Lauren Scharhag interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Feb 2, 2016 2:13:05 PM

Author Lauren Scharhag interview with David Alan Binder

By way of introduction her Author Bio:

A lifetime resident of Kansas City, MO, Lauren Scharhag is a multi-genre author and poet. In addition to The Order of the Four Sons series, her works include Under Julia, The Ice Dragon, The Winter Prince and West Side Girl & Other Poems. Her work has appeared most recently in A World of Terror anthology, The SNReview, The Rockhurst Review, Infectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction.

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1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?

My last name is pronounced “Shar-hag.” I publish under my maiden name.

2. Where are you currently living?

I live in Kansas City, MO, on the city’s south side.

3. Where would you like to live?

Someplace with milder weather. We have the extremes here—freezing, ice and snow in the winter, and sweltering, humid summers. Is there a place that’s kind of perpetually fall? Because I’d really like that.

4. Why did you start writing?

I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t write. My father taught me to read and write early. I’ve always loved books. I’ve always kept journals and scribbled little stories and poems. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I used to sit at my mother’s electric typewriter and peck out stories. I created a household newspaper, writing daily news stories about goings-on around the house, which I illustrated with crayon. If there wasn’t anything going on, I made it up, so it was really more a household tabloid.

When I was nine, my father gave me my first computer. It was a Tandy 2000, as big as the desk it sat on, with a green screen. It only ran DOS, which had WordPerfect. I found my greatest happiness sitting in front of it, composing what would become my first novel.

5. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

That you can’t control how other people feel about your work. You can’t write for anybody else. You can only write the stories that you yourself would like to read. The work has to be its own reward.

6. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I need to pace before I write. I put in headphones, crank up the music, and walk back and forth for about thirty minutes. My husband calls it my “stomping time.” Then I can sit down at the computer and work.

7. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

My co-author and I briefly signed with a small publishing company called Kensington Gore. They’re in Newcastle upon Tyne, in England. It didn’t work out for us.

I think every writer has to decide for themselves what’s best for their work. Undoubtedly, a publisher can be a huge help—they can give you access to resources like editors, cover artists and marketing tools. With a team, you can sort of divide and conquer all the tasks that lay before you, not just in creating a great book, but a successful product.

However, you have to find the right publisher for your work. There has to be unity of vision. Right now, little publishing houses are springing up all over, looking to cash in on the indie scene. There’s a lot of potential there for authors to get their voices heard. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re really not doing anything authors can’t do for themselves.

For now, I’m fine being a self-published author. I have no immediate plans to seek another publisher.

8. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

For a brief time, we saw eBooks outsell print books. But the pendulum has swung back the other way—people are finding they prefer print books. Studies keep coming out showing how reading on a printed page stimulates different parts of the brain than reading an eBook. I wouldn’t try to predict what will ultimately be the preferred medium. I myself don’t care if I’m reading a book on a page or on a screen—quality is all I’m interested in.

Having said that, I do think having printed books on a shelf in a bookstore is the best way to market your work. Books are a very unusual product to try and sell—you don’t see commercials for books on TV. People don’t seem to respond to book advertisements, like trailers or banner ads. It seems the only reliable way to sell is to have your books somewhere that people can pick them up and thumb through them. Unfortunately, that’s a tough thing for most indie authors to accomplish.

9. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Just keep producing the best work you can and keep putting it out there. The publisher found me via my blog. He’d read a short story I’d written and contacted me on Twitter to see if I’d be interested in making it into a full-length novel. You never know when and how you’re going to get noticed.

10. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Ideas can come from anywhere: personal experiences, dreams, music, stray thoughts. I think there are two very important things a writer must do at all times: one, is to be constantly engaged with the world around them. To create, one must be curious. All stories, I feel, are the writer’s attempts to arrive at some truth or understanding. The second thing is to read. Read all the time. Read everything. I’m continuously amazed by writers I meet who don’t actually like to read. How can you work in a medium that you don’t even appreciate?

As for information, we live in the age of Google. If I need to research something, I can find it pretty easily.

11. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers?

What I said before about reading. Read all the things. Pay attention to words. It’s simply amazing to see how other people have incorporated language into their art: poetry, graphic novels, children’s books, essays, blogs, great literature, even performance art like stand-up comedians and slam poetry. It’s all the same 26 letters, but how the writer arranges them inevitably takes us someplace new every time.

12. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That readers will always interpret your work in ways you cannot imagine. It doesn’t matter how clear your writing goals were, or how well you feel you’ve communicated your ideas. People always bring their own perspective. Most of the time, that’s a good thing.

13. How many books have you written?

By myself, six. Then I have four books I have co-authored with my best friend, Coyote Kishpaugh.

14. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer?

There is no trick, no shortcut. Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” If you want to be a better writer, you must write. Talent will only get you so far, and then you must hone your craft. Being a writer is like being an athlete. You have to train constantly to stay in shape.

15. We’ve heard that it is good to provide twists in a good story. How do you do this?

What people see as “plot twists” never feel that way to me, as the writer. I’m not looking to yell, “Gotcha!” at the reader, I’m not trying to play a prank. I only see characters, their behavior and their motivations. In Book IV of The Order of the Four Sons series, a major character is murdered. The readers don’t see it coming. That might be defined as a plot twist. But we wrote it that way because that’s what the killer would do. We know him, his behavior, and his motivations. It made sense to us, so that’s what we wrote.

So I guess, in answer to your question, the best way to write twists is to always be aware of what your characters are doing and why. To follow the cause-and-effect to its logical conclusion. The twists will take care of themselves.

16. What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

Altogether, I have 10 works across a series of genres and mediums: poetry, children’s books, fantasy, and literary fiction. I like to think that all of my work is highly original. I try to write about subjects and themes that other people don’t. I try to create plots and worlds that are completely new. I’ve had my share of negative reviews from readers, but no one has ever complained that my work is derivative.

17. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

Mainly social media—I’m very active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. I enjoy using those platforms. But I’m fortunate to live in a city with a vibrant literary scene. I’ve attended several literary and poetry festivals. I have opportunities to do readings on a regular basis at different venues in the area.

18. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing) and why?

Nothing. I have no regrets about my writing career. I just hope that, with each passing year, I get better and better.

19. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?

I don’t plan to have a tombstone. The saying I live by is, “Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.” So I don’t really plan too far into the future. In my experience, it never works out. I just try to focus on today, making each moment count. You never know what tomorrow will bring.


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