Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Introducing Shellie M. Saunders

Please welcome Shellie M. Saunders, author of the newly released self-published novel, Broken Vessels. I had the privilege and joy of editing the book, and I was moved by this heart-warming novel of loss, redemption, and family strength. I’m glad you’re here, Shellie, and congratulations.

Shellie has 15 years’ experience in writing and publishing  everything from children’s stories to marketing materials. She has degrees in Print Journalism and Written Communications. She lives in Detroit with her husband and daughter.

Here is the blurb for Broken Vessels:
By all outward appearances, 27-year-old Trinity Porter has everything figured out. In reality, she has spent years hiding behind a fa├žade, and now it's starting to crumble. With her world turned upside down, she questions her faith and must make a decision. Will Trinity get out of God’s way or continue to do things her way?

Tell us about writing Broken Vessels. How did you get started?
Thanks, Nikki! Although much of my writing has been nonfiction, I’ve wanted a career as a novelist since college. I started Broken Vessels years ago after getting the idea for a scene that later became part of Chapter 2. I sat down and wrote it. Then I had no idea what to do with it, so I put it away and went on with life. Over the course of about a year, I wrote down plot ideas. When I was ready, I began working on character development, revisited that first scene and looked at it against my notebook to determine if anything could be integrated into the story. From there I started to write and let the characters tell me where they wanted to go.

Did you do a lot of research or did it come out of life experience?
It’s funny you ask, because the answer is both. I have a vivid imagination and a background in technical writing, which complements my analytical nature. Much of what I wrote--like the setting--started with life experience. Broken Vessels is set in Detroit, and I’m from metro Detroit. I integrated jewels and staples of the area to promote familiarity and nostalgia to those who know Detroit and to reveal a refreshing side of the city to those who know it only from the media. Once I got started writing, the technical writer in me came out and I got into the research. I had to blend historical factors, explore Biblical messages and create believable scenes. I enjoy merging imagination with research because it helps create realistic scenes. I want readers to say, “I’ve been there” about a place they’ve never been.

You certainly succeeded in that. I had a very clear picture of your settings. What was the hardest part of writing or publishing the novel?
Finishing. Even when I completed the manuscript, it wasn’t done because I am a perfectionist. The manuscript went through two rounds of editing, where you helped me to tighten up the flow. Then it went through several rounds of proofreading because I wanted to ensure that any spelling errors and inconsistencies were fixed. It was worth the extra attention to detail, because I now have a better product.

It’s a truism that no writer can edit her own work, but it’s always a thrill to see it shine after the red pencil does its job. Are you a pantser or a plotter? A little of both?
Without a doubt, I was born a pantser. In school I used to write a paper first then do the outline, so it is no surprise that style carried over to writing a book. With Broken Vessels, I had no idea how the book would end. As the story evolved, I was inspired to write about finding faith despite tribulation. I let the characters to take me on a journey without realizing that I would actually grow with them—especially Trinity, whom I admire for her strength, sense of humor and deep-seated desire to follow her moral compass. In the future, I will probably do things more traditionally and use an outline, but there won’t be a great departure from allowing my imagination to drive the writing process.

Umm, a word of experience. My characters look at my outline, laugh hysterically, and do whatever they want. It’s like herding butterflies. I know you work full time in business writing. Do you have a routine for your fiction writing? What distracts you? How do you deal with dry spells? (I don’t like to call them blocks.)
Because of my work schedule and the fact that my husband and I are raising a toddler, I end up writing on nights and weekends. Whenever I do get a little down time, I’m writing. My husband jokes that my laptop is an appendage. Ironically, what tends to distract me is my laptop because I end up floating over to Facebook or e-mail. I’ve figured out one solution, though. Starting a Facebook Fanpage (Shellie M. Saunders) has let me write and be on Facebook at the same time. How’s that for a little ingenuity?

When I get a dry spell, I find that it’s best to step away and regroup. That may mean working out, taking a walk, listening to music or calling an old friend. And you never know if something you see or someone you talk to will spark your creativity. When I have to take a writing break, I try to keep a pocket-sized notebook nearby so I can jot down any inspiration.

I have notebooks everywhere, but my tidy husband keeps putting them “away.” Do you remember the first book you ever read?  The first story you wrote?
The first book I remember was A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, but the first story I remember reading was Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. by Judy Blume. I think I was nine when I read it, and though I was several years younger than Margaret (the protagonist) I connected with her. The first story I remember writing was called “He Can’t Hurt Me Anymore.” It was a ninth grade English project about a girl dealing with the death of her abusive father. The story was a distinct deviation from my own upbringing, but it let me test my ability to create a character whose experiences and family were very different from my own.

What about the book are you most pleased with/proud of?
The aspect that pleases me most about Broken Vessels is that it addresses topics that are usually off limits for stories with a Bible-based message. Broken Vessels reflects real people, using realistic language and scenarios, so I think it offers something that everyone can relate to.

What are you working on now? Is it related to Broken Vessels?
I have two projects that I will soon be putting to paper. One is a sequel to Broken Vessels and the other puts a modern day spin on a scandalous Bible story.

Thanks for being here, Shellie. It's been a lot of fun, and I wish you all the best with Broken Vessels.

Where can we find you? 
Twitter: @ShellieWrites
blog: http://writerisma.blogspot.com/