This week, I’m trying out something new. I meet a LOT of new writers. I also meet almost as many authors that have been around the block a few times. I thought it would be fun to interview writers in all stages of their writing career. Because you can learn something from each and every one of them.
I can’t remember exactly where I crossed paths with Shaunta Grimes, but we instantly hit it off. The more we talked, the more we realized we had a number of personal things in common. Including loving someone with autism. And, of course, writing. We spent a whole evening PMing each other, giddy as school girls talking about writing and her plans for the future.
There were so many things that I’ve learned in the short amount of time getting to know her. Like I had no idea how to actually plot out a novel. Or that getting an agent or a book deal isn’t always what you dream it is. I was fascinated with her journey into the publishing world. (You can read about it here.)
And then I was struck with an idea: Why not share her story with others? Amazingly, she agreed! So, here are five questions with author, Shaunta Grimes.
1. What terrifies you most about writing? And what do you do to overcome it?
The thing about writing that’s the scariest actually only came about after I was published. I have this fear that I’m going to be outed as a fraud. Or that I only had these two publishable books in me, and nothing else I ever write will be good enough. I think you have to have a certain amount of audacity just to put your work in front of another set of eyeballs, period, so I generally think my writing isn’t bad. But I have to work hard at keeping self-doubt at bay. It often hits when I’m about halfway through a first draft–the hardest part for me to write–so I know a lot of it is my brain trying to give me an excuse not to write. The only way out is through, in this case, so I just give myself permission to be a bad writer, but not to give up on a story before it’s finished, and I push on.
2. Is there a story in you that you are having a hard time getting out? If so, what do you think is keeping you from writing it?
I have an idea that I’ve been playing around with for a very long time, for a lush, beautiful fairy tale. I haven’t even been able to start it. It lives in my brain and I play around with ideas in between other projects, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to write it yet. I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to do it justice. It’s more literary than I usually write, and more dependent on description and beautiful language. I think I’ll know when I’m ready–when my ability is up to the task.
3. What was the worst piece of advice you ever received as a writer?
A college adviser told me once that no one should call themselves a writer before they’re published. I think that writing is so hard and there is so much work that goes into the front end, that if you don’t start thinking about yourself as a writer long before you hit that threshold, you’re severely limiting your ability to get there. It goes back to the idea that it takes audacity to be a successful writer. There is a huge time gap between when you decide to start writing and when you are capable of publishable work, and another one between when you get to that point and when you’re actually published. We’re talking years of intense, mainly solitary, really hard work. I started calling myself a writer out loud as soon as I sold my very first piece of writing–an article about dog friendly restaurants in Las Vegas in the 1990s. But, I started thinking of myself as a writer when I was still in high school and a teacher wrote a little note on one of my essays telling me that I should think about becoming one. Do not let anyone else determine whether or not you’re a writer.
4. Where would you like to see yourself in a year? 2 years? 5 years?
My big goal right now is to be able to quit my day job and write full time. I hope to be there in a year. In five years I’d like to be writing and publishing two books a year. I have this secret (okay, not anymore!) little goal of earning enough money writing so that my husband can quit his job, too.
5. What are you working on currently?
My current work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling that I’m so excited about. I’m also working on non-traditional publishing options for a book called WASTED. I’ve been through two agents and a failed submission process trying to get this book out into the world the traditional way. It’s a pretty non-traditional story about a fourteen-year-old boy named Noah who was smoking meth for the first time when his best friend had a psychotic break–so I’m pretty excited to look into different ways to get it out into the world. Right now I’m in the middle of a campaign on Kindle Scout. Anyone who nominates it gets a free copy when it publishes, which is pretty exciting. I’m also working hard on developing a year-long course called A Novel Idea that will teach other people to tell their stories. The first part of the course, The Plotting Workshop, is free until March 1. I’d love to have any of your readers enroll!
Shaunta, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story and your knowledge. I look forward to seeing Wasted published soon!
To Check out Shaunta’s campaign on Kindle Scout and add your support:
Kindle Scout: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/18K5F3CGYHYN2
And if you’re struggling to start that novel you always wanted to write, you’ll definitely want to check this out:
The Plotting Workshop: http://www.whatisaplot.com/hey-ninja-writer/