Welcome Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter as my guest blogger today.
1. So, tell us a little about yourself? What is your typical day like?
My day depends on the season! In the winter, I substitute teach most days, then come home, have supper, write or do household stuff, then go to bed for the next day. I also take my MIL to her hairdresser appointments and shopping every Thursday, run my oldest son around on days he doesn’t feel well after kidney dialysis (he needs an O- or O+ kidney ASAP), teach English 101 in local male prisons and grade their papers, watch certain shows with my hubby after he gets off work, and a ton of other things I won’t bore you with!
In the summer, I do everything I do in winter (except substitute teach) but add yard work, artwork, and catching up on projects I don’t have time for in the winter. One of this summer’s projects is perfecting my website, but what a load of work that is when I’m my own webmaster, yikes!
2. When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published? How many stories did you finish before you were published?
I actually started writing in 3rd grade when I turned my dreams into short stories. The adult writing bug bit me in October, 1990, when I wrote an article about a family trip to an animal auction and it was published by a local weekly paper. The novel bug bit me that same year and I worked on several sci-fi stories. I finished 3 novels before being published in novel-length fiction.
3. How did you break into publishing?
In non-fiction with that article I already mentioned, titled, Look Mom, Bumper Pigs! (courtesy of my youngest son), about a family trip to the Kidron Auction in Kidron, Ohio, in October, 1990. After that, I wrote for that newspaper and 2 others for a year each, sold an essay to Country magazine, was published in my college’s literary magazine, and was a feature-story writer for Choice, a Christian magazine, for a year. I was published in novel-length in July, 2007, with Cottonwood Place through the Wild Rose Press.
4. What influenced you to write?
Four things: studying theoretical physics to keep my brain from turning to mush (because it was), the success I was having with non-fiction writing, my oldest son, and Murder She Wrote. As we sat in a car one day in 1990, my son just commented out of nowhere, “Look, Mom, the Phoenix by the last Horizon.” We were in my newest car, next to one I’d recently wrecked. I said, “If we make it ‘The Phoenix on the Last Horizon’ it would be a good book title!” My hubby had said the Horizon was the last newer car I’d ever get. That night after work, I wrote a 30-page handwritten draft of that book, based on the Bible and theoretical physics. Murder She Wrote, and Angela Lansbury, affected my decision to write in so many ways that I can’t even begin to list them!
5. What inspired you to write romance?
After I read several sci-fi\futuristic romances, I was so enthralled that I could get both loves, romance and sci-fi, in one book that I got hooked and wanted to try my hand at one!
What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre? Romance in many sub-genres: Inspirational, women’s fiction with romantic elements, sci-fi\futuristic, romantic suspense, and contemporary. I chose these genres as ideas came to mind for novels, mostly from life’s events around me every day. But, sci-fi\futuristic is my first love because I’ve been a sci-fi nut as long as I can remember, at least as far back as 1956 (I was 4) with all the sci-fi TV shows we had back then! I live and breathe sci-fi!
6. What difficulties do writing this genre present?
This will make some people angry with me, but romance (other than Inspirational) is hard for me to write because of the current trend toward explicit sex scenes. I like sweetly sensual sex scenes. It seems that today, romances have to be erotic to sell, and I don’t think I write explicit sex scenes very well! I skip them when I read a romance that’s too explicit. The foreplay, kissing, teasing, exploring each other, necking, playing in his long hair and beard, kissing, the growing relationship between the H\H, and did I say kissing?, is more titillating and satisfying as a reader than explicit descriptions. I know erotic has big sales now, but it just doesn’t “turn me on” like a good tease does! This situation in my new book is a good example. Skye teasingly delays making love with Joe (they just got married):
“And, it has a king-size bed for…uh…that fun we’ve put off.”
“Adult fun?” he asked, pressing his body against hers.
She squirmed excruciatingly slowly away from him, making sure to rub against as much of him as possible. “Yes, but it’s not the only place.” She hooked a ‘follow me’ finger at him.
In the main cabin, she said it served as living and dining rooms, and a fully-stocked kitchen. “We could sail for a century if we wanted.” She raised an eyebrow and said suggestively. “Do you want to learn how to sail, now?”
Exasperated, he said, “I’ll sail you to the moon if you take me to the bedroom now.”
7. What motivated you to write your current book?
I wrote The Winds of Fall because I can’t forget all the dreams of flying without an airplane from my high school years. One day in 1994, I decided out of nowhere to turn them into a book and finished the rough draft in 3 months, while watching my youngest son play soccer. I wanted to put on paper the feelings I have when I fly in those dreams, so I combined 2 of them: the main dream was a repeating one of lizard aliens chasing me as I fly through the cool night air to land on white church steeples, fly through trees, or out to a blue ocean. The other dream was of a tall blonde alien prince taking me away to my home planet from my high school cafeteria, and I’m wearing the crown and dress I describe in the novel. I also used the horrible feeling of aloneness and frustration I get on a fall night because I can’t fly away with the cool night wind. Yes, that part of what happens to Skye has happened to me most of my life, but I’m not an alien like she is! Ten years ago, I figured out why I get the feeling, but I won’t bore you with the details.
