LINDA HAD A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO INTERVIEW ONE OFOUR REGULAR AUTHORS, SHARON POPPEN. WE CAN'T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT SHE HAS TO SAY ABOUT HER WRITING:
Q. Sharon, would you tell us a little about yourself?
Well, let's see. I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Over the years, I've lived in New Mexico, California and currently reside in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I don't have a home web site, but my bio and a couple of my short stories can be read at www.havasuwriters.com . I published my first novel 'After the War, Before the Peace' last year. An excerpt is available at www.xlibris.com/afterthewarbeforethepeace . Second to giving birth to my son and daughter, it was the most thrilling experience of my life. I have a bi-weekly western serial on line at an ezine called Keep It Coming. The first issue is free and can be reviewed at www.keepitcoming.net .
Q. What would you like our readers to know about you?
I write every day, try to get published as often as possible and enjoy every moment of my life. My early retirement from Pacific Bell afforded me the opportunity to do what I like, not what I have to do. I salute their home offices every time I drive by. I'm married with two children, three stepchildren and five grandchildren. And, like Jack Benny, I'm only 39. Again. Well, at least mentally.
Q. How long have you been writing? What made you put that first story/poem down on paper?
I've been writing/creating characters as long as I can remember. As a kid, my playmates couldn't play paper dolls (pre Barbie and Ken toys) unless I was there to make up the stories. Sometime in my twenties four South Carolina brothers, trying to cope with life after the U.S. Civil War, began invading my thoughts. It was almost as if they were demanding I write their story. I've since come to believe that most writers hear 'voices'. Thank heavens they are, for the most part, 'good voices'.
Q. Have you been published? What was the first story/poem? Where was it published? How long did it take? What was the process? How easy was it finding a publisher?
While I've yet to make a Grisham, Clancy or Steele breakthrough, I've been lucky enough to have many of my short stories and poetry published. I'd like to give credit for my first published piece to my first Creative Writing professor, Harry Swanson, who encouraged me to send a poem to 'Potpourri', a literary magazine. As far as finding a publisher and the submission process, let's just say it is ongoing and fraught with acceptance and rejection. The real issue is to believe in yourself and don't give up. Don't get full of yourself over rave reviews and don't get despondent over pans and rejections. Write for pleasure. Your pleasure. To paraphrase a line in a recent movie, 'Build (write) it and they will come.' One hopes!
Q. Do you write in a particular genre?
Not really. My books cover war as in 'After the War, Before the Peace. 'Abby' is a self-discovery adventure during the Yukon gold rush. 'Regardless' is a sci-fi/gay story of two men who fall in love and find peace regardless of their sex or race. 'Mama Played For The King' follows the trials of three children being raised by a schizophrenic mother. I write a lot of short stories and flash fiction that fall into the romance, crime or sci-fi genres. My focus is always on the characters rather than plot.
Q. Who’s your favorite author and why?
I have many, but these four have probably had the most impact on my writing. Ayn Rand who was brilliant in character development and making the 'what if' exciting. Leon Uris who could bring you into his characters as if they were family and have you dreading the last page, because it meant losing touch with that 'family'. Allen Drury who could plot political intrigue with frightening reality through the most credible character development. And, the very, very early Harold Robbins (before 'The Adventurers') who mirrored the talents of Leon Uris.
Q. How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
Grumble, groan, harrumph, check for intelligent/constructive criticism, then send the manuscript out to another agent/publisher/magazine.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Credibility. As a reader, I must buy into the characters. The plot can be weak, but get me into their heads. Make me care/hate/worry about them. Give me a good opening hook. I like to start with dialog. Make the conflict believable. I recently read a best seller that took sixty or seventy pages for a man who was bleeding to death to write several anagrams, strip himself naked and form his body into a clue for his granddaughter to find. Yeah, right. Even in sci-fi, you've got to give the reader a hint of possibility/probability.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
Nope. As I said, I hear voices. I start writing and the characters just do their thing. When I've tried outline/formulas, it evolves back into the characters taking control.
Q. Do you have a favorite writing link you’d like to share?
None that I can think of.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
RV traveling around the country, water aerobics, stretching exercises, conversations with fellow writers and spoiling the grandkids.
Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?
Some yes, some no. Thank goodness for fellow writers and good friends.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
Good books/stories, two on-line writing workshops (FlashXer and DeskDrawer), the authors I listed earlier and my fellow writers in the Lake Havasu City Writers Group.
Q. Are you working on any projects right now?
Yep. Another novel and lots of short stories.
Q. How do you handle Writer’s Block?
Never had it.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
Can't think of anything frustrating. Most rewarding would be the feeling of accomplishment with each 'the end' that I write.
Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule?
First thing in the morning, I look at what I wrote yesterday, make minor changes, then write for twenty or thirty minutes. Then, I stop and take care of my daily 'have to do' things. Sometimes it's hard to walk away, but I do it. Most days, after I take care of business, I go back to writing. This was advice from Professor Kathy Thwig who teaches creative writing. She said that if I considered myself a writer, I'd write everyday. No matter what! But, she said watch out that I don't write to the exclusion of other things in my life. Therefore, I relish my daily early morning efforts and never miss them.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?
Oh, I've received so many good pieces of advice, like the one I described above, that it would be difficult to list them all. The worst? Hummm, not sure. All advice is worth your ear. However, one must edit any advice both critically and decisively.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story/poem, what would your advice be?
Listen to your own voice. Learn the elements of a story, the art of character building and such, but it all boils down to credibility. Listen to your own voice.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Love it, love it, love it. Be possessed by it. Consider it food for your soul. Or, don't do it!
Q. Any last comments or advice?
Be determined. Listen and learn from critiques/opinions, but don't give up. Satisfy your craving to create and let it be enough. Publication and recognition are bonuses.