Tag Archives: a writer’s life

I Am Not My Characters

2 Jul

First, I would like to thank Honya’s Bookshelf for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I posted about it on my author Facebook, but here were the three blogs I nominated – A Writer’s Life, EBook Bum, Books are Delicious – and I would love for you all to check them out.

July is here, and I’m beginning this sizzling hot month with a topic that I often get heated about. (Not angry. Just passionate.) As a reader, writer, and employee of a publisher, I see all sides of this topic, but the most common misconception I see is writers believe in whatever the characters or story expresses. I am here to disprove this.

I’ve actually mentioned it before in my article The Top Ten Seriously Awkward Conversations I’ve Had When People Hear I’m A Writer, but here’s the small quote about that:

“7. Why are you pro/con (insert controversial political or religious topic here)?

I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real, doesn’t mean that I do these things, let alone believe in them. In fact, I don’t have a lot in common with many of my characters.”

When I started publishing, I was really young and naïve. I never even considered someone judging my personal life off of my work, but – to my horror – this happened. (And “horror” is an appropriate word.)

My first novel that I published was November Snow. A lot of characters – mainly young children – die. (It says this on the back of the book. Just saying.) And for some reason, shocked readers seemed to look at me a little different the next day. I even had a teacher ask me if I needed to talk to someone in a concerned tone I will never forget.

To me, this was so surprising because I felt like they looked at me as if the violent world was a reflection of some deep and dark complexity inside my teenage soul, but – in reality – I was just writing a story about discrimination, violence against the innocent, and oppression.

The reason I’m so passionate about this topic – that authors are NOT their fictional stories – is because I felt as if the meaning of my novel disappeared under the concerned wave of my reading peers.

Before you think, “Oh. That was only because you were 16 and in high school.” Here’s a few example from my latest work. (Spoiler Alert for Seconds Before Sunrise. If you want to skip the spoilers, please go to the next bolded line.)

In Seconds Before Sunrise, Jessica goes out with her friends. She drinks. The reader sees her have a few beers and a shot of vodka, but she does mention that she drank more than that in the next chapter. However, I am now being asked if I am such a lightweight. (Because apparently all of us brunettes are lightweights.) I’ve also been asked if I like beer (no) and vodka (yes. Only Grey Goose. What can I say? I’m half-French.)

…sigh…

Just because Jessica Taylor goes to a bar underage with her friends does not mean I go to the bar with my friends underage, that I ever went to a bar underage, or that I’m encouraging kids to get into bars underage. First of all, I’m not underage, and second, I don’t have any friends. If I’m going to the bar, I’m taking my characters with me. (And probably a notepad so I can write interesting stuff down about interesting people who will probably become interesting characters in my next interesting novel.)

Now, if I had to be honest, sure, there are some things I might have in common with my characters. But I have lots of things in common with a lot of people. That doesn’t mean we are the same person. Same thing with characters. One of the biggest questions I’m asked about The Timely Death Trilogy has to do with the physical description of Jessica Taylor in Minutes Before Sunset and how I look.

I get it. Jessica has blue eyes and curly, brown hair. I can see why people might think that’s why she looks a certain way. But there are millions of people with curly, brown hair and blue eyes. And she also has a double identity. As a shade, she has straight, black hair, so she doesn’t always have curly, brown hair. In another point, I picture her hair to be much darker than mine and a lot more maintained. It’s also curlier. She also has blue eyes. Mine are gray – they are technically called “moonlit.” (Awesome.) And she has purple eyes when she’s a shade. When I turn into a shade – wait. I don’t. I don’t transform into a mystical being at night, and if I did, I surely wouldn’t admit to it.

But I try to avoid describing my protagonists in extravagant details, especially since it is written in first POV, because I want my readers to be able to put themselves in their shoes. I don’t want readers to think they are supposed to be in MY shoes instead. And my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, is told from one perspective, Sophia Gray. She loves her elkhound-husky, Argos, but she hates cats. She absolutely despises cats. If you’ve been following me for a while, then, you already know that I don’t. I’m a cat lady. But here’s a venn diagram – Take Me Tomorrow style – to show difference and similarities.

tmtrefer

Just because a character does/thinks/feels something does not mean that it is a reflection of the author. It’s not some subconscious, multi-personality Matrix. It’s not deep-rooted secrets or twisted desires surfacing under the tip of our almost-empty pens. Sure, it could be that way for some (or even many authors) but not all of us are basing our novels and characters off of our real lives. The art is just art. It’s a story. And that can be a pretty deep and complex experience without the author’s personal life being involved.