8. How much time do you devote to writing each day?
Depends on the season. In winter, anywhere from 1 to 8 hours. Subbing gives me no less than 1 and1\2 hours a school day to write longhand or edit chapters on paper, sometimes much more! Most evenings, I do about 3 hours, and I either type into the computer what I wrote longhand that day, or make the corrections to a chapter I edited. In the summer, I only seem to average about 6-8 hours a week because of using the days to catch up on other projects.
9. What are you working on now?
A book about the ice road truckers based on the History channel program, and I plan to finish Orion Comes in Winter, another sensual sci-fi romance, soon.
10. How do you write? Are you a panster or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?
I’m a pantser if I understand the word’s definition. I write out a longhand rough draft of the basic story, anywhere from 50 to 100 pages, which takes about 3 months on average. As I type that into the computer, I flesh it out with conversation, more plot, and do some basic research. Once that’s in the computer, that’s my working draft. I never thought about which influences me the most before, but most of my books so far have started with a basic plot and setting, then the characters come as I write that rough draft I mentioned a minute ago. I also learned to do my synopsis early, because I did one after the book was finished (for my new release) when I first started it back in the 90s, and had 80 pages! Yikes! Every bit of information about the plot seemed important, when it really wasn’t.
11. What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? I mean, I’ve gotten a plot idea from a song I heard, from brainstorming with a classmate. What unusual thing caused you to think, ‘Hey, I could make that into a story?’
The co-most unusual was what I mentioned briefly about my son and me sitting in my new car next to the old car. The other co-most unusual was when I was eating at a Chinese restaurant and opened the fortune cookie--it was empty. That led to the story “No Fortune in My Fortune Cookie,” a romantic suspense which is built around the H\H’s adventures during Ghost Month in Chinese countries.
12. If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who would it be, and why?
I want to say one of my relatives so I’d know more about my own history, or my hero, Albert Einstein, but I think I’d have to say Jesus. I know that sounds clichéd, but I could ask Him why things went the way they did in my family and get some comfort and closure, not just find out dry facts that a relative could twist to their own perspective.
13. Tell us some of the things interviewers are saying about your story or stories.
This is my first interview, so thank you! Cottonwood Place has been reviewed and got “4 Angels out of 5” from Fallen Angel Reviews, and 4 and 1\2 hearts of 5 from The Romance Studio plus their reviewer gave it “a recommended read” status! Thank you Romance Studio!
14. What is your all time favorite book?
My all-time favorite is Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein, 1957, which I’ve read 70 times. That’s no misquote, 70 times. Citizen is the best of his juvenile novels: a morality-play, a rags-to-riches, coming-of-age story, and an indictment of slavery and of an uncaring adult world and galaxy. But it’s more than that to me, it’s my story as a kid. I was the abandoned hungry Thorby, and the grandmother who raised me was the wise and loving Baslim, who raised Thorby, and everything came out alright in the end.
15. How do you do research for your books? What’s the most interesting bit of research you’ve come across?
I start my research with a set of 1970s encyclopedias for the most basic information and the tons of other books in my office’s library shelves. Then, with that basic info, I go to the web. Yes, I know web information isn’t reliable much of the time, but with the basics from the encyclopedia and my own knowledge (I know lots of trivia!), I can glean out pretty much what doesn’t ring true on a subject. Much on the web is someone’s opinion and politics, but it’s invaluable for information on places for settings, factual histories of an area, current businesses in an area and their phone numbers, so I can give a real flavor to my novel’s settings. The phone is the next best research tool I know of, which is how I got my most unusual tidbit of information! For my ice road truckers book, I called two ice cream shops in the giant Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, to find out their most popular flavors, glibly expecting some exotically weird flavor. What flavor did the workers say in both stores? Plain old chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream, no different from here in America. What a letdown! Which shows Canadians aren’t much different from us when it comes to food! And, they shop just like us, in giant malls! They even have computers and cell phones in Yellowknife, Canada.
16. What advice would you give aspiring writers today?
Don’t send your first 5 drafts of anything to anyone! Make sure every manuscript is fully proofread and perfect for grammar, continuity, characterization, GMC, accurate research, grammar, and microscoped by several more readers after that! Both books I’ve published with The Wild Rose Press were not ready to sell! I sent Cottonwood Place to them after the second draft, expecting a rejection with helpful hints on how to improve it, which is what I’d always received from editors so far. The TWRP editor was a Southwesterner and loved the setting and characters! Meanwhile, I found out about passive sentences and that Cottonwood Place and The Winds of Fall were riddled with them. I had to rewrite Cottonwood Place in the editorial stage to the tune of 80 single-spaced pages listing long notes of massive changes, and about 20 pages in the next round. Editors and agents say to send your best, fully proofread material for a reason and I’m living proof of why! The month of heartache, lost sleep, and disrupted life is unimaginable to anyone who hasn’t gone through what I did.
17. How do you like your fans to contact you?
Go to my website (only 2 months old) and email me from the “Contact Me” page. www.sandywick.com