Welcome to the sixty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with sci-fi time-travel adventure author Sheron McCartha. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Sheron. I’d like to start by asking what inspired you to start writing?
Sheron: I read everything, but I write science fiction. Science fiction has been one of my passions for a long time thanks to my father’s influence. There were times my mother would go hunting for him and find him hiding out in the bathroom avidly reading some science fiction book as if it were a forbidden treat. I now understand this behavior, especially since we were four kids at home. Sometimes I read in out-of-the-way places too, feeling as if I am partaking of some guilty pleasure. He always talked about how he was going to write the great science fiction novel. Later, he would add that he would write it after he retired. Then he retired. He started on his novel. One day he came to me and shook his head. “I love to read it,” he said “but I can’t write it.” He threw up his hands in defeat and I saw the torch arcing my way and caught it.
Morgen: How funny (and a little sad). I have a lady in my writing group (hi Anna) who writes the most amazing sci-fi / fantasy but has never read a word of it. When she told me that I was astounded. Sorry, you were saying about your father.
Sheron: I determined then to accomplish his dream. After I graduated with a Master’s degree in Education, minor in English, speech and journalism from the University of Florida (go Gators), I taught creative writing and literature at Bradford High School in Florida. Trial by fire. I married and followed my husband all around the country from Miami, Florida to Portland, Oregon (where we live now) and everywhere in between, holding down day jobs of high school teacher, banker, stockbroker, artist, and art gallery director. One night, during a long, boring ride home from a vacation weekend, we drove by a billboard that had the name Penryn on it. Going seventy miles-an-hour past it, it took one brief glance to spark my imagination and from that one brief glance, a whole world and generations of exotic characters, places and events came into being that has lasted me years of writing. No wonder I focus on time and its effect in my books. I continued to write while juggling family, jobs, a new baby and managing a household.
Morgen: And you’re clearly passionate. What have you had published to-date?
Sheron: My first published book was Caught In Time. It is available on Amazon http://www.Amazon.com/dtp/B00452V8GY as an ebook, http://www.Amazon.com/dp/1453751599 as a paperback, and the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple ibookstore, Lulu.
Morgen: Could you tell us a bit about it?
Sheron: Caught In Time is a time travel, science fiction, adventure and romance that takes place on Alysia, a planet in a faraway galaxy. It is the story of Rowyna Grae who always thought she was human until the day that Arwoyn Telluria, the last dying time traveler, tells her that she was created using bits of his DNA…specifically the gene for time travel. He confides that she came to him when he was a young boy to tell him that she was from the future on a critical mission to save Alysia. So, he created her to return and fulfill that destiny. But things go awry. Arwoyn dies. The new regime wants to make her a stealth assassin and the young lab assistant, Richard Steele, frantically sends her to the wrong place and loses her. She arrives with dangerously packed bags at the king’s hunting lodge with an agenda to kill the king. Within a day, she kills six men, defending herself against rape, robbery and, of course, falls in love with the king she is assigned to kill. She creates havoc as she changes the past and reorders Richard’s world down the timestream. The charming Medieval past isn’t so charming when there is no running water, no central heat, betrayal and intrigue at the royal court and war on the horizon. What’s a person to do if she doesn’t even know whether she is human or not? Well…a lot. And there hangs the tale.
Morgen: Doesn’t it just. 🙂 What will readers like about your books?
Sheron: My readers will like the fun of the read. There is no deep message, no critical information that will change your life, or show you how to lose weight, or make more money. It is like a bar of good chocolate that you savor, but lasts longer. It costs less than a cup of coffee, but has the same stimulating effect. The reader is plunged into a world of the past with a heroine who struggles to survive and deal with a self-absorbed king that she finds herself falling in love with against all better judgment. The dialog is fun and the action continuous. As she meets new situations and reacts, she changes the past and that changes the future where poor Richard Steele has to deal with the consequences…and most often they are not the pleasant kind. He is thrown into various different timelines because of her actions. He finds himself on the whip end of events and he becomes desperate to get her back…that is if he can locate her and the time machine is still working, and she wants to come back.
Morgen: Sci-fi / fantasy is such a popular genre. I hope you do well. I was surprised actually what a high proportion of people I met (in person and online) who were doing http://nanowrimo.org when I was were writing your genre. What kind of person do you think would like this book?
