Sunday, October 06, 2019

An Interview with Lynn Shurr

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I was born a left-handed middle child, bookended by two sisters. That should tell you a lot already. In the small Pennsylvania Dutch area town where I grew up, everything worth going to could be reached by bicycle: school, a nearby stable, the Legion ball park, and the one-room library in the Fire Hall where I’d read most of the books by age twelve. My own literary ambitions began in the fifth grade when I wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a puppet show which went on a tour of all the elementary classes in our old-timey red brick schoolhouse and got me out of several afternoons of class. Immediately, I saw the merits of a literary career. 

Why did you start fiction writing and what genre do you like to write?

I have to say I started writing fiction and poetry in grade school with my first big achievement being a puppet show I wrote, produced, and starred in which went on tour of the lower grades. I got out of a lot class time and was immediately hooked on writing. After that I contributed to school literary magazines, took accelerated English classes, majored in English Lit in college--and then got an M.A. in librarianship because I realized even then that few writers make much money. Thirty years later, I retired from being a library director and finally had time to write just for pleasure. E-publishing was just beginning to grow. I chose to write contemporary romance because I had heard it was easiest to break into since demand was high, but I'd read my share of romance before starting, enjoying the likes of Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz among many others .I got my chance to see my work in print and as e-books with several small e-presses, some now long gone, but all of my books are still in print having been picked up by other publishers.

Why this genre? What attracts you to them?

When I was a librarian I had a very elderly patron who checked out stacks and stacks of Avalon romances. I asked her why so many. She answered, "Honey, at my age, all you want is a happy ending." Romance always has a happy ending which we need so badly in today's world. Over the course of the story, a couple must overcome each obstacle that falls in their way in order to get to the HEA (Happily Ever After). While my books are full length novels (25 to date) and far more complex than an Avalon romance, I make sure my characters reach their goal in the end which should leave the reader smiling or crying happy tears.

Generally speaking, what is the driving force behind your characters behind your characters? Have any of your characters changed in a dramatic way from what you imagined at the start of the writing process?

Since I always know my beginning, middle, and end before I start to write, I do know how my characters will change during the story. A character who shows no growth, no change, is just a flat cardboard cutout. I've found without at first realizing it that most of my stories are about second chances, a life do-over that will eventually make them happier. In A Place Apart, a wounded warrior with a bad case of PTSD has become a hermit on a deserted island off the coast of Maine because he feels he cannot be with other people. A young socialite who has trashed her reputation also wants solitude on the island. Not nearly so shallow as she first seems, she takes on Jake and all his problems in order for them to exist together. Sparks fly! In Lady Flora's Rescue, the first of an historical series, a young widow is determined to marry her choice of a spouse the second time around, even if she must follow him into the Ohio Wilderness of the eighteenth century to get the man she desires. My characters often have help from friends and family. Sometimes, I have to be careful that these secondary characters don't take over. They must wait for their own stories.

What do you find the most difficult in finishing a story and approximately how long does it take for you to write a story?

For a contemporary novel, I usually need three or four months to complete one. An historical novel due to all the research involved may take six to nine months to complete, and I will still be looking up period details as I write. My greatest difficulty is saying goodbye to characters I have come love. Even when I've written the last page, they continue to have lives in my imagination. I know how many children they will have and what careers they will pursue, etc. In Blessings and Curses, a spin off from A Taste of Bayou Water, I was able to develop the entire life of a secondary character from first meeting to very married with children. I rarely get a chance to do that. I've been told the romance ends with marriage--but it shouldn't.

Are there other types of writing you do such as non-fiction, or short fiction?

I've written a number of short stories that I call my Twilight Zone tales. Only one is a romance, and only one has ever been published in an anthology that is now out of print. Someday, I'd like to do a collection of them, but just don't have the time at the moment.

Has your writing affected you in any way and what would you recommend to someone wanting to start writing fiction?

Writing for publication takes discipline, dedication, and perseverance. I had to learn the last especially. Rejections easily crushed me, but I kept on until I was good enough to be published. I write every day for about four hours. If I can do 1,000 words a day, great. In three months, I will have a 90,000 novel. Even now, I keep learning how to do better with each book. Anyone starting out will have to apply all three to their lives. You write when you don't feel well or are down or would rather be somewhere else to get the job done. Though I have found creating a story sometimes takes a person away from their problems for a while. I think many would-be authors have no idea how grueling the publishing process is. Writing the book is the easy part. In the end, most will find out they earn very little for their efforts. A writer must write because they love to do it. Otherwise, they will soon quit. But if a person has a story to tell, it needs to come out. Good luck to all who travel this rocky road.

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