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Interview With Shelley Bates

1. Tell us a little about yourself? Married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I’m married with no kids, but I have seven rescue chickens. Does that count? I’m starting my third inspirational novel, and I’ve sold five romances to the secular market.

2. How many years have you been writing?

I got my first rave review on a short story about a ghost in a graveyard. I was eight. I wrote my first novel at thirteen and sent it off to a literary publisher because I didn’t know they didn’t publish everything people sent them. I especially didn’t know a literary publisher wouldn’t take a Nancy Drew knockoff! But the editor was very kind. He saw this manuscript typed laboriously on a manual typewriter on yellow paper, with corrections made in white fluid, and figured out I was a kid. He told me I knew how to tell a story, and I should keep it up. I took his advice to heart—30 years later I hold a master’s degree in writing fiction and my first inspirational novel, Grounds to Believe, has just been nominated for an RWA RITA award.

3. How much time do you spend writing daily? Do you consider yourself full-time or part-time? Do you write in the mornings or evenings?

I’m a freelance marketing communications editor for the Silicon Valley computer industry, and when I’m not doing that, I’m writing. My goal is forty pages a week, and those happen mostly in the afternoons.

4. Do you set daily goals for your writing? Number of hours, pages, word count. Tell us how you set your goals.

Goal setting is easy: Look at the calendar, see where your deadline is, and divide by your contracted page count  If you don’t have a deadline, it’s a good idea to make them up and get some practice at meeting them. Once you’re published, the industry is going to demand 2-3 books a year, and if you haven’t built up the discipline to meet those deadlines, you’re going to flounder and panic and doubt yourself and make your editor anxious. Be proactive and save yourself the grief. Practice.

5. Where do you write? Do you have an office or a corner? Tell us about your space and what makes you most comfortable.

I have my own office, with a cherry desk and hutch and a bookcase that takes up one wall. But generally, I work outside on my AlphaSmart, with my chickens all around me. Their industriousness seems to get my energy flowing.

6. Do you plot or not? Expound briefly on your methods or theories in the plotting department.

If I don’t have an outline to work from, I can’t function. Staring into the mist energizes some people—it frightens me to death. I have a brainstorming group, so once I have some vague ideas, characters, and events down on paper, we talk the story over online. It’s fun and lots of good ideas are sparked that way.

7. Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through? How much time do you spend on rewrites?

I try to have as complete a manuscript as possible at any given point. This means it takes ages, and sometimes I’m even typing “The End” on deadline day. In an ideal world I would let the book sit for a week, then go back and polish, but that’s an ideal. Something to aspire to :)

8. How does your Christian walk influence your writing? Any advice for integrating God and writing?

I spent nearly my whole life in a toxic church, so I’m still taking baby steps in mainstream Christianity and making healthier adjustments to my world view. My books so far are about women breaking out of the cage that a toxic church imposes on them, and getting a real revelation about who God is and what he means in their lives.

9. What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

I had no more obstacles than anyone trying to break into this business. However, I did find that after the fifth completed manuscript, I made a kind of breakthrough in skill. I heard later that this is fairly common. Unless you’re a brilliant talent and can sell with your first or second manuscript, it takes a lot of practice pages to get the hang of storytelling for the commercial market.

10. Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Don’t give up on yourself. This is a hard business, and it’s tempting to just give it up and do something practical, like house construction or engineering. But if you have that drive inside you to write, nothing will stop it. It just needs to be trained and shaped, and your aim focused, so you can get that manuscript to the editor who will love it.

Do you have a website? (If yes, give address)

Any recent or upcoming releases you¹d like to mention?

The next two books in my Elect Trilogy will be released by Warner Faith. They are Pocketful of Pearls in August 2005 and A Sounding Brass in August 2006. I have a 2007 release, too, but it has neither plot nor title at the moment!

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