Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Author Patricia Scholes is in the spotlight!


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was a little girl, before I could read, my aunt gave me a sheet of newspaper that was all print without any pictures on it, maybe wants ads. She gave me a box of crayons and told me to draw something. I think she wanted me out of her hair. I drew a dog playing with a little girl.

Later, when shown the picture I had drawn, I realized that it was more than a dog and a girl. I had drawn a story, using pictures because I hadn’t any words I could write yet.

Later, during a Meyers-Briggs marriage seminar, I discovered that my personality type is always a writer. I can’t not write.

How long does it take you to write a book?

About a year. This year I tried to write three books in one year. They’re garbage. I need the full year to let the stories mull, ferment, combine and rearrange themselves into the stories they were meant to be.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I hate marketing, so I do it first thing in the morning. Then I spend as much of the afternoon as I can writing. I also come back to my book in the evenings.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I can’t listen to music. To me, music is also a story, so I can’t listen to the story while I write the one on my computer.

How do your books get published?

Until recently, I self-published everything. My friend published traditionally, but didn’t really have much more success than I did doing it all myself. Publishers seem to want the writer to learn a new skill—marketing, which is very hard for most writers, like me. So I figured if I had to learn this skill anyway, I would publish my books myself. 

I had limited success, however. I’m not a very good marketer. When people read my books, they tended to give me four- and five-star reviews, so I began to ask for reviews.

I went through a list of people, mostly writers, some bloggers, reviewers, and a few publishers. I wrote all of them, including the publishers, knowing full well that it was probably a wasted effort, but I did it anyway. I told the publishers that I knew that publishers didn’t usually review books, but that I was still asking, and gave them my pitch. One publisher responded. She asked to read more books in my series. Afterwards, satisfied, she offered to publish my series.

Just so that folks know, that never happens. Self-published authors don’t get picked up by traditional publishers. But this one did. She, by the way, was the only publisher who responded to my request for a review.

So, now I’m being re-published with Celestial Waters Publishing, and am delighted, both with the two ladies who run the company, as well as the process they use for editing and publishing. The first book in my series, Her Darkest Beauty, will come out in a few weeks. I’m thrilled!

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I used to be a foster parent. I also used to supervise foster homes to make sure the homes were compliant with state regulations. By the way, the horror stories people hear about foster parents are news because they’re rare. Most foster parents are heroes. They are far more trained than any parents out there, and they deeply care about children. Most kids tend to complain about foster parents because they want their own parents to be healthy. They don’t want to live with strangers, and I don’t blame them.

So, this first book is the story of a girl who could have used good foster parents, but she takes the protection of an evil entity instead. The day she decides to get rid of it, her whole life turns to chaos. It would kill her before it would let her go.

Most of my stories come from questions: How would a world look that depended on God instead of their own resources? They would certainly be peaceful. But what if warlike race of beings decided to invade them? How would that look?

By that time, I had a whole series.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

This first book was a long, evolving process. I was fifteen. That first book never got published. Instead, it grew, changed, and grew again. Then I won a short story contest, and used that story as the background for my books. Some of the characters survived, but their background story changed, which changed the story. It’s now over fifty years later, and the book has finally grown up.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I garden. I grow my own herbs and vegetables, and sell herbal preparations through a company called Willowbark Tea LLC. I also like to do needlecrafts and sewing. And I read a lot. That’s what good writers do. They read.

What does your family think of your writing?

My kids are all grown, and they live in two separates states, so I don’t get to see them or their children or grandchildren very often. I find that sad. But it does leave me time to write, because my husband gives me time to do both my herbal business and write my books. I have an amazing husband.

What do my kids think of my writing? They’re proud of me, but I don’t know if they read my stuff.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The characters come alive! They all have their own stories to tell, and if I listen, they tell me the most incredible things.

The second most surprising thing is that people actually like what I write. I find that amazing.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written ten books so far, three of which are still flying in a holding pattern while I edit them. My favorite is Steps of the Dance, the story of a little girl who comes into her own at a very young age, too young, some may think. But she’s very unique, and will hopefully fulfill an amazing purpose, should her enemies allow her to live.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

First of all, read. Good writers read. They read everything they can get their hands on, including cereal boxes.

As you read, ask yourself how did this author do? How did he or she engage my interest? Are the characters real? Is the dialogue stilted, or does it both define the character as well as the scene? Is the author allowing me to experience the story, or is he or she telling me the story? How does the author use words? Can I smell the flowers and feel the rich, black soil in my hands? Is the sun shining on my face and can I feel its warmth? Do I ache for a resolution to this situation?

Finally, write. You can write about anything, but learn to use your words to answer the above questions, and any more that come to mind.

Did I say anything about spelling and grammar? No, because you’ll learn that as you go, or you’ll fail as a writer. Those are your necessary tools. Just as a carpenter needs more than a saw and a hammer, so you will need more than words and ideas. You must learn your craft, and learn it better than 90% of the rest of the writers out there. Sure, 80% better will probably get you published, and true, most readers pay little attention to the quality of your writing. But the better you are, the more successful you’ll become. In other words, you’ll either be professional, or a hack.

Don’t worry about an education. This is one profession where it doesn’t matter. Your best qualifications are your stories. Make them sing.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

This is going to sound egocentric. But I’ve had comments like, “I can’t put it down,” and “Surely, you’re going to write more. Just because it’s the end of the book doesn’t mean it’s the end of the series, does it?”

Do you like to create books for adults?

I create books about teens faced with difficult circumstances. What I write is not graphic, but it does have some adult content and concepts. I am unable to write children’s stories. By the same token, neither do I write “adult” materials. My books are for adults who enjoy reading PG13 stories.

What do you think makes a good story?

Tension. Your readers need to want to read further. You don’t want to solve your problems, at least most of your problems until the end. It also helps if your resolution has a bit of a twist.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to become a writer. My parents discouraged me. According to them, I needed to find a “real” profession, such as being a nurse or a secretary. My father wanted me to become a scientist because he was one. They never read my stories. It took me fifty years to overcome their destructive input. This is not quite fair, though. They grew up during the Depression. They valued practicality above all else. Writing for a living isn’t practical.

I also wanted to sing, and I do. For a very short time I sang professionally, but I would rather sing for enjoyment than money.

For an ever shorter time I illustrated my stories. I’m not a very good artist. I doubt I would show you any of my drawings.

Briefly, I considered becoming a botanist. I love working with plants. Then, I realized that a scientist needed to get the math right, or expect failure. I made Bs in math in school. That’s not good enough.

I have a Master of Divinity degree, meaning I could pastor a church, if the church would hire a short, fat old lady. So instead, I write Bible studies, but I’ve only published one. I write the studies to either solve a problem or to enlighten or educate members of my congregation. I love teaching Bible.

Looking back at what I’ve just written, I wonder if I’m ever going to grow up.

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