I am delighted to be welcoming Shauna Black to the blog for an interview. Here's a little bit about Shauna!
Shauna E. Black delights in beguiling readers until they lose all touch with reality and find themselves waiting under lampposts for fauns and talking beavers to appear.
And onto the interview!
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since I was a little kid. I'm a pack-rat, so I even have some of my first "manuscripts" up in the attic. When I was around 10, I had a goal to read all of the Nancy Drew books, so many of my first stories were imitations of Nancy Drew. I had my own Jr. Detective that I named Julie Jones, and her sidekicks were twins Tina and Tami. I even drew the pictures to go with the story. Good times.
Do you write in the genre you love to read?
I have a wide variety of interest when it comes to reading. I think that's important, for a writer. You can glean a lot of valuable insight from reading the best books in many genres, even nonfiction. My first writing group also had a variety of writers from different genres in it. I learned a lot of craft from a woman who wrote amazing poetry, even though poetry isn't my thing. That said, my first and best love is fantasy. I blame Lloyd Alexander and his Prydain Chronicles for that one. Since I discovered his books as a kid, I've been fascinated with magic. Most of my writing so far has been in that genre, but I've recently taken a turn into science fiction with a dystopian YA. My dad is a big sci fi fan. We used to watch sci fi movies like Planet of the Apes and Star Trek together on Saturdays. It was his way to relax after a hard work week, I suppose. My dystopian is dedicated to him for those fond memories.
Do you like editing or is it something you loathe?
I don't mind editing. For me, that's the easy part. I just have to start reading the story, my internal editor kicks into high gear, and I fix things as I go along, almost automatically. I worked as a professional editor for a little while until I decided I didn't like editing for other people so much. But I have the hardest time with rough drafts - getting the story out in the first place. That's probably because that internal editor gets bossy, and I have to keep cracking the whip to keep it at bay. I've been trying to learn to use Dragon Speaking Naturally for getting out the first draft, and it has helped, though the learning curve of speaking instead of typing has been tough to get over.
What's your favourite social media? And why?
First of all, I have to say I'm not great at social media in general. I'm a typical writer introvert who's always been painfully shy, and social media just exacerbates the problem. That said, I do enjoy FaceBook, for the most part, though I tend to be a lurker and seldom comment. Every once in awhile, I'll get this weird brave spurt and start commenting on all these posts and putting up my own stuff, but then after a couple of days I slip back into "just scrolling" mode. I'm hoping to get better at FaceBook in the near future, when I get a chance to go through some training I purchased. I'd also like to learn Instagram if I ever find the time. I'm a visual person, so I enjoy beautiful pictures. I think I'd really like Instagram if my old brain could figure it out. Speaking of pictures, I use Pinterest too, though not really for socializing. I have private boards where I collect pictures that inspire me for my characters, setting, and props. It helps me describe them better in my writing. Sometimes, I'll select some of those photos to share on a public board. I also collect good cover designs. At one time, I was a graphic artist for website design, so I enjoy trying to create my own covers, though I have a lot yet to learn about what makes a good book cover tick.
How would you describe your writing process?
I've perfected my process over the years, though I'm constantly tweaking and adjusting it because I'm always trying to improve my skills. I used to be a "pantser" - just writing off the cuff with no outline. I'd often write myself into a corner and then spend hours trying to figure out how to contort the plot to make everything work out right. Then I learned how to outline. I'm naturally a very organized person, so I took to it like a fish to water. Plus, I discovered that my muse really needs some hand-holding to nail down details about the characters, plot, setting, and props. Otherwise, my writing is too vague. So, I outline thoroughly for about a month. Then I do the first draft (lately, using dictation software). That takes me a couple of weeks. Then I go through and write the second draft, shaping the story and the characters better. That takes at least a month. It's the longest part of my process. Once I get that cleaned up, I'm ready to show it to my first readers. They give me feedback on plot problems, questions they have, spots that are confusing, etc. I rewrite according to their feedback and clean it up before sending it to my editor. A couple of drafts later, the book is ready to publish. I've done the whole process in about 3 months, but I really have to push myself to go that fast.
Do you have a favourite writing food? Drink?
I try not to munch too much while I'm writing because I'm trying to lose weight. (Aren't we all?) Plus, it's hard to type with just one hand. Ha ha! I do keep a big insulated cup of ice water handy that I sip from frequently. (I'm such the healthy writer.) But this question reminded me of a habit I developed when I read books as a kid. I used to sneak dried macaroni from the cupboard and crunch on it while I was reading. To this day, Nancy Drew books make me crave macaroni. I must have had really strong teeth! I don't think I could handle it nowadays, and my dentist would give me a stern lecture, if not a full-out flogging. :D
How often do you write? Do you have a schedule?
I'm multi-task challenged. I find it difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. So when my family is around, watching a distracting TV show or requiring my attention (What, kid? You want dinner?), it's really tough, if not impossible, for me to write. That's a pretty restricting challenge, especially since I have a busy family with four kids. Many writers in my situation will write late at night, but I can't do that either because I've found if I don't get a lot of sleep I develop health issues. So, my best time to write is during the day while the kids are at school and my husband is at work. I can get in about 5-6 hours a day for 4 or 5 days. Summer is rough with the kids underfoot all the time, but I can usually manage a couple of hours a day when we're not off vacationing or reunioning. My other challenge is that I work for my CPA husband during the U.S. tax season, the first 4 months of the year, and I've never been able to do any writing during that time at all. So my window of opportunity to get writing done over the length of a year is pretty narrow. I'm still trying to figure that one out so I can produce books in a more timely manner.
You can follow Shauna on her website and Facebook.