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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Member Interview

Please welcome Sleuths' member Sharon Smith to our blog
"Thanks for this opportunity!"
You're more than welcome. Let's get started. By the way, I love your picture!
When did you first get the writing bug?

This may seem like a stretch, but it began when I went away to college. The day I was dropped off, I began worrying something bad would happen to one of my loved ones, while I was gone. Yes, I’m the worrier in the family. :-(
For that reason, and also because I loved receiving mail, I sent letters to both of my grandmas at least twice each month.

Here's where the relevance begins to appear. My mom's mother often told me how much she enjoyed my letters. She was the initial stimulus. Second was the fact that early on I was a voracious reader. In grade school, I spent my summer vacations devouring books.

Third, my career required a lot of technical writing. I decided to see whether I could also write the stuff I loved to read. I wrote my first novel in 1996 and shelved it. It remains there.

In 2001, I began working on my second novel and signed a contract with an agent in 2002. Nothing happened.

In early 2003, I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. My life expectancy was 28 months. Suddenly, family memoirs took precedence. I knew my family, and I knew if memoirs were to be written I had to write them. Remember the grandma who loved my letters? She was a truly memorable person, and I wanted to preserve memories of her for future generations. I spent every available moment writing and researching. Through research, I met family members who added much to the memoirs and to my life. They remain dear friends.

I completed the memoirs in 2007 and returned to fiction. By then, the motive for murder in the book I completed in 2002 was no longer in the forefront. I did a complete rewrite. Then I paid an instructor from The Loft Literary Society in Minneapolis to critique this book. Bottom line: before I did anything else, I wanted to know if this novel merited additional attention or if I should find another diversion. I guess her response is evident. I’m still writing . . . whenever possible

I love writing and find it exhilarating. However, for the last 15 months life has thrown some roadblocks in my path. Even so, I'm still hoping to complete book four . . . and five . . . and six. (No, gratefully, it isn’t another bout with cancer.)
Wow, that's quite a story. Nothing like a health challenge to get us motivated.
What genre do you prefer in your writing and reading?

I love reading mysteries and spend most of my reading time enjoying that genre. Mysteries run the gamut from cozies to the graphic. I enjoy the former much more than the latter. Although my novels are police procedurals, they're as close as they can get to being cozies. Each contains a touch of romance, and humor often enters into the exchanges between my two protagonists.

If you could pick anywhere in the world to write, where would that be and why?

Right now, since I'm rarely at my home in St. Paul, Minnesota, I'd choose to write there. There are so many interesting locations, and many of the people actually are "Minnesota nice."

I do a lot of research for each of my novels. Fellow Minnesotans have supported those efforts. The lead investigator from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office was a wonderful resource for my first mystery, and the second, third and fourth. He has also become one of my biggest fans.

My third book, Murder on a Stick, centers around the Minnesota State Fair, also known as the great Minnesota get together. A person who worked in the information booth gave me all kinds of interesting facts about the fair. Law enforcement and fire officials answered a plethora of questions, as did operators of the food booths. Because I love to learn things while I read, I always include opportunities for my readers to do likewise.

Morning, afternoon or night writer?

All of the above. When I'm writing, I'm totally engrossed. I write from the time I get up, until I go to bed. I eat breakfast, lunch and supper, while staring at my monitor. Prior to getting ready for bed, the only real break comes when I exercise for an hour on my Nordic Track cross-country ski machine. Yes, I actually have one and actually use it. But you already know I have OCD, correct?  :-)

Pantser or Plotter?

I'm definitely a pantser. When I begin writing a book, I start with my two protagonists and the victim. I don't know how or why the person was victimized.

I believe there's some magical connection between my fingertips, while they’re in contact with the keyboard, and the storytelling center in my brain. I sit at my computer, and the story develops. While working on the first draft, I hate to stop. I want to know what's going to happen. The guilty party is rarely the person I first suspected. While writing the first draft of my second book, tears streamed down my cheeks when the guilty party was revealed. I wanted that person to be innocent. My protagonists had the same reaction. Coincidence?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your life with us.

Please support this talented writer. Here are her links.


Shirley said...

I love these get-to-know the member posts. So glad your 28 months has turned into much longer than you were told. Thanks for sharing.

S.L. Smith said...

Thanks for commenting, Shirley! I, too, am glad about the 28 months. Sorry for not responding sooner.