Thursday, November 13, 2008

Author Interview ~ Sharon K. Souza

Sharon K. Souza lives in northern California with Rick, her husband of 37 years, surrounded by their family. Sharon is the author of Lying on Sunday, Every Good & Perfect Gift, and A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown (which is also a full-length play designed for churches, Christian colleges and high schools). Inspirational fiction is Sharon’s passion.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Lying on Sunday is the story of Abbie Torrington, who has lived a charmed life up until the day the story begins. Then with one phone call and the ring of her doorbell, Abbie’s world is completely changed. When the life she knew turns out to be a lie, she begins to discover who she really is as she pursues answers to some difficult questions. Along the way she learns that the truth really does set you free.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I wanted to tell a story of a woman’s recovery from betrayal, but then thought, well, what if I add another dimension to this woman’s story that would create a greater dilemma for her to find her way out of, and Lying on Sunday was birthed.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Abbie Torrington is a woman in her early forties, with 2 daughters heading off to college. She’s lived in the shadow of her husband Trey without realizing how subtly controlling he was. Now she wants to move forward with a new life. But she has a secret she desperately wants to keep from her daughters, and that tethers her tightly to the past. Lying on Sunday records Abbie’s journey as, finally, she blossoms like a century plant.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

I loved creating the cast of characters, all different from one another, yet so connected. The connection creates great tension at times, as well as moments of endearment. I loved creating the transformation of Abbie, seeing her step out from the shadow of Trey, loved the strength she developed even though it was so difficult for her at times.

This book was a pleasure to write from start to finish. There really wasn’t a least favorite part of the process.

What made you start writing?

I’ve been writing for a number of years, working hard to develop my craft and a style that is unique to me. I’ve always had a love for the arts, drawing, painting, now writing. And while I loved drawing and painting, I found that writing helped me express myself better than anything else. I love the self-discovery that occurs when I write. And I love the way others who’ve known me for years discover the deeper me through my writing.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I love to be with my family and always make time for them. I love puzzles, games, needlework, etc., and would do more of that in place of the time I spend creating my stories. Reading is a great love of mine, and no matter how much time I spend writing I always find time to read.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

The most difficult part for quite some time was breaking through to publication. Now that I am published, it’s learning how to promote my books, and balancing that with the time I need to write. It’s a matter of compartmentalizing the different aspects of writing, and still having a life outside of the fictional worlds I create. It’s a challenge to be sure, but I’m learning not to compare myself with other authors. I am who I am, I want to maintain a standard in my writing, so that may mean I won’t complete a book as often as someone else. That’s okay. I want to be known for quality writing, but I also want to keep balance in my life.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I don’t know how not to. My main character usually bears a personality resemblance to me at one stage or another of my life. I also model characters after other people I know and love. It’s fun to use our traits and take them to extremes, which is what I usually do.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

In one day Abbie Torrington has the underpinnings of her world knocked out from under her. Everything she thought she knew about her marriage turns out to be false. It leaves her reeling in the aftermath. Years ago, while dealing with health issues in my own life, a close friend gave me a Precious Moments figurine entitled “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” In Lying on Sunday I want to show that even with issues as devastating as betrayal there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and for me that Light is Jesus.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

Typically the idea for a new story will present itself when I’m about two-thirds complete with my work in progress. If it’s an idea I want to pursue, I’ll begin keeping notes on the ideas that come to me for the new story, but I have to push them to the back so they don’t overtake what I’m currently writing and detract from the creative flow of that story. But it’s fun to have a new project just waiting to get started.

Then once I begin, I know who my main character will be and where I want to go with the story but I’m not absolutely sure how I’ll get there. I love the surprises that come in the writing of a novel, sub-plots and discoveries I never thought of until I wrote them. But having committed my work to the Lord, I believe he guides me in ways even I don’t see until I read a thought that I know wasn’t my own. Jesus was a wonderful storyteller --- and he’s still at it.

There are some who say you should get the story down on paper, then go back and revise. I’ve never been able to write like that. I like to perfect as I go, then when I read back through I clean up or tighten what I need to, but I don’t have a lot of revision. I’m convinced there’s no wrong way or right way to write a book. It just has to be the author’s way. What works for one may not work for another. I read lots of books on the craft of writing, and as my daughter Deanne would say, I chew the meat and spit out the bones. In other words, I apply rules and concepts that will make my writing better and stronger, but when it comes to style I don’t mess with what seems to be working for me.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

I love character-driven books where the characters and their world are richly developed. Honestly, the plot is secondary. I want to feel like I’m in the story, living what the characters are living, and caring about what they care about. If a book doesn’t do that for me I probably won’t read the author again. I’ll finish the book because I can’t NOT finish a book that I’ve started, but I won’t go back for more.

Saying that, I love Lisa Samson and Jamie Langston Turner, everything they write. Tosca Lee is a new author who is incredible! Demon: A Memoir, and Havah are excellent. Some other books I’ve recently read and would recommend are Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan Lake; The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill; The Feast of Saint Bertie by Kathleen Popa; Billy Goat Hill by Mark Stanleigh Morris. It really is a never-ending list, but those are a few I especially enjoyed.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

After a long period of trying to become published, I went to a major writers’ conference. I found an agent, found editors who liked my work, and it wasn’t long before I received my first contract. It made all the difference for me.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I’m still in the learning stages when it comes to marketing. I enjoy doing the blog tours and participating in interviews like these. I’ll be launching a blog in January along with six other authors whom I’m thrilled to be associated with. There will be more information about that on my website. I’ve begun to speak at women’s conferences in my area, and have been on television a couple of times and done some radio interviews. One thing I especially enjoy is participating in the discussion when book clubs have read one of my novels. If they’re in my area, I visit them in person; otherwise I participate over the phone. There’s more about that on my website as well.

Please contact me if you’re in a club.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’ve just completed Unraveled, a story of a young woman who goes to Moldova in eastern Europe for a one-year missions trip. While there she has a crisis of faith when a girl is stolen for the purpose of human trafficking.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

If you’re a writer hoping to be published, keep working at your craft. Read those who write what you write and pay attention to what they do well. If you’re a reader, take time to contact your favorite authors. They love to hear from their readers. Tell others about the books you enjoy, because we all depend on you!


Gina Holmes said...

I really enjoyed reading this interview. I agree that Tosca and Lisa are awesome! I have the Patti Hill novel in my tbr pile due to several recommends. Can't wait to finally get to it. Thanks for sharing your journey.