Today, I present an interview with BJ Sheldon, author of the Dusty Chronicles series and the Gibborim series.
1. First, tell me a bit about yourself. What would you like readers to know about you?
I fell in love with writing and reading when I was 4-years-old and continued that love through my early twenties. But my current career as a writer began in early 2009 after losing my job. I found myself unemployed with lots of extra time and not a lot of money, so I decided to start working on a story that had been brewing in the back of my mind for a while. That story eventually won a silver medal in the Readers Favorite Awards in 2011, and the rest was history. Since then, I’ve written 4 more books and 4 short stories for various anthologies. I’m a wife, a mother of 3, a grandmother, and have 5 cats and a dog and live near the Black Hills of South Dakota.
2. Can you tell me about your current project?
My current project is the 2nd book in The Gibborim Series, a planned trilogy about fallen angels, a suicidal immortal, and the ultimate battle. Book one, Hear the Crickets, is already out and book two will have a release date that I can announce (hopefully) in the next few weeks. The main character, Skyy, is a freak with wings who doesn’t understand her purpose in this world as she lives in hiding. People from her past are keeping secrets from her, but she has her own secrets as well. It all started with seeing a show on television about the Book of Enoch, and the rest is history.
3. What drew you to writing in the supernatural thriller genre?
I am obsessed with ghost stories and ancient stories of angels and demons. But what I really enjoy is taking something, twisting it around a bit, and creating something different than anyone has read before. My first series explores a different myth behind where ghosts come from and my current series takes a different look at the apocalypse. As my writing matures, it seems to be getting darker. I’m learning to be braver in my writing, stretching myself in a way I couldn’t in the beginning.
4. Where do you find inspiration for the stories you create?
I find inspiration just about everywhere I look. On television, in movies, and in books I read. But I also pay attention to everything. People walking down the street, photos on Pinterest, and conversations I overhear while sipping coffee in a restaurant. I tend to ask myself “What if?” a lot, and those internal questions usually lead to some interesting story ideas.
5. Your first series, “The Dusty Chronicles”, is based in your hometown of Hull, Iowa, right? What was fun or interesting about using such a familiar location?
It is! Although I haven’t lived in Iowa for many years, I was still familiar enough with the area and the people that it made it almost feeling like I was home again. I used the farm I grew up on as the setting for the ghost story allowing me to use my memory and own personal experiences while writing the trilogy. Now, I’m not saying my old farmhouse was haunted, but let’s just say some odd things happened there from time to time.
6. How do you feel you’ve evolved as a writer as you’ve progressed in your career?
There is a certain maturity in my writing that I’ve developed since I first began. I’m not afraid to delve into darker areas or touch on areas that I once thought were out of my range. In the beginning, I was afraid of offending or deterring people by using periodic language or broaching dark subjects such as demons. But as time has passed, I’ve learned there is a genre for everyone. So, instead of trying to make everyone happy, I write for me. And as I write for me, I find that there are plenty of people who love what I write.
7. Do you have a process for developing your characters?
I have a standard form I start with where I put down the basics. Appearance, what they wear, hair color, etc. Then I go to Pinterest and begin to look for photos of people that resemble that character. As I develop the plot and storyline, I begin to massage the various elements of a person’s personality…in other words, what makes them tick. From there, I try to allow that character to develop organically as the story gets written. If that doesn’t work…thank goodness for re-writes.
8. How did you discover your love of writing?
My love of writing came from my love of reading. As a kid, I read more than anyone else my age. At the age of 7, my mother began dropping me off at the public library in town so she could do her grocery shopping in peace. (It was definitely a different time.) The librarian encouraged me start reading young adult books by the time I was nine-years-old which led me to later discover the classics. Even at that age, I loved the idea of being an author and always told myself I’d be one someday. It wasn’t until years later that I finally did it, and I’m so happy that I did.
9. What is your favorite part of being a writer?
My favorite is when I am invited to do school talks and convince non-readers to become readers. There is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a kid who hates to read discover their genre and inhale everything they can get their hands on.
10. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
My greatest challenge is silencing that inner voice that says my writing isn’t as good as it could be. All authors have self-doubt, and in the end the only person I have to be better than is the person I was the day before.
11. How do you find inspiration and motivation to write when you feel stuck?
That can be difficult, but what I’ve found that works is stepping back for a few days and reading some of my favorite books. I also have a select group of authors I trust that I can bounce ideas off of to help me re-organize my thought process. If all else fails, I will go back and re-read what I’ve written to find out where I might have gone off the rails with the story and start over from there.
12. What’s your favorite way to take a break from writing?
My favorite is reading and hanging out with my family. I work a full-time day job and am a board member of a non-profit writers group in South Dakota, so much of my spare time is spent writing. So, whenever I get an opportunity to spend time with my husband and kids is time well spent.
13. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring or new authors?
Do your research before you decide how you want to publish. If you’re going to self-publish, your book should always be professionally edited, have a professional looking cover, and be professionally formatted. Readers can be very cruel to new authors who don’t do these basic things and it will come out in the reviews. The other piece of advice I can give is to decide for yourself whether self-publishing is right for you or now. There are people who will tell you that you should never self-publish if you want to be taken seriously, and there are others who will say you should only self-publish if you want to earn money off your writing. It’s your writing and only you can decide what’s best for you.
To learn more about BJ and her work, you can check out these links:
Stay tuned for more author interviews soon.