Author Interviews

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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Author interview no.505 with writer Sheri Fredricks (revisited)

Back in September 2012, I interviewed author Sheri Fredricks for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the five hundred and fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with romance author Sheri Fredricks. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Sheri.
Sheri: Hi Morgen, thank you for having me here today!
Morgen: You’re very welcome, great to have you. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Sheri: Standing at a stellar 5 foot 4 inches, I live on our ranch with my husband and two boys, located on the scenic central coast of California. I started writing as a suggestion from my husband. He’s a cowboy jock – played football, wrestled, ran track, ropes & rides – who now trains border collies and competes on the National level. I wanted something for ME to do.
Morgen: And what a great thing to do, I like your husband. :) What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sheri: I generally write fantasy romance, which I’ve coined “Modern Mythic Romance”. My characters are mythic – centaurs, wood nymphs, satyrs, etc. – but they live in modern times and interact with people on a limited basis.
I stay in the Romance genre, but I’ve dipped my toe in a time-travel I’m writing. It’s about a modern day girl who meets a 200 year old marshal, brought forward through a time warp.
Morgen: They sound great. :) What have you had published to-date?
Sheri: I’ve published the first book in my Centaurs series titled Remedy Maker. Coming soon is a short story, a spin-off, titled Portals of Oz.
Morgen: You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Sheri: It’s the same story told before. I contracted with a fairly new epublisher who I believed was aggressive enough to make it in this volatile publishing world. They tried their best, but in the end had to close their doors. My books Remedy Maker and Portals of Oz were taken off Amazon. In two days, with the help author friend Leanore Elliott, I was able to upload Remedy Makerto Amazon once again. Thank you, Leanore!!
Morgen: That’s the great thing about publishing online, it took me 9 minutes to get my first eBook online, longer to format it of course but once you have the skeleton template it’s just a matter of copying / pasting into that shell and ensuring it’s all the same font (Smashwords likes Garamond, Amazon prefer a more standard, I use Arial). So your book is available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Sheri: Currently, Remedy Maker is only available as an electronic book. I am working toward having it published in paper format soon. I admit, I’ve never tried to format my written manuscript into the format required to upload on a seller’s site. One day, I’ll have to learn for myself. As for reading books, I have a Kindle for PC, but until I buy a handheld eReader, I still prefer picking up a paperback to tote around and read.
Morgen: Most people do prefer books, certainly at home, but know the advantage if you’re wanting to read more than one book on the move. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Sheri: Without a doubt, Rhycious the centaur remedy maker is my favourite so far. He’s the leading man, how could I not fall for him? I’ve thought who’d I would love to see portray Rhycious on the silver screen and that would be Viggio Mortenssen. The man is sexy, rough-looking, and a hell of a good actor.
Morgen: He is indeed. Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Sheri: Did you know you can take an online test and a program tells you whom you most write like? When I submitted my writing, the outcome was that I wrote like Anne Rice. Try it for yourself, it’s fun! Here’s the link:
Morgen: Oh wow… back in a minute. … … … just tried it twice and apparently I write in the style of Cory Doctorow and Agatha Christie. That’ll do me nicely. :) What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sheri: I’m working on the next book in the Centaur Series titled Troll-y Yours. The outline is complete and I'm very excited to finish the book. This story involves a side character with a huge ego named Aleksander, introduced in Remedy Maker. He meets the only mythic female in the Boronda Forest who isn't fazed by his charms and good looks…and the sparks fly!
Morgen: I love it when minor characters in one story have more air time in another. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Sheri: I try to write every day, except for weekends. That time is reserved for my family. While this is the goal I strive for, life has a way of sneaking in to create chaos in my schedule. The sheep break through the fence, a horse goes lame, a water pipe bursts, etc. All things you cannot put off.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve had moments where I can’t think how to word something, and that sticky point will drive me nuts for a few days. But a piece of advice I received from a free online writing class was to write twenty different answers for the question: What If… When I do this, I’ve never had writer’s block. And I’ve never made it all the way to twenty, either.
Morgen: What a good idea. I rarely get stuck but move on to another story if I do and it’s easier to continue (especially if I leave something midsentence) when I get back. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sheri: I plot from beginning to end. Remedy Maker’s outline was 13,500 words. I start with a skeletal outline, a frame if you will. And as I write the story, I go back to the outline and start filling it in. I stay in the storyline this way, focused, and know what’s going to happen chapters ahead. I tried pantsing once. It wasn’t pretty.
Morgen: Oh dear. I have to say you’re a rarity but 13,500 words is thorough. It would be interesting to know if the story did stick to it… of if the characters did. :) Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Sheri: I always use a character chart. For the main characters, the chart is detailed down to skin texture, their likes / wants / needs, etc., even if I never use all the information. When I have the character in my head as if they were an actual person, then I can be in their head and BE them when I write in their point of view. Minor characters gave charts that are less involved, but still give me a visual when I write.
