supposed to do. It made me the monies. It was also largely unfulfilling and deeply frustrating. It never felt right.
Somewhere around 2012, I said, “Enough, dammit!” and I buckled down and started taking my writing seriously. Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT immediate… but with a lot of family support and determination, I published a novel and eventually jumped ship from the safety of a 20-year-long IT career to become a full-time copywriter for a marketing agency.
The best part is that I now get paid to make shit up and write it down. It doesn’t feel like work, and yet they pay me. That’s kind of cool. At 43 years old, I can dye my hair purple and wear bling-out cat-ear headbands to work and they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s just the writer.” That’s amazing.
As for my fictional life, there’s that moment when you meet people and they’re like, “You wrote a novel? Like a whole novel?” And I’m like, “Why yes… yes I did.” It definitely gives one a deep sense of pride and accomplishment!
3: So, tell us about your work. Sell us on it! Why should we read it and why it will capture us?
A: I’ve been told by a good many readers that Rising keeps the reader reading until the last page, and then makes you want more… but in a good way… not in the “that’s it?” kind of way. One of my reviewers said, and I quote, “It grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go.” I’ve also been told I have great command of setting without being over-explain-y, and that there are many laugh-out-loud moments. I’ve also been told I “write like a dude”… I don’t know what that means, but I kind of loved hearing it. So if you like fast-paced, action-filled, twisting-turning plots with deliciously flawed yet lovable characters set in a world that looks like ours, but isn’t… then pick up Rising: Book One of the Adept Cycle and enjoy!
4: Why did you choose the genre you write in over others to start your publishing career? Did others appeal to you more and you chose this? Was there a bit of choice weighing or was it rather simple?
A: I once said, “If I were to write a children’s story, there would be some magical element and someone would be fearing for his life.” The urban fantasy/action/adventure story is just in me. I can’t help it. I can write other genres. I force myself to write outside my little box occasionally. But when it comes to novel-length works, I’ve not been able to keep up the steam to push through to conclusion with any other genre.
5: So far, what would you say has been the hardest part of being an author?
A: Finishing the sequel. In all honesty, the year I wrote my book was the year before my kids became hyper-involved in their own lives. I now have two extremely dedicated and driven pre-teens, one who plays hockey (with absolutely achievable NHL aspirations) and one who is quickly becoming a fiercely competitive figure skater. If I could just convince myself that I really *can* write at the ice den, I could totally get through book 2. I just have a hard time writing when I’m surrounded by 100 strangers. I super need to get over that.
Also difficult: writing to a chorus of, “Mom. Mom. Mommy. Momma. Mom. MOM!” When my husband alpha-read my book, he told me he could tell where I was kid-interrupted. He started highlighting the disjointed parts. I told him I was surprised I didn’t actually write, “SERIOUSLY, WHAT?!” in there at some point.
And then there’s the crippling self-doubt. *ahem* Yeah… pretty sure I don’t need to explain that one. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t experience this.
6: Now for the ever-so-shocking follow-up question. What’s the best/easiest part, if there is one?
A: The best part is holding that finished proof in your hands. It’s a total high… and not just because of sniffing the print.
Right behind the finished-proof-high are those “ah-ha” moments, where the plot, the characters, the twists and the threads all come together and the entire story lights itself ablaze… and you just run headlong into the fire and let it consume you.
7: Tell us about what your experiences in the author life have been like. I don’t mean the writing aspects. I mean the daily human life. Tell us what it’s like to live the day life you do and be an author at the same time. What’s it like when people in your life and, the people you come across, find out you’re an author?
A: It’s pretty much entirely consumed by feelings of guilt. I’m writing too little. I’m writing too much. I’m neglecting the laundry (no seriously… you should see it… It’s reaching “national monument” status). I haven’t talked to certain characters for so long that they’re pouting in a corner. I haven’t talked to real-life friends for even longer. My kids need to be fed… again! Seriously, they want to eat several times per day. I’m literally answering these questions while cooking sausage and pancakes…
And yet, somehow, it’s all worth it and it always comes together in the end. Now if I could just remember that when I’m mid-emotional-crisis, that would be great.
As far as meeting people… I typically don’t lead with, “So I wrote this book….” If it comes up, it comes up. (Unless I’m at a conference or some other bookish event, then it’s totally on.) However, when it comes to being introduced by friends to their friends, it’s usually goes like: “Hey! This is my friend Shanan. She’s an author. She writes novels.” And the warm glow of the follow spot comes down on me and the room goes silent, and I start searching for exit signs.
8: Writing is a hard craft and a harder career. What are the things that keep you going, both in improving the craft and enduring the downs/lows of the career?
A: It helps that writing is my day job. When I was a software engineer, I felt like I had to beg, borrow and steal my writing moments. As a copywriter, even though it’s B2B marketing, it’s still writing, so I’m honing the craft daily. I also receive daily editing by my amazing and talented boss, and critique by our equally amazing and talented product managers and company owners. Every day at work makes me a stronger, better and more polished writer.
9: What do you love about the genre you write and what others appeal to you?
