Welcome back, Sharon. God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
I see myself writing novels that address the struggles we face but are afraid or unable to reveal to anyone—often even God if we’re honest with ourselves. Of course, He knows anyway, but it takes our willingness to address them before we can move beyond them. I’d like people who have experienced deep hurts to know that God is willing to hear us out, regardless of how raw our words may be, and of His willingness to help us get to a better place. Notice I didn’t say get over it because there are some things we don’t get over, but with God’s help we can get to a place that no longer feels like quicksand.
Tell us a little about your family.
My husband Rick and I got married a year after graduating from high school, and will soon celebrate our 42nd anniversary—a fact I can still hardly comprehend. We have a son and two daughters (our son now resides in Heaven), and 7 grandchildren. We’re a very close family. Rick travels the world physically and strategically building the
and is the owner of a General Contracting business. I’m in the fortunate
position of being able to pick and choose which trips I accompany him on. I’ve
been with him to kingdom of God Mexico, Jamaica, Japan,
and South Africa—which,
as you can imagine, was an amazing trip. Our daughter Mindy went with us. We
spent three days in a wild game preserve hundreds of square miles in size. We
stopped in Amsterdam
on the way and visited the Anne Frank museum, as well as the home/museum of
Corey Ten Boom and actually stood in the Hiding Place. That trip was one of the
highlights of my life.
I’m sure it was. I’d have loved to have accompanied you as well. Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Not necessarily my writing, but my connection to other writers has certainly broadened my reading habits. I have an ongoing list of titles other authors recommend and have read numerous books I might not have found on my own. Like all readers I know, I lament the fact that I won’t have nearly enough time in my life to read all the books I’d like to. Even so, I allow myself the privilege of re-reading the few that I find extraordinary. How can you not?
What are you working on right now?
Since I began writing in the mid-eighties, I’ve always had a new novel to begin working on the minute I finished one. Usually about two-thirds of the way through writing a novel, the ideas for the next one begin flooding my mind. I jot everything down, which gives me lots of material to work with when I begin the new work in progress. But after finishing my latest novel, which will be released this summer, I had two ideas that vied for my attention. It took several months of dabbling in each one to decide which way to go. It helped that late one night, when I wasn’t sleeping, a young girl, whose photo I had found and planned to use as the main character in one of the story ideas, introduced herself to me (she has a very unique name, which adds to the texture of the novel) and began telling me her story. I immediately went into my office and wrote what is now the prologue to the book, after which there was no turning back. My protagonist is an eleven-year-old girl who lives with her aunt. She has selective mutism, which I’d never heard of till that night, when I began my research from the things the girl was telling me. I know—they lock people up for less. But, honestly, that’s exactly how it happened.
What outside interests do you have?
Besides spending time with my family, I love arts and crafts. Before I began writing I used to spend hours drawing and painting, but I haven’t done either since I started writing. I love to crochet, I also make these adorable rag dolls, which I sell at church boutiques in the fall before Christmas. I love working puzzles, the harder the better. I’d rather fish than shop. And I love baseball. My husband and I—our whole family, in fact—are Los Angeles Dodgers fans. That’s really tough since we live in northern
Giants territory, the team that is the Dodgers biggest rivals. But it’s also created
lots of fun rivalries with our friends, who are mostly Giants fans.
James and I are huge Texas Rangers fans, but our interest in baseball only developed about four years ago. How do you choose your settings for each book?
I like to use fairly local settings. Usually the story will dictate what type of community it should be, which helps me narrow it down. For Unraveled, when I decided the Shunk-Winters clan were nut farmers,
was the natural choice. It has some of the loveliest walnut orchards I’ve ever
seen. I love the agricultural area in which I live. Linden, California Lodi
is surrounded by vineyards, and further out in the valleys of northern California are thousands
of acres of orchards of all types of fruits and nuts, as well as field upon
field of vegetables of every variety. During the spring and summer we buy most
of our produce at farmers’ markets. It’s fresh and luscious. And the
strawberries around here are amazing!
