Sunday, December 31, 2006

Shelley Bates

You are going to love this interview with my friend, Shelley Bates. And you'll love her books as much as I do.

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Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

The first book in my Elect trilogy, Grounds to Believe, was almost autobiographical because the heroine was struggling with leaving her church, as was I. In fact, I used her as an avatar, the way you would in a computer game, to see what she would do with my thought processes and actions, and to see how her choices would play out given her social community. It was a good way to give myself therapy, because writers certainly can’t afford a psychologist!

That's the truth. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve done some interesting stuff in the pursuit of research for these books. I learned to ride a motorcycle for Grounds to Believe, and in fact still hold a license. I never bought a Harley like my hero’s, though :) For another book, a suspense that has never been published, I learned to sail a small sailboat, including experimenting with what would happen when it capsized. Brr. That water was cold! For A Sounding Brass, whose antagonist is a radio evangelist, I sat with a radio DJ during her show and learned how to work the soundboard in the studio. One of the side effects of research is the way it enriches your life.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I was eight years old and got a rave review on a little composition about a ghost in a graveyard. Very cheery stuff. But I discovered that the written word makes people respond, so I decided that was the path for me. Thirty years, two literature degrees, and many manuscripts later, I was finally published.

We all have varied paths to publication, and differing timetables. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

If I get started, I’ll never stop :) I like women’s fiction by Rosamund Pilcher, Kristin Hannah, and Jenny Crusie. I like science fiction by Connie Willis and Barbara Hambly. I adore Elizabeth George’s fat mysteries (as well as the Inspector Lynley series on TV—who doesn’t love Nate Parker?). Give me Christian fiction by Tracey Bateman or Deb Raney, or romance by Candice Hern or Suzanne Brockmann, and I’m a happy woman.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

The Elect trilogy includes RITA Award winner Grounds to Believe, RITA finalist Pocketful of Pearls, and my new release, A Sounding Brass, which Publisher’s Weekly said contained “spiritual insights coming from unexpected places.” And Warner Faith will be releasing Over Her Head in May 2007. Here’s the teaser: “Laurie Hale has the perfect life—and the perfect family to go with it. But no parenting manual tells you what to do when your teenage daughter is accused of murder.” Heh heh.

And we have to wait until May to read that. What a tease!!! How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

One word: Chickens. Hanging out with them in my garden while I work is my relaxation therapy.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes a character arrives in my head with a name, such as Julia McNeill in Grounds to Believe. With other characters, such as Dinah Traynell in Pocketful of Pearls, I decide on a major trait or motivation for him or her, and go look it up in my Dictionary of English Surnames. Dinah’s last name is from a root word that means “trapped,” which is what she is until she learns to accept God’s love and free herself from her cage. Cool, huh? Etymology is a hobby of mine, so I like to play with it in my characters’ names.

Sounds like fun. I love word origins and word meanings, too. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

It would have to be winning the RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America last year for Grounds to Believe. That book was rejected by every house in New York for five years, until Steeple Hill gave it a chance. And because it’s the book of my heart and very personal, seeing it get that kind of recognition was a wonderful experience.

I can see how it would be. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’d be a Burmese cat, with big golden eyes. My dream vacation involves someone bringing me food and drinks at regular intervals while I lie in the sun. Seems to me a cat would get this kind of treatment every day, right?

It also sounds like a cruise. What is your favorite food?

I like just about everything, but crème brulée and chiles rellenos are at the top of my list.

That's quite a culinary combination. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

A Sounding Brass is based on true events (believe me, you can’t make this stuff up). A radio evangelist came to the town my cousins live in, and during the course of his "ministry," managed to defraud the entire town to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When I saw the article in the paper, I cut it out right away, because the pricking of my thumbs told me it would make a great basis for a story. I needed a way to bring the Elect, my fictional toxic church, to the realization that their tendency to glorify their leadership just couldn’t work anymore, and a charming evangelist like this seemed the perfect solution.

Thanks for the opportunity to visit, Lena!

I really enjoyed it, too, Shelley. The insight into your life was interesting. I love your books and can hardly wait for the next one.

Readers, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Sounding Brass.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the interview with Shelley & will keep an eye open for her newest book. Thanks for sharing, both of you!

Sheryl said...

Thank you Lena & Shelley for a wonderful interview. I am so looking forward to reading Shelley's The Elect series. My mom grew up in a church that was pretty controlling as well. It can be difficult to leave behind.

I would love to be entered in the contest to win a copy of Shelley's book.

Have a blessed New Year!

Anonymous said...

Wow, she really goes the extra mile on research--capsizing a boat?! The book about the evangelist really sounds interesting. I hope I'll win a copy.

Anonymous said...

GREAT interview, Lena. Shelley is such a talented writer. I have her first two books and loved them. Please enter me for a chance to win Sounding Brass

Anonymous said...

Another great interview! Thanks Lena, and Shelley.

This is a wonderful series that I've enjoyed very much.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Shelley is my favorite bird lover author. (Okay, anyone who loves and keeps big birds as pets is just slightly wacky. Check out her website to read more about her chickens.)

Shelley's books give insight into the dark side of churches and the abuse of authority while telling an awesome story. I'm so glad she's doing that.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this interview and would like to read The Elect series soon. Shelley, I'm also a big fan of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series - both the books and TV series.


Cherie said...

Thank you for a very interesting interview. I enjoyed learning more about Shelley.

Cherie Japp

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Shelley! I've also been in a controlling church (my husband and I married without the pastor's approval *gasp* but with our parents approval) so I'm looking forward to reading this series also.

I'd love to be entered in the drawing for this book! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Shelley, I enjoyed hearing about the way you choose names for characters--I went with my gut for my first book's characters, but in my second I got a baby name book and chose names that had meanings specific to the characters' roles in the story (and had French roots). It's fun to see other authors take the same type of approach; I'm always reading things into the names of characters in books I read in case they're like me and really labored to find just the right name. :)

Lisa Jordan said...

Grounds to Believe is a wonderful novel. I'm halfway through Pocketful of Pearls right now.

Wonderful interview, Lena and Shelley! Thanks for giving us insight into this writer's life. :)

Anicz said...

"writers certainly can’t afford a psychologist!" i never thought christian fiction authors have a quirky shelley is quite a fun person. thanks for featuring her on your blog...

malechronicle @ (remove spaces in between)

Ronie Kendig said...

I love, love, love Shelley's books. I have the first two. Please enter me to win.

Lena & Shelley -- Thanks for this interview.

sherlyn said...

heheh..playing with the chickens. That's quite new. I heard they are half-blind during the night. Is that true?

sherlynbanh at