Today, I’m happy to have author Shelia Watson as a guest to answer 10 Questions about her writing. Among other topics, Shelia enjoys writing about WWII, in particular focusing on the German Resistance. She writes from her home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Linda Covella: Welcome, Shelia! Let’s dive right in…When and why did you decide to become a writer?
Shelia Watson: When I was 10 years old I read Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. That’s a pretty young age for that book – and I’m pretty sure my parents had no idea I was reading it – but I was hooked. I decided then that my goal was to be a best-selling novelist. Not just a writer, a best-selling novelist, and I told everyone that’s what I was going to be.
LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
SW: I try to write every day, though life (day job, etc.) can get in the way. I’ve been a freelance writer for many years – going on a couple of decades, actually – so I’m always at the keyboard in one way or another. It’s all about dedicating time to do it. I sometimes joke that I have to plan my headaches. Finishing a long-term project like a novel or screenplay takes a lot of “sacred space” planning.
LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?
SW: It’s rarely about my own experiences. Most of the time, a scenario will pop into my head – a conversation I imagine between two people, for instance – and it won’t go away.
LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
SW: Nick Bell, an investigator with Naval Intelligence. He’s a delightful mix of irreverent, driven, enthusiastic, cynical – and a complete hoot. He’s the protagonist in a book I started writing years ago, and he’s been living in my head all that time. He even pops into my dreams now and then (which is a weird experience).
LC: He sounds like a great character, and one obviously vying for your attention!
Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
SW: Some of my characters end up with pieces of me – how I would react, the way I would approach a situation, things like that. More often, I incorporate personality traits of people in know into the characters. Look hard enough and you’ll find some coworkers, cousins, a middle school teacher I didn’t like, and so on.
LC: That could be problematic. J
Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
SW: Plot driven at first, then the characters take over. When I first outline, it’s all about the story: what happens, how it starts, how it ends, the various elements. Then I layer in the characters who are living that story. Sometimes the story ends up changing because of things I discover about the characters as I go along.
LC: Did you read much as a child?
SW: Absolutely. As I mentioned, I was into Jacqueline Susann when I was 10. I read everything I could get my hands on.
LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?
SW: Critical. I don’t see how you can have one without the other.
LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
SW: I love Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.” I’m fascinated by the time period, of course, and the way Wouk wove everything together is legendary.
Another favorite is “The Last Convertible” by Anton Myrer. His characters are so well drawn, you can feel them.
My all-time favorite writer is Ken Follett. He’s a master with historical works, and he’s never disappointed me.
When I’m in a mood for something lighter, I turn to P.G. Wodehouse.
LC: Anything new in the works?
SW: I just completed “Turning August,” a story about the German resistance movement in World War II. I have a sequel outlined, but it will come later.
Next up is the first book in a series about the Aeterni (a group of people who are eternal). This book, working title “Ebb and Flood,” takes place in Europe in the late 1400s/early 1500s. It’s one of my favorite time periods, and the research is fascinating. Sometimes I go so far down the research rabbit hole that it’s a chore to crawl back out and get writing.
LC: Bonus question! Do you have anything you’d like to add?
SW: Last year I published a book of my dad’s sea stories. The full title is: “If You Can’t Pay Attention, Take Notes: A Navy brat reflects on brathood, the first line of defense, and why you don’t wash the chief’s coffee cups.” The stories are funny – my dad was a master storyteller – and he and I put this together in the last few months before he died. Being able to talk about his life and compile the stories made those days special. It was a true labor of love.
LC: What a great legacy that is for you and your father.
Shelia, thank you so much for sharing you writing life with us!
Shelia Watson is a writer/editor from Charleston, SC. She’s published articles on a wide range of topics, but her passion is World War 2 in general and the German Resistance in particular. She lives on the garden section of a former plantation (sold and divided into subdivisions long ago) with her husband and an assortment of cats and dogs. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at www.gowriterightnow.com.