Tuesday, October 21, 2014

7 Questions For: Author Shannon Lee Alexander

Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife, mother of two, and furry dog owner. She's also a former middle school language arts teacher, book addict, and late bloomer. She only just figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. Her debut novel, Love and Other Unknown Variables, released this year to critical acclaim.

Shannon is a member of the YA Cannibals, and Indianapolis based critique group/secret society with authors Mike Mullin, Jody Sparks, Julia Karr, Lisa Fipps, Josh Prokopy, Virginia Vought, and Robert Kent (that's me!). Shannon is thanked in the back of all my books and I'm as excited about her debut novel as I was about my own. 

And now Shannon Lee Alexander faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

This is a hateful question. Why do you hate me, Middle-grade Ninja? Why!
I’ll go with 1) To Kill a Mockingbird, 2) the Harry Potter Series, and 3) I hate you for making me choose my favorite child!
Okay, for my third book, I choose Where the Red Fern Grows. It was the first book I remember bawling over, and I mean the clutching the book to my chest, snot running down my face, eyes all hot and squinty kind of crying. I remember thinking, Whoa! It’s words on a page. Why am I such a mess? It was the first time I truly understood the power of story.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I’m a mother of two busy school-aged kiddos, so my time is divided between my family and my writing. Most days I don’t feel like I have enough time for both. To assuage my guilt over simultaneously being a slacker mom and an idle writer, I read. I’d say I do a lot of reading each week. 

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?
My path to publication began years ago in a chemo lab. My friend Emily, the bravest woman I know, made jokes as a nurse in full HAZMAT gear came at her with a bag of toxic chemicals intended to kill the cancer Em had. At that moment, I realized my fears of failing were just about the silliest things ever. That was the moment I decided to be a writer.
It took years after Emily’s death for me to perfect the manuscript for Love and Other Unknown Variables. Years. My writing group, the YA Cannibals, was instrumental in helping me carve out the heart of my story and tell it with as much honesty and bravery as I could muster.
I queried agents and in July of 2013, I spoke on the phone with Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. I knew I’d found the person who was meant to represent my story from our first conversation. She is smart, passionate, compelling, and easy to talk to. I’ve loved every minute of working with Jessica.
Together, we did more revisions and submitted the manuscript to publishers. Within weeks, we heard from Heather Howland at Entangled Publishing. Once again, as soon as I spoke to Heather, I was thrilled to have found another amazing advocate for my story.
I adore being an Entangled author. Liz Pelletier, Stacy Abrams, and the rest of the team are all simply amazing. And the other authors are a wonderful community of support and encouragement for a debut author like me.
The entire journey from the hospital to publication has taken over six years. Most of those were spent trying out my courage and learning my craft. Since entrusting it to Jessica and then Heather, it has taken a year and a half from query to bookshelves. Love and Other Unknown Variables has been a (long) labor of great love and I hope it can inspire hope and courage in readers.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I’ve never considered this before. If a writer is born, I suppose they are born from a love of reading. At least, I think I was. I’ve always loved books and stories, and for me characters in those stories have always leapt off the pages to become a part of my life. I carry them with me everywhere, imagining them in new situations, hearing snippets of conversations, or trying to figure out how they might react in whatever surrounding I happen to be in.
I didn’t take many writing classes, but I’ve spent a lifetime reading anything I could get my hands on and paying attention to what I like and why I like it. And I’ve always sought out honest critiques of my own work. I learn a lot from my mistakes. A. Lot. 

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is writing. My least favorite thing is writing.
It depends on the moment, really. I’ve either got the best job in the world or the worst!
Also, I like having an excuse for my coffee and candy habits.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Find a great critique group. Writing is personal and while we know our stories are flawed, we can’t always figure out exactly how or why. I know without a doubt that the YA Cannibals will tell me EXACTLY how or why something in a story isn’t working.
Also, remember why you write. I hope it’s because you love it—because you can’t not write.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

There are so many writers today that I would love to have lunch with, but I’m going to pick a reclusive one simply because I’m afraid I’ll say something dumb at lunch and if the author is reclusive, there’s less chance of me running into her on the street somewhere.

I’d like to have lunch with Harper Lee. I’d like to hear more stories from her childhood and ask her about what happens to Jem, Scout, and Dill in the years after Tom Robinson’s trial. And I’d want to thank her, for sharing Atticus Finch with us, and for defining courage so beautifully.

“You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.