Over the years I have had many questions about many different things, from, How did you come up with that, to how do you get published? I thought is would be fun to do a HUGE Q&A! 50 questions, and 50 (maybe) answers. This Exclusive! is ALL 50 QUESTIONS!
1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Well, when I first started writing Pandemic Dawn Book I, I drove all over Michigan. I drove through old closed Air Force Bases (until I was asked to leave), a lot of desolate back roads, inner cities, especially the lower income areas, like where I grew up. I was always looking for inspiration.
2. What is the first book that made you cry?
Men never cry, however, if I were to do so it would probably have been when I read Pandemic Dawn Book I, when Dorothy found herself inside Makayla's mind reliving a traumatic experience. As a matter of fact, I probably would have cried while writing it.
3. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I would have to say it would be how the industry itself can make any book a number one, even when it isn't worth the paper it's written on while great self-published novels go unnoticed sometimes until the writers give up the practice. I have seen great books that were self-published, and some terrible ones that were published by big companies, and even hit #1 charts and they were trash. Here is a list of the worst best-sellers on goodreads. I may not agree with all of them, but some, for sure.
4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I think it depends on what I am writing. Adventure and action bits are great, but when I get to the emotional and dialog parts, it can sometimes be draining. You have to think for multiple people in a conversation, taking into consideration everything they have seen, heard and know, it can be interesting.
5. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
To lose focus of their story they are trying to tell. When you are first stating out, you want everyone to love your work, and you try so hard to make everything perfect, you can sometimes lost sight of the story. I always think it's better to work through the story before you try to polish it. Don't get side tracked and lose the great story you started with.
6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Personally, I don't think a big ego helps anyone.
7. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time, or perhaps distractions. It's sometimes difficult to get a nice big chunk of time to write with no distractions. Since I am OCD, I get distracted very easily.
8. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
To be honest, I have never heard of readers block. I will assume it means you don't read books for a while, or cannot get into them? Yes, sometimes I will go quite a while without reading, although I did just finish Fahrenheit 451 for the 20th time a couple of weeks ago.
9. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I decided when I first started writing Science Fiction that I wanted to use my real name. I am proud of my novels, and can not think of a legitimate reason to use a fake name for writing.
10. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I focus on the story, and originality for me is key. I hope the readers will get what they want, but I think it is much better to stay true to the story and be as original as possible. Avid readers have already seen and read it all, so if you can come up with something they couldn't see coming, then they will be entertained and enjoy the book.
11. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Don't feel, or don't express? I personally know people who keep their emotions to themselves, and are some of the most passionate people ever, once you get to know them. I think we all feel emotions, the question would be whether or not you are in touch with them. I guess if you weren't you could write technical manuals or something? I wouldn't suggest anything with dialog or relationships though.
12. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Mick McArt is a friend. He has helped me more than he probably knows. He has been an inspiration with his creativity, as well as his drive and ingenuity. He always seems to be on the right track to somewhere, and I like that.
13. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Pandemic Dawn is a series, and I don't think you could read them alone. It's just too big of a story to pick up any single book ignoring the others. However, my next novel is a stand alone. I do have plans for a couple or prequel books, and a spin off of Pandemic Dawn. These will be stand alone books though they take place in the same realm.
14. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write more, and sooner, and do not get discouraged, regardless of what others may think.
15. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I learned the art of re-writing. Not just sentences, but paragraphs, pages, and in some cases entire chapters. When I first started writing Losing Dani Strumm, I finished the first three chapters, and it was good, but the story was not the story I wanted to tell. I deleted the three chapters and started from scratch. I'm glad I did.
16. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hiring local photographers and models for books covers.
17. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
None that I can think of. I either like an author, or not.
18. What did you do with your first advance?
I have yet to receive an "advance" for anything. I am still self-published.
19. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was young and my grandfather would tell me stories. I knew then, I wanted to tell people stories.
20. What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
I don't really read magazines. If I find time to read it's usually invested into a novel.
21. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I believe it is Pandemic Dawn Book IV: Before the Sun Sets, for a lot of reasons, but there's always hope people will give it a try.
22. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I write how I would want to read. In some stories I allow the readers to discover and understand things through characters who are new to the story like they are.
23. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The Wolverine, I believe there is no need to explain this one.
24. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Live has given me plenty of material, and those characters are still their own, though they may be based on others. The more you write them, the more they evolve into something completely different than their base.
25. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have never counted, but at least a dozen.