Morgen: I’m sure your thoroughness does show in your writing. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sheri: I edit as I write, that internal voice won’t turn off! When I begin to write for the day, I’ll review what was written the previous day to refresh my memory and get me in character for the next scene. When the book is complete, I find there’s less editing to perform and I’m quicker to polish the manuscript and send it on its way.
Morgen: Like a child on its first day at school. :) Do you have to do much research?
Sheri: Yes. I should just end this question right here. I’ve heard many times over that we should write what we know. Well picking hooves and mending fences isn’t exactly exciting material. I know enough about what I write, but feel research is essential to take a story from one level to the next.
Morgen: I’ve led a fairly ordinary life and considering most of my stories have dead bodies in them I’m glad I don’t have to stick to what I know. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Sheri: I prefer reading and writing in third person. I’ve never tried second person, but it looks to be quite the challenge!
Morgen: It can be, especially for longer pieces, but I love it. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Sheri: Portals of Oz is a short story at 13,000 words, and I’ve written some poetry that will never be published. I’d like to write a few more shorts, little spin offs from the Centaur Series. It was fun, and fulfilling to me as a writer.
Morgen: I write a story a day, albeit in hundreds of words not thousands, but it’s my favourite format. I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times (with another novel between the first and second) and love it but find continuity a challenge in longer pieces. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sheri: Outside of my poetry, yes. When I was first learning the ropes and rules of writing, the ideas were good, but the writing horrendous! LOL
Morgen: But you’re a more experienced writer now to perhaps go back and rejuvenate them. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Sheri: I first tried to query agents with Remedy Maker, and rejected at every turn. The ePublishers were more interested, but I had a share of rejections there, too. The first rejection I received, I cried. I couldn’t believe they didn’t love my story as much as I did. After that I made it a game. I told myself I wouldn’t cry again until I reached my 100th rejection.
Morgen: I have over 70 to go there then. :) Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Sheri: I’ve only entered one competition, and that was enough for me. My scores were good, not well enough to get me into the finals rounds, however. I don’t follow the competitions any longer, but The Golden Heart is one I would recommend.
Morgen: I used to and enjoyed the ones with a theme (I’m involved in the yearly H.E. Bates Short Story Competition which has a theme – a walk at midnight – for the first time this year) as it gets me writing something new which I then still have if the piece gets nowhere. You’ve mentioned trying to secure an agent, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sheri: I think if an author prefers to go the agented route, they should do so. In this ever-changing publishing world, I don’t think having an agent vital to an author’s success like it once was.
Morgen: I tend to agree although I’m sure if an agent wanted to represent an author, most of us would say “yes”. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Sheri: Morgen, I do it ALL. It’s a huge process to marketing and build your brand these days – the competition is stiff. You almost need to be your own marketing firm to get our name out there and keep it there.
Morgen: You do, which is part of the reason (the other being that I live and breathe writing) for me doing this blog. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Sheri: My favourite part of writing is hearing how my stories have taken people away from their everyday humdrum and given them in a mental mini-vacation. Transported through writing, to another world, is what I strive for.
My least favourite would have to be outlining the new story. Each thread of mystery, suspense, or action must be tied in the end and somehow connect to the story. While I enjoy creating the story, sometimes outlining is hard work and requires many, many passes before the story is just right.
I was surprised at how many people think writing is easy. Ask them if they’ve ever written a book and the answer is always no, plus their excuse. I was also surprised to learn how much time it takes to market and advertise properly.
Morgen: If you’re least favourite part is the outlining, especially considering the detail you go into, could you try just running with it for your next idea? :) What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sheri: Join a critique group, online or face-to-face. Your friends and family will not tell you when your writing needs work and most don’t know proper writing procedure. They also do not want to hurt your feelings. Crit partners don’t want to hurt your feelings, but they do know when major plot holes are gaping and you’re doing more telling than showing. I learned so much critiquing for others and having my own work critted. Plus, I made some life-long friends along the way.
Morgen: I’m very lucky, my family are only too pleased to tell me when my writing needs work, although they don't see much of what I write (for my mum, it’s just the gentle stuff), my writing groups are brilliant. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Sheri: Three people, huh? Hmm, okay, how about Jesus, Adolf Hitler, and Andy Rooney. Now that would be a lively conversation! And for dinner, I’d serve spaghetti.
Morgen: It certainly would. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Sheri: I love this question!
Morgen: Thank you, it’s relatively new (I pinched it actually from an interviewee who asked it of me :)).
Sheri: I’d want to revisit the day my husband arrived for our first date. At eight in the morning, he picked me up and we went horseback riding along the beach and mountains. By the time we returned to his parents’ ranch to put the horses away, 8 hours had passed. It was a lovely day.
Morgen: Wow. I can see why you married him, and that he suggested you become a writer. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Sheri: I have a couple. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” And this one from my mom, “Why walk when you can run.”
