Welcome back, Sharon. You've published six books since the last time you visited Novel Journey. Has continued success made writing easier, or more difficult?
Before being published, the yearning to share the work with others was often painful in its intensity and I struggled with feelings of doubt and futility and confusion about my calling. Being published was a true joy and gave me a hint that perhaps I was heading the right direction. But as books were published, there were many more potential distractions—the steep learning curve about the industry, new responsibilities and time commitments, opinions of others, sales numbers—and lo and behold, I struggled with feelings of doubt and futility and confusion about my calling. :-)
And the more I learn about writing, the more I’m aware of my inadequacies, so in many ways the work is more difficult.
Many authors struggle with only writing in one genre. Having been multi-published, what are your thoughts on this?
I totally understand the wisdom of focusing on a specific niche and building a readership. I meant to do that. All my novels have been contemporary women’s fiction with strong faith themes. Yet the stories God guided me toward- the stories I felt a passion to tell- have ranged on the spectrum of humorous and poignant, and have even woven fantastical adventure into a women’s fiction journey. The diversity can keep things interesting, but I know it makes the marketer’s job more difficult.
How much marketing do you do? Do you market all of your books at once, or concentrate solely on the newest release?
In the broadest definition of marketing, making connections with others, I do quite a bit. I spend time corresponding with readers, enjoy visiting bookstores to chat with staff, and have participated in group events such as Christian Author’s Network, the ACFW booksignings and bookclub, the Motiv8 Fantasy Tour. I also love speaking at churches, libraries, and conferences. This can be a lovely secondary calling that supports the task of writing books. Or it can become a distraction that spend creative energy in the wrong direction. I’m constantly asking for God’s help in finding the balance.
With a new book’s release, I focus on the new release (especially in terms of media interviews), but when I speak to groups, I’m able to introduce folks to all the books.
So, tell us a little about your latest release:
Penny, a Navy chaplain’s wife, witnesses a violent crime and struggles with post traumatic stress while her husband is on his first deployment. Far from family and friends, she fights to heal for the sake of her seven-year-old son, even though ordinary tasks take heroic efforts. She’s haunted by flashbacks and is tormented by fear, so she designs a project to speed her recovery: doing one small, kind act for a different person each day. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and often used by God in surprising ways.
Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:
I usually discover a character first, and then begin to unravel what brought them to this moment of conflict or change. As I got to know Penny, I wondered why she battled fear. After I realized what the trigger was, I wondered why she didn’t have more support around her. I found that she had recently moved, and I wondered why. Eventually I discovered it was because her husband was a chaplain. That led me to the question of “with all the circumstances contributing to her struggle, how will God bring her healing?”
As those who have struggled with any long-term illness – emotional or physical – know, He brings help and grace in a variety of unexpected ways. That became the core of the story.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?
I loved all the lively and unique people that Penny encounters and the way she changes them and they change her. The difficult part of writing the story was finding a balance that was true to the depth of struggle that someone with anxiety and depression faces and yet was uplifting and hopeful and still was an entertaining story.
What does your writing space look like?
Now that a few of my children have grown, I have a spare room that looks out over a pond beyond our back yard. I have a big old homemade desk that I inherited from my dad. But with a notebook or laptop, most places can be a writing space, and I’ve written in many various locations.
What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?
I love hiking, I love chatting with friends, I love teaching and speaking and music and gardening.
Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Maybe. Or maybe they put themselves into me.
What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?
All my novels acknowledge that following Christ is sometimes confusing and painful, and that we are very flawed vessels for His use. But God’s grace leaks out through the broken places in our lives. He is with us even on the darkest roads, and can take tiny steps of faith and multiply them into blessings in our own life and the lives of others.
Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?
I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical . . . catching my breath after the release of several novels in a short time span.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Two themes that have resonated for me as a writer have been to be available and authentic. I love the lyrics of the old spiritual, “I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing…and obey the Spirit of the Lord.” It’s easy to get lost in goals, dreams, ambitions, and assumptions. For me, the greatest joy in this journey has come from stopping and listening – seeking His voice about what to write, when to write, how to write, and what to do with a story after I write it.