Hi L D Schuhwerk, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a Middle School Visual Art teacher aspiring to become a best selling author. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art and a Master’s Degree in Art Education. I have always loved writing since I was young and just recently decided to take the plunge into writing novels.
Discuss your newest book.
Breaking Into Light is my debut novel. It is the story of a young girl, Riley, coming to terms with a past filled with violence and trauma. The book is written in several character points of view to offer readers varying perspectives as Riley’s story unfolds. Intriguing!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I have always had an interest in poetry so I began writing at a very young age, submitting poems in contests, literary journals and other capacities. While I had a few successes in this capacity as a writer, being published in several literary journals, I felt I could do more so I put my efforts into writing novels.
What are your current projects?
I love reading book series so that is my newest goal. I have just started on the first novel in a trilogy, The Faint and Hallow Series. This project is geared toward a young adult audience and unlike my first novel will be a fantasy series following several characters. Sorry, I can’t reveal too much right now because I am still writing! Can’t wait.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I think one of the books that pulled me back into reading as a young adult was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Her writing was very poetic and attracted me to the story instantly. Since that book, I have become a voracious reader and often read several books a week (more during school breaks, less during parent teacher conferences!)
What inspired you to write your first book?
It’s funny, I actually started writing a book years ago but never could get past the first few chapters. When I decided to abandon that story and came up with Riley’s character, the story just came out. So Riley, the main character in Breaking Into Light was the true inspiration.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Riley is one of those characters that is revealed in layers. She is resilient in the face of tragedy, kind, lovable, independent and fierce in her love and protection toward those she loves.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message I hope others can gain is that even when we feel that we have reached our lowest point in life, even when we feel overwhelmed with grief, there is hope. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, even when we can’t see that reason through the darkness, and unless we give our life a chance to come full circle, we cannot know what the universe has in store for us.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
This is a tough one! I think Alexis Bledel could be a good choice if her hair was grown out and made darker for the role. She gives off a vibe that makes you want to protect her, a sort of innocence that I think would be important for Riley’s character to portray. More old school Gilmore Girl, I like it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always considered myself a writer of sorts so it wasn’t that I just woke up one day and thought…I’m going to become a writer! It’s always been a part of my makeup.
Why do you write?
Words are powerful and I love being able to put together a beautiful sentence that might resonate with someone.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I wanted to do more than poetry so I developed a character in my mind over the course of a few days, writing on napkins, on my phone and anywhere else I could jot down my ideas then took those notes to start the story.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Right now, I am a part-time writer as I currently teach full time. #TeachersWriteon
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I think perhaps the hardest part for me is developing the outline of a story. I have no problem developing characters, but finding those stories within each character is challenging.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Editing! I have a hard time letting go of some parts of the story when I’m editing.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Developing characters. I love creating their personalities and traits.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine. It was an interesting take on the Snow White fable and was pretty enjoyable. I haven’t determined my next book yet. I tend to download several samples, read them all and then decide which one to read next.
What is one random thing about you?
I have pretty bad stage fright. I do not like being the center of attention so whenever I am required to speak to an audience, I am super nervous, sweaty palms and all!
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer?
Mostly, I write on my laptop but if inspiration strikes and I am not near my computer, I will write on my phone, a napkin, anything that I can grab quickly and get my idea out.
What does your writing process look like?
I usually start with creating a main character that I can center a story around and then let the story unfold. I really love going on the journey with the character and at times am even surprised by where the story takes me.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I don’t know how strange it is but sometimes I will wake up from a dead sleep with an idea and will have to grab my phone to put the idea into my notes.
How important are names to you in your books?
I spend a ridiculous amount of time coming up with names for my characters. I will waste hours on the process…it’s a bit of an obsession.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Again, I think the most challenging aspect is editing. I become very attached to the story and don’t always like letting parts go even when it helps the story.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
Being a newly published author, I’m still navigating the marketing aspects of getting my book out there. So for now, I will just have to keep you posted!
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” ~ Jack Kerouac On The Road
What is your favorite book and why?
Again, I would have to say The Red Tent because it got me back into reading.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you have an idea, don’t make excuses or worry about editing until you get the story out. Write, write, write and then worry about the rest later.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
If I’m not teaching or writing, I love reading, spending time with family and friends and creating artwork, photography, painting, printmaking, really any type of art.
From where do you gain your inspiration?
Other writers, poets and novelists have always inspired me.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
I would say the main advantage is having control over the entire process from editing to publication. The disadvantage I have found is getting word out about your book. It takes time and commitment to market a book and for those of us who have full time jobs, it can often be overwhelming.
How do you market your books?
Currently, I use Facebook to spread the word and choose to use Amazon’s book promotion tools occasionally.
Why did you choose this route?
It’s both easy to navigate and is not too pricey.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I do not currently use a PR Agency nor do I plan to in the near future.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Do what feels right to you and your book. There is no clear answer here.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Honestly, I spend more time than I would like to. In a perfect world, I would be using that time to write but it is a necessary evil. So I would say I spend a few hours a week, more when I have time off of teaching.
What do you do to get book reviews?
I ask on Facebook as well as during free book promotions.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
It could be better!
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
No I am still a newbie and welcome suggestions!
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I take reviews seriously. If readers feel something is lacking in my book, I will spend time reflecting on and improving the book. Breaking Into Light is in its second edition due to this process.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
I think social media marketing can have a huge impact on gaining an audience. Let’s face it, we are all obsessed with our smartphones, so why not tap into that obsession?
Which social network worked best for you?
I think Facebook has given me a wider audience though I must admit I am terrible with Twitter so I haven’t tested them against each other that thoroughly.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
I read a few articles about marketing on social media and the thing that kept coming up was to add content that has nothing to do with your book. There are only so many times people want to see “Read My Book” once they have started following your page.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
I have not used these promotions, just Facebook and Amazon so far.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Elizabeth Bishop…I lover her work and think she would be an inspiration to have a conversation with.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
This is another tough one but I would say Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The story has so many passages with deep meaning and the characters are so intriguing.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with the idea of writing a novel. If you have a story or character in mind, just write and keep writing. If you get stuck, stop for a while and read. Reading inspires and can get you out of a slump!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Readers can follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/LDSchuhwerkAuthor/ and can visit my website at http://ldschuhwerk.weebly.com/