Wednesday, October 11, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Shirley Spain

Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?

Okay, the basics. I’m 57 years young, been married to the same wonderful man, Curtis Spain, for 37 years, and all my children have paws—two dogs, Big Ben and Charlie. I’m a fitness instructor with a militant teaching style and often asked if I’m a former drill sergeant, which I am not. I’m a VIPS (Volunteer in Police Service) for the West Jordan Police Department and a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). I love feeding the wild birds in my backyard, including ducks that often visit. I’m a bit boisterous and sometimes laugh so hard I snort. I suck at multitasking, especially when trying to write and cook at the same time (have scorched pans to prove it). And I’ve been told (mostly by my husband) I should have been a “product tester” because I’m rough on “things.” Meaning, if I can’t break it or hurt myself with it, the item is well made.




As for my start in writing, I’m a late bloomer. It wasn’t until my early thirties (1990s) that I dreamed of being a writer. I took a few writing classes at night, bought oodles of books from Writer’s Digest, and started writing my first novel, “Mistaken Trust,” in 1995. However, due to life, work, and some health issues, I never finished it and shelved the entire idea of writing for about 15 years. As my life evolved, the opportunity opened up for the writing bug to strike again. It bit me, hard. I was infected and this time there would be no cure. 

In the fall of 2011, I resurrected “Mistaken Trust,” updated it, and worked toward finishing it. So much had changed since 1995. Home computers and the internet were as common in homes as refrigerators. And this thing called “indie publishing” had cropped up, thanks to Amazon. Still, I had no concept of publishing. Or the craft of writing for that fact. However, a passion burned deep within, so I kept writing. 

April 2012, I finished the first draft of “Mistaken Trust.” With the help of numerous friends, including my BFF Peggy Beach, a retired English teacher who devoted literally hundreds of hours tutoring me and editing my novel, and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Horrocks, helping me navigate the indie author waters, one year later, on my 53rd birthday, “Mistaken Trust” became available on Amazon. Four years and a half years after that, in the fall of 2017, I will release my eleventh novel, “Werewolf Awakening-the hunt begins.” In addition to writing those eleven novels, I’ve written two novellas, a short Christmas story, and a memoir. I’m living proof that if I can write/publish a novel, ANYONE can!

It should be noted I was raised in a family where the higher education of women was considered a waste. With merely a high school diploma, I had to learn the ropes on my own. However, my dream of becoming a published author would have never come to fruition without the generous support and encouragement of many wonderful friends. Likewise, my ability to continue to live my dream won’t be possible without the continued support of those friends, along with the generosity of acquaintances, such as you, Kathryn, for the opportunity to do this interview. So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU, Kathryn.

K- You're welcome!

How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

I don’t have a set time to write. I create with words whenever I have the time and the burning need to get my fingers on the keyboard hits me (which is pretty much constant). On average I write about six hours a day, six days a week. That’s average. Due to running a household, taking care of a special needs dog, working a part-time job, and spending time with my hubby and friends, sometimes I only write for an hour or two. Other days, I write for ten hours. My husband is super supportive. When I’m on a “writing roll” as I call it when my fingers are burning up the keyboard, Curtis will vacuum, dust, go shopping, prepare dinner, pretty much do whatever needs to be done around the house just so I can keep writing. 

How and where do you write? Do you prefer a laptop or some other method of getting your words down?

How: 

I’m a combination plotter/pantser writer. I start with an outline, then write by the seat of my pants, letting the characters take over the journey. Sitting down at the keyboard is always an adventure because sometimes I don’t know what will happen next!

Where:  

I prefer my desktop computer with a large monitor in my office which is dedicated to my writing. I surround myself with pictures and sayings that motivate me. I framed the covers of all of my books and posted them on the wall so I can see the progress I’ve made. I also frame the cover of the current novel I’m working on. Sure, the cover and title may change, but I hang it on the wall to keep me focused on the goal of completing my book. 

Sometimes I use my laptop to write outside under the covered patio in mornings while enjoying the fresh morning breeze and the songs of birds. And sometimes I take the laptop into the basement, set myself up on the spare bed down there, and write into the wee hours of the morning. 

What’s your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
Favorite: 

I love researching. I write “dark and chilling thrillers” which involves researching criminal acts as well as police procedures and self-defense tactics. Having said that, I also love the process of creating wicked villains committing dastardly deeds, while figuring out how the hunky heroes and sexy heroines will triumph over the bad guys. I’ve been told I have a “twisted mind” when it comes to the bad guys in my novels. I’ve also been told my heroines are strong and resilient and celebrate the indomitable human spirit which is the reason I write and the message of my ALL of my books. Having been a victim of predators myself, I strive to place my characters in terrifying life-threatening situations which they eventually survive, overcome, and become stronger for their experience.

Least: 

Keeping a positive attitude about marketing. As an indie author, I must wear ALL hats, including that of a marketer. I’m still seeking that magic dust to sprinkle on my novels the moment I press the “publish” button and abracadabra all that is necessary to get the word out—and out to the right audience—that another Shirley Spain Dark and Chilling Thriller has just been released will be done. Until then I smile, even though I have to fake it sometimes, as I do whatever I can to promote my books.

