I know that I tell you how wonderful these new authors are each week, yet there are no other words to describe this weeks Lexi’s Authors Alcove interviewee. I meet Ms. Harris via the First Novel writing group we both belong to. We began corresponding via email over the course of several weeks. I have probably nagged this poor woman to death, but she has been so very gracious and kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule promoting her first novel. BEYOND THE SHIMMER GATE A romantic adventure by Shelly Heskett Harris. I have barely been able to put the book down since I received it in the mail last week. What I like most is that the story is told through the mature and thoughtful eyes of Grace Stevensons. Grace is a widow who is basically waiting to join her late husband in death, until her witch neighbor takes her on a magical journey across Europe on a dangerous quest which makes her feel more alive than she has in years. Being a science fiction and fantasy fan, this book is right up my alley. BEYOND THE SHIMMER GATE will not disappoint.
1. When did you first begin writing?
As soon as I could hold a pencil. Stick figures told the tale before I started to school.
2. Who are you inspirations?
Ernest Hemmingway, of course. He was a journalist first. I love his clean, tight style.
3. What are your writing habits? Do you write a certain amount of pages per day? Do you write at a certain time of day?
I read and write constantly. If I have a book going, the first thing I do each day is research on the internet. When my characters were in Hungary, I found the blog of a bicyclist who was traveling that country. I saw the landscape through his eyes. My characters picked up on such things as the public water pipes which they drank from.
4. Are you a pantster or a plotter? Do you sit down at the computer and let your story lead you where it wants to go or do you outline every twist and plot point?
Early on when I tried to write fiction I plotted, filled 3 x 5 cards, even took pictures of settings. The stories were flat and no fun. One day I sat down at the computer, closed my eyes and typed the story going on behind my eyelids. Better than chocolate cake when you’re on a diet.
5. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
Since my book is written first person and I’m getting a lot of adverse conversation from editors about it being so hard to do, I am reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and other first person authors.
Lexi’s note: I enjoy Janet Evanovich’s Plum series as well, which are also written in 1st person. I recently read HOW I WRITE by Janet Evanovich as well.)
6. What are your goals as a writer?
I want the reader of my story to stop ever so often and think “I’ve never thought of that, wonder how it would work.” Or say, “I do that.” I remember reading a description of a character with the plastic wrap still on her lamp shades. Feeling stupid I went around cutting the plastic off of all my lamp shades. Another time I read about a character who counted their steps as well as other things. Ah, I thought, I’m not the only counter in the world. Then when the book is finished, I would like the reader to smile and consider the afternoon well spent.
7. If you had one wish for your writing career what would it be?
The reason I have included my philosophy in the book is so that my great grandchildren, those I’ll never see, can read my book and for that brief time will know me.
Lexi’s note: That is so sweet!
8. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
I had an English professor in college who told me, “Miss Heskett, you cannot write.” Perhaps she meant to challenge or she wanted me to control my wandering prose. What she accomplished was utter devastation of my ego. She cost me years of honing my writing skills. Finally, a creative writing teacher brought me back. My advice is to never allow anyone to make you doubt yourself as a writer.
9. Why did you choose to self publish with iUniverse versus traditional publishing?
I began writing fiction late in life. I don’t have time to go the rejection route. I tried Tor and they lost my manuscript and said I’d have to represent it. All in all the process took most of a year. IUniverse had the editors and I didn’t have to wait for acceptance.
10. Do you have an agent?
No. I don’t know how to go about getting one.
Lexi’s note: After reading the first few chapters of BEYOND THE SHIMMER GATE I believe the agents will be looking for you soon, I can’t put it down.
11. Will you consider a traditional publisher in the future? Why or why not?
Sure. This promoting a book is a bunch of effort. Worse, it’s keeping me from working on my next book.
12. You have been a newspaper journalist for over 30 years. I am sure you have seen and written about many interesting things. Will you be turning any of those life experiences into a novel as well?
I don’t think so. Covering a community, as a country newspaper reporter does, is a very intimate experience. I am privy to their successes and their failures, their births and deaths, weddings and divorces. I often see them at the lowest point in their lives. It would be a lack of trust to use those situations in a novel. Of course,over the years these people who have allowed me to share a bit of their lives have impacted my personality and that will make its way into my book I’m sure. But Peyton Place is not my style of writing.
13. Have you ever won any awards for your writing? If so please elaborate.
Oh, yes. I began in Jr. High with a state award for a piece in the school paper, “Commercializing our Christmas.” I have won awards for every newspaper I worked at or owned in both editorial and advertising, which is unusual. I took first place in the Texas Press Woman’s contest for three years in a row. I was honored by the Lions Club and was awarded the distinction of being made an honorary Texan by the Governor. (I was born in Colorado.)
14. Where can someone purchase your books?
Right now they can get autographed copies by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and as soon as I get my website built can find it at www.shellyheskettharris.com. Or they can go to Amazon, Borders, Google or any of those.
Lexi’s Note: I want my copy autographed too. When you go on your book tour be sure to stop in Michigan. I’ll be the crazy looking lady with six kids and a dog eared copy of your book screaming “Shelly, Shelly, over here!” LOL!
15. How do you promote your books?
I’m using my newspaper connections, emails and internet contacts and have two book signings lined up.
16. Do you belong to any writing associations?
Local writers group, LinkedIn, Facebook, First Novel and Austin Writers.
17. Please tell our readers about your book “Beyond the Shimmer Gate”.
Grace Stevenson travels across Europe and into Siberia with a witch, two gnomes and an Irish changeling to take possession of the newly surfaced Druid’s Brittany Book before it can fall into evil hands and be used to interrupt the delicate balance between the realms of reality. As she steps beyond the shimmer gate, she finds the book and love, however, neither is what it seems.
18. In Beyond the Shimmer Gate you write about your characters using water instead of oil for fuel and healing the earth from the damage that humans inflicted upon the earth. Do you consider yourself and environmentalist? Does this make you unpopular among your fellow Texans?
To a Texan land is sacred, it is all. They have great respect for the land and the oil and water underneath it.
19. What are you working on now?
The next Beyond book. This story revolves around a new character…Grace’s granddaughter, who is sucked into the magical world by accident and provides a new romantic interest as she and Paddy, another changeling, go after the infamous Wolfhart.
20. Besides writing, what do you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I love gardening and decorating, and have craft projects going most of the time. It allows a physical break from the computer keyboard.
21. Finally tell us all about Nutmeg, include a picture if you can.
I bred and, in confirmation class, rough collies for years and would never consider a small yapping dog. That was BD, before divorce, when we had a big house and kennels. I went dog less for ten years and then one Christmas my daughter brought this tiny puppy nestled in the palm of her hands. The pup needed a holiday name, and we thought about eggnog, but she was brown and black, so Nutmeg was the name that fit. She has been my constant companion for the past 12 years. Yes, she yaps, however, I am of the belief, “Love me, love my dog.” I was the same way with my children. We were a package deal. Luckily both my children and my dog are quite lovable.