Monday, February 18, 2013 Interview with Author Sharon Dwyer Sharon, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, Dirt. Please tell me a little about your story? First I would like to thank indieBRAG for the award and the readers who enjoyed the book. Dirt is an historical fiction book that started out as YA and seemed to slip into the adult readers world. The story is centered around two children, Sammy and Birdie Larkin, who find themselves orphaned during the great Dust Bowl in the panhandle of Oklahoma. They decide to pretend their parents are still alive and continue to live on their family farm rather than be separated and sent to the state home for orphans. Living in a rural area, the fact that their parents are never seen goes unnoticed for some time. The children find ways to stave off the worse of their hunger and fend for themselves in a very hostile environment. That is until an incident causes them to rethink their actions. After I published the book, I’ve talked with quite a few people and found they have a relative who had gone through the same type of experience and had heard the stories of living day to day never knowing where their next meal would come from and keeping the fact that they were orphans from everyone knowing. It’s amazing how a fictitious story could end up having so much of actual people’s lives in it without knowing this when you wrote it. Who or what inspired you to write your book? I moved in with my father to take care of him during a difficult illness and we would spend a great deal of time talking about his years growing up during the depression; what games they played, the types of food his mother would prepare, the clothes and transportation issues, the cost of things. The more he talked, the more a story began to form. Although he lived in the city in the east and the story takes place in a rural county in Oklahoma, many of the life scenes could have been the same anywhere. What was some of the research involved? Where there any challenges? So much of the information came from my father’s memories. I did have to do some research for the actual prices of food, the county in Oklahoma where the story takes place and the weather. I wanted to make sure I portrayed the dust storms as accurate as possible. They were so much more than simple storms that plagued the country. Imagine looking into the horizon and seeing a black wall of clouds filled with dust rising hundreds of feet into the sky. Some people thought the world was ending as the clouds roiled and churned toward them, turning day into night. The biggest challenge was making the characters of the two children interesting enough to carry the entire book themselves. When you don’t have vampires, werewolves or paranormal situations, the everyday life of two children can be boring. So, I had to make sure the reader could care about them and their plight. Using some minor characters to enhance the story became the means to do this. In their own right, those characters are interesting in themselves, but they create situations where Sammy and Birdie have to interact and pull off their deception. Was there a particular scene that you found a challenge to write? Oh my goodness, yes. The scene where Sammy finds his parents bodies. How could I ever get into a child’s head in that type of situation? Not only were his parents dead, but he had no one to go to for help. I struggled with that for days trying to figure out how he should/would react. I tried to imagine how I would have reacted and decided on using one emotion – anger. Anger can fuel so many decisions and this time it hardened a young boy and enabled him to take control of his life and his sister’s. It’s strange because so many readers mention that scene and they felt his reaction was just what they thought a young boy would go through. I felt vindicated in my decision. What is your next book project? I’m currently working on a YA story where two city children, 15 and 11, are sent to their great-grandmother’s home in the Appalachian Mountains for a visit in the summer. No TV, no cell phone reception, no neighbors, no mall and no summer parties. Not their choice of summer fun, until they discover a fantasmagorical forest with its wonders and dangers. What is your favorite genre? I’ve written in several and I really enjoy YA. Kids are so much more fun to write than adults. They are straight in your face honest about their feelings. They have a language that is fun to write and their actions are so unpredictable. Paperback or e-book? Dirt is in paperback and most e-book formats. What are you currently reading? I just finished The Twelve by Justin Cronin. A remarkable look at the resilience of mankind. About how many books do you read on a average per year? I read about three to four a month. So it adds up to forty eight books a year - give or take. I read every day. It inspires me to become a better writer when I have read a well written book. What advice would you give to an inspiring author? Learn the craft, even if it means rewriting what you’ve written many times over. My first book, If Truth Be Known, took thirty four rewrites before it was ready. I was learning as I edited and rewrote. No one wants to read a book that is poorly written. You may have a great story, and many writers do, the gauge is how the words are placed on the page as to whether it gets into the hands of readers. One important thing to always remember – keep writing. Your best stories will never be read by anyone if you stop. Sure, there’s a lot of competition out there and it’s really difficult to be seen in the ocean of books floating around, but, if you are serious and are willing to work hard, you will be noticed. How did you discover indieBRAG? They were mentioned to me during a discussion on a website forum. What a truly great organization. Such wonderful people to work with and be associated with. For an indie writer to be recognized is such an honor. And the fact that the readers are the ones who decide makes it even more important to me. They also have very informative discussions on “Goodreads” . Will you self-publish again? Probably, unless some big publisher offers me a deal I can’t refuse. Self-publishing is a great opportunity for writers to showcase their work in a discipline that has become more and more difficult to be noticed. This past year I have found so many great stories by indie writers. I believe today’s readers are more concerned with a good story than who published it. On that note, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to bring my book, Dirt, to even more reader’s attention.  Author Bio: Born in Connecticut, raised in Florida, and lived all over the country. My residences almost match my careers. I began as a nurse and when I became bored and disillusioned, I went back to school for an engineering degree. While working in the energy field, although it was a new and exciting field, I grew tired of fighting the good ol’ boy attitudes prevalent in the companies I worked with at that time. On to finance and technology. Diverse, yes, satisfying, no. My real love was writing and in between working and being the caregiver to my parents, I have been honing my craft for the last 15 years. I have three novels out there in the world of books, If Truth Be Known, For Benny and my latest Dirt. I am currently working on a new YA novel. I don’t write in any particular genre. When I discover a story tumbling around in my head, whatever the genre, I write it. I refuse to be cornered into a specific type of writing. I love taking a story, any story, and turning it into something people would enjoy reading. The best feeling in the world is seeing your book in the hands of a stranger with their eyes glued to the pages and no thought to what is going on around them. Nirvana. SL Dirt Available at http://www.b& A message from BRAG: We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Sharon Dwyer who is the author of, Dirt, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Dirt merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.Thank you!Stephanie indieBRAG” - Sstephanie Moore

