It’s Author Interview Thursday and I hope you’re ready to rumble with our guest author on the hot seat! If you’ve ever wondered if social media had any useful relevance, then I can testify that it does. And its primary purpose, I believe is to build relationships. Today’s interview is testament to that. I met today’s featured guest on GoodReads and then we connected on Twitter where we’ve kept in touch and stayed abreast of each other’s endeavours. She’s written two books in the Middle Grade/YA (Young Adult) category. I have to say that I have admired her generosity and support for the writing community on the social networks and I’m so glad she’s taken out time to be with us today. So without further ado, would you please join me in welcoming Sharon Ledwith.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.
My journey to publication started in the mid-90s. One evening while I was reading, I thought how simple the structure and dialogue was in this particular novel. You can write, you can do this, a voice urged inside my head. Let me tell you, I almost fell off my chair. But the words rang true for me. So, I decided to act on this truth, and took a writing course—Writing your Novel—where I met a great couple of like-minded would-be writer gals. Together we started a writing support group, and I wrote my first novel—a paranormal romance. This manuscript caught the eye of an agent, but I was hardly ready, and I see that now. What I needed to do was to hone my craft and get better and better with the process of writing. And that takes making lots of mistakes at the expense of your ego. In other words: lots of rejection, rejection, rejection! Ouch!
Then, one night, during my writer’s group, one of my friends said something that floored me. She mentioned that I hit my twelve-year-old character’s voice bang on. What a compliment! So, this got me to thinking—how hard would it be to write a young adult novel? It was a stupid question. Of course it was hard! After thinking about what my friend had said to me, I decided I’d challenge myself and write not just a novel—but a series—that would appeal to my son, who at the time was the target age of my audience. Since I’ve always loved the time travel genre, it was a no-brainer for me.
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Sharon Ledwith?
A laugh-out-loud nostalgic thrill ride!
Oh, for one you don’t have to go looking around for a cover artist and editor! That’s a plus. And our books are formatted and uploaded to all the major on-line stores like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble by the publisher. We have complete input throughout the entire process including what we want on our book covers. My publisher also offers a lot of promotional items like book marks, trading cards, promotional paperbacks at a reasonable price, and helps us with the marketing process. All you have to do is ask. To me, it feels like an Esprit de Corps, a group spirit there. At least that’s been my experience.
What tips can you give us in terms of working with a publisher to ensure your vision for a story doesn’t get diluted or compromised by the demands of a publisher?
It’s very much a give and take. It took 15 years of writing in the trenches—querying publishers and agents, writing more books, getting rejected again and again—before I finally signed a publishing contract with Musa Publishing for The Last Timekeepers series. And after all this time there was still one catch—I had to rewrite the entire manuscript in the point of view of only one of the characters. Originally, I had written the series with each kid having their own chapter throughout the book. Musa’s head editor for their YA imprint found this confusing and suggested I write the first book in only one of the character’s voices, starting with Amanda Sault. That way, the next book would feature another character’s point of view. However daunting a task this sounds, it was sage advice and made the book stronger. Now, after saying this, an author must stand his or her ground if they think the integrity of their story would be diluted or compromised. It all depends on how they want their book presented to the world.
You write in the YA (Young Adult) genre which is very popular and competitive. What advice would you have for someone who wants to write in this genre?
Know your target audience by checking out what they’re reading. Don’t forget that success leaves clues, and makes tracks. What I mean by this is that one of my role model authors is Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series among others), so I try to follow what he’s done. I follow him on twitter and ‘spy’ on the kinds of tweets he puts out, I’ve checked his website and blog, and try to emulate him as much as possible. Although I only have two books out, plus a free short story available on my website, I know that I’m in for the long haul, and slowly building my author platform, back list, and brand. Remember it takes time to build that back list, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Let’s see…joining groups that support your genre, getting professional reviews from book bloggers, Goodreads giveaways, blog hops, and helping others by sharing or tweeting their books or thoughts or posts. I’ve heard the best way to get noticed is to engage first, then sell. This new publishing paradigm is a tough gig with so much competition out there. I think the only way an author can truly get noticed is to be their authentic self, and have a product (book) that gets readers talking! Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising.
What were some of your favourite books as a child?
My favourite all-time children’s book is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak! I also loved any kind of animal stories I could get my hands on!
#1.Watch those dialogue tags! Using he said or she said is still the go-to sage advice.
#2.One of my young readers informed me, ‘You don’t need to say the character’s name over and over again. I don’t do that with my friends, unless I want their attention’. Yup. Smart and to-the-point.
#3.Never use a dialogue tag and action tag in the same paragraph. It’s redundant. It’s best to alternate between using dialogue tags, action tags, and no tags. This will keep your writing fresh.
What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?
Hard question! So many movies and books, so little time! I loved The Godfather book and movie. I know this isn’t kidlit, but there was something about the flavour and tone of the book that drew me into the story. Reading the dialogue transported me into the ‘family’, and gave me a sneak peek at how the mob operates. Plus this book not only won a Pulitzer Prize, but also an Academy award.
Toy Story or Shrek?
Shrek. Hands down. Love Mike Myers. It’s a Canadian thing!
What three things should a first time visitor to Ontario do?
Go to Niagra Falls for sure. If you get a chance, rent a cottage in beautiful Muskoka during the summer months, but after the bug season! Tour around Toronto, and take in a stage show. There’s just so much to see and do here!
Since the prequel to The Last Timekeepers series entitled, Legend of the Timekeepers came out last August I’ve been busy marketing both it, and The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis. Presently, I’m revising the second book in the series tentatively entitled, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, which I’d written in 2000. I’m reworking it into Jordan Jensen’s point of view which is proving to be a daunting task! I’ve also signed on with literary agency, Walden House (Books & Stuff) in December 2012 to take on another young adult series I’ve created about teens with psychic abilities called, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. The first book in this series, Lost and Found, has been requested by three major publishers, so I’m keeping all my fingers crossed and toes crossed! Mind you, that makes it harder to type!
Where can readers and fans connect with you?
Sharon’s Blog: http://sharonledwith.blogspot.com/
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5821744.Sharon_Ledwith
Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?
Never stop investing in yourself. Invest in the best. That’s in yourself, and in your readers. Your readers deserve the best of what you have to offer them. Surround yourself with the best possible team. Never stop learning. As you grow, so will your readers, so be prepared for this. Oh yeah, and never give up. That’s a given and should be part of any author’s credo.
Thank you so much for putting up with—er, I mean having me on your awesome blog today, David! You’re such a supportive and kind person, and I’ve noticed you go out of your way to help other authors get noticed. Cheers and hugs, my friend, and best wishes for many best-sellers!
It was an absolute pleasure to have you today Sharon and I won’t be surprised if one of your books gets optioned for a film or TV series. I loved what you said about investing in yourself as we sometimes tend to invest more in marketing our books while we invest little or nothing on improving our craft. I also had a light bulb moment about what you said with regards to modelling someone whose more successful in your genre. Sharon and I would love to know you stopped by, so do share this interview on your social circles and/or leave a comment. Do make sure you click one of her links and connect with her.
Do check out Sharon’s books by clicking this link =====> Sharon’s Books on Amazon