Interviewed by Tarak Ghosh
Sharon C. Williams is a native of New England raised in Northern Maine. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son.. Her children’s chapter book, Jasper, Amazon Parrot: A Rainforest Adventure, and Jasper: Amazon Friends and Family, was released by Fountain Blue Publishing in 2013 and 2015. Her comedy novel about her war with her backyard squirrels, Squirrel Mafia, was also released in the spring of 2015. Her latest book, “Everyday Musings” which is a collection of short stories and poems.
Tarak Ghosh: You have a B.S. degree but you love writing. When did you start writing? Were you inspired by anyone or it was an instinct ?
Sharon: In 2009, my husband told a friend of mine that he felt I wrote well. She then told me. Mulling that over, a story began to form in my mind that summer. Later that year, I had two surgeries within 6 weeks of each other. Having time while recuperating, I started to write. I wrote on what I knew, my parrot Jasper. He adopted us in 1999 at the age of five. His antics and personality practically wrote the book, for the mannerisms that are in my book I have observed by watching Jasper. He was my inspiration along with my husband’s third party nudge.
Tarak Ghosh: Why did you choose writing, especially for the children? You like birds and you are also a birdwatcher. Are they and their untold stories inspire you to write? Do you find any chemistry between the beauty of nature and a writer’s imagination?
Sharon: To be honest, I’m uncertain why I chose this genre to write my first book. It just seemed natural that Jasper would be meant for children. It would be, I felt , a great opportunity for me to educate kids on the rainforest and Amazon parrots. Especially since my main character was a living breathing member of my family. You nailed it; their untold stories. I like to educate people about birds if I can. Most people are familiar with dogs, cats, and fish as the average pets. Well, at least, when I was growing up. It’s not often I come across someone in my area that has a bird. It’s a perfect opportunity to share with the world how amazing and loving they can be. They each have their own distinct personalities, and will love you to pieces if you only let them which I have. I absolutely find chemistry between the beauty of nature and a writer’s imagination. I love to get inspiration from writing and picture prompts. Most of my short stories and smaller books have come from these, but nature is a whole new world. My book, Squirrel Mafia, that I will be releasing myself in February, is a true story based on my year long war with the squirrels in my back yard. It’s something people might not think to write on if they did not take a step back, and look outside at our wonderful world. The chemistry is there, and it flows so brilliantly. I love tapping into this source, for it is never-ending, and you never know where it will take you. That, alone, fascinates me to look outside.
Tarak Ghosh: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Sharon: I would love to have my books in a library and in the schools. My big dream, and we should all have them, is to have Jasper made into a movie. I’d like my career to grow as more people learn about my books. For them to read and enjoy something I wrote. To me, that’s such a amazing feeling. One, that doesn’t get old. I hope to entertain people for a long time.
Tarak Ghosh: What genre are your books?
Sharon: I range from fiction to non-fiction. The genres are children, true-life, comedy, action, and mystery. On occasion, I do dabble in other genres. This is mostly due to writing to any prompts I see/are given to me.
Tarak Ghosh: So, what about your works?
Sharon: These are the ones that have been released to the public so far. Root Canal Jasper, Amazon Parrot: A Rainforest Adventure Dragons In The Attic I will be self publishing my book, Squirrel Mafia, in February 2014. The books that I need to revise and edit are my three NaNoWriMo books, which are: A Woman of Color Moe’s Cafe Lost Faith Numerous short stories have been written, and my editor and I are working on making them into anthologies that are to be released when time permits. I’m also writing the third installment of the Jasper series.
Tarak Ghosh:.Give us an insight into your main characters
Sharon: A Rainforest Adventure, Jasper, Amazon Parrot) What does he/she do that is so special? Jasper is an Amazon parrot living in the rainforest alongside his mother and brother. The story starts off as he hatches. Being the older brother, it’s up to him to watch over his younger sibling, Willie, and make sure he’s okay as the two venture out to explore with their friends, George, the sloth, and Charlie, a spider monkey. As the boys start to grow and emerge fully feathered, hard lessons are learned. Their good friend, Charlie, who is a bit older and has been around the jungle longer, helps the brothers navigate through perils, and keep them from harm. Without his help and knowledge, the two brothers would surely come to harm.
Tarak Ghosh: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Sharon: Before my book was picked up, I would have to say that with self-publishing you have total control of your book, while with traditional publishing you have to give up a little bit. I have done both ends of the spectrum, published traditionally and self-published. As an author, I feel we need to embrace both avenues. When one self-publishes, you have total control of your product. How you want to present and market it is all on you. Having final say is a powerful thing to have when it comes to one’s book. Traditional publishing does take some of the weight off your shoulders. My book, Jasper, was picked up by a traditional publisher, and with that came an illustrator that made the beautiful cover for my book. This might have been something I could not have had if I had self-published. A misconception, though, in traditional publishing, is they will take care of all of the PR for you. That is no longer true. Authors are required to do the leg work as well regardless of what format they get their book out in. What I did like with my publisher is having the final say on things as if I was self-publishing it. That was reassuring as well as frightening. A wrong decision along the way can determine how well your book does, and the person you have to answer to is staring back at you in the mirror. Not all publishers give you that much say in the process of getting a book out. I was very fortunate on that account. It all depends on what your strengths are as a writer, and how much you are willing to do for your book.
