Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Sherlynn A. Muckelroy, and my age is…well…old enough to know better, but young enough not to care. In other words, 63.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I hail from the far away land of El Paso in the very western point of Texas where a giant star shines bright on our Franklin Mountains, illuminated for all to see and recognize its beauty. Currently, though, I live in Las Cruces, NM.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born 63 years ago to a family of two loving parents and two older brothers who, when I got older, wouldn’t allow me to play touch football with them in fear of my getting hurt. The tomboy in me threated to “tell on them”, but they didn’t care. In a huff, I stomped off to play horses in the vacant lot at the end of our block. I loved animals, and that was a good thing, because my elementary school was Crockett Elementary, home of the Longhorns, and the mascot for Stephen F. Austin High School was a Panther. My days of attending schools related to cows and cats came to an end when attending The University of Texas at El Paso whose mascot was a Miner. During my stay (it was more like a funfest instead of a college) at U.T.E.P., I pledged Zeta Tau Alpha sorority as a legacy of my mother who belonged to ZTA back when U.T.E.P. was known as College of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Texas (whew! That’s just too long!). Getting my MRS. Degree (in other words, getting married), I started a new phase of my life with my husband. During that time, my two wonderful sons were born. Fifteen years of marriage ended, and phase two of my life began – the single life. That lasted five years until phase three came along where I met my current husband. He and I have shared wedded bliss for 23 years, going strong on 24. He and I own a trailer that we tow around with us when we want to escape reality and get lost in the forest (actually it’s an RV park with people all around us located outside the city of Show Low, AZ, which is about ten minutes away). Okay, so we don’t get too lost. My current life includes membership at the local golf club (no, I don’t play golf; I play pickleball), belonging to a writer’s group of extremely talented writers in Las Cruces, NM, and joining a book club to share reviews of other authors’ creations with my friends. Writing every day just adds to the joy in my life.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest news is VERY exciting. Now that my Romance/Science Fiction five-book series entitled, “A Quest of the Ages”, is sitting on my bookshelf in its entirety, and graces the Amazon.com website for readers to purchase, I have taken up the pen once more. My husband spends his days as a frustrated golfer, while I sit at my computer, writing and drooling over the newest addition to my book collection that, in a few months, will grace my bookshelf along with the others. This most recent endeavor has nothing to do with my five-book series. It is a stand-alone, strictly Romance novel I am calling, “One More Tear” – at least that’s the name today. You know how it goes, “here today, gone tomorrow”. Titles can change just as easily as turning a page in a manuscript. I like it, though. It fits my ending (yes, I already have one in mind).
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Back in 2011, I didn’t really intend to write a book. The goal was to play an interactive writing game with my grandboys, but the attempt failed. Not to worry. I played all by myself, and putting a few sentences together in a paragraph led to a page that led to a chapter that led to the words, The End, 196 pages later that led to four more books in a series of five.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After completing the first book, “Prelude to a Quest”, I wasn’t sure if the term “writer” was appropriate for me. Perhaps a better description would be to think of myself as a storyteller who happened to write the story down. However, when the series was complete, the “writer” status seemed a fitting term.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It’s not “what”, but “who”. In my desire to spend quality time with my grandboys who had moved 1500 miles away, I sent an interactive story by email to keep us engaged, but they lost interest. Liking the storyline, I decided to work with it a while to see if something would come of it. By that time, the characters took over my inspiration process. I had to see what happened to them, so the writing continued. When this story came to an end, there were four more to follow, creating an entire series.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I went through at least four titles before deciding on “Prelude to a Quest”. It was crazy how often it changed. Finally, it was logic that made the difference. This book created the backstory for the rest of the series, therefore it acted as a prequel. As a result, in toying with the words, prequel or prelude, I chose prelude. Since this series told the story of an alien being’s quest, it made sense to call it, “Prelude to a Quest”.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My writing style is a bit more formal in that I try to follow grammar rules to the penny as much as possible, except during a character’s dialog. Dialog must revert to how a person actually speaks, and I don’t know too many of us, for example, who make sure sentences don’t end with a preposition. Another piece specific to my style, is that my series is written in the first person. A fun part of my style is how I develop some of my alien characters and landscapes. For instance, on a trip with my husband, I noticed how desolate a part of the desert looked where we were traveling and thought it might make a terrific, barren setting for Planet Zarcon’s surface (used in the first book, “Prelude to a Quest”). I looked at an aspen tree and saw “eyes” all over the bark (used in the second book, “Major Discoveries”). I came across a gnarly log lying by the side of the road and envisioned it as a creature coming alive (used in the third book, “The Separation”). There are so many more examples, but I don’t want to give them all away. Sometimes I already had a particular picture on my camera that I wanted to use, so I created a storyline to fit it. Most of the pictures depicted on my website (I have a collection of them associated with each of the five books) are my own.
