Occasionally books bounce into Yellow30 Sci-Fi that takes the staff by surprise. It is those exceptional books that cause us to want to know more about the author and how they do things. Our Featured Authors is where we showcase these exceptional writers and allow our fans to get to know them a little better. We are very proud to feature FS (Sharon) Vander Meer as our first Featured Author of the new year and new decade. Please sit back and enjoy our interview with this fantastic lady.
1. How long did it take you to write The Ballad of Bawdy McClure?
Since I was working full time while writing it, it took about a year for the first draft and another six months or so of revisions. Of course at the same time I was working on two other novels.
2. Where did you get the idea for the book?
It came from a snippet of information I heard somewhere that in 500 years there won’t be religion as we know it today. So I wondered what ‘religion’ might look like 500 years from now and what would have happened to the common perceptions of God shared by Judeo-Christian philosophies.
3. What type of research did you do for developing your characters and situations in your book?
I’ve known a fair number of truck drivers in my life and Jake is pretty much a truck driver with fancy wheels. B.J. is a combination of all the strong women I’ve ever known, who forge ahead even when the road before them is neither straight nor flat. I’m a people watcher and the other characters are an amalgamation of the bizarre and the benign people I’ve encountered. The situations to some degree come out of who the characters are.
4. The primary focus of the story is Jake Casey. Is there someone in real life that he may resemble?
No one specific. In some ways my husband and my brother are like Jake, better than they know and kinder than they want others to know.
5. World building is vital for science fiction. Tell us a little about the world you created for Bawdy McClure.
I’m intrigued by the idea that when science fiction is written it frequently looks at what will happen ‘out there’. I’m a little curious about what might happen right here on earth. How will what happens ‘out there’ effect those who remain on earth. In Bawdy McClure the off worlders are not aliens, they are humans who have morphed into beings alien on the outside but full of the same emotional entanglements and frustrations shared by all humans. I don’t think overpopulation is going to go away. Even in today’s world more people live in cities than live in rural areas. It can’t be because of jobs, there aren’t any that warrant staying in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow you to breath, and yet people continue to do it. Over time how will this alter the landscape of cities? With the glut of populations in condensed areas what might people have to do to survive? The Law is there to protect, but does it?
Yikes, don’t get me started.
6. Did you circulate Bawdy McClure to mainstream publishers?
7. Why did you choose to self-publish?
I’m 65. Several years ago I tried to get Bawdy and two other novels published through mainstream publishers without success. I also tried to find an agent with the same results. There is a sequel (far from finished) to Bawdy, but I lost steam on writing it when nothing seemed to be happening. I stopped writing and let everything set while I kept working at a real job where I got paid real money. (I know, I know, nobody gets paid in fake money. Or do they, considering the value of the dollar.)
About the same time that I had decided to retire in June of last year a salesman from Xlibris called (a very good salesman I might add) following up on my request for publishing information. He pointed out Xlibris’ three-books-for-the-price-of-one package. I had said countless times, to myself and others that I would never go that route. With the self-righteousness of the clueless I thought if mainstream publishers didn’t think my work was good enough it probably wasn’t. And then this guy called and I thought, “What the heck. If I ever want to see my work in print this may be the only way.” So I went with them. Would I do it again? Probably not. They are in the business of selling services and author copies. Good for them, not necessarily good for authors. I must say I gasped when I saw how much my paperback books were going to cost readers. By then it was too late.
8. Your thoughts / comments about the whole self-publishing venture.
Hmmmm. I couldn’t afford the editing services so there are inexcusable errors in the books that I cringe over every time I think about them. It’s more of an investment than any sane person should undertake unless they have an in with the book market and a firm hold on how to get the book into bookstores. I know a lot of readers buy on line but a lot of them still walk into Barnes and Nobel (I know I do!), and corner bookstores in small towns across the country. Getting self-published books into brick-and-mortar stores is not an easy task. In fact, except for my local bookseller, Tome on the Range, I haven’t figured out how to make it happen.
