Author Interview with Sharon Short, Author of "My One Square Inch of Alaska"
Created By: BookBundlz
1. If you could have coffee with any 3 authors, living or dead, who would they be?
John Steinbeck, Dan Woodrell, and Elinor Lipman. Steinbeck was a major influence for me as a young writer and English major in college. I am completely in awe of Mr. Woodrell's mastery of story-telling, character portrayal, and language. With a few deft words, he can bring a scene, setting and character to life. Elinor Lipman is a brilliant master of quiet, modern satire, all while telling engaging stories. Do I have to pick just three? Can't I add Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, P.D. James, Elizabeth Strout, Laura Lippman, the Bronte sisters, Stephen King, E.B. White, Sylvia Plath... Oh, who am I kidding. With any one of these masters, I'd be completely gobsmacked, spilling my coffee in my lap.
2. If you could only take one book, food item and drink with you to a deserted island what would they be?
One book: The Pearl, by John Steinbeck. One food: chocolate (dark). One drink: Bourbon. (This is assuming I could find water and coffee beans on the island...)
3. What are your secret indulgences?
Well, too often, chocolate! And (only occasionally) bourbon. I'm also a fan of two reality TV shows, Project Runway and Survivor, although I'm not really secretive about Project Runway. I tend to yammer about that show a lot!
4. What about you would surprise your readers?
That I'm a fan of sports and absolutely love sports films. I'm not at all athletic, other than I like to go hiking, but only under very mild conditions. (Good weather, easy to moderate trails, and I'm done after a max of 5 miles!) And when readers sign up for my e-newsletter, they receive as a thank-you a humorous, but true, essay about how I flunked bowling in high school and my experiences as the very non-athletic member of an athletic family. My husband was a soccer goalie through college; both of our daughters have been competitive in cross-country running, rowing, and Tae Kwon Do. Our oldest daughter is very active in Tae Kwon Do, and our youngest is quite the outdoorswoman. And I'm absolutely a coward at physical things. But I love watching baseball, football (but only live games; our nephew is a football player), and the Olympics. My favorite comfort movies are sports-themed. (A League of Their Own, Chariots of Fire, Bull Durham, just to name a few.) And I'm very inspired by the hard work and dedication of athletes.
5. What is your perfect day as an author?
A perfect day is spending several hours lost in my fictional work-in-progress, and after emerging, finding myself thinking... hmmm! That was a pretty good scene or chapter! And finding myself eager to return to the work.
6. If you could be any fictional character who would it be?
A kick-butt female detective!
7. What are the book(s) you are reading now?
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
8. What was your favorite book as a teenager, and why?
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I read it over and over, literally thirteen times, in 7th grade. I think I was so fascinated by the personal voice and power Harriet discovered through writing her observations. I already knew that I wanted to be a writer, so this really resonated for me.
9. (Aside from your own) What book(s) have you read that you think are perfect for book clubs?
Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale, by Lynda Rutledge. A Simple Thing, by Kathleen McCleary. Cascade, by Maryanne O'Hara. The Kindness of Strangers, by Katrina Kittle.
About Your Book:
10. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
I was at a book club meeting and one of the members asked if anyone remembered the deeds to one square inch of Alaska that used to be given away in cereal boxes in the 1950s. The question didn't have anything to do with the book we were reading, and having been born in the 1960s, I didn't recall this real-life promotion, but I was immediately taken by it, and by what one square inch of a vast territory, particularly one that represents dreams to so many people, could mean to one person. The characters of Donna and Will, the siblings in the novel, showed up immediately in my imagination. From there, I couldn't let go until I'd told their story.
11. They say every book written is the author telling a personal philosophy. What personal philosophy are you trying to get across?
The importance of embracing dreams, meaning a vision or meaning to pursue in life; not just pursuing or own individual dreams, but helping others with their dreams. Some of the characters also deny themselves the joy of pursuing their dreams, or choose poorly (based on status or others' expectations) rather than based on their own hearts' calling, so I portray that as well.
12. Writers are often surprised by something that happens in their book. Perhaps a character says or does something you did not think they would, or something you thought would only be a couple of paragraphs turns into 10 pages. What surprised you about your book?
The main character is Donna. She is 17 and though this is partly a coming-of-age story, in some ways, she's already come of age too quickly. She is, essentially, mother/caretaker to her younger brother. Although she loves him very much, and sacrifices greatly for him, she is still a young woman and trying to figure out life for herself as well. So at times, she reacts to his goofy actions or immature questions in a way that made me cringe even as I wrote the scenes. On the other hand, looking back, I think this made her more sympathetic, and certainly more believable, than if she'd been as patient and wise as an older woman would have been.
13. If you were crafting a discussion question for book clubs to discuss about your book, what question do you think would generate the most discussion?
Did Donna do the right thing by taking Will on their road trip?
About Your Writing Process:
14. What is your writing process like?
I try to write--meaning, create new material--first thing in the morning, and save editing for later in the day. At the start of a novel, though, I have to say that my process must look pretty chaotic. I brainstorm, write very sloppy drafts, create character descriptions, jot plot scenes on notecards, and research backgrounds/facts... all at the same time. Well, flitting from one to the other, often in the same day. But eventually, my work starts to pull together, and then I write for long stretches, followed by long stretches of revision and editing. It's a pretty loop-de-loop process, but it seems to work.
15. What gets you in the mood to write?
I think about writing almost all the time, so in a sense, I'm always in the mood to write. However, when I sit down to do the work, sometimes I feel reluctant. I've come to realize that's simply nervousness about whether or not what I'm going to write will be 'good enough.' So I take a few moments to breath slowly and meditate, and then just plunge in. If I waited until I was in the perfect mood to write, I'd still be only occasionally tinkering with the same story over and over, and never finish anything.
16. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read, by which I mean read works you admire and figure out why you admire them; read works you don't admire, and figure that out too; read how-to books on writing and integrate the lessons that resonate with you in your own work. Write--write every day or almost every day, even if only for 5 minutes to jot a story scene. Writing is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. But muscles can get sore from overuse, so be sure to renew your energy with anything that soothes and inspires you. (For me, that's a long walk, preferably in the woods.) Attend workshops to learn and network. And remember why you're doing this... because you're called to tell a story that will touch readers in some way.