I love really fresh produce. If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
I would probably give a different answer every time I was asked this, based on the current circumstances of my life. Today my answer is Harper Lee. If I could spend an afternoon with her, and what a privilege that would be, I’d ask her what it was like for a young, white Alabama girl to write a book like To Kill a Mockingbird in the 1960s. I’d ask what was the best part and the worst part of that novel’s success. And I’d ask why she never published another book—because there’s no way I believe she never wrote another one. She truly fascinates me.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
I suppose to have known how difficult it would be to have a novel published. But I’m glad I didn’t know how long and arduous my journey would be or I might not have continued writing. My life is so much richer merely from the experience of being a writer. It’s allowed me to meet some wonderful people I’d have never met otherwise, and to learn things about myself I might never have discovered. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any part of that.
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
My husband and I are in a very difficult place right now. The Lord is teaching us trust and dependency. And let me just say I’d like very much to pass the test TODAY. Fortunately, there are lots and lots of scriptures for us to hold onto in the meantime. But, really, I’d like to pass. Today.
I so understand that sentiment. What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
1) Write for writing’s sake and not merely to be published. You might be sadly disappointed otherwise.
2) Draw from the deepest part of your experiences as you write. It will make your writing more authentic, and will give readers a reason to choose your work over the vast amount of product out there.
3) Don’t settle for good, but work hard for better. And for the sake of your readers, make every word count and take time to find the right words and not just okay words. There are plenty of okay words, but they won’t help your writing stand out. Okay writing is lazy writing, and it shows.
Tell us about the featured book.
Unraveled is the story of Aria Winters, who is bored with her very privileged life. So she goes to
Moldova to spend a year with a
seasoned missionary couple and teach English to a select group of kids. Aria is
ill-equipped for the world she finds herself in, but is trying to make the most of it. The couple she’s
staying with is in the process of building what they call Hope House, which
will be a place where young women who are rescued out of human trafficking can
find healing and restoration. Aria is really drawn to that, and wants to help.
But through no fault of her own, something happens to one of her students and
she takes responsibility for it. It nearly undoes her in lots of ways,
including her faith. Unraveled is the story of Aria
trying to find her way back.
Please give us the first page of the book.
I lost my faith at twenty-four. Well, that isn’t true. I didn’t lose it, I left it. In a small village in
Moldova, right there amongst the
sunflowers. Just took it off like a vesture discarded. Not outgrown. Discarded.
It left me feeling exposed, I’ll admit, but I figure if God isn’t capable of
protecting the weakest among us, well I’d just rather work for someone else. Oh
sure, he makes it plain that pure and undefiled religion is caring for the
widows and orphans, as if it’s my job and not his. And that was the thing; he
let us down in the worst way. So, I tipped my hat and shook the dust off my
Which left me instantly unemployed a half a world away from home. No one ever said I was farsighted. They did, on occasion, say I was rash.
After high school, I earned my AA at Modesto JC because the commute from where I lived in
Linden, California, was easier than driving to Sacramento during rush hour. And if you ask
me, one JC’s as good as another. Sure, Delta
College in Stockton
was even closer than Modesto,
but that was too close to home. I wanted to feel, at least to some degree, that
I was going off to college, even if I came back home every afternoon.
I chose a community college instead of a four-year institution because, quite frankly, I had no earthly idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew one thing for sure. I did not want to spend the whole of my adult working life in the family business, on the family compound, though that’s exactly where I ended up after tucking my Associate in Arts certificate in between the pages of the family Bible. That’s where we keep all our important papers. Most everything pertaining to me can be found in the pages of the Gospel of John. Which is exactly where you’d expect to find my sister Johnnie, but no, I’m the firstborn, so I got first choice, and I chose John.
How can readers find you on the Internet?My website is www.sharonksouza.com. I also co-write a blog with 5 amazing women authors, www.novelmatters.com My novels are available at Amazon.
Thank you, Sharon, for sharing this new book with us.
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