July 19, 2008

Author Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter

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 clich├ęd, 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



Michelle said...

Hello Sandy,
Checked out your website...good job - it was easy to move around in and access a variety of information. I loved the photo of Sheena, she reminds me of our dog Laddie who passed away at 17 yrs old several years back...he loved going for a ride especially drive-thrus tellers & food places.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Michelle, I'm a vegertarian also, since June this year, and I've lost 13 pounds. Still getting used to the vegetarian lifestyle, takes some practice. Glad you like my website, spent most of yesterday making major changes to it, and it is hard work beingyour own webmistress! Sorry about Laddie. Was he half-huskie half shepherd like Sheena? She loves car rides too but never gets to go on many because she sheds all over the car and I get yelled at by people who get covered in dog hair, yikes! Do you have a website? Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Good morning everyone, I'll be going to church soon so I'll check back after that. In the meanwhile feel free to check out my website! Sandy

blessedheart said...

Hello Sandy,
I love the ice road truckers and I'm sure that will be a fascinating book!

Rhonda :0)

Zulmara said...

wow...que cool...loved the interview...sounds like a great book..wonderful story of your publishing history...



LuAnn said...

Great interview with Sandy!
I thought it was interesting about the research beginning with a set of encyclopedias from 1970. When you consider the fact that a lot of the "new" inventions were sci-fi then, it really makes sense!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Rhonda, everyone I know likes those ice road truckers! The research has been fascinating so far. Finding out that Canadians are just like us has bee nthe best part! Snady

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Zulamara, glad you were intrigued by my publishing history! I was afraid people might misunderstand my avoiding sex scenes (in the interview), I just can't do them like they do in erotic romance, no matter how hard I try! Sandy

Jane said...

Hi Sandy,
Please tell us a little more about "The Winds of Fall."

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi, Luann! I knew the encyclopedia thing would get a comment! It's an "American Educator" set with year books up to 1984. My hubby and I bought it after we got married "for when we had kids." Our boys never touched it! It gives the general basic info about any subject, then I take that and expand my search on the internet. For instance, when I started researching Canada, the encyclopedia laid everything out about it in a modest number of pages that I could flip through easily. I saw the early history, the agriculture, towns, government type, people, provinces, all in an easy-to-use format. Then, when I went to the web I could make my search for current info much more specific without wasting hours reading through 100s of webpages. That gets way toooooo time consuming! And if I see anything on the web that contradicts what I know as fact from the encyclopedia I can change my research or novel to avoid an untruth! Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Jane, thanks for coming and asking about my new book! It's my second novel with The Wild Rose Press. It's a slightly more sexy contemporary science-fiction
romance with paranormal touches. Based on 2 dreams I has in elementary school, it's about two people trying to fit into life on Earth, Skye and Joe, who meet accidentally at a juried art show, and get together under threat of death for both. If she doesn't realize what and who she really is and join with a creature from her home planet, billions more on many worlds will die or be made slaves, including everyone on Earth. Yes, I have very weird dreams! I tried to show how I feel in the fall because I can't fly on the cool night wind like I did in those dreams. Skye almost dies before she gives into the inevitable, and Joe almost dies grieving for her when she's snatched to her home planet. Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

If any of you live in the central Ohio area, come to the Mid-Ohio Writers Association Midwestern Dreams conference on October 18th. I'll be posting all the details on my website in August. Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Don't forget I'll be giving away a copy of either one of my books, Cottonwood Place or the Winds of Fall, to someone who posts today, in either e-book or paper format! Sandy

Virginia said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed it. I would like to know more about your book. I am going to chech out your website. Its is nice to meet you.

robynl said...

I loved the episode of the Ice Road Truckers but it was scary what the drivers have to contend with. I'm sure the book is going to be awesome also.

Chicks of Characterization said...

Wow, Sandy you are one busy lady. You subsitute, and teach English to local inmates? That must be a very interesting job!

Oh no, your poor son- I will pray that he finds the kidney that he needs.

Its so funny that you talk about your brain turning to mush. I have told my husband that since I gave up my career to raise our children that there are times when I feel my brain is turning to 'mush' and he looks at me like I'm crazy.. but its so true, isn't it?

Being a writer myself I know what you mean about the explicit sex scenes- I can't write them either. I was at a conference a few years ago and went to a 'Erotica' luncheon- OMG, I think my cheeks were permanently blushed! And I have 3 children!! ha ha

I love your covers, and your website is fabulous! you've done a great job!!!

Take care,
Andrea :O)


Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Virginia, glad you liked my interview, I was brutally honest, hoping no one gets mad, but I had to tell the truth about everything! My website has an excerpt of both of my books and I'll be changing the excerpts soon. Cruise around the site, some pages are still under construction, so there isn't much on them. Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

HI Robyn, yes the truckers do have it bad, but I can't decide which area is worse to drive over, the lakes from Yellowknife to the Diavik Mines, or this season over the Arctic ocean??? At least over the ocean they can go faster, but if they fall through they're going down 200 and 300 feet! I'll be posting an excerpt of the ice road book on my website in September. Check back! Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Andrea, I love teaching the prisoners, they're like sponges, drinking in the learning and being treated like a human being by someone for a couple of hours a day. I love the deep respect they have for me, I drink it in like a sponge because I get so little of it the rest of the time! I get an occasional dud student, but most of them are there to learn. Thank you for praying for Erik, he needs it so bad to help him get through this mess and me too! He's my first, and you know how parents are aboout their first!
Back in the late 1980s I noticed the older women around me babbling like crazy and vowed I wasn't going to end up like that. That's why I started the writing journey and studying theoretical physics and went to college.
I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can't write explicit sex scenes or erotica. I like reading the growth of the couple, the teasing, the necking, but that's it! Don't know why I feel that way, I must be sexually repressed
Kim Mendoza of the Wild Rose Press did both covers, and both are excellent in their photography.
Doing your own website is time consuming and tricky but I think it's worth it financially and artistically! I'll be palying with it for the next few months to get it perfect but it'll get there eventually! Glad you liked it! Check back for new excerpts in September, Sandy

Laura K said...

Hi, ladies. I loved your last comment the most. I believe that you need to really polish your works up before sending them to be considered. A friend of mine does acquistions for an ebook pub and she tells me you can't believe the things they reject.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Laura K., YES! I learned the hard way, don't send anything to anyone unless it's been revised and edited unmercifully and read by at least 3 fresh first-tiime readers!!!! My typing finers still have mind of their own sometimes, but I'm better at even not making typos any more in my manuscripts! Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Well, I've had a good time talking to everyone, I'm hitting the hay, have to get up early to go to my DIL's grandmother's funeral tomorrow. Thanks to Anna for having me! Sandy

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Prayers for your son, Sandy, and the rest of the family! I can't imagine.

Cherie J said...

I love learning about new authors so I enjoyed this interview. Will definitely need to check out Sandy's website.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Stacy, any and all prayers are appreciated by my son, me, and my hubby. It's hard to live with this from day to day, waiting and praying and hoping someone donates a kidney before his health detoriates too badly. Sandy

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Cherie, glad you like to learn about new authors! Please check out my website whenever you can! Several pages are still under construction, like my proofreading service and artwork business, but the rest is in fairly goodshape. Sandy