Monday, July 29, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Shawn Inmon

How can one brief encounter change the course of your life?
Find out the answer to this question and more in my interview with Shawn Inmon
 
Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?

I was lucky to get an early start on things when my mom took it upon herself to teach me to read when I was only two and a half. I was reading chapter books by the time I started kindergarten. My “first book” came about age five when I sat down at my parent’s old Royal manual typewriter and copied Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” one word at a time. I hope I don’t get into a plagiarism scandal, now that I’ve admitted that!


When I was a teenager, I wrote stories all the time and was sure that was what I was going to do when I grew up. Then life and the reality of having to earn a living hit and I stopped writing for decades.
It wasn’t until something stupendous happened to me that I realized I had to write it down, and that was when I ran into my first love completely by accident in 2006. We had been forcibly separated in 1979, and hadn’t spoken to each other since. That meeting led me to write my first two books, “Feels Like the First Time” and “Both Sides Now.” 
How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or do you prefer writing freehand?
I do almost all my writing sitting in an easy chair in our family room with my laptop sitting on a pillow on my lap, which is not the most ergonomic way to go about it. I use music and headphones to block out all distractions while I am writing.
I do something I haven’t heard of any other writer doing, which is that with each project, I pick out a single song and listen to it on a continuous loop the entire time I am writing that book. So, in writing “Both Sides Now,” I listened to “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” by Gerry Rafferty over 700 times. For most people, I know that’s a shortcut to insanity, but it works in a Pavlovian way for me. Once I’ve heard it while writing often enough, as soon as I hear the opening notes, it helps my mind drop right back in the groove it was in when I left off.
I always write on my laptop. My thoughts jumble out way too quickly to try and keep up with longhand. I am a fairly quick typist, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time waiting for my fingers to keep up with my brain.
What’s your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
I love the sense of creation that comes through writing. I’ve heard that most writers dread looking at that first blank page, but because I mull things over for a long time before I write, I never feel that. All I feel is anticipation for the opportunity to tell another story. When I’m in the middle of a writing rush, with my subconscious handing me clues and connections I hadn’t planned in advance, it is one of the best feelings in the world – as though I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do.
I really don’t have a part of the process I dislike. I have a wonderful relationship with my “team” – my editor, cover designer and layout person – so I look forward to the process of working with them. I even enjoy the promoting aspect of being my own publisher. You’ll never see me Tweet or write a message on Facebook that says “Buy my book!” Instead, I look at social media as a chance to connect and interact with my readers, and I have been so fortunate to meet so many loyal readers so quickly in my writing career.

How do you come up with your characters? Why would readers want to get to know them?
My stories tend to be character-driven. Both “Feels Like the First Time” and “Both Sides Now” are non-fiction and so deal with real people, but I still took it upon myself to make sure that those real people came across as interesting, flaws and all. When I’m writing fiction, I might have a loose idea of what kind of story I want to write (say, a story of revenge) but it doesn’t come to life until I know who the characters are and what their motivations are. For instance, in my short story “Lucky Man,” I set up a scenario where two characters have a brief interlude together. One of them forgets about it immediately, but for the other, it changes her life and she spends 25 years plotting her revenge. In the short story format, I thought it was most interesting to focus on Brett Mann, who had forgotten what started things. Now I’m preparing to turn it into a novella and flesh out the story more and this story will focus on Mirela Marko, who takes her revenge on Brett, and delve into why she let one brief encounter change the entire path of her life.
I think people are interested in reading about people they can relate to, so that’s what I try to create. I do everything I can to avoid using clich├ęs in characterization, but instead make each person someone you want to read about to find out what happens in their life. No person thinks of themselves as a secondary character. We’re all the star of our own movie, right? I always keep that in mind when I am writing a story. They may not be our protagonist, but in their own eyes, the story is theirs.
What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?
When I was first trying to get established, I enrolled my book in Amazon Select so that I would be able to give away free copies. It seems counter-intuitive to give away something you’ve worked so hard on, but it has been the key to becoming known for me. In the last twelve months, I’ve given away 90,000 copies of “Feels Like the First Time,” and that has led to getting a sizable number of reviews as well as building traffic to my blog and Facebook page.
I think the most important thing I am doing right now is building a mailing list of readers who want to know when my next book is coming out. Because Facebook and Twitter are in control of their own websites, they can decide to make it more difficult for me to reach my readers, but with my own list, I know I can always reach them. I try to do special things for readers on my mailing list, like giving them a 24 hour jump on the rest of the world when a new book comes out, sending out a free short story for the holidays, etc.

How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?
Because I have a full-time career aside from writing (I am a real estate broker) I have to manage my writing time very carefully. I get up two hours earlier than I have to every morning and squeeze two more hours in each night. I am able to write at a pretty steady 750 words per hour, so those four hours per day net me out about 3,000 words per day, which allows me to complete a book in a month’s worth of writing time. That’s a pretty intense schedule, though, so I let myself take a month or two off in between books to re-charge my creative batteries.
What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

My new book is “Both Sides Now” which I just released on July 9th. Writing it was a bit of a gamble, but it is paying off. It tells essentially the same story I told in “Feels Like the First Time” but from a completely different perspective. I am fascinated by the way you can look at an identical event in a different way and it has a totally different impact. To quote from “Feels Like the First Time,” – “perspective is everything.”

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My Work in Progress is called “Rock ‘n Roll Heaven.” It is the story of a fictional small-time guitarist who is in an accident and dies early in the book and ends up in, you guessed it, rock ‘n roll heaven, where he meets Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. Music is so important to me, and I’ve been carrying this story around me for 20 years, so I am finally putting it down on paper. I’m almost half done with it and it should be released in October.
Next up is an untitled romance (Okay, I know the title, but I’m not ready to announce it yet!) that will turn some of the romance book tropes on their ear a little bit. I want the skinny, nerdy boy to win the hand of the beautiful girl, probably because I was once that skinny, nerdy boy myself. I hope to have that one out in December, but January is probably more realistic.
I have at least my next three books after that all planned out and ready to write as soon as I get the time. I always have many more ideas than I have time to write.
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
“Rock ‘n Roll Heaven” has been on the back burner since 1993, so it was time to move that one to the front of the line. It is a labor of love, because I have been obsessed with the music of the 1950s and ‘60s all my life. Buddy Holly was my first musical idol. I was born exactly one year to the day after the crash that claimed his life.
I’m also looking forward to expanding “Lucky Man” into a longer form. The most common response I’ve gotten in reviews of that story is “More!” In its present form, there is a short prelude and then the story skips ahead 25 years. I’m really looking forward to telling the story of those middle years because I think that’s where all the drama really is.
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn’t believe he/she has enough talent?

First, never let those niggling doubts hold you back. The best advice I have for any new writer is to do two things: read (a lot) and write (a lot.) I know how scary it can be to sit down to a blank page and think “I’m going to write a book,” so my advice is, don’t do that. Instead, think of a moment you’d like to write about, like your first kiss, or what it felt like the day you got your driver’s license or any of a million small moments in your life. Then pick another and write about that. Eventually, you might discern a pattern and see a book developing.
Feels Like the First Time” didn’t start as a book at all, but instead as a series of emails between my sister and I. It wasn’t until two years after those emails that she told me that they should be a book. In the end, she was right.

Thank you Shawn! You can learn more about Shawn at:
Website/Blog: http://shawninmon.com
 
 



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