Goodreads website

Saturday, 21 August 2010 Sharon Dwyer, Author Interview Sharon Dwyer describes herself as your average person filling up her own personal space in today’s exciting world. She’s immersed herself in books from a very young age. Traveled to exotic locales and fought for the good side in the land of words written by those who crafted a story that enthralled and entertained. She earned a degree in nursing but soon discovered a restlessness and moved on. After receiving a degree in engineering, she worked in energy analysis, battling that male oriented world. Next came an assault on the auto industry in the retail sector as a finance director. Several different jobs in-between she says are not worth mentioning. Eventually, she found her calling writing fiction. There, she takes rambling thoughts and reassembles them into a story she hopes readers will enjoy. She finds it truly exciting to cruise along with her central character and discover new areas of the book coming not from her own conceptions, but riding the story that evolves through her characters. SA: Tell us about For Benny in a few sentences. SD: For Benny is about a mothers perseverance in a promise she made to her son. One that helps her hold on to her sanity. SA: What qualities do you need to be a successful writer? SD: Insanity? No, really I think to be a successful writer you need to keep writing. You need to enjoy being alone and working without the benefits of having others there with you. You are your own boss. No one is going to be standing over your shoulder pushing you to finish something. And you must have persistence to keep going after rejections, suggestions, and frustrations. SA: What is your working method? SD: I get an idea and start typing. Both of my books , If Truth Be Known and For Benny, were written like that. But the one I am currently editing, I wrote each chapter on an index card, start to finish, and worked from that. I keep notes on the cards of things I want to add as I am working on the book. I never go back and edit previous chapters, or even pages before I type “The End”. The story comes so fast, I don’t like to take time and go back over what I have already written. It takes up too much of my time – holds me back from completing the story. Then comes the editing and revisions. I’ve been known to take out as much as 100+ pages on my rewrites.  SA: What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing? SD: They forget that the reader doesn’t know what was in the writers head while they wrote, so, consequently the writer leaves out a lot of information and the reader misses so much of the story. For instance, we as writers know that a trip down the side of a mountain, in a rain storm, in a horse drawn wagon, is full of danger and thrills. But unless the writer lets the reader know what all those dangers and thrills are, it will always just be a trip from one point to the other. The devil is in the details – so they say, and are correct. We have to set the stage for the scene and give the reader everything we as writers see in our mind while we write the story.  SA: How did you come to write this particular book? SD: For Benny is about road rage. I got so tired about hearing all these stories in the media where they only talked about the person who committed the act and never about the families of the victims. I wrote this as I envisioned what I think I would have (and many other) liked to do in this particular case. It became a passion to get it out into the public’s hands. We need awareness on a grander scale to beat this scourge in today’s society.  SA: If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one? SD: I love Deke, and so do a lot of my readers. He is someone who we all would like to know – man or woman. SA: How can people buy your book(s)? SD: For Benny is available right now through - available in hardback, paperback and soft-cover. It came out last month. If Truth Be Known is available at and in soft-cover and kindle.  SA: To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer? SD: In the first draft –not at all. In the final version almost more important that the story. If there is bad spelling and poor grammar you will never get it read past the first couple of pages. If the spelling and grammar is excellent, then the reader will keep reading in spite of the story line. SA: How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off? SD: Hours and hours. I want it to be a good as I can make it. Like I said - in my first book – If Truth Be Known – I cut out over 100 pages, rewrote several new chapters, and threw away the prolog. SA: Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices? SD: It takes place today in Connecticut. I was born and raised for my first eight years there and love New England. As for the “when” it was because of all the cases of road rage going on, which shows what type of society we live in. SA: To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world? SD: I would think it would help in marketing, but I believe it puts too much burden on writers to pigeon hole their work. Certain agents only represent a small group of genres. Some publishers only publish certain genres. It has made it difficult for a lot of writers.  