I’m at the tail-end of the editing process on my next mystery/thriller, Color of Betrayal, soon to be published by Barking Rain Press. Besides adult mysteries like my own, BRP also publishes young adult novels. A traditional publisher, Barking Rain Press is included in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ PAL (Published and Listed) publishers.
Sheri Shepherd Levy is one of my fellow BRP authors. Her first book in the Trina Ryan Series is Seven Days to Goodbye and the sequel, Starting Over, will be launched by the end of July. After Trina’s beloved dog dies in Seven Days to Goodbye, she swears she’ll never get another one. But then she learns about service dogs, and realizes that if she becomes a puppy raiser, she could train puppy after puppy and never worry about them dying. But like all great ideas, this one has a serious flaw: her first service puppy must be returned to his kennel at the end of their week-long summer vacation. And saying goodbye to Sydney is going to be much tougher than she ever imagined.
Kid Lit Universe: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
Sheri Shepherd Levy: At age ten, I fell in love with baton twirling, and competed around the U.S. At age thirteen, this gave me the opportunity to begin teaching. I had three age groups that marched in parades, competitively, and many private students who competed in solo competitions.
KLU: If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
SSL: I love helping children overcome their conflicts. I’d love to have mental telepathy, erase their bad experiences, and allow them able to have clear minds and accomplish whatever they dreamed.
KLU: Do you write in other genres besides YA?
SSL: When I started writing, I thought I’d write picture books. They were very difficult to write and my critique group kept telling me that my voice is middle school or young adult. This was a good decision, and I’ve had fun writing in the young adult genre.
KLU: How did you get started writing?
SSL: I enjoyed reading picture books and chapter books to my students and the thought occurred it might be fun to create my own stories. I started taking online classes and joined SCBWI and fell in love with the craft.
KLU: What was your path to publication?
SSL: After years of rewriting my first novel, I put it in a drawer. Then I started on Seven Days to Goodbye. The words flowed easier, and after getting good critiques, I started submitting. An author had mentioned on Facebook that Barking Rain Press was open for submission until midnight. I worked all evening and one minute before midnight, I hit send. A month later, I had a response asking for my complete manuscript. Of course, I sent it immediately. Months later, while reading emails on my phone, I was shocked to read I had been offered a contract. This was the beginning of a dream come true!
KLU: Have you written a book that you haven’t been able to sell?
SSL: I revised my first novel many times until I realized it would never be right. It was my learning or practice novel, and I put it in a drawer. After Seven Days to Goodbye developed into a series, I refurbished parts from my first novel and used the ideas in Starting Over.
KLU: What is your writing weakness?
SSL: I am a terrible typist. I hunt and peck. I sometimes don’t catch my mistakes until after I’ve hit send.
KLU: What is your process?
SSL: As soon as I begin a new story, I expect perfection. I start out with a basic plot and begin writing. Then I find myself going back and revising. As new ideas need to be added, I redo the plot line. I am more of a panster than an outliner. I may never write any other way. I am comfortable following my ideas to see where they go. It may take longer this way, but I enjoy the freedom.
KLU: How do you select the names of your characters?
SSL: As I wrote Seven Days to Goodbye, I wanted it to reflect my memories. I used names that only my friends and family would know. This kept me emotionally involved with the story and allowed me to share my love and appreciation with the special people in my life.
KLU: How does setting play a role in your story?
SSL: Setting for me is very important. It can set the mood. Since my memories helped me write this series, I began with Edisto Beach in my state of South Carolina. The water is brown, the beach is filled with shells, and sea grass grows in the dunes. After my husband and I spent many long weekends on Edisto, I used our experiences from vacations on the southern beach. Different memories continue in Starting Over and the setting is in my neighborhood.
KLU: What are you working on now?
SSL: I am waiting for Starting Over to be released. I got a glimpse of the first draft of the new cover and it is breath-taking. While waiting for Starting Over to be completed, I am spending a ton of time marketing. Not my favorite thing! I am also working on the first draft of my third novel in the Trina Ryan Series, For Keeps. I get lost in the day dreaming part of writing and creating new ideas.