Welcome to the three hundred and fourteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with sports and Christian-themed author Rob Sheehy. 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, Rob. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Rob: Hi Morgen. I’m a forty-year old husband and father of one from Wisconsin. By day I work as an Information Technology Consultant, primarily developing software and data integration solutions. I became a writer way back in 2000 when I began writing my first novel, Winns and Losses, but the seeds were sown much earlier. Back in seventh grade I wrote a story called Thanksgiving at Grandma’s for an English class assignment. My mom laughed so hard at that story that I knew I must have a knack for writing. She warned me never to let my Grandma read it, though. Something about my opinion of her turkey that Mom thought wouldn’t go over too well.
Morgen: Oh dear. 🙂 What genre do you generally write?
Rob: Mainly I write contemporary fiction with a sports setting. I write with an emphasis on Christian values. In my books I usually deal with some issue that average people face in life and show how God works in our lives to help us in dealing with that issue.
Morgen: That’s the thing; characters have to be believable… like people we might know, even. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Rob: To date I’ve published one novel, Winns and Losses, in eBook format. I write as myself. I’m a pretty down-to-earth guy. I thought about using a pen name, but it doesn’t really fit who I am.
Morgen: You have a memorable name so I wouldn’t say you’d need to change. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Rob: I rely on God to be my agent. Ultimately He will determine how successful I am. As far as normal agents, as an indie author focused on e-publishing, I hope they’re not vital to an author’s success.
Morgen: Me too. 🙂 So your book is available as an eBook? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Rob: Only as eBooks, actually. I tried a long time ago to solicit an agent and get Winns and Losses into print but it just wasn’t happening. Now that eBooks are becoming more prevalent, I took the opportunity to put my novel out there. I went through Smashwords so the process was pretty simple once I formatted my manuscript to their style guide. I have to confess I don’t find a lot of time to read books. I do most of my reading online in the form of sports and news articles, but if I did have time, I’d read eBooks more than print.
Morgen: Me too (again). I’ve gone via Smashwords (although I do plan Amazon in the not too distant future). And I don’t read as much as I want to but do read more eBooks than anything else. I only bought it in January so I guess it’s still a novelty. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do?
Rob: Right now I do all the marketing. I have a fan page on Facebook for Winns and Losses and on my blog site. That’s about the extent of it, unfortunately. I send out the occasional tweet from @CoachRobSheehy with a quote or something but I have to confess I’m not very consistent with it. Marketing is a big challenge for me. I don’t enjoy selling things, including myself. I’d love to find someone to do that for me.
Morgen: I think most authors would. The trick with the likes of Twitter is to do what you’re doing – providing education or entertainment in the main and then very occasionally promote your work. If people enjoy reading your non-tout stuff then hopefully they’ll investigate further. The quickest way to get de-followed is to say “please buy my book” endlessly. Some do it. Do you have a favourite of your characters? If any of your book were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Rob: Marty Winn is my favourite character. If Winns and Losses was made into a film, (which I think it would be a great one) I could see a guy like Chris Pine as Marty Winn, and maybe Amy Adams or Poppy Montgomery as his wife Angie. Gavin McCrae, one of Marty’s teammates, would be a great role for Michael Clarke Duncan, from The Green Mile. Of course, being a movie about football, a lot would hinge on the athletic ability of the prospective cast. I would want to try to find Christian actors, too, since it’s a story about faith.
Morgen: Good choices – I’m a big fan of Amy Adams (‘Leap Year’ especially). Presumably you had a say in the title / covers of your book, how important do you think they are?
Rob: I had full control over both. I think the title is important as a hook into the story. My title, Winns and Losses, ties the Winn family to the concept of wins and losses both in football, and in life. As for the cover, like it or not, we’re a visual society. People do judge books by the cover, so it’s important that the cover be visually appealing while providing a window into what the book is about.
Morgen: Exactly. It has to represent the content or the reader will feel mislead. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Rob: I began working on a baseball-themed novel about a father and son in the big leagues, but then I came up with a crazy idea for a book about three college guys taking a cross country road trip in an Imperial Walker, from the Star Wars movies. Out of nowhere that concept sort of crystallized in my head, so I put the baseball book on hold and have been working on the road trip novel.
Morgen: That sounds like fun. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Rob: I usually end up writing later at night, after the family has turned in for the night, usually three or four nights a week. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block in the true sense, but I do go through times where I have to force words onto the page a bit more than other times when things just seem to flow.
Morgen: It must be more difficult when writing one story. I’m lucky because I write short stories more than anything else so I get to switch topic almost constantly. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Rob: I usually begin writing with a specific end in mind, but how I get there is a fluid process. Winns and Losses takes place over an entire NFL season, so there are weekly games I had to account for to make up a realistic team schedule, but in between I filled things in on the fly, within the framework of the overall message of the book.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing?
Rob: I did a fair amount of editing on Winns and Losses from the original version I completed to the version I ultimately published. I probably made three or four complete passes through the book, making changes as I went. I think editing is important because there are always things you can tighten up, and you need to make sure your work is sound as far as spelling and grammar.
By the same token, over-editing is a mistake. At some point, the artist steps back from the canvas and decides the painting is finished. The writer needs to do the same with his / her work. Chasing perfection is like chasing a sunset. You never quite catch up and you eventually end up right back where you started if you keep at it too long. Eventually you just have to put your work out there and see what happens.