9. Do you have another focus besides science fiction?
I love storytelling. Science fiction satisfies the control freak in me because I like to create my own worlds and determine how people will act and react, although those darned characters have a way of surprising me. I also like contemporary fiction. In addition to my just published (by Xlibris) science fiction book Future Imperfect, I’ve completed (and am revising) a book called too soap operaish by a book editor from, I think it was Random House, entitled Walking Wounded, about a woman whose marriage is falling apart because of recurring nightmares of events from her childhood, and I’m currently working on the sequel (again) to Bawdy, and a contemporary novel about a widow who takes in a niece from whom she has been estranged. Along with the niece come three kids, a dog, and lots of complications, some humorous, some not so much. The working title is Family Ties, but I’m rethinking that one because it’s been used to death. Will these get published? I just don’t know. If I have to self-publish them I’m afraid not. It’s an awfully expensive way to go. But, I love writing and it keeps me out of trouble.
10. You have published a devotional book as well. How did that come about?
I am a Christian, and I mean that in the best possible sense. I don’t think Jesus intended that we use his name and God’s power as a weapon or a crutch. He’s not only with us he is for us. I hope that philosophy is reflected in Not Just Another Day. The book comes out of my personal experiences, the experiences of other people and my unequivocal belief that no matter who we are God cares about each and every one of us. Our concept of God should never put him in a box that we keep the lid on.
11. You’ve been involved with writing in one for another for a long time. Tell us a little bit about your work as a freelance writer, editor and manager of a daily newspaper.
Most of my freelance writing has been done on a regional and local level. My most notable publishing credit was for an article I did in the New Mexico Magazine about a local cowboy artist by the name of Duke Sundt. The rest of it has been based on newsletter development I do for local agencies and organizations, and of course, the daily newspaper I worked for. For three years I published my own weekly newspaper and that was a blast. It was unfortunately a financial disaster. There just wasn’t enough ad revenue in our little town to support a daily and a weekly newspaper. The daily has been around for more than a hundred years. Guess which one of us couldn’t survive? Anyway, I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the joy I got out of publishing the Hermit’s Peak Gazette. From a readership point of view it was highly successful, but you can’t pay writers and staff with good will. Before I started the weekly paper I worked for three years for the daily paper as editor. That was a hoot. Later, a couple of years after I stopped publishing the Gazette, the daily hired me back as general manager. I hated it. I was far more suited to the newsroom than the board room. I retired from that and didn’t expect to work again but ended up as the interim executive director for the local economic development group. When I finally did retire in June I went back to working full time on my novels and non-fiction writing. Whatever am I going to do with them when they’re done? My frustration is that I am a writer, not a promoter. Oh, well, I’m learning I have to be both.
12. Do you still operate this newspaper?
I would have to say I am highly influenced by my faith. I try to stay away from politics (although
in nearly everything I’ve ever written there is some measure of political hooha going on). I love the work of good writers no matter their area of interest. Max Lucado is a favorite spiritual writer and I really like Joanna Weaver (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World). I confess to reading just about every genre (jeez, I hate the word!). I’ve read steamy romances, political spy thrillers, science fiction by the boatloads, mystery novels, Christian fiction (although at times I think it’s a little too simplistic), fantasy; I just plain love to read. I don’t much care for horror novels. I think Kootz and King are darned good writers but life is scary enough, thank you very much. I avoid erotica. It makes me uncomfortable.
14. Favorite books – authors.
Eeek! Your kidding, right? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Baldacci is right up there. I think I’ve read everything Asimov ever wrote. I mean, I, Robot, does it get any better than that? H.G. Wells. The man was a visionary. Agatha Christie, Nora Roberts (YES! Nora Robers, I really love her JD Robb series; who wouldn’t want to kick butt like Dallas?), Orson Scott Card (makes me scratch my head and really think, but what an imagination), Ted Dekker (down right scary sometimes; have you read Skin?), and Debbie Macomber, she’s like a comfy quilt and a hot cup of tea. So I think you get it that I devour books. My bookshelves have a little of everything.
15. Future plans – projects.
I think I addressed that in an earlier paragraph. My overall plan is to write until I can’t do it any more or I drop dead, which ever comes first. I have so many stories in my head it’s a wonder it doesn’t explode.
16. Advice to new writers.
Do it. Write. Don’t have time? Then you really don’t want to write. If your desire is to write, do it every day in some form or another: journal, letters, e-mails, messages to yourself, just write. Want to write a novel or short story? Get to it. Don’t be afraid. And don’t ever, EVER let anyone discourage you. If your grammar is lousy, bone up. If you have trouble with spelling, use spell check and have someone you trust read your work. Do not give up.
For those who might want to know a little bit more about Sharon, her books and her world, check out her website here.