Sheron: Well, my husband doesn’t read fiction. He’s mainly a non-fiction kind of guy. So for a long time while I was writing, he didn’t cast a glance at my little hobby. Years went by. I was waiting on publishers. Then, I published. It was set in stone– out in the world and that’s when he decided to read it…a very mature, engineer-type guy…. reading a time travel adventure book, with a female protagonist and having minimal gore. I held my breath and waited for the sneer. He loved it.
Sheron: I passed out. Smelling salts were required.
Sheron: He’s now casting parts for the movie version and plans to retire on the royalties. I’m not quite that optimistic, but I am open to possibilities. So the answer is–any kind of reader. Anyone may like this if they can read, or be read to. Surprise me.
Morgen: 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them? What was your first acceptance?
Sheron: As I wrote, occasionally I would submit. First, however, I attended many conferences and workshops.
Morgen: I did it that way round. Practice and experience then submit.
Sheron: The publishing industry seemed to have so many secret rules, specialized formats and exact procedures that it made my head swim. There were strict formulas to adhere to while they kept saying that they wanted the material to be “fresh”. AND NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS! Everyone wanted it a bit different too. I submitted to TOR, the top publisher of science fiction and then Simon and Schuster.
Morgen: It is, they are. Even non sci-fi me has heard of Tor. 🙂
Sheron: I was told I needed an agent, preferably one in New York. (3,000 miles away) I knew no one. It was easier to get a doctor. And I didn’t take rejection well, especially via form letters. I knew some of the best writers had been rejected many times…I knew that in my brain, but emotionally it was still hard accept rejection and go out and submit again and then again.
Morgen: It is tough but I heard (not sure how true this is) that Dean Koontz had 500 rejections. Ah, just Googled it and the consensus is 75 but someone does say 500 so maybe it’s 75 before first publication and 500 before first novel? Anyway, a lot.
Sheron: But I did.
Morgen: Yay! 🙂
Sheron: I submitted a synopsis and first three chapters to Baen Books…and waited…and waited. I wrote them eight months later saying that I was going to submit elsewhere and they wrote that they wanted to see the whole manuscript. They were interested. I took a month to put a bright polish on it and sent it out…and waited. I got discouraged, but I still kept writing and rewriting my other books. My beta readers loved the stories and encouraged me to get published. I told them, “Easy for you to say.” They had no idea. A year later I was at a writer’s conference and I mentioned how angry I was that I hadn’t heard a word– not even a cold cruel form rejection from Baen. My fellow writer turned to me and said, “Didn’t you hear that Jim Baen died?” Well, no I hadn’t heard and wasn’t that a poor excuse for not responding. So when Amazon said they would publish my book at no charge and I could put it up and sell it on Amazon without any deaths involved, I jumped at the chance…and became an Indie author. No agent needed.
Morgen: That’s how a lot of authors are going now, including me (I like the ‘being in control’ bit). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sheron: I get my best inspiration around 3:00 a.m. Yes, a.m. It is hard to find pen and paper, or now, my iPad at that hour. I also get great ideas in the shower when it is also hard to use the iPad. No waterproof model yet. And the hair dryer seems to blow away all the really great ideas.
Morgen: (note to self: Google ‘waterproof dictaphone’ for Sheron) 🙂
Sheron: My second book, A Dangerous Talent for Time was called Riddlequest for a long time because it has a fun worldwide search for pieces of a riddle in it. Then Google came along and I discovered that someone else had already used the title. Sometimes technology makes me cry.
Morgen: Titles aren’t copyright (nor are ideas) but you do have to be sensible. No publisher would buy a story with ‘Harry Potter’ in the title unless your surname was Rowling.
Sheron: So for a long time it was the X-titled book and then one day it just came to me and I liked the title. I don’t remember the time or location…or whether I was wet or dry.
Sheron: While I was waiting for word from a publisher, or was just too discouraged to hunt for an agent or resubmit, I’d say that I was done with my guys. I had better things to occupy my busy life than writing about time traveling, world saving, wise-cracking, characters that seemed to decide what they were going to do in my books regardless of my wishes. So I’d be done with them, BUT, they would sneak into my head while I was trying to get to sleep and suggest that it would be fun to have Hieronymous’ mother be a time traveling clone. Okay we did that book. Then, when Arwoyn was developing his clone experiments, his first two attempts were male clones. Whatever happened to them? What if one didn’t know that he was a clone or that he could time travel, but others knew? And tried to kill him? Yipes! I really wanted to get my beauty rest, but these questions kept me awake. So I wrote his book. Done. Then an alien probe crash lands on Alysia and we are worried about what we’re going to do about it? Next book guys. How about build a space ship and check it out? Now we’re at three, or is it four?