With the book I’m working on now, I make a habit of going back over what I’ve written most recently: to edit it, and also to ensure that what I write next is consistent with what’s already there.
Morgen: One of my Monday nighters will spend a week on a short story, pulling it apart, and (she says) often putting back in some sections she took out. I tend to do three or four thorough sweeps and move on. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Rob: I like to give my novels an auto-biographical tone, so I write in first person. I feel it allows for deeper development of the protagonist, and puts the reader in a position to step into the story through the eyes of the main character. While the development of other characters is sacrificed to a degree, the reader gets to know them the same way the protagonist does.
Morgen: It is a very popular point of view and if you have few characters it is a good one to go for. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Rob: My favourite part is to be able to bring life to my ideas and imagination. Seeing a story that I conceptualized develop and grow is a great thrill. My least favourite part is trying to get people to read what I’ve written. Like I said before, I stink at sales and marketing, at least when it comes to myself. I do enjoy talking about my work in forums like this, but I don’t like to push myself on people. Deep down I wish the right reader would stumble across my book, fall in love with it, and sing its praises to the world. I know that’s a pipe dream, but I really loathe trying to push my work into the public consciousness, or more realistically, drag the public kicking and screaming to my book’s webpages.
Morgen: So many interviewees have said the same thing but I think what you’re doing is right. You have to network without being pushy and forums are great for that. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Rob: If you have an idea for a story, write the story. You never know how great it could be until you do it. Even if you don’t have the whole tale mapped out from start to finish, start writing and see where it takes you.
Morgen: Exactly. I have two non-writing friends who are big readers and both say they couldn’t write like I do (or someone they’re reading) but I ask them how they know, if they don’t start. You have to want to though, of course. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rob: We make church a priority, obviously. I spend a lot of time with my daughter doing whatever she has planned for us. I play on a local bar softball team in the summer. I watch a fair amount of sports on TV, which sort of counts as research. When the weather in Wisconsin permits it, I enjoy playing golf with my wife and daughter, with friends, or just alone, enjoying the beauty of nature. Finally, I do get into video games, although I don’t play as much as I used to.
Morgen: I love it that you get to watch TV as research. So many writers count staring out of a window as the same. We are allowed – it’s the law. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Morgen: It is great. I’ve not heard of Suzanne so thanks for that. You mentioned a forum and networking sites earlier, how valuable do you find them?
Rob: LinkedIn is very valuable. I’m in several writing groups on there. In fact, that’s how I found your blog here. I also found The Christian Authors Show through LinkedIn and will soon have the opportunity to talk about my work there as well.
Morgen: LinkedIn has been great. I was running out of interviewees and had about a week’s worth when I put the shout-out on LinkedIn and I’m now booked to about 100 ahead. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Rob: I think the future looks bright for writers. Technology has gradually removed a lot of the barriers to publishing that writers faced as recently as five years ago. I understand that agents and print publishers still have their place, but the traditional publishing model makes it unduly difficult for new talent to emerge.
Now with electronic publishing, writers like myself have opportunities to get our work in the hands of readers. I think that as people become more and more concerned with the environment and going paperless, the eBook trend will make for a brave, open new world for writers that they never would have had in the past.
Morgen: It’s great. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Rob: I write a Christian blog at http://robsheehy.wordpress.com. I have a page there that tells about me, and a section for my books. As I write and publish more novels I’ll list them there. I have author pages at Amazon and Smashwords. I’m still looking into ideas for an author website.
Morgen: I have a website (http://morgenbailey.com) but it’s a static page. This blog has overshadowed and taken over but I’m fine with that. 🙂 Thank you, Rob.
I then invited Rob to include an extract of his writing…
The Lord’s hand had brought the officer there. We headed out into the rainy Seattle afternoon, and he radioed in his new mission as I climbed into the front passenger seat of his Chevrolet Caprice Classic black & white. On any other day I would have been fascinated by the proliferation of gadgets on the dashboard and the stockless, semi-automatic assault rifle mounted vertically like a lone sentry standing guard over the prowler from between the seats. Instead I stared out the window as we raced along the streets of Seattle.
My mind replayed the events of Brooke’s young life, from the tense, anxious moments in the delivery room, to her first steps, and her first word, “Mama.” I flashed back to the night at Johnny’s, watching her gleefully flinging pizza dough skyward, and to Christmas day not so long ago, with the feeling of her hair whipping against my chin as we rocketed down the snow-covered hill together. All at once the car came to an abrupt, jolting stop.
“We’re here.” Officer Mackey declared. I bolted out of the vehicle and headed toward the sliding glass doors at the main entrance. “Good luck,” I heard him call out, his words tailing off in the moist air. I turned halfway around and gave him a quick wave before ducking inside. I entered Brooke’s room, only to find it unoccupied.
Rob Sheehy lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. By day he is a mild-mannered Information Technology Consultant and by night enjoys writing novels that combine his love of sports with his deep faith in Jesus Christ. Winns and Losses is the first of what he hopes will be many more such novels.
Rob also volunteers as an Assistant Football Coach for a local high school and has previously coached at Concordia University Wisconsin. A graduate of Pepperdine University, Rob is also an avid golfer. When not working, coaching, or writing, Rob can be found with his family either on the golf course, at a sporting event, or traveling on vacations around the country.
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