Morgen: I love those. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Sheri: If blogging counts, then yes. I am active on three blog sites: my author website where I spotlight an author and their book(s), my blogsite, where have my infamous Friday Flames –authors post their steamy scene and buy links, and the Inkslingers where I’m part of a group of bloggers.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Sheri: If I’m not writing, you can find me around the house. I work in my husband’s home office as office manager for his contracting business, there is livestock to move in and out of pens and pastures throughout the day, and the kids to shuttle to and fro. Riding horses used to be a hobby for me, as my husband showed in Reined Cow Horse competitions. Then the kids came along… and writing is now my hobby, career, and passion. As far as party tricks – I play the piano and trained in classical.
Morgen: Writing should be a passion, as the knockbacks don’t knock you back so far. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Sheri: Two items I cannot live without:  Book- Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder. This book showed me how to structure my book and makes writing a breeze. And website- An online emotion thesaurus, and offers many other great hints and ideas.
Morgen: I don’t have it but have heard good things about Blake’s book. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Sheri: Endless possibilities. Learning how to format manuscripts for uploading to Amazon will be a minor thing. Knowing how to incorporate interactive technology within your books will be the next wave.
Morgen: Amazon is easy, as is Smashwords. I’ve written a guide for my writing group (which I recently demonstrated at booQfest) to show them that it really isn’t scary, it’s just the unknow. I will probably expand upon it and put it out as a free or $0.99 eBook. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Sheri: Here’s where I can be found:
Morgen: Wow, I think that’s as many as me. We need to be involved in as many sites as we can though, don't we. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Sheri: If you're looking for a book that will take you away to a mythic world that might exist…
If you love hot guys with insatiable appetites who have a dash of vulnerability…
If you're looking for a sensual read with the power to make you gasp…
This would be the book for you.
Morgen: :) Thank you, Sheri.
I then invited Sheri to include an extract of her writing and this is the opening chapter of Remedy Maker:
Screams of the terrified echoed through the corridors of Rhycious’s mind. Shouts from warriors and cries of agony ebbed away. The pounding of his heart decreased.
He gripped the roughly hewn table with both hands, forcing himself to concentrate on the picturesque view of the Boronda Forest beyond his kitchen window, as it faded in favor of the horrific scene.
Bloody soldiers lay scattered in his reminiscence like the deadfall they were. My team of medics and I can’t keep up with the gruesome injuries. Arrows are whizzing close to our heads and roots are bursting from the ground to choke us. Body parts flung high in trees, left to hang, and picked clean by scavengers.
Rhy shook his head and blew a hard breath. Night had fallen hours ago and no Wood Nymphs attacked his fellow herdsmen. No such war existed between races any longer.
He was safe. The horrific scenes were in his mind, exhumed by his traumatized memory.
Sweat dampened his forehead. Rhycious fought the flashback’s wave with even, regulated breaths. Gritted teeth unclenched one facial muscle at a time, and his back straightened with determination, vertebrae by vertebrae.
He didn’t start the battle that had lasted two centuries, but the clashing mythics had damn well become his emotional baggage.
Rhycious relaxed the anchoring grasp of one hand and raised his wrist to see the time. The tremble in his arm caused the digital numbers to dance before his eyes. Pan, help me. The god who reigned over terror and panic must be having a good laugh on his account.
Rock music played from the boom box rigged to a solar battery on the granite counter. Sliding notes of an electric guitar drove home the time in which he lived.
Nowadays, turmoil imploded within the Centaur community, no outside sources required. Senior herd leaders remained prejudiced against Satyrs, Minotaurs, and other woodland races—Nymphs topped the list.
and a synopsis…
Man by day, Centaur by night, Rhycious is a remedy maker who needs his own healing.
He's the royal physician, famous for his cures. War and posttraumatic stress disorder has broken his spirit, preventing him from finding true happiness. Then a direct order from the queen to investigate an uprising forces him out of his secluded cabin at the edge of the forest.
Patience is an optimistic, good-natured Wood Nymph who works as a mediator to ensure harmony within the Nymph sector.
Environmental pollution in the aquifer stream that feeds the taproot tree of her heart is slowly killing her. Resigned to the fact she will not live long, she sets out to discover the mysterious disappearance of her sister. Experience has taught her to deny herself the love of a male, but the gruff Centaur is different. He doesn't push his expectations on her, only his healing nature.
When Rhycious loses his grip on reality, he believes his inability to control his disorder will drive Patience away. Nevertheless, desire flares, and Patience draws him close. Kidnapping and betrayal turn their mythic joint venture into a deadly bout.
Will their love endure when survival hinges on trusting each other?
Always on the hunt for the uncommon things in life, Sheri Fredricks thrives on creating adventures in her mythological kingdom for her readers.
A former engineering secretary, Sheri lives on the beautiful central coast of California. "I wanted to move away from inflexible right angles and create an unboxed world with no boundaries." A voracious reader since her early years, Sheri found her brain crowded with stories and characters of her own. "Ultimately," she says, "my husband encouraged me to write them all down."
Sheri loves to spend time at home. A computer hutch keeps her focused on creating stories, but the panoramic view of life on a ranch will call her outside to play in the sun.
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