I heard author Sherry Decker read from her upcoming novel A Summer with the Dead at Two-Hour Transport, a monthly open mic and guest reading series at the famed Cafe Racer in the city’s Roosevelt neighborhood. I’m not normally a fan of horror, but her reading was so compelling, that I thought she was perfect for my Five Questions project. From her novel’s blurb:
“On the run from her abusive husband, Maya Pederson takes refuge with her Aunt Elly on her farm. Her first night there, Maya is wakened by a whisper. ‘Help me,’ someone begs. ‘Don’t leave me here.’ Thus begins a string of nightmarish events in Maya’s already stressful life. Disturbing dreams that seem far too real, dreams about the farm’s history, dreams about murder and blood and bodies buried under the house.”
Sounds pretty cool!
Do you remember the first character you created?
That would have been in fourth grade. The protagonist’s name escapes me, but it was about a little Native American girl who wanted to do something important, but was sickly and smaller than all the other kids. All I remember is that someone shot at her with an arrow. The arrow went through one of her long braids and she was carried up into the sky where she became a bright star.
How did you feel when you saw your work in print for the first time?
That was a short story was titled The Lender. It appeared in local writer/editor Lisa Jean Bothell’s magazine Heliocentric Net in 1994. I recall standing in my kitchen, holding the publication, heart pounding, staring at the story and my name in print, thinking . . . wow! It was a surreal feeling, something I had tried to picture since second grade. Even now it’s a miraculous feeling. I always feel honored and confused both. It’s amazing that other people not only want to read what I write, they apparently like it and will actually pay me for it.
What is your favorite piece of advice for new writers?
Persevere! Don’t give up! Don’t write what you know; write what you love! Also, read everything: advertisements, comic books, classics, experimental, fiction, nonfiction, movie reviews, books reviews, anthologies, collections . . . everything! Writers have their favorite parts regarding writing. Some love the imagination-creative process where we “open that vein and spill our blood all over the paper” and some love the editing process where we perfect our work. I’ve gone from one to the other and back again.
I also love marketing and communicating with editors and publishers. I pay close attention the writer’s guidelines provided by most editors and advise beginning writers to do the same. You can seriously irritate an editor by ignoring those guidelines.
This is usually ignored by most beginning writers: avoid adverbs! Seriously. Not in dialogue, of course, because people use adverbs when they talk, but you’ll be way ahead of other beginners if you refuse to use adverbs in your narrative. Instead, go to the effort and agony (I went through verbal gymnastics) to find a powerful verb instead. Dig for your verbs. And, attend conventions. Take a big breath and approach those editors, publishers and other authors.
Persevere! Don’t give up! Don’t write what you know; write what you love!
This isn’t where I’m supposed to offer advice, but I’m going to add something here that I hope is helpful. If you feel you’re bogged down in your work in progress, and nothing exciting or interesting is happening with the story or your characters, stop struggling. Take a break from where you currently are in the story. Write something out of order – a scene that seems to have no reason to be there. Something unexplained, graphic, scary, wild, bloody, or impossible . . . whatever. I’ve done that so many times, and later it influenced the storyline perfectly. It found its own place in the work. Last of all, good luck to everyone. We deserve success, right?
If you were a queen, what would you change about the publishing world?
Unfortunately, the publishing world is NOT fair. Publishers are looking for new voices with new styles and memorable ideas, but they tend to stick with the well-known names because that’s where the money is, and publishing is a business. They not only want the money, they need it to stay in business. It’s the harsh truth about the industry. I wouldn’t change anything, though. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well and with concerted effort. Buckle down and let fly. (And that persevere thing.)
What is your next project? Timeline?
Currently, I have a short story titled, ‘Whatever the Moon Decides’ in the anthology, ‘Street Magick, Tales of Urban Fantasy.’ It’s available on Amazon.com and in Barnes & Noble stores. My horror novel, ‘A Summer With the Dead’ (Elder Signs Press) is due to be released May 1. I’m excited to see it in book form with its cover attached. I’m pleased by that cover because the artist adhered to the description.
My short fiction collection (a reprint) ‘Hook House and Other Horrors’ is due out by the same publisher later this year, and my science fiction novel, ‘Hypershot’ (also reprint) is due out 2018. I’m so curious to see what they do with the new cover of Hypershot because the first publisher made a mess of it. Covers are important. A cover is often the reason most prospective readers pick up a book.
I am currently working on a paranormal suspense story. It’s probably going to be a novel because it’s getting longer and longer with endless complications and new, weird characters.
Bonus question: If you could reincarnate as another writer, living or dead, who would it be? Reincarnate as another writer? No. There are so many authors whose work I adore. The Bronte sisters, Joyce Carol Oats, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, etc. I’m envious of their words, their imaginations, their success! But with all that comes their problems. I know of no living or deceased writer who didn’t have problems I dread having. I’ll stay little old boring me.
Boring, Sherry? Hardly. I’m looking forward to more of your success!