Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member of the clubhouse won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or an invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m welcoming Shawn to the Clubhouse Tearoom. Shawn, I’m so pleased to have a chance to chat with you. It looks like we’ve arrived during a quiet moment. First, I think we should put in an order for refreshments. What would you like?
Please could I have dandelion wine, if it is available?
At the clubhouse, everything is available.
Now our drinks have arrived my first question to you is when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I write in several genres, but primarily speculative fiction, often flavored by humor. My parents gave us (my siblings and I) access to Edgar Rice Burroughs while we still in elementary school, and I read the Pellucidar series a few times. I checked Ray Bradbury’s “S is for Space” and “R is for Rocket” out from the school library multiple times, inspired by the titles alone, which must be revealing. Humor has been in my bones since I was a toddler, noted for laughing easily and often. Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, and Neil Simon entered my life as I was learning to write and, along with Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse, particularly influence me still. (Mentioning them causes me to reflect that I’ve drifted from humor for too long).
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
My college professor once wrote “clever, clever, clever” on top of one of my screenplays. She meant it as a criticism. Cleverness is both an asset and a crutch. My professor was encouraging me to create stories and characters with more heart. I believe I have gradually and belatedly made progress along these lines but have plenty of room to grow.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Today I’m resuming work on a fantasy short story that has already missed its deadline (one on a growing stack), but I would rather have a good story not published than a bad story published. It’s a recent idea for a specific submission call. When it’s finished, I believe it will have heart.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Projects which I definitely intend to finish? Four or five stories at least.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories, do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?
It depends. For short stories, I usually start with tension and find the ending when the tension is released. I often, but not always, have a climax in mind. Sometimes I visualize the whole story in my head before I start; sometimes I have an epiphany only when I’m waist-deep; and at other times I never quite get there.
Most of my poetry is playful storytelling, reveling unapologetically in the joy of literary devices including alliteration, rhyme and meter besides evocative imagery. Frequently, my poems are stories.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Yes. I am most productive when I’m feeling hopeful and perky. Conversely, when I behind in my sleep, it becomes a staring contest between me and the screen.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Except for one parody I wrote, no. I did write a story incorporating real people once, however. To stay in touch with my siblings when I first went overseas for the U.S. Army, I began interactive murder mystery with them as characters. As one might in a role-playing game, they chose their own actions at crisis points. This proceeded for about three chapters, when, to evoke a sense of peril, I narrated that my Dad got shot in the leg. Imagining this broke my heart, however, and I found I couldn’t continue the story.
What did you learn when writing your story ? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I research many short stories just to get details right. Sometimes research inspires new stories.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
I memorized the songs to Rocky Horror Picture show before I ever saw the movie, and when I did, I dressed up like Frankfurter.
Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books or stories, whether that be a long forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.
During my teens and twenties, I wrote a lot of dark comedy contrasting hopefulness and hopelessness—a theme I only recognized after I had been doing it a while. I believe this choice reflected a subconscious tension between reality and over-ambition. Imposter syndrome. When folks insisted that I would succeed, become a star, etc., I found it equally encouraging and stressful.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I do most of my writing on weekday mornings when I’ve successfully postponed looking at the internet.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
How many hours in a day do you write?
There is no consistent number, but hours at a time, once I get going.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I invented a pen name as a teenager, after first deciding that I would write a book someday, but have never used it.
How do you select the names of your characters? & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I used to waste time struggling with character names, but now I choose them as rapidly as I can and only revise them if they begin to bother me or I think of an improvement. My characters may have any of several functions in my story—information, antagonism, plot advancement, color—but at the beginning, I only know them as rough outlines.
What was your hardest scene to write?
That’s difficult to judge. Many times, including the ongoing story mentioned above, I have slaved over a scene, rewriting and reorganizing paragraphs in order to find the right balance of description, action, dialogue and exposition, compellingly paced.
How long on average does it take you to write a story, or poem?
One or two days for a short poem or flash fiction, polished to my satisfaction. Increasingly more for longer pieces.
Thank you for joining me in the clubhouse, Shawn.
Thank you for having me, Paula. Is it okay if check out to see who else is about?
Of course, as a member of the clubhouse you can stay as long as you like. Just let one of the drivers know when you’re ready to leave.😉
Jot In The Dark is Shawn’s Website:
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.