As far as challenges go, there are basically three of them. The first, is writing from the perspective of a man when I am a woman author. Men think very differently than their counterparts, and sometimes I have to think, “How would my husband react or respond in this situation?” If I can’t figure it out, my thinking goes to what would make me (as a woman) want to spit nails at that point in the book, then I reverse it to get the male’s angle. The second, is making an effort not to use the same word multiple times throughout the story. Thank goodness for my Thesaurus! The third is really hard for me. My books are romance novels, meaning there are passionate scenes between characters throughout the series. For me, it is difficult to change up the descriptions of each ardent display so it does not become predictable, boring or repetitive (I should have been more experimental in my sex life!). This time, thank goodness for the Google-master.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Oh, my gracious! Countless! I reference events that really happened to my brothers, I speak to what my father told his three children, I describe a weather event that actually occurred (the weather, not the result mentioned in the book). Just like with my pictures, if remembering something really unusual or funny, I will create a situation that incorporates it. It is easier for the reader to make a connection with the writer’s words if they can envision themselves as one of those characters by having had a similar encounter with whatever or whoever. Experience = Reality. There you have it.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I did not have to travel to craft my work. I crafted my work because of my travels. Throughout the entire series, if coming across something I thought might work somewhere in the story, I took a picture of it and “crafted” the story around it.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed all of them – front and back. There were many losers before the final image for each book struck me as being, “it”. The process was never frustrating, but fascinating!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I have several. One: in “Prelude to a Quest”, not everything is as it seems. In the words of my grandfather, “Don’t believe everything you see and only half of what you hear!” Two: don’t assume you know everything about a situation. Discovering the truth may surprise you. Three: your life is not necessarily of your own making. You may think you create your own path, but outside forces can mold and alter what you believe to be factual. Four: be careful where you step when scoping out unfamiliar territory!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
New authors? Not really. I love the books layered on my bookshelves by the same authors who have kept my interest over the years. Modern day authors like Daniel Steele and Nora Roberts have written so many books, I have yet to read them all. My most favorite author, however, is Sandra Brown. Her stories take me on a journey involving multiple twists and turns. The characters are intriguing and captivating. The sex scenes are masterful in how she has her characters act them out, and for the most part, the language is tastefully managed. There is nothing I don’t like about Sandra Brown’s work.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have to say it is the woman I considered my mentor when I started this endeavor years ago. Janice Brooks, an acclaimed author of three published books, took time out of her busy day to sit down with me and talk about the publishing process. I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or where to start. Since she had experience with both self and traditional styles of publishing, her knowledge spilled onto my brain where it soaked it up like a sponge. She is the one person who got my feet off the ground and helped me soar toward the possibilities facing me. Because of Janice’s recommendation, I chose the self-publishing route, using Createspace.com as the website to make it all happen. I am indebted to Janice for her kindness and wisdom.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m thinking the word, “career” does not quite fit. Maybe I see writing as, “a never-ending passion of taking the images currently playing out in my head, and transferring them to paper”. Yes, that’s much better.
When I completed my five-book series, I thought my writing days were over. I mean, really; after five years of dedicating my days and nights to writing and editing umpteen zillion words, l finally took hold of my hand and yelled, “Enough is enough!” I was exhausted and my eyes would never be the same again (no, really). I was done! Not even close. It took all of three months to have another idea for a book come crashing head-first into what was left of my brain. Jotting down a scenario, I was hooked once again. I am currently in the process of writing my first, stand-alone Romance (no science fiction elements this time). If all goes according to plan (someone’s plan, but certainly not mine – mine change constantly), 2018 will be the target year for publication.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In retrospect, when compiling material for “Prelude to a Quest”, I should have taken more time developing my characters on an in-depth level. The storyline needed fewer clichés (I was warned about that trap and fell in anyway). In certain parts, pacing was a bit on the slow side. The science fiction elements of the story took a backseat to the romantic side as was intended, however, I could have done more to enhance the imaginative concepts projected in the book. Writing this book was a lesson in what to and not to do. Did I learn? Yes, but a little too late with this one. Do I sound like my own critic? Absolutely! Do I think readers will be put off when reading the answer to this question? I hope not. I’m being totally honest, and honesty is always the best policy.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned just how much fun writing is. My life is much better, knowing I created something out of nothing, not to mention my vocabulary has improved. I learned how much information is on the web when doing research for my story on the computer. I had no idea!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I have four lead roles. Ryan Gosling would play Lander Kahn, Chris Pratt as Dray Demong, Jennifer Lawrence as Dr. Cally O’Brien, and Amy Adams as Avria Rausch.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
If you aren’t a member of a writing group, find one and join it. These people may not all be published writers, but they are readers of books. Their opinions are just as valuable as any editor. From their experiences in reading (doesn’t matter what genre) they know what does and does not work when hearing you read something you are in the process of writing or have recently completed and are in the editing phase. You know the message you are trying to convey to a reader, and a writing group can give you a thumb’s up or down as to how successful you are in achieving it.
Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is part of success. It’s how you learn to make your story better and more attractive to readers. If you don’t get a good review when someone reads your manuscript, ask what it was they didn’t like. If their comment makes sense to you, make some changes. Don’t get all sensitive and pout.
If in doubt about proper grammar, or structuring your plot, or formatting your manuscript for submission, research the internet. Websites like WritersDigest.com or TheWritePractice.com can help. I used Createspace.com, who has a user-friendly method to format a manuscript into book form (with workable templates), and being a subsidiary of Amazon, they place your paperback (or whatever format you choose) on Amazon.com for you.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers
Writing this entire Romance series with a Science Fiction twist was a labor of love. My hope is that I provided enough material for the reader to want to engage with the who, what, where, why and how aspects of, “Prelude to a Quest”, and the curiosity to discover the answers to those questions by completing the series.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The book club I belong to is currently reading the classic romance novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D. H. Lawrence.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book that hooked me on romance novels was, “Garden of Lies” by Eileen Goudge.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Life itself. My mother used to tell me, “Sherlynn, you have to find your own happiness.” How true. Happiness to me equals the ability to laugh at a corny joke and not merely shake your head at it. Happiness is not taking yourself too seriously, so that you can laugh at yourself. Laughter comes in all shapes and sizes like my two-year old grandson who is learning to form words, or having a drink with girlfriends and talking about the ornery things our husbands do to irk us. On the flip-side, I cry when seeing animals die in movies (not people so much, just animals), or again, having a drink with girlfriends and talking about the ornery things our husbands do to irk us – goes both ways.
One more thing I laugh and cry over is the material I write about in my books. I try so hard to interject the kind of emotion that will affect the reader, be it high or low. If I don’t bust a gut or burst into tears over a scene, how can I expect my reader to?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to meet Gene Roddenberry. My fascination with his Star Trek series has stayed with me for decades. It is through his imagination that I found mine. I’d love to swap stories and insights for writing about space and the people who live there.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I do. I play the team sport, pickleball (not well, but the other players allow me to fill a spot on the court with them anyway). I am a member of a book club where we read heavy Romance novels as well as the tip-over-the-edge-and-fall genre of Erotica now and then – I never knew Anne Rice dabbled in that genre, yikes! I recently joined a writing group where knowledge flows like a river. I have created and tend eleven pages on Pinterest (several related to space, but none on romance. Hmmm, I think page #12 is in order). But my most favorite hobby is writing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch the news every morning and again in the evening – gotta have my current events fix to keep me posted on what goes on in the world around me. In the evenings, I watch comedies like, “Modern Family”, “Black-ish”, “Big Bang Theory”. Dramas like, “Salvation”, “Outlander”, “This Is Us”. Reality shows like, “The Bachelor and Bachelorette”, “Dancing With the Stars”. Shows based on history and science intrigue me, like, the series, “Genius” about Albert Einstein, or the series, “The Universe” (one of my favorites), or “Cosmos”. I love movie comedies, and those that make me proud to be a woman, like “Hidden Figures”. I don’t like watching sad movies that make me cry – I want to come out of the theater feeling better than when I went in, not worse.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Italian food is my all-time favorite. I could eat spaghetti and meat sauce every day for dinner followed by chocolate cake with chocolate frostingfor dessert and never tire of it. Put any vegetable on my plate, stand back and watch me go! Veggies are the BEST! Soup…any kind is terrific and any time of year.
Yellow is one of my favorite colors because it’s the shade of happiness and the life-giving sun, which makes me happy to be alive. It’s also fun to mix and match other colors with it like the yellow/gray on my bedspread, or yellow/blue of the Cub Scout uniforms my sons wore as children. Nice.
Country music is my go-to genre for listening in the car or having a drink with girlfriends and talking about the ornery things our husbands do to irk us – how does that keep coming up?! It’s fun to toe-tap to modern rock bands like, “Imagine Dragons” and “Nickelback”, too.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Play pickleball, read romance novels, and here it comes… have drinks with girlfriends and talk about the ornery things our husbands do to irk us!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
What I want and what I’ll get are two very different things. I’d like my headstone to read: “Here lies a woman who knew how to laugh at herself and with others. May she rest in peace, because once she gets to Heaven, all Hell will break loose!”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I do. It is: https://www.sherlynnmuckelroy.com/ . I invite your readers to visit my site and, if so inclined to do so, provide some feedback on what they experienced while making the journey through the pages. Thank you, so much, Fiona. This was so much fun!