A minimalist, Sheri currently lives in Chicago sans furniture with her dog, Kylee and her roommate and fellow writer, Mack Oliver. When she isn't writing, she's hanging out with all of her nieces and nephews every chance she gets.
Sheri's debut novel, Swallowtail, is available for the Amazon Kindle.
1. What inspired you to write Swallowtail?
As a family, we experienced the strangest events in our homes after my father passed away. He and I had always traded and discussed books on life after death, near death experiences, and the lives of mediums. He was my best friend. It finally dawned on me, had I been the one to die first, I would've done everything in my power to get his attention and prove I was still with him. I think this is what he was trying to do. I knew others were experiencing these things, and I wanted to create a new platform for people to discuss these experiences more openly. I suspected most might feel more comfortable, discussing these types of unusual experiences within the framework of a fictional story.
2. Would you share some examples of things you taught yourself about writing and publishing along the six-year path you followed from original idea to book publication?
The biggest thing I've learned during my six-and-a-half year journey was that everyone does not know more about everything than I do. This kind of defeatist thinking kept me from writing fiction for many years. Self-publishing really crushed that nonsense. I was constantly running into tasks that would freak me out. "Copyright? I don't know ANYTHING about that! How am I going to do that? It's probably really complicated!" I'd get all worked up only to discover it was usually something I could accomplish in less than fifteen minutes. Then I would calm down and have a really good laugh. This journey has been a major confidence builder!
3. What attracted you to the e-book (and specifically the Kindle) format for your debut novel?
Swallowtail was with my agent for over a year before he signed me. He was dealing with some health issues. Then it made the rounds in NY for over a year. Two publishers were still sitting on it when I finally convinced my agent to let me self-publish. He'd talked me out of it three times, bless his heart. I felt like I'd given all my power away, though. I couldn't take it anymore. That's just not me. I was more patient with the traditional publishing process than I've been with anything in my life. I was very proud of the fact that I'd followed all the rules, but I also felt like I'd played by the rules long enough. Self-publishing, and more specifically all the marketing, is an insane amount of work. However, I love the fact that I shot my own cover and receive such priceless direct feedback from my readers! I try to remember that everything is unfolding as it should for my greatest good. I get frustrated when sales are slow, and then I think I've got to get past these gut-wrenching cries every time I get a new review. I just made the leap to Amazon's KDP Select and am very happy with it, so far. For whatever reason, Nook wasn't downloading correctly and I ran into technical problems with iBooks and Googleplay, as well. Eventually, I began to see obstacles like that as a sign that I was meant to go in a different direction, like with KDP Select. Not right away, mind you. Which is hilarious, considering Swallowtail deals an awful lot with signs, being open to them and recognizing them.
4. How does the process of writing the many book reviews you share on your blog help you grow as a writer?
My book reviews?! Oh my gosh, that's just for fun! I love to read, of course. I'm also a chauffeur until I'm a full-time writer, so I spend a fair amount of time inside airports, waiting to greet passengers. I read almost everything on my phone now. I love the rationalization, because it's time I absolutely cannot spend writing. I am not allowed to have my laptop with me when greeting a passenger. So I must read. No two ways about it. I refuse to just stand there, bored out of my gourd. That being said, I've been writing in the car for years, between customers.
Naturally, I want to share great reads, and especially heartbreakingly beautiful reads like Karen Kondazian's The Whip or Cheryl Strayed's Wild, with as many people as possible. Artists need to support artists, always. Writing book reviews is honestly, just me connecting with other writers and readers to discuss the things we love. Any writing I do probably helps me grow as a writer and a human being. I'd like to think every book I read and/or review does the same. Even books I don't like strengthen my sense of what I want to accomplish with my work, or more specifically, what I do and do not want to make people feel when they read my work. Until just recently, I couldn't understand why my work appeals to authors much more sophisticated than myself. I just couldn't understand it. I've since been told my writing speaks to people's hearts. I want to nurture and strengthen that gift as much as possible. I'm about to cry just thinking about how fortunate I am to have it.
5. What keeps you motivated to write, and what are you writing now?
Wow, what keeps me motivated to write? Honestly? Joy. It's just fun. I also love belonging to a world-class writers group. We have so much fun learning from one another and sharing all our highs, lows, and twisted writerly thinking. Writers groups have changed my life, no exaggeration. Go to Meetup, and if you can't find a good one, start a good one.
Now I'm working on Chokecherry, a work of contemporary fiction scheduled to be finished in February 2013. A third book will come out in September called Cleola (if I'm still in charge of publishing). I also have a children's book called Boo-Boo's Invisible Day and the bare bones of a memoir called Farm Kid... and more.