Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Interview with Shawn Reilly Simmons

How many books have you published?

Murder on the Rocks is the fifth book in the Red Carpet Catering series published by Henery Press.
I've also had eight short stories published in various anthologies in the past two years.

How did you become interested in writing?
I've wanted to be a writer since I was very young, around the age of seven or eight. When I graduated high school, I won best creative writer in my class, and when I was in college, a couple of my creative writing professors encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. One told me at the age of 19 I was ready to write a novel, which I was very encouraged by. It took a few jobs and several years for me to get started, but I'm glad I ultimately took that advice and got writing.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
My days begin pretty early, generally around 5 A.M. where I get most of my 2K daily word count accomplished before my son wakes up (my husband is up and out the door for work by 5 too). After I make breakfast and get my son off to school, I either go for a run or head to the gym for some yoga or weight training. Then I'm back home at my desk, where depending on the day, I'll work on edits or a short story, or maybe even add to my morning word count. Before I know it everyone is home and I'm calling it a day, making dinner and settling down for the evening.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I do not plot before I write. I have what I think of as general "sign posts" that I'm heading towards when I'm writing, and I have a vague notion of how the book will end (subject to change!). I wrote my first book after my son was born, when he was still an infant. He wasn't a great sleeper that first year and I spent many late night hours in the rocking chair with him. I would think about the next scene in my book as I soothed him back to sleep, and then when I sat down the next day, the ideas I had gone over in my mind were there waiting for me.

When I began my second book, I thought I'd try the outline method, and I spent a couple of weeks plotting out my book. On the first day of writing, I immediately deviated from the outline, following the story where it led me organically. From that point on, I reverted back to my original method: going over the story in my mind as I drift off to sleep and seeing what happens the next early morning, allowing the characters to take the story where they will.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
In a way, but all of my characters have now become so real in my mind, they only remind me of themselves. Penelope, my protagonist, is a lot like me, but very different in a lot of ways, too. I did work on movie sets, and I've been in the kitchens of some very wealthy and famous people, so those experiences have influenced my writing, naturally. But I've never written anything that happened in real life to me in the books. It's all created situations and people, with a germ of truth at the root.

Who is your favorite author?
I have loved Stephen King ever since a girl sitting next to me in sixth grade Spanish class at St. Anthony's in Ft. Lauderdale slipped me a dog-eared paperback copy of Christine under the desk. I was hooked immediately and went directly to the library after finishing it, and worked my way through all of his books. I remember my mother's worried glances from time to time at my reading choice, but books were a way of life in our house, and I was allowed to scare myself silly if I wanted to.

How do you promote your books?
I've met so many people through my work with Malice Domestic that when my first book came out there was such enthusiasm about it, I was completely overwhelmed. In addition to Malice, I usually attend Bouchercon, as well as the New England Crime Bake every year. I'm on the roster of Noir at the Bar in Richmond, Virginia, which usually has one or two gatherings a year, and I've been invited back to the Suffolk Mystery Author Festival, and a few other Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America panels and events. For me, getting out and meeting readers is what I enjoy the most, as well as participating with interviews and blogs, such as yours.

Twitter: @ShawnRSimmons
Facebook: @RedCarpetCateringMysteries

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