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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interview Series: Fantasy Novelist and Fantastic Blogger Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones is the author of the work in progress (and surely soon-to-be-published) fantasy Ravenswynd:

Elizabeth Rose is in her last year at Rhode Island College. She's an excellent student, never misses a class and has each day planned to the minute. She and her twin sister, Melinda, have known their kooky friend, Fiona, since junior high and have endlessly put up with her unrivaled fascination with vampires. For as long as the twins can remember, Fiona has ranted and raved about all the strange local legends – especially the Raven Legends: once every ten years vampires gather in Providence to attend a very exclusive party. Rumor has it that a few "privileged" humans are often invited – hand-picked, and sworn to secrecy, of course. Elizabeth has to make the biggest decision of her life when Fiona announces that she has, in fact, received such an invitation, and not only is she planning on going, but she also wants Elizabeth to join her.  

Elizabeth believes the legends are nothing more than folklore and that it is only Fiona's wild imagination that has her convinced otherwise. But she decides to accompany her foolhardy friend to the party, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on her. As the girls are waiting to be ushered aboard the boat that will take them to an undisclosed destination, things are beginning to feel eerily strange, and Elizabeth begins to wonder if Fiona isn't right after all. What if they’re making a gigantic mistake? When one of their hosts finally makes an appearance, all doubt fades away. They are now face to face with the truth: The Legends are true. 

JK: Ravenswynd sounds like a thrilling story. Is your fiction influenced by your real life at all?

SJ: Love - relationships - family: I'm sure all of these affect my fiction. I write from my heart, always wanting Love to win over everything else. Obviously, a work of fantasy is nothing like real life, but I've tried to make my characters believable within the world they live in. And since I've incorporated the element of romance I'm sure some of my own experiences may have seeped in a bit. (Well, perhaps some of my wishful thinking!)

JK: Not too many vampires in your real life, huh?

SJ: I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but finished school in Mentor, Ohio. After coming back to Milwaukee, I worked at several jobs, began marriage number one, and had my first two children: a boy and a girl. Once my youngest started school, I worked for a surgeon in Milwaukee as a medical assistant / insurance collector. This full time job gave me the much needed self-confidence and money enough to end said marriage.
Marriage number two: Husband had two children, and then together we had one more son. (We were not the Brady bunch...but we tried!) My husband had his own automotive business for about 10 years, and I did the weekly payroll, billing, banking, etc. Along with "his-mine-and-ours" we raised Polled Herefords on our 30 acre farm in Eagle, Wisconsin. (Polled Herefords are beef cattle without horns) We also tried our hand at chickens, sheep, pigs, and one lonely billy-goat.  Of course we had cats, dogs, bunnies, and more kittens than I can count.
In 1990, we decided to home school the kids. (our youngest- from K through 12th)  And then, in the mid 90's, dear hubby decided to go back to school himself.  And even though we moved several times during his undergrad, medical school, clinical years, and residency, (8 times to be exact) I was able to continue home-schooling the youngest until he graduated...and... still do a bit of writing.  
During hubby's medical school years, I worked at the Medical School bookstore in Kansas City, and then during clinical years I worked at an Orthopedic clinic in Davenport, IA. Once we moved back to Wisconsin, I "retired" from working outside of the home, and not only was I able to spend more time with my awesome grandchildren, I was finally able to get serious about my writing again.

JK: And how about fiction? Does the vampire element in Ravenswynd have anything to do with current trends?

SJ: I suppose that some of the current modes of vampire stories have influenced my work to a certain degree, although I try to steer away from too many similarities. My vampires do not adhere to many of the usual characteristics, and they have some (hopefully) unique ones never before seen. I won't give away any details, but what my people experience during their transformation from human to vampire is quite awesome! 

JK: Is there any particular author who inspires you to be unique?

SJ: My favorite book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I don't even remember how many times I've read it. It is a time-travel, historical fiction, love story like no other. Diana writes with such pure emotion and wonderful description! This book is the first in a series of seven, and she is writing the eighth right now.

JK: I just love those novels that combine everything you love in one small package! I always wonder where those authors get their ideas. Do you generate ideas or just let them come to you?

SJ: My inspiration (in general) comes in a variety of ways ... dreams, conversations, every day life, and quite often an idea pops into my head when I'm standing in the shower! I actually invested in one of those awesome water-proof notepads so none of those ideas flow down the drain! You can get them online for under 10 dollars!

JK: Super cool. I only need a small light by the bedside in my case.

SJ: Inspiration for my current novel came from one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and took notes ... and the next day I wrote three chapters. The scene from my dream didn’t even come into play until a few chapters later. Another bit of inspiration came from a most unusual sight at a local mall ... my main male character's appearance, characteristics, and his innate ability to turn heads. Yep ... I saw him!

JK: That’s how you know it’s meant to be. What are some of the linguistic perks of writing fantasy?

SJ: Many of my characters are from the UK, and one is from the Hebrides (Scottish Isles) so I have tried to incorporate some of their colloquialisms and accents into the dialog. My main male character never uses contractions, but my human girls are completely American, slang and all. 

JK: I understand you have a lot of responsibilities. How disciplined are you as a writer? Any unusual habits?

SJ: I'd like to say I spend about 4-6 hours a day writing...but lately it has been less, what with blogging, twittering, and face-booking! I work in the living room at my desk surrounded by bookcases and all my books. The only unusual thing I can think of is that I never use any type of outline ... I write as the ideas come to me, taking notes as I go so that I can refer back now and then to keep things in order. I wrote the ending of Ravenswynd when I was about half-way through the middle. However, writing the ending gave me more ideas for a sequel!

JK: That’s a great way to never get writer’s block. It’s also a technique that forms early on, if at all. How long have you been writing?

SJ: I wrote short stories when I was in high school, and then played around with poetry as a young adult. I've wanted to be a writer ever since reading Little Women around the age of 12. I've always prided myself at being good in grammar and spelling, and it always seemed that I was much better at expressing myself clearly and effectively with the written word ... hopefully these characteristics continue in all my works, at least enough to not drive my editor too crazy! (I love my editor.)

JK: What kind of feedback do you get? Do you have a definable fan base? Are your family and friends supportive? 

SJ: I have gotten positive feedback as far as my story goes: character, plot description, etc., from all who have read my book. My sister in law is my "editor" and she tells me when something just doesn't flow correctly, or when I've used too many commas! So far, it has been mostly family members who have read all, or parts, of my novel – except for a few excerpts that I've posted on my Writer's Page, where I did get some positive feedback from non-family members as well.

My mother, daughter, sister-in-law, and sister are all very supportive ... except for the times they nag me to hurry up and get published!

JK: How far along are you in the publishing process? And what else are you working on?

I am (hopefully) working on the final edit of  Ravenswynd, and I have written ten chapters (so far) of the sequel.  My muse has not let me know yet if there will be a third!

I’m also in the middle of writing a time-travel book and having lots of fun with that! One of these days I’d love to get back to my first novel that’s been sitting on a shelf for years. It needs a ton of editing, but I love the story and the characters!

JK: Well, I’ll let you get back to all those great projects. Thanks so much for chatting with me.

SJ: Thank you for having me, Jessica! It's been a blast ... and talking about Ravenswynd has prompted me to get serious about writing my synopsis for the dreaded query letter! Wish me luck!

JK: I’m sure we all wish Sharon the best fortune in her writing ventures!

Follow Sharon on Facebook (where she often posts excerpts in the Notes section!).