SA: What are your writing habits? SD: My writing habits vary as to what is going on in my life at the moment. Best case is I get up, grab a cup of coffee and still pajama clad, park myself in front of the computer and not get up until I don’t have anything else to write that day, whether it is five pages or fifty. Most recently, I grab a few hours in the afternoon and make the best of it. I read the last chapter and start typing where I left off – no revisions or editing. SA: How do you know where to begin any given story? SD: Where the action starts!!!!! So many writers want you to know the persons entire history before getting to the story. It is boring – most are not any different than our own lives, that is until something happens to change all that and then we get into the real story and what happens, which I hope is not the same as most people’s lives. All this other information may be useful and interesting to the author but usually not the reader. There may be instances where it would be crucial to the story line in some works, such as vampires and such, but not in most stories. SA: What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing? SD: Family commitments. I take care of my elderly father and his needs come first right now. SA: Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group? SD: For sure a writing group, they can be brutally honest. My family and friends are supportive to a point since they have no idea of what it takes to write a story start to finish and be good enough for strangers to want to read it. SA: Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest? SD: Absolutely. As with any other profession there are standards and rules we all adhere to for conformity. The manuscript is representing YOU. Neatness, using standard guidelines, attention to details, they all say something about the writer when we can not be there ourselves. SA: How long does it normally take you to write a novel? SD: It really depends on the story and my own personal circumstances at the time. Truth took no time to write but FOREVER to edit and revise since it was my first and I was learning as I went. For Benny took only a couple of months including editing. My current book, Dirt, has taken almost two years because of family commitments. SA: What are your inspirations? SD: The entire world. Whatever I see or hear brings a story to mind. I just have to decide if it’s a story someone else wants to read. SA: If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it? SD: Getting an agent to read my work. SA: Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill? SD: Both. A writer has to have a natural gift of story telling, a wonder of the world and all that goes on in it – or as in sci-fi, beyond it. But even if we have this storytelling, we still need to learn the skill of putting the story together correctly. I know there are some famous writers that break all the rules and are still hailed as true artists, the rest of us have to make it the hard way. SA: What are you writing now? SD: My current work is titled “Dirt”. It takes place during the early 1930’s in the panhandle of Oklahoma during the great dust bowl. Dirt tells the story of a young boy and his sister who try to make it on their own during this horrendous time in our history. I love this story because of how it came about. I had moved in with my father to take care of him and we spent hours talking about him growing up during the Great Depression. The more we talked, the more a story began forming. By incorporating some of my fathers history in the book, I was able to keep so many memories alive. SA: Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy? SD: I love coming up with a story and knowing it start to finish before I write anything. SA: Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit? SD: Yes. I am new to blogging so I have only recently joined a blog group My website is I tried using but couldn’t figure out what people really want to read about in a blog. I suppose if I was an internationally known bestseller I would have more to say.  SA: Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment? SD: In a cabin in the mountains of New England with a brook outside my window. SA: Where do you actually write? SD: At a desk in my office at home in central Florida with a bush outside my window. That’s probably why I get so much done – nothing to distract my attention.  ” - Stuart Aken

Interview with Stuart Aken

2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree”



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