Then I found out that I liked to get even, and I would put my characters in impossible situations and see how they could wriggle out. How about their two moons colliding? How about an alien invasion, but not what you would expect. Meeting aliens in space? What would they look like? What would they do? How about…
Then the world changed and Jeff Bezos created Amazon and the Kindle. Steve Jobs shifted a paradigm with the iPad and we are still scrambling to see what the new future is going to look like for books and reading.
Morgen: Shiny and flat by all accounts. Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Sheron: Once a shy, retiring person, (no laughing, please) I have plunged into the pool of social networking. I am on Twitter: Sheronwriting, LinkedIn: Books and Writers thread, Facebook, and I blog about the science fiction books I love on www.scifibookreview. I have set up a website that talks more in-depth about my books and writing at www.Alysianuniverse.com.
Morgen: What has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Sheron: One of my good friends in high school lives in Miami, Florida and I live far across the country in Portland, Oregon. I hadn’t heard from her in over thirty years. She heard about my book and e-mailed me that she had read it and loved it. Now we communicate regularly. I almost fell off my seat when I first heard from her and it has been great being back in touch. I appreciate her enthusiasm too. It happened also with my best friend from college. I hadn’t heard from Candy in ages…maybe an occasional Christmas card, and then, out of the blue she wrote a congratulations card that said she had read the book and that she gave me 4 stars on Nook. She loved it too! I read that and had tears in my eyes. I never thought the book would connect me back to people I missed.
Morgen: I love modern technology and being a writer in this day and age. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Sheron: This is a watershed time for publishing and writing. Everything is changing. And fast. People are scrambling. The traditional publishers are in trouble. No longer are they the gatekeepers of what gets published, but anyone can publish. It’s up to the readers to decide what they want to read. The problem for the writer is to connect with the reader that wants to read what he is writing. The writer has to do it all, or hire out people to help with the editing, cover design, or marketing. The creative writer has to become a businessperson. Everyone is jumping up and down in a room wanting to be notice enough that their book will be bought and it often feels like everyone else is yelling louder than you are.
Morgen: But I think ultimately it’ll come down to quality. An author will have only a certain number of relatives to give them 5/5. If they have 50 of those but 500 that give 1/5, a reader is unlikely to buy. And it’s best to have quantity so when you hook in the readers that like what you do, you keep them hooked until they’ve read everything you’ve done and they remember to come back when your next book is out (or ideally subscribed to your blog, website etc so they don’t have to remember). Give them a reason not to stray too far or for too long. What are you working on at the moment?
Sheron: My next book coming out in September is A Dangerous Talent for Time and if all goes well in December Cosmic Entanglement will debut. I have eight books written that I am working on getting edited to be good enough to present to my growing circle of fans. My goal for the next while is to get all that writing clean and correct, to learn how to market, to format and to get it submitted without losing my mind. I am an edit fanatic and can’t leave well enough alone. I am a perfectionist who isn’t perfect…but I keep trying. I am not technically adept, but I am excited and challenged and I love what I do, except for the odd Thursday. For example: I went crazy waiting on my print house Lulu to get me into Apple’s ibookstore. I e-mailed them several times asking what was the hold up. I just kept getting form letters back that blamed Apple for the delay. Finally, I got an e-mail from Susan (a real person) who informed me that my title needed a colon in it and my middle name was missing in the metadata that only had two boxes (for first and last) and that’s what the hold up had been for the last two months. Could I re-publish? Maybe Baen’s cousin works there. I have found people that I trust to help me. I encourage my daughter to be nice to her talented boyfriend who does my covers. I have found an editor that I like. I encourage my husband to go ahead and travel in his job, or play golf when he wants to, because I am fine, and busy and happy. I am getting published and my father is in heaven hiding out, reading it all.
Morgen: My dad died in 2001 so before I start writing (and before I got my dog, who he would have adored) so I know how you feel. He was always very proud of me so knowing that is enough. Sorry, I’ve made this sad now. Let’s cheer ourselves up by having an excerpt of Sheron’s writing: (BACKSTORY: After King Arvast (in disguise) and Rowyna fend off an attack by robbers using a gun Rowyna has brought from the future)
“What did you do?” he shouted at her.
She stood as if she couldn’t hear him. He walked up to her and shook her shoulders roughly. The adrenaline began to recede and he took a deep breath. “Tell me who you are, then, that you have such magic.”
“It’s not magic. It’s just a simple pistol. I had it hidden in my pocket.”