Tarak Ghosh: For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hardback books?
Sharon: Easy question–a real book. I have always told people the only way I was getting a tablet to read a book was if someone bought me one. My husband got me one this year. I just prefer a real book, the smell the feel, and the actual turning of a page. Not an ereader turning it for me. To go into a used bookstore, and spend hours there is one of life’s simple pleasures, something you can’t get from a ebook. I get the point of one, you can store many, many, many books on a tablet. When I am on vacation, I will use mine. But it can, and never will, take away my love for a real book. It, and I, have bonded from a young age, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Tarak Ghosh:. Do you think that you have a social duty as an author?
Sharon: I believe if we are able to make a difference, then by all means, we should. There are so many injustices being done in the world that a lot of us know nothing about. Making awareness through our writings is a great way, so long as it is done in a way that isn’t harmful. My book, A Woman of Color, addresses an issue that few people know about.
Tarak Ghosh: What sociological problem hurts you more?
Sharon: Any issue that affects children is hard on my heart. They are our future that will lead us into the next generation. If we stifle that, be it through abuse, education, or lack of basic necessities, we are doing the world a great disservice. Another one that is hard is abuse on animals. My birds are not my pets, they are my family. I can’t watch the ASPCA commercials on TV because it reduces me to tears when I see what humans are capable of. There are so many beautiful creatures who will love us unconditionally. Loving them back should be automatic. Knowing how my birds love me, and visa versa, I truly can’t comprehend why anyone would want to hurt animals. Environmental issues . . . I’m a tree hugger in spirit, and seeing our great world being treated like a throwaway piece of equipment is something else that breaks my heart. We have one Earth, and we need to all share and take care of it. Last time I checked, we don’t have another place to go to when our present world gives up on us.
Tarak Ghosh:. Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
Sharon: I have to say I have two–Agatha Christie and Stephen King. I have all of Christie’s books, minus the ones that are no longer in print. She was a lady who could masterfully weave a story so tight that it kept you turning the pages. I would love to talk to her about her profession, and how she penned such amazing stories. Anyone who talks to me knows how much I love King. He and I are from the same state, which makes me a bit biased, but I love horror. I absolutely love horror books and movies. To me, there is no one better than him when it comes to making me jump out of my skin while reading a book. I would love to be able to sit down and just listen, to soak up the crumbs he’s spilled. A tidbit people outside of the state might not know about is King’s generosity. He has donated quite a lot of money to local libraries in my state. In fact, my small town of 800 only, has a library due to his huge contribution. He was called upon, and he delivered. To just say thank you to him face to face would mean a lot to me. He is more than just a writer to the people of Maine.
Tarak Ghosh: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Sharon: One piece of advice? Write on what you know, even if it’s just one sentence. The beauty is wrapping a book around that one piece of knowledge. It’s okay to write outside the box, though. Heck, I’m wrapping up a novelette whose genre is that of paranormal, which I had no clue on how or what to write about. It’s based on a storm door stuck in a tree. I might not know paranormal, but I know about storm doors and what they look like. When I write about something I know and am passionate about, it is a work of love. The pages fly by for me when this happens, and before I know it, I am typing the end. It’s not work at all. Also, don’t give up. Define what success means to you, and work toward that. Everyone has a different definition of meaning. If at all possible, hang out with fellow writers, whether that’s through groups in town or online. Who better understands us than other writers?
Tarak Ghosh: What do you say about ‘Hook the reader’?
Sharon: I believe this is essential to any book, regardless of genre. We have such a short window to entice the reader. If you don’t draw your readers in, they will only go so far into the book before putting it down. There are so many books out there they can easily turn to. So by all means, get a hook by the first page if you can help it. For once you do, you might just keep your reader all the way to the end.
Tarak Ghosh: What type of story you like to write more and why?
Sharon: I love to write from writing and picture prompts. From that, comes stories of different genres. The anthology that was just released by my writing group has a story by me that came from a picture of a door in a tree. From there, I developed a 10k paranormal short story. It’s a genre I have never written in, and didn’t think I would be able to. My point is, my stories vary from genre to genre. I let the story take a lead on wherever it wants to go. Which one do I like to write more on, well . . . that’s a tough question. I don’t lean toward any one in particular. I like to write outside the box, and see where it takes me.