Sunday, June 15, 2014

Meet Sheri Meshal, Novelist

Sheri Meshal spent most of her childhood on an old farm in Iowa. 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 traveling and spending time with her nieces and nephews every chance she gets. Chokecherry is her second book.

Learn more about Chokecherry on Sheri's website, and by watching the book trailer below.

Sheri also visited this blog in December of 2012 following the release of her first book, Swallowtail.

1. I remember the story of your first book's journey to publication. What was different in your experience of seeing your second book to publication?

There's such a massive learning curve when you become an indie author, but I have to admit the second time around was easier. I felt more comfortable and confident in my marketing endeavors, along with shooting the cover and all that. It felt good, right.

2. The main character of Chokecherry is a writer: what do you have in common with your protagonist, and where do your lives diverge?

So funny you should ask! I love what I often refer to as "deliciously flawed characters." I wanted explore writing about a truly broken protagonist mending herself. Dana is about as broken and flawed as they come, so much so, some readers have a hard time relating to her. Luckily they all love Stu so much that they cut Dana some slack. Anyway, imagine my horror when readers and fellow writers began asking how much of Dana was me and telling me how they could see me in Dana--yikes! It was daunting at times writing in first-person, but Dana is a fictional character.

I said before, though, I suppose there's probably a little of me in all of my characters, even the dogs. I will admit I do write myself well, but not the way Dana does. When I can devote six or eight straight hours to a chapter, I feel my life comes back into balance. I've never spent any time in a psych ward. I do love me a good farm, though.

3. How important is setting (from Queens to rural Iowa) in your book?

I love writing about places I know well. I've never been to Queens, but Chokecherry is a real place, our old family farm from my childhood. Today it looks nothing like I remember. Sadly, it's completely unrecognizable. It was a lot of fun putting everything back the way I liked it and then some. I feel like writing about places I know well gives me so many layers to work with, which allows me to bring much more detail to the setting and really breathe life into it.

4. Do you believe that writing--and other art forms--can save us in the face of personal crisis?

I do believe writing can save us. I've written myself into a much better state of mind many times. I will say journaling doesn't always do that for me, but writing fiction does. I suppose that's where the healing element of Chokecherry began. I thought it would be so neat to have somewhere to go to reconnect with nature, art, words, animals, and music to help heal one's heart after a tragedy. Such places probably exist, but it seems like such a luxury that I could only imagine it as something magical like Chokecherry.

5. How do you balance your day job with your writing life?

I don't do a very good job of balancing my day jobs with my writing life. I worked ten hours marketing at the dental office yesterday and fourteen hours driving the limo today. I was too tired to write, even when I found little pockets of time. It's weeks like these when I worry I may never get to write full time. I'm a pretty positive person, but the indie market has become so saturated; my experience launching Chokecherry has been completely different from Swallowtail. Both were really well-received, but there are just too many books out there now. I had to laugh when another writer quoted the old Pogo cartoon, "I have been to the mountaintop and seen the enemy. It's us." It's true to a degree. Many of us became fed up with the big six publishing houses taking years to make decisions, so we took matters into our own hands... millions and millions of us. Amazon doesn't take books off the shelves like brick and mortar stores do. All those indie books--the good, the bad and the ugly--are there forever. Readers are drowning in them. I just have to keep writing. I've tried not writing. I never last very long.

I recently had a great visit with author, Beth Hoffman. She's the neatest person. We're both farm girls who'd written stories about healing farms, so we had a lot to talk about. I confided that I wish I had more patience in my writing, but I always feel I rush too much. Her response? "Don't you think that's probably because you're working two jobs while writing novels?" I had to laugh. It was like I'd been struck in the head with a bolt of lightning. I can't believe that never occurred to me. Yet I fantasize all the time about taking a month off of work just to write, so some part of me must know how much better my writing could be if I just had more time. I always say my writing is nowhere in the ballpark of where I want it to be. Then again, it might be at the hotdog stand, but I need it on the pitcher's mound before I leave this world. I'm determined to find more time to write. That's the only way it's ever going to get there.

I've got to say, my readers really keep me going. I am constantly blown away by the fantastic things readers have to say about my books. For the first year, most of my reviews brought me to tears.

Thanks, Sheri!

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