Author Interview: Sharon L Clark

Tell us a little about yourself & your background

Sharon Clark, aged 48. Married for 26 years with 3 children aged 17, 20, and 25. I have 2 dogs who are 9 and 8. I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa and still live here. I didn’t graduate college but went for two years. I’ve held a number of jobs: receptionist, administrative assistant, call centre customer service, in-home daycare provider, cashier, medical office receptionist, medical records clerk, retail manager – I can’t seem to stay at any one place for more than 3 years – and I currently work for my husband as office manager and copywriter/editor.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since I was roughly 11 or 12 years old. Of course, once I left college I had lost any kind of confidence in my work then I got married and had children and it all got set aside. When I was doing daycare I was inspired by the Outlander novels and wrote my own novel. I gave it to two family members who were kind enough to give me notes that I never fully read and I haven’t looked at them since.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Hmm. I suppose the dream is to find a go-getter agent who believes in my work who will procure a 6-figure book deal for me and sell the story to be made into a movie where I’d have a medium-sized rabid following of fans. The reality is that I want an agent who believes in my work and will find me the right editor/publisher who also believes in me. I want to have my books in bookstores and libraries with a handful of fans who know my name and tell people about my book. I am not opposed to self-publishing, either, I just don’t really want to do all that marketing work on my own.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent work?

My most recent completed work is titled, I’ll Call You Mine and is a romantic suspense novel hopefully similar to the style of Nora Roberts. It is in the hands of an editor for the second time after she encouraged me to make some major developmental changes that I was completely on-board with.

Can you introduce us to your main character?

Katherine “Katie” Parker is a marketing professional in her late twenties, returning to her small Midwestern US hometown in an attempt to run away from a dangerous ex-boyfriend who is running from the law and has started sending her disturbing letters. Katie is cautious, self-conscious, and looking for a calm, happy life where she can do the work she loves and get credit for it. Her ex-boyfriend was very good at overshadowing her, taking credit for her ideas, and giving up backhanded compliments, so she’s fallen into a mindset of not being good enough. Then she meets a new love interest, Ben, who challenges her in the best way and she learns to fight for what she wants.

Do you have a favourite quote or scene from your work?

Oh man, I have a couple favourite scenes and I love when Ben and Katie are sparring – their dialogue tickles me to no end. There is a playful scene where they have a rubber band fight, the one actual love scene is a delight, and some of the stuff from my villain is creepy. How about this one: Ben was enthralled by everything happening here—the way her lips pressed against the opening of the bottle, the intensity of her gaze as she looked him over, lingering on his mouth, the staccato pulse he could see beating in the notch of her collarbone. His stomach clenched in anticipation and he hoped against hope that she’d reveal the reason for her visit soon before he lost control and kissed her senseless.

Where do you find most of your inspiration?

Everywhere. Books, movies, tv shows, the news. An idea will get stuck in my head and then I tend to let my mind wander and play with that idea until it turns into an actual story. Maybe this is embarrassing, but ever since I was a child I’ve played out scenarios in my head, playing off a random thought and imagining what-ifs. Now I just write them down.

Are you more of a plotter or a panster?

Definitely more of a plotter. I like to have the whole story roughed out, knowing where I want the characters to end up, usually having a few main events planned and then just figuring out how to move from one event to another in a way that makes sense. Sometimes the story turns in a different direction that I hadn’t anticipated, but it almost always works out better than the original plan.

What is your writing routine like? How often do you write?

Routine? What’s that? I am all over the place, to be honest. There are days that I can just sit at the computer and start typing and brilliance comes out. Other days I have to do the laundry, walk the dogs, go grocery shopping, play some solitaire before I can free that part of my brain to focus on the story at hand. I’m generally more focused at the start of the day or after everyone else has gone to bed. I like to have music playing in the background – silence is distracting to me. I try to write every day, whether it’s a blog post for one of our clients or just some Twitter prompt blurbs but my brain is a crazy place so some days it just won’t happen.

How much research has gone into your writing?

On writing, itself? Not much. But I have researched where to hit someone in the head to knock them out, how to escape from zip ties or duct tape, various myths and religious beliefs for another story where I had to create a religious system, Scotland, San Francisco, Chicago, various architectural features, and ways a spirit might become corporeal again.

What was the hardest thing about writing?

Maintaining the confidence that I should even continue writing. I have a million ideas (okay, that’s an exaggeration – I currently have 4 or 5 story ideas in a file) but convincing myself that anyone cares about reading any of them is a near-daily challenge.

Did you choose self publishing or traditional? Why?

I haven’t been published yet, but I’m going to try traditional publishing first. There are many reasons, some of them just my own perception, but a big one is that I just don’t want to have to do all the marketing for myself, finding the right websites or other venues that will get my work read. I want to belong to a larger publishing house that has all the connections, money, knowledge that will best get my novel in the hands of readers. I am not opposed to self-publishing, however, and admire anyone who has their work in the public. I will gladly take the self-published route if traditional doesn’t work out for me.

What has the publishing process been like for you?

So far, I have my novel in the hands of an editor for the second time and have started putting together a list of agents to query. My query letter is in its third or fourth iteration and I still have no idea if it’s any good. Honestly, the process is a bit overwhelming so I’m trying to separate myself from it and just look at it as research or I’ll drown in self-doubt and anxiety.

What are you currently reading right now?

I am reading the second novel by a Twitter friend I met through an online format, Channillo. It’s a romance that follows the love lives of two sisters who look very much alike and were raised together but had very different upbringings and have very different love experiences.

Who are your biggest idols?

Nora Roberts, for sure. I also love Diana Gabaldon, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. I admire anyone who can create from the heart despite their own doubt and then share it with others. I think that takes a tremendous amount of courage.

Do you get writers block? How do you deal with it?

I absolutely get writers block. For me, it generally means that I’m trying to force the story in a direction it isn’t meant to go. In that case, I will start over with the scene I’m stuck on and do something different with it. Sometimes I have to rewrite the scene two or three times before I can move on. If I just need to work out the scene or some dialogue, I like to take my dogs for a walk or do something mindless that allows my mind to wander. That way I can try out different things without committing them to a page.

If you couldn’t be a writer what would you want to be?

Probably a teacher. Of what, I’m not positive. I went to college to be an actress, to become a drama teacher. But I get there and felt that everyone else was so much more talented (plus I was drinking too much and didn’t realize I was battling depression) so I gave up. If I had the knowledge, I’d like to teach literature or history or social studies. If I had the talent, I’d still like to create, either building things with my hands or making art. But like I said earlier, I haven’t held a job for more than three years. Like, ever. So I don’t really know that there’s any one thing I would turn to.

What do you get up to when you’re not writing?

I spend a lot of time watching a combination of ghost hunting or true crime reality shows, Criminal Minds, and Hallmark movies while baking or playing solitaire/Mahjongg on my iPad. I’m wicked boring.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just keep doing it. There is a lot of advice out there that tells you what you HAVE to be doing. Not all of it works for everyone so keep doing it your way, read a lot of other things, try a lot of different things, and try to keep learning. You’ll find your own unique voice.

You can find stories from Sharon at http://www.sharonlclark.com & http://www.channillo.com. She also has a story published in a horror anthology Chills Down Your Spine which you can get at https://amzn.to/2G3SqzG

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