Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guest Post: Author Sheila Roberts on Passion and Practicality

I have a special treat for everyone! Sheila Roberts, the author who leads my critique group, is doing a guest post here today! Sheila is an amazing mentor and true-blue friend. She is someone who inspires me in my life--not only as a writer but in a larger way, as a human being. I feel very fortunate to know her. And on top of all that, she provides our critique group with some of the best snackage ever. Yes, Sheila = AWESOME.

Here's some more info about her (I pulled it off her website): Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but she did lots of things before settling in to her writing career, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

Sheila Roberts
photo credit: Robert Rabe

Take it away, Sheila!



Oh, my gosh! Vampire books are so hot. I should write a vampire book. Oh, wait zombies are the new thing. Yes, let's do a zombie book! Hmmm. Maybe we should take a classic tale and tip it on its head - combine Jane Austen AND zombies. Oh, Jane Austen's been done. Well then, how about putting zombies on the moors with the Brontes? That would be cool. No, wait, talking dogs. That is the new trend. I could do talking dogs. Oh, no. Somebody's doing a book on fairies. I wanted to do a book on fairies. Now, what to do?

Ever have a conversation like that with yourself? Ever worry that you're missing the latest publishing trend, that the wave has crashed without you, that the plane has taken off and you're stuck in line at the Starbucks? That's why you're not selling, of course, because you missed the plane, you haven't caught the wave. You don't know what the next wave is. Oh, no!

You have to have heard this before, but let me restate it here, don't write to the trends. (Not unless it's something you are wild to write and you can turn it into something fresh.) Write what you are passionate about. And if what you're passionate about has some great talking points so much the better (because hey, as writers we not only have to think about the story, we have to think ahead to how we'll promote the story). Chances are, if you are excited about a subject other people probably will be also. At least I've found this to be true in my own writing life.

The topics I have been into writing about turned out to be subjects that struck a nerve with other women (my particular readership). When I was working on my novel On Strike for Christmas (about a group of friends who went on strike for more appreciation and put the men in charge of Christmas), I found many women nodding agreement. "I do everything," one woman lamented. "My husband doesn't even know what we got the kids." "My husband would just as soon stay home," said another. Hmm. That sounded a lot like Bob Robertson (aka Bob Humbug) from the novel, for whom my naughty husband was the prototype. Of course, guys rang in on the subject, too. "Who cares?" said one. "And who asked you women to do all that in the first place?" Hmmm. Good question. The more I talked with people the more I knew this topic would make for some fun reading and would be fun to promote - a perfect combination for a novel. And that is how I've done all the novels I've written these last few years. Find a topic that interests me and then see what I have to say about it that is just a little different. And interesting, first and foremost to me! My new release, Small Change (St. Martin's Press), deals with a topic about which I am passionate: learning to live large on a small budget. I have so much to say on this that I am not having any trouble at all coming up with ideas for interviews, press releases, book events, or blogs. Because this is a subject near and dear to my heart, I was able to really pour myself into the book and I'm still excited about it.

Here is a mental checklist I go through when I'm about to start a new book:
1. Is it fresh? (As in unique? Am I putting a new spin on an old story?)
2. Does it hit a nerve? (In other words, does it speak to something that interests a lot of people?)
3. Does it lend itself well to promotion? (If I've got nothing interesting to talk about in relation to this book maybe I don't want to write it. What's the point of having a book I can't promote? If I don't want to talk about it, who will want to read it?)

Now how about you? Are you passionate about the core belief underlying your story? Is that story fresh (did you find a new way to get your message across)? Is it something you could talk about with enthusiasm? And is it something other people will want to read and talk about also? If you can answer yes to those questions, chances are you have a winning combination.
It's Dawn again. I told you guys she was awesome! While I can't provide you with samples of Sheila's baked goods, I do have a surprise! Sheila is leaving me with one autographed copy of her new release, Small Change, for a contest giveaway!
Any of my followers who comment on this post before the contest closes will be entered to win. Yes, Niki in New Zealand, the contest is open to all my bloggy friends who are followers, not just those who reside in the U.S.! :) Since my friend Debra was so good at quality control for my last contest, let's pull her into this one, too! The contest will close Friday, April 2nd, at 8:00 p.m. PST.
Thank you, Sheila, for being with us today! I love ya!


Anonymous said...

Great advice Sheila! I'm glad I don't have a desire to write a vampire novel. And though I love ghost stories, I'm staying away until I think of something truly original.

Anonymous said...

I have a cheap/frugal thing in me so your book sounds fun. thanks for the awesome giveaway! Great advice. :O)

Susan R. Mills said...

Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing, Sheila.

Anonymous said...

My pleasure. This is a blog well worth stopping by. It's great to see writers networking and supporting each other (something I didn't have when I was starting out ... back when dinosaurs roamed the earth).

Tamika: said...

Great interview Ladies! I'm thrilled to see that passion pays- and pays well!

I want my writing to resound with me first. It just makes sense.

Arlee Bird said...

Saw your comment on the Wool n Nuts site and thought I'd present this to you:

I’d like to invite you and your readers to join us in a blogging challenge for the month of April. Check it out at Blogging From A to Z. It’s not too late too join up with us and we’d be honored to have you with us.

Let me know and I'll put your name on the blogroll and you can be challenged!

Marsha Sigman said...

Great post as usual.

I have an award for you at my blog!

Dawn Simon said...

Thanks for all the comments! I'm proud to have Sheila guest post here, and it's fun being able to give away her new book! I'm buying my copy the night I go to one of her signings!

Thanks for the invite, Arlee. It sounds like a fun challenge, but I think I'll watch from the sidelines! :)

Very sweet, Marsha! I love the Sunshine Award! So pretty! :) Thank you!

Jemi Fraser said...

Really good advice! I've never asked some of those questions - you've got me thinking now. :)

Molly Hall said...

This is great food for thought. I *am* passionate about the underlying theme of my book. But I always find it hard to explain it in two sentences or less. Must work on this. : ) Thanks a lot!

Jackee said...

I love the checklist! I'm going to start using that on new ideas. Thanks for the great interview, ladies!

And thanks for your kind thoughts about my mother, Dawn. I so appreciate your prayers.

Dawn Simon said...

Jackee, your mom sounds like a truly wonderful lady. <3

Unknown said...

(Don't enter me as I want to let others have a chance) Just wanted to add in that I really liked the post! Very insightful.

Molly Hall said...

Ooh, right. I should also gracefully bow out. I forgot I was entering myself in a contest by commenting. I'm very thankful for Going Bovine! Good luck to everyone else!

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks again for the comments. Have a great weekend!

lisa and laura said...

Great post! I love the questions Sheila asks herself before she starts writing.

Kristin said...

Those are all really great points to consider. Thanks for having Shelia visit to share her thought process.