I am not my characters, but more importantly – my characters are not me. They are complex and meaningful and questioning and confusing and lovely in their own way, and that’s what makes books so amazing. If I were the protagonist in all of my novels, you wouldn’t be shown a world with clairvoyant drugs or paranormal shades. You would read about me sitting around with my cat. And I think we all know what we would rather read. :]

Sit back and enjoy the read! And if you’ve ever experienced someone thinking you are what you write, please share below! 

~SAT

 

My Week as an Author: the Many Ups and Downs

18 Jun

If you follow my Facebook page, then you’ve seen the events that I am about to talk about, and you saw them happen to me in real-time. (What can I say? Facebook is my go-to place to speak to you all live.) But if you don’t follow my Facebook page:

1. You missed out on all of the crazy events that happened this week.

2. You should be following my Facebook page. (I post entertaining stories, things that make you laugh, and the occasional interview. I even give away prizes, like guest blog post opportunities. I promise.)

So today I am sharing all of the crazy events that happened to me this week and how they affected me. Some were fantastic and others took my little ego down a notch. Why am I sharing this? Because readers are often sending me questions about what it is like to be an author. In fact, ever since I posted The Pros and Cons of Being An Author, one of the main questions I get asked is what my life is like and how I’ve dealt with ups and downs. And this week is a perfect example of how hectic, crazy, lovely, and insanely exciting it can be to be an author. (Did I mention soul-crushing and absolutely uplifting as well?)

Hopefully, these ups and downs that I went through will give insight to those who are curious about my author life and authors in general, but remember: no matter what, you must stay positive and believe in yourself. You’re following your dream after all.

The events are listed in the order that they happened:

I received a rejection for my poetry collection:

That’s right. I get rejected, too. Just because you’ve been published before, even in the same genre, does not mean you’ll be accepted everywhere you go. In fact, I’ve been rejected dozens of times, especially before I got November Snow published in 2007. A few months ago one of my favorite literary magazines – The Normal School – opened up their submissions for their fifth annual poetry competition. My collection didn’t make it. If I had to be completely honest, this is the second time I’ve been rejected by them. (The first time was a nonfiction piece.) But I am definitely going to keep trying! Even though every rejection hurts a little, you have to find the strength to fight back. One of my goals is to beat my fear of publishing nonfiction, so I’m working on getting at least one essay published within the next two years. Having a goal helps me accept rejection as the next step toward acceptance. That might seem backwards, but – to me – having a goal reminds me that I haven’t given up and how I won’t give up. It keeps me focused, and it prevents me from dwelling. When one door closes, it helps you move onto trying to open the next door in the hallway of life. In fact, on this exact same day, a door opened to me:

I received an acceptance letter for my short story:

On the same day I received a rejection, I received an acceptance. A few hours passed between the two, but I was glad I remained positive because I was able to be fully excited about this moment instead of allowing the rejection to taint my positive moment. The short story is slated for release in August of this year, but that’s all I can say for now.

I hit 20,000 words in Death Before Daylight

I mention this for many reasons, but here’s the main reason. It wasn’t a letter I received. It was a result of my hard work. If I allow myself to get distracted by the rejection, I might not have met this goal. It might have set me back a few days. Is that really worth it? I don’t think so. Staying focused on achieving the next step of my future publication is vital to enjoying my writing career. I’m not saying that a writer can’t take a day or two off to feel sad, but writers have to get back up again. For me, I don’t enjoy taking days off. It makes me feel like I’m letting disappointment control me, and I don’t want disappointment to control me. I want my dream to guide me. So I dove right back into Death Before Daylight the second I had some time off of work, and I met a goal I’ve been dying to meet. Plus, I thought fans of The Timely Death Trilogy would enjoy some news. If you’re on my Facebook, you also saw this little teaser:

booknews

I received my final edits for Take Me Tomorrow:

If you haven’t realized this, we are SUPER behind in meeting the publication deadline, so I’ve been biting my nails off. I practically don’t have any right now, but receiving the edits releaved all of that stress – which means that I had a moment feeling a little ridiculous for being so nervous about the edits in the first place. They were going to come no matter what. Worse case scenario, the publication date gets pushed back a little bit, and that’s not a tragedy at all. It’s still coming out after all. I wanted to share this because it shows how a negative focus can disrupt the overall positive experience of getting a novel published. Don’t be like me. Enjoy these moments fully because – when it’s all over and done with – you’re going to have your novel in your hands, and you’re going to want to look back and forward with a smile on your face. You’re working hard! Enjoy that work.