A: When writing urban fantasy, the rules are entirely up to me. And if I don’t like one of the rules I’ve created, I can break it… as long as I have a compelling explanation 😉
Also, I get to set my books in my home state of Washington. Rising is one of the few books that takes place in my home city of Gig Harbor, and potentially the only book where the majority of the action happens on the Key Peninsula. For a girl who feels completely displaced, even after nearly 20 years in the Phoenix metro area, writing urban fantasy (as opposed to traditional fantasy) gives me the opportunity to go home, even if just in my own mind, for hours at a time. When I’m writing, I can smell the salt in the air and the wet pine needles as they crunch beneath my feet. I feel the dampness on my skin, and I taste the delicate foam on top of the expertly crafted latte from a family-owned café. And then I can go kick a demon’s ass. It’s comforting and exciting all at the same time.
As far as other genres – I would love to write some middle-grade or YA action/adventure. Maybe fantasy. Probably urban fantasy. I know me… it’ll be YA or middle-grade UF.
10: What can we expect from you next? Tell us about the plans for your series and body of work.
A: Release: Book Two of the Adept Cycle… I promise, Seattle will never be the same once I’m done with it.
11: The writing and publishing world has changed a lot. Self-publishing, small to medium presses popping up, and things like becoming a hybrid between indie pubbing and traditional. What are your thoughts on that? Any predictions on what the future might hold? What would you like to see, both as an author yourself, and, as a consumer/reader?
A: I’m indie published, and that works for me, at least for now. Doing the daily “family plus day job plus author” tap dance makes it hard to make any firm commitments. I make them to myself, but to make them to others… like, you know, an agent or publishing house… that just wouldn’t work well in anyone’s favor. I’d end up even more of an anxiety case than I already am and I’d severely disappoint my would-be agent. If I can figure out a way to set (and keep) a fiction writing schedule, I’ll reconsider the agented-author life.
As far as the future of the industry goes… and pardon me for going all marketing-speak on you for a moment… I think we’ll see a rise in the literary PR world. I think agents will have to double as public relations and inbound marketing consultants in order to secure great talent. Outbound marketing doesn’t yield like it used to, and the traditional literary world hinged itself on that concept. As writers, we need to widen our own reach through inbound and influencer marketing. If anyone reading this is wondering what the hell I just said, check out this video I made:
12: The always done and asked question. Who are your favorite authors? What are you favorite books? What are you reading now? Tell us. Tell us!
A: Favorite authors… so, so many. The greats: Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony… so many more. The classics: Louisa May Alcott, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Thoreau (I went on a major transcendentalist thought binge in the 90s). The contemporaries: Jim Butcher, Chuck Wendig, Kevin Hearne. And then my favorite lesser-knowns: Guy Gavriel Kay (Tigana changed the way I look at characterization), Glen Cook (Black Company Series in particular, for its cohesive story-telling over SO MANY BOOKS). As a scholar, I studied way too much medieval British fiction, particularly Arthurian legend. One of my favorite stories of all time is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I mean seriously… how much of our modern fantasy is deeply rooted in that one 14th century epic poem? Like… most of it?
As for what I’m reading now… it’s a fantastic epic urban fantasy novel by this up-and-coming great author. It’s called Dangerous Ways, by R.R. Virdi. Get it. Read it. DoItNow.
13: I’ve got to know…what’s your favorite word to use. Every author has one. What’s the word you catch yourself using a lot? We’ve all got those as well. What’s your favorite word just to say? Something where you like the way it sounds. What’s your favorite curse worse, if you’ve got one and or use them?
A: I have to go through and take out “okay” about a gazillion times. It’s embarrassing. Also, I use “fuck” like a comma at times in real life, therefore my characters definitely cuss. I had some great advice imparted upon me in college… my dear friend and mentor Jimmy Chesire told me: “If your characters are going to swear, let them fucking swear.” (This was in response to me using a “soft” swear word in an extremely tense moment in a story)
14: Tell us about your latest release.
A: LOL My book released this time last year. However, I *do* have a story coming out in the Mad Scientist Journal Spring 2017 print quarterly. It’s called Prism. It’s a steampunk horror piece that’s deliciously creeptastic. Definitely check it out.
15: Lastly, where can we find you? Facebook? Twitter? Website? Links to your material. Go on, don’t be shy. Share!
A: My web presence is a bit of a mess right now. I’m going to be consolidating on http://shananwinters.com in the near future.
You can find my (very neglected) blog at http://interpreterofinspiration.com.
I’m @ShananWinters on Twitter, and I’m ShananWintersWriter on Facebook. I Facebook way more than I Tweet.
Also, I have an in-the-works project at http://OptimizedAuthor.com that talks more about PR for authors. If you’re looking for my books, you can order them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or basically anywhere online that sells books. They’re available in paperback and all the favorite digital platforms. I’m on GoodReads, too! I’m the only “Shanan” Winters out there on the great wide Interwebs… I know, it’s a weird spelling. I’m weird. It works. It also makes me easy to find… as long as people remember the spelling.