My closest family members might say I write more of myself into my characters than I realize or intend. If I do an honest evaluation, I think any flaws or insecurities that my characters deal with are closer to my own reality than any strengths they may exhibit. But I do draw on my own experiences as I write.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
That’s a tough question. I love quirky in other people, but don’t tend to lean toward quirkiness myself. I’ve never dyed my hair blue or pierced my lip. With that in mind, I’d say the quirkiest thing I’ve ever done was have my husband take me to a firing range to teach me how to fire a handgun while I was writing a suspense novel. I wanted to be able to write about the experience accurately. I actually hit the target.
Good for you! When did you first discover that you were a writer?
The earliest moment that I can recall was when I was in sixth grade. Our class was given an assignment to write a short story about any topic we wanted. All my friends moaned and complained, while I grinned all the way to the pencil sharpener. It was winter of 1964 and Beatlemania had invaded the country. Naturally, my story was about the Beatles. I wrote some anti-war poetry in high school (who didn’t in the ’60s?), but didn’t become serious about writing until I was in my 30s. It’s been my passion ever since.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’ve always been a fan of English literature, especially Dickens. I also love the writing of Chaim Potok. But the past few years I’ve enjoyed reading contemporary women’s fiction—exactly what I love to write. Lisa Samson and Dale Cramer are two of my favorites, as well as new author Kathleen Popa. I enjoy good suspense and legal thrillers (James Scott Bell & early John Grisham). And I loved Ted Dekker’s trilogy (Black, Red and White). So there’s some diversity in that.
The Gospel of John is my favorite book of the Bible, as well as all the prophetic books. And two of my all time favorite non-fiction books are A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards, and Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My Christmas novella, A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown, was published by WinePress in 2004. I have two suspense novels I hope to find a home for this year, as well as a novel called Annie Walker that needs work but has potential. Lying on Sunday will be out in September. Anything else I’ve written has added to my learning experience, but won’t ever be published.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I am so fortunate to have been out of the workplace for the past several years. So my life isn’t nearly as fast-paced as it used to be. Plus our children are grown and married, so Rick and I are enjoying the bliss of the empty nest and grandchildren. That doesn’t mean the pressures of the world don’t filter in, especially being married to a man as busy as Rick. I soothe the savage beast by listening to my favorite contemporary worship music, with quiet evenings at home with a good book, and with the good company of family and friends on a regular basis. But get me on a California freeway, and hear me roar.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes a character’s name comes easily, sometimes it comes by experiment, but I know it when I hear it. And I can’t advance until it’s right. I mean, how can you tell a person’s story if you don’t know who that person is? Even secondary characters’ names have to be right. And when I pick up a book I’m thinking about reading, if the protagonist’s name turns me off, chances are I won’t read the book.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Let’s assume we’re not talking about our children, because that’s a given. With that in mind, I wrote my Christmas novella, A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown, not just as a novel but in play form as well, and produced it at my church 3 years ago. That was one of the most delightful things I’ve ever done. And now it has special significance. Our son and a very close friend were actors in the play, and last year we lost both of them within 3 months of each other. Having the DVD of the performance is something we’ll always cherish.
I also write and produce plays. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’d be an Old English Sheepdog, content to curl up in front of the hearth. But if I could pretend I was something other than a sheepdog, I’d be a gazelle or a humpback whale.
What is your favorite food?
Japanese and Mexican. Preferably not together.
Of course not! What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Like almost every other writer I know, becoming published was the hardest problem I’ve faced as a writer. I went to a major writers’ conference 4 years ago and everything changed. I met a couple of editors who liked my writing, I signed with an agent, and in a comparatively short period of time I had a contract. Now I try to go to that conference every year.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Write what you love, because it will come through in your work. Hone your craft by writing, writing, writing. Get honest feedback, from other writers if possible, and as my daughter Deanne would say, chew the meat and spit out the bones. Read the best books on writing (my top picks are Write Tight by William Brohaugh, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Write Away by Elizabeth George, and Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell), but remember, they’re guidelines. In the end, do what works for you! And by all means, find a writers’ conference to attend.
In part, the book deals with a life-changing illness that a very close friend of mine was diagnosed with several years ago. That’s what inspired the story. I learned in the past few months that another dear friend has the same illness. We all face loss at one point or another in our lives, and at times, sorrow seems to outweigh the joy. The Apostle Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19). Fortunately that is not the case. An incredible future lies ahead for those who have accepted the greatest Gift of all. Like I said in my Acknowledgments, the end is really the beginning.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Visit my website: www.sharonksouza.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for spending this time with us, Sharon.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Every Good and Perfect Gift.