Amtrak Residency program sent me a rejection notice

I’m sure you’re probably starting to realize how often I apply to different events as a writer. Sure, I’m focused on my novels, but I’m also focused on gaining more from different experiences. I applied for this a few months ago. Basically, Amtrak allowed writers to apply to travel on their trains for free as they blogged about their travels. I love traveling. I love writing. It was perfect for me. But – alas – I am not perfect for Amtrak, and that’s okay. Applying isn’t about being a perfect writer for everyone. Being a writer isn’t about being perfect at all. It’s about loving all the adventures that open up to you. I can always apply next year, apply to other programs, and travel on my own. A rejection doesn’t stop me. Only I stop myself. It’s safe to say that I’m not stopping anytime soon. Or ever. (Probably never. Scratch that. I’m never going to give up. Ever.)

A radio show contacted me for an interview in July

Literally – two hours passed from receiving my Amtrak rejection to receiving the most delightful call of my week. A popular author radio show contacted me, and they want to interview me. Can you say, “EEEEEEEE!”? I know. I actually had to hold back from screaming out in delight over the phone. We’re already working out the details, and they’re recording the show in July, but that’s all I can say for now. (More news to come soon!) But this is another instance of how important it is to remain positive. After all, you can’t be crying to your cat about your rejection when a radio host calls you with an offer. That would be awkward.

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

In the end:

As you can see – negative things can happen, but positive ones can follow them within minutes, and it’s important to stay positive so you can receive that positive energy. (Did that sound hippy enough for you? If not, picture me throwing up a peace sign. I also have a flower in my hair. It is pink.)

It may have been a strangely bizarre and eventful week. I practically got whiplash. But it was an important week, and it was a great week, and I am going to continue to have great weeks as long as I focus on the positive directions that open up to me.

To all authors and aspiring authors, enjoy this ride. It’s sure to be a wild one full of adventures you might never see coming.

~SAT

My Average Day as a Writer

27 Dec

I want to thank Honyas Bookshelf for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset. Honya is a fantastic blogger and book reviewer. Please check out her website. Her review on her blog is available by clicking the link. It begins, “Forget everything you think you know about the battle between Light and Dark–the stories have it all wrong.”

If you’re looking for a FREE book for your Kindle or other e-reader, I’m giving away copies of Minutes Before Sunset (book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy) in exchange for an honest review.

Feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com or message me on my Facebook Author Page.

Happy holidays! Happy reading!

Since we’re in-between holidays, I really wanted to share a light and funny post, so I decided to share pictures from my average day as a writer – which you will find below. (I’ll probably do a more serious post on my average day as a writer another day.) But I hope you enjoy my chaotic life as much as I do.

1. Wake up and make coffee: this is only the beginning of my caffeinated life.

coffee

2. Desk Time: Once I’ve had enough Morning Joe, I return to my bedroom and stare at my desk. If you’ve been following me since January, then you might remember this photo of my desk from “What’s On Your Desk?

SAMSUNG

But this is what my desk looks like currently:

What can I say? Finals might as well have been a bomb going off.

What can I say? Finals might as well have been a bomb going off.

3. Rethink desk time: Since I don’t feel like organizing it, I set up shop in the living room. Whether I’m doing social media work for AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. or writing, I LIVE on this chair.

couch

Do you see the cat-shaped coffee mug?

4. Now that I’m settled down, I need more coffee. (Tea is okay, too.) Did you notice the Elvis coffee mug?

coffee

5. I also need pens – so I search through my purse that might as well be the rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

purse

Until I find pens. They MUST be black, G2 pens.

pems

6. Now, we write, and we write a lot.

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7. After writing even more, we finally cuddle with Bogart the cat. He’s been waiting.

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8. And now I need more coffee.

coffee

9. So it’s late, and I generally go to a local hookah house – where I continue my writing adventures.

house

10. Don’t worry. When I get home, there’s no more coffee for me. Just the sweet ending to a wonderful day of writing and the beginning of a new one.

~SAT

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