K - I have a 'happy' marketing book you may just want to check out. You can find it here.

How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

Ideas: 

Most ideas for my books come to me “out of the blue.” I could be driving down the road and see something that sparks a thought. I might be watching a show on my favorite TV channel, Investigation Discovery, that spawns an idea. However, most frequently, ideas come to me when I’m in the shower. I suppose because that’s where I am totally relaxed and my mind is open to receive creative input. Then again, it might just be the Universe’s way of keeping me from singing in the shower because I’m tone deaf. My husband says I sound like a crow when I sing. Well, I’m quite fond of crows so I consider that a compliment.

Time: 

The amount of time it takes me to write a full-size novel (70,000-150,000 words) depends on how much time I devote to its research, creation, editing, rewriting, marketing plan, etc. I’d say on average, from inception to publication, five or six months. In my “A Killer Among Us” psychological thriller collection, I’ve kept my novels to about 70,000 words or around 350 pages. In my “Jewels Trust M.U.R.D.E.R.” series, those novels are large, ranging from 100,000-170,000 words and 400-600 pages each. 

What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

Email list. Website. Book trailers. Facebook. Launching parties.

What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
Work in progress: 

I’m currently writing the second book, "Werewolf Obsession" in my Full Moon trilogy.

New book: 

Just in time for Halloween,  the first book in the Full Moon trilogy, “Werewolf Awakening—the hunt begins,” will be available. Earlier this year I released “Forever Breathless,” book 4 in my “A Killer Among Us” psychological thriller collection. All of my "A Killer Among Us" books are available FREE to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

Yes. A second memoir.  

May 2014, I wrote my first memoir. “One Last Kiss,” is a short story—a snapshot of a life-altering event for me—detailing the heartache I experienced when I lost Annie, my pit bull mix “child” who I considered my canine soulmate. Having experienced multiple miscarriages and unable to have children of our own, dogs became our children. My husband and I had loved and lost other dogs before, but Annie and I had a deep connection words cannot explain. Her death hit me hard. I plunged into a deep depression, not willing to leave the house, go out with friends, or even go to work. With hopes writing would help me through the grieving process and move me toward healing, my dear friend, Peggy Beach, challenged me to document Annie’s death in the form of a memoir. Writing those fifteen pages was the second hardest thing I’d in my life. The first was burying Annie. In retrospect, I’m glad Peggy pushed me to write “One Last Kiss.” However, at the time I think writing it increased my heartache to almost unbearable proportions.

But happy days were just a few months away and is the reason I have a second memoir on the back burner, “Then Came Ben.” 

July 23, 2014, was the day I saved a severely emaciated big black Labrador mix from death at the local animal shelter. Truth be known, that crippled dog, who I named Big Ben after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, rescued me from a hideous darkness of deep depression I had been wallowing in since Annie’s death. A darkness from which I would likely not have survived had Ben not come into my life when he did. This second memoir is about the power of love and how two creatures—one human and one dog—saved each other. I’ve had numerous requests from those who have read “One Last Kiss” for a follow-up story with a “happy” ending. Perhaps I shall be inspired to write the “Then Came Ben” memoir in celebration of Christmas in the future.

What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn’t believe he/she has enough talent?

Desire trumps talent every time. Skills can be learned. Passion, however, can’t be taught. Either you have passion, or you don’t. I can’t remember who said, but consider this saying: “If you REALLY want to be, have, or do something, you WILL find a way. Otherwise, you will simply find excuses.” My challenge to beginners: FIND a way and forget excuses! Of course “finding” always starts with action. DO SOMETHING today toward making that writing dream a reality tomorrow. DO something TODAY your future author self will thank you for. DO SOMETHING, perhaps right now, and allow the powers of the Universe to help and guide you to becoming that author you currently only dream of becoming.

Question for Kathryn.

Those who know me best are often puzzled by the intense nature of my books and often ask: “Shirley, why do you write such “dark and chilling thrillers” and not children’s books, fun fantasies, or clean romances?” For me, the answer’s simple. I write the type of story I like to read: gutsy, gritty, and full of suspense.  Kathryn, I present that same question to you: Why have you chosen to write in the genres you have?

K- I have always enjoyed an intriguing mystery - not dark and chilling - but rather, focused on the detective work itself. My Susan Cramer Mysteries fit that scenario. Susan is an amateur detective, and she doesn't always make the best choices, but she is a lot of fun! I also enjoy writing Christian Fiction because I get a kick out of simile and metaphor. I like to present a story without saying everything straight out. This gives the reader an opportunity to reflect on how they might better their own life. I also enjoy writing for teens. These books are always written in first-person because I feel as if the close and personal touch is what teens are looking for. I also write a little nonfiction. I like to share my thoughts on spirituality as well as the writing and publishing world. I started out as a journalist, and these skills have helped me in the pursuit of my nonfiction books.

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Website address: www.shirleyaspain.com
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