Interview: Sharon A. Mitchell, Author of “School Daze”

Sharon A. Mitchell’s first novel, School Daze, was published in April 2012. Prior to concentrating on writing, she spent decades as a consultant counselor and special education teacher. Her Doctorate and Master’s degrees looked at long-term outlooks in autism and educating teachers and parents about this disorder. Her passion is helping people with autism spectrum disorders become as independent as possible.

School Daze is the first book in a series set in Madson School. The next book will be out in late summer, 2012. Sharon also co-author of the Amazon bestseller The Official Autism 101 Manual, and wrote hundreds of articles and responses to questions appearing on All Experts.com (http://www.allexperts.com/ep/1010-78033/Autism/Dr-Sharon-Mitchell.htm) , as well as having delivered workshops and seminars to thousands participants including national conferences. Website: http://www.autismsite.ca.

School Daze
Published: April 29, 2012
Available at Smashwords, Amazon and other online distributors.

Description: “After suddenly receiving custody of his five year old son, Ben must learn how to be a dad. That fact that he’d even fathered a child was news to him. Not only does this mean restructuring his sixty-hour work week and becoming responsible for another human being, but also Kyle has autism.

Enter the school system. Under the guidance (and bullying) of a gifted teacher, Ben and Kyle take tentative steps to becoming father and son. Teacher Melanie Nicols sees Ben as a dead beat dad, but grudgingly comes to admire how he hangs in, determined to learn for his son’s sake. Her admiration grows to more as father and some come to rely on Melanie being a part of their lives.”

About the Author:

What genre(s) do you write?

This current book is fiction – contemporary woman’s fiction/romance. Prior to that I’ve only written articles.

Why do you write the stories that you write?

I work in the field of autism. When parents first learn of their child’s diagnosis, they study everything they can. There’s lots written on the internet and in books, much of it text-book style. After a long day of work and family life, do you want to read a heavy textbook? I thought there was a better way to impart information, so I wrote a light novel that depicts a single dad’s efforts to parent his son who has autism.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

In my late 20’s.

Who or what was your inspiration for writing?

Stephen King’s On Writing is the best book on writing I know of. I enjoy the easy reading styles of authors like Robert Parker and Lawrence Block and Robyn Carr.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have a full-time job, work on our farm, have a family, raise pure-bred German Shepherds, kayak….

What books are currently on your nightstand?

A couple from Suzanne Brockman’s Troubleshooter’s series

What would you like readers to know about you the individual?

Academically, I have four degrees and have taught at university. While I read/write academic works, I dislike writing that uses a big word when a simpler one will do. I don’t believe you should have to struggle to understand what you’re reading.

Where are you from originally? Family?

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and married with two grown sons.

Your Writing Process:

Why do you write?

It’s fun! I feel a compulsion to put words to paper (or screen). I even write long letters. I express myself better on paper than with spoken words.

What excites you about writing?

Conveying an idea, helping it take shape until it takes on a life of it’s own.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Sporadic, fast and intense. I wrote my last novel in a month during NaNoWriMo. Then came the editing, though. I focus best in intense bursts.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Try it. Just jump in and do it. Some of what you write will stink. Some of it might be brilliant. You can better the more you write. And read the book, On Writing.

What would you consider is your favorite part of a book to write? The beginning, the middle or the ending?

The beginning where there are so many possibilities. Or the middle, when you know your characters well, throw things at them and watch them fight their way out.

Do you listen to music or have another form of inspiration when you are writing?

Light jazz or classical.

Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?

Plant potatoes. But the sun was shining, the soil fresh and fragrant and I had a good time.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?

I can write about 65,000 words in a month (evenings, weekends) but it takes me that long again to edit. Then I make changes based on the suggestions of a couple readers and go over the manuscript several more times to catch an typos, etc.

Do you prefer writing series books over non series or does it matter?

Never done a series before but next week I plan to begin the 2nd book in this series.

Do you have a system for writing?

I need the external pressure of something like NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) – National Novel Writing Month to make me force my butt into a chair to pound out about 1700 words a day. I need to silence my inner editor while I do the first draft.

Do you track work count or write a certain number of hours per day?

Yep. Not hours, but I aim for 1700 words a day. Some days I manage 3000, others none at all. I aim for a minimum of 50,000 in a month.

Have you ever had one of those profound “AH-HA!” moments while you were writing? Would you be willing to share it?

During this last book I had several such moments. They’re hard to explain though and had more to do with the plot and how my characters were reacting. By just plunging in and writing, the characters took over and my worries about what I might write about next just disappeared when I got out of the way and let the characters have their way.

What was the most uplifting moment you’ve experienced during your writing career?

Some of the comments readers make about my articles, answers to questions, etc. on autism. You can see some of the comments here: http://www.allexperts.com/expert.cgi?m=12&catID=1010&expID=78033.

Your Characters

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They come totally from my imagination, or so I’d like to believe. But does anything ever spring totally unique from your mind? Isn’t everything a composite of all that you’ve seen and heard and felt before?

Have any of your characters ever haunted your dreams or woken you up during the night demanding attention?

Most definitely that happened during the writing of School Daze. Many times I had to get up in the middle of the night to write. Also plot dilemmas sort of worked themselves out while I slept.

Your Books:

Your book is about to be sent into the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel? Pleased. May I say more than one word?

I believe I’ve written a quality book – one that’s entertaining, easy to read and will give lots of information on helping a child with autism. Most of all, I hope people enjoy it as a good read.

When a new book comes out, are you nervous about how readers will react to it?

Somewhat. Actually I’m more nervous when friends/family read it than when strangers pick it up. By the time it’s out in the public, enough other eyes have gone over it that the kinks are gone and it’s in good shape.

What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?

By late summer I hope to have the 2nd book in the series available on Amazon and on Smashwords.

What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?

I’ve spent the past twenty years learning about autism. Autism was also the focus of my Master’s and Doctoral degrees. I read daily in this field plus my day job is as a consultant, dealing with families and kids who have autism. Yes, I do enjoy the research process. There is always more to learn. I must say though, that not all I learn comes from books – I learn a lot from parents, teachers and the kids themselves.

Do deadlines help or hinder your muse? Help.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Semi-outline. I need something to get me going and overcome that fear of not knowing what to write. But once I get into the book, the story takes over and I forget to even refer to my original outline.

What was your first published work and when was it published?

My first book was as a co-author of the Amazon bestseller The Official Autism 101 Book. It was published four years ago. This current book, School Daze is my first novel and first solo book. It is available at Smashwords, but also at Amazon.

Thanks for your time and answering some questions, readers and potential readers might be interested in.

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2 Comments

Filed under Interviews, Writers and Writing

2 responses to “Interview: Sharon A. Mitchell, Author of “School Daze”

  1. Pingback: Author Interviews & More on Flying With Red Haircrow | Songs of the Universal Vagabond

  2. Pingback: Author Interviews & More on Flying With Red Haircrow | Indie Publisher-Flying With Red Haircrow

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