26. What does literary success look like to you?
Books that people love.
27. What’s the best way to market your books?
I think it depends on what you want out of your books and the experience. I know authors who sell more books than I do, but they travel all over and do shows and signings, I'd rather be home with my family.
28. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I usually write what I know, so research takes place for a few weeks before hand, then during the writing process, here and there.
29. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Not really, but I do find it peaceful and relaxing, even when writing action sequences.
30. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I consult my wife in those matters, I don't pretend to understand how women think. I usually pose a situation to her, explain the character's personality and back ground, and takes what she says to heart.
31. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Define part-time/full-time. When I'm writing a novel I write full time, but I still have other jobs, so it's technically part time work.
32. How many hours a day do you write?
At least 1, at most 3-4
33. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Teenager, and some young adult.
34. What did you edit out of this book?”
Just the errors and nonsensical things...nothing important.
35. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. I came to realize science fiction can meld with fantasy almost seamlessly when written properly.
36. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
I would assume accuracy. I have never written about historical figures.
37. How do you select the names of your characters?
Sometimes I actually write about them first. I write their backgrounds and descriptions and once in a while their names just come to me. Other times it is more difficult. With over 100 characters in the Pandemic Dawn Series, I must admit I have used a random name generator a couple of times when I was desperately blank.
38. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I do many things. I am a collector, antique dealer, full time pastor for nearly 18 years, and I have hobbies in engineering and robotics, so there is plenty I could do.
39. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read them, and to be honest, I have only had 1 bad review, and one that was not my favorite, but very descriptive and accurate from his point of view. The bad review I just scoffed at, not because I have only received 1, but because the reader was angry because I did not get two characters involved in a relationship like she wanted, and she was quite mean about it. Reminded me of Stephen King's misery.
40. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
All the time. In fact, I am constantly writing things in all of my novels, some of which are for me alone, but it would be exciting if others were discovered.
41. What was your hardest scene to write?
.I have had a few actually. The most difficult scenes to write for me is dialog between two character in a heated conversation. In real life, arguments are usually filled with vague truth, and verbalized years of resentment, or just plain hateful speech back and forth. Though some of this in a book adds realism, it is also dull to read, and adds nothing to the story. It's tough finding the middle of the road with realism but still move the story forward.
42. Do you Google yourself?
No. But now that you ask, I'm going to. Yep, Author B. A. Shields, it's me.
43. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Nothing. I love my life and wouldn't change a thing. I would love to become a better writer, but not at the expense of anything in my life.
44. What are your favorite literary journals?
I used to subscribe to The New Yorker, but science fiction is more my speed. I do have a collection of L. Ron Hubbard and Alfred Hitchcock journals though. I know that in the last 20 years many new journals have been released, and some look interesting and cutting edge, but as stated before, if I have free time I'd rather write, or read another novel.
45. What is your favorite childhood book?
46. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Writing when the time is right. It's easy for me to wait until inspiration strikes to write, however, it may not be a good time to write. Once my family and I were on vacation and I was inspired to write, but I didn't want to separate from the activates, so I took ten minutes and jotted down a bunch of notes to use later when I did have time to write. It worked out perfectly.
47. Does your family support your career as a writer?
Yes. Thankfully I have been blessed with a wife that understands my eclectic ways and supports all of my ideas and adventures. Whether I decide to start a new business, write another novel, or design and build a contraption "just for fun". As far as I know, most of my family loves my books.
48. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
This would take too long to answer. We have a life handed to us, and we make the best of it. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I don't dwell in the past, it only causes one to become depressed and weighted down with "what ifs,' and I don't worry about the future, because that's where the anxiety and stress are hiding. Forget "what if," and live today the best you can, for none of us are promised tomorrow.
49. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Some are written faster than others, depending on the complication of the storylines. Pandemic Dawn Book I was over 70,000 words and only took a matter of a few weeks. I wrote daily each morning, between 5-6,000 words, then re-writes, editing, but because there were only 5 storylines and the series was just beginning it went quicker. The more novels you write in a series, the more complicated because you have to ensure the storylines are correct, and with over 100 characters, it takes much longer to write now. With Losing Dani Strumm, I have worked on and off with this novel for nearly two years now.
50. Do you believe in writer’s block?
No. Never have. Writers are artists just like any other. You have to write when inspired, that's when you create. You cannot force art. Any artist will tell you that. Writer's block is simply the artist trying to create before it's time.