“What’s that?” Her words bewildered him.
“A pistol. It said in the histories that you had them. This is modeled after a primitive weapon that was of a lightweight, simple design and contained multi chambered fire points. I read about it. It was wrapped in my bag. They gave it to me for protection, so it must be all right. Lots of noblemen must carry them.”
“No they don’t.”
She looked at him, horror beginning to show in her eyes. “The king’s soldiers had tons of these in the battle with Thandran Cadwell when the Diechwrathe tried to attack them at Vandore. You’ve heard of that battle. It’s in all the histories. They were used there, weren’t they?”
“We are not at war with the Diechwrathe, yet,” he said coldly. “Although I am sure that will come sooner than any wish. There has been no battle at Vandore and I know nothing about anything called a pistol. Who are you? Where do you come from that you carry unknown weapons and talk about things that have not yet happened?”
She looked startled and frightened. “What is the date? Tell me!”
“Why do you ask? Answer me now. Are you a sorceress?”
“No!” she said emphatically. “Here. Try it yourself. It’s just a pistol. An ancient weapon. Oh dear, tell me you know what I’m talking about. Take it!”
“What should I do with it?”
“Shoot it. Squeeze the trigger. That little… Oh here, I’ll show you. I’m almost out of ammunition anyway. I’ll have to reload soon. It’s rather primitive. Hold it like this.”
She gave it to him and showed him how to grip the strange metal object. He pointed at a distant tree, squeezed and an explosion sounded as the object recoiled in his hand. His ears hurt and his hand was sore from the jerk of the weapon. A piece of branch from a nearby tall tree fell to the ground. A squirrel chattered loudly and ran up to a higher branch complaining. He dropped the weapon and jumped back looking at it. Rowyna bent over and picked it up. She looked at him searchingly. “You can’t be afraid of this. You act like you have never seen one before.”
“I haven’t.” He took the strange weapon from her hand and turned it over. “I must take this to Tygel immediately. Do you have any more magical things?”
“This isn’t magic. Why any one of your soldiers could handle one of these as easily as I just did. Obviously the king hasn’t explained military weapons to you. I need to reload. Give it to me.”
“No!” He strode past her to the clearing in the trees where he feared he would find his men. He saw that they had been sitting relaxed, enjoying their picnic and had paid dearly with their lives for the lapse. Arvast stared at the blood and bodies of his men who had served him loyally for as long as he could remember and bitterly regretted his thoughtless ways. No more! Because of his idiocy, they were now dead. He would send soldiers from Tygel to bring them home for a proper burial. Turning to the horses and carriage, he untied the reins as Rowyna followed after him. He heard her gasp when she saw the dead men and all the blood. She clutched her stomach and began to breathe with huge gulping sounds.
Before she could talk, cry, scream or do any more magic, he pushed her into the carriage to get her away from the awful scene and to get them home. Then he climbed onto the driver’s seat, leaving all else behind, and lashed the horses into a frenzied pace. Vaguely he heard her shouting something at him from within the carriage. He gave a quick look back to check on her once or twice, but nearly drove off the road doing so. The lurching coach tossed back and forth so much on the rutted road that soon the only thing he heard was an occasional whimper. He couldn’t have stopped the almost runaway coach even if he had wanted to. Finally, he heard no more. The trees blurred past his sight and occasionally branches slapped the side of the coach. He looked like a madman bouncing on the edge of the driver’s seat, splashed in blood, whip whirling in the air and all the while shouting hoarsely at the horses to go faster. He had to get them to Tygel before he passed out from the pain. He held onto consciousness and the reins with all the strength he had left.
As he drove toward Tygel, he thought of what had happened. Seven dangerous attackers, skilled in murder, killed in moments by a mere slip of a girl because she held this magical weapon. Any soldier could wield it! And it killed before a sword could get anywhere near it! Think what his army of soldiers could do. This was the key he had been looking for. Now he could even start that blasted war Thandran wanted, and win! After he had enough of these weapons made, he could defeat both the Diechwrathe and Islian. He laughed like a lunatic all the way to Tygel. Gradually, he went beyond all the pain, and then eventually slipped past sanity.
Morgen: Ooh. Thanks Sheron… this was great!
UPDATE JUNE 2012: Since the interview, I have published “A Dangerous Talent for Time” and “Cosmic Entanglement’. My third, “Past the Event Horizon” will be out in late June 2012. All available in paperback or ebook at Amazon.com. and other places. So, I am keeping busy and loving being an author. Sheron
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