1. What’s something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
When I was in fourth grade, my school had a lip-syncing contest. I loved country music then, so I did a heartfelt rendition of “It Matters to Me” by Faith Hill. Because it was a sad song about a couple falling out of love, there wasn’t much for me to do except walk around the stage, clench my fists, and pretend to belt. I tied for first place with a group of boys who lip-synced and danced to “Ice Ice Baby.” I think they gave me the tie out of pity.
2. What got you into writing? Was there a particular life event that inspired you to write?
I started writing stories when I was little. I don’t remember what made me want to start. I loved reading, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.
All throughout high school and college, I’d have ideas for stories in my head. I didn’t write all of them, but I did attempt a novel in high school. It sucked, but it did give me practice to sit down and work on a long piece almost every day. I’d reached over 200 pages double-spaced by the time I abandoned it.
I started writing more seriously when I was working at my last job, which I didn’t like very much towards the second half of my tenure there. I wanted to do something that made me feel happier than my 9-to-5 did, something that was for me. I decided to write a little after work, and to work on a story I’d gotten an idea for the year before. That story became "All the Pieces Coming Together", which appeared in my first short story collection, "The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales".
3. What is your writing routine?
A lot of mental pumping up to open the document, ha ha. Seriously, I’m like this with most tasks: I do them, and I do them in a timely manner, but I always have to talk myself into it and psych myself up first. This usually comes in the form of browsing social media and email much longer than necessary.
Once I write, I aim to finish a section if it’s a short story, or around 1000 words if it’s a novel. I don’t always do this, so I at least try to write something, even if it ends up being one or two paragraphs; or even just some notes. This was the case with Seeing Things, my next novel. I had a lot of stressful life events happen while I was writing it, and I didn’t have the mental endurance to write as much per session as I did when writing my first two novels. But, it got done; and that’s what matters most.
I usually write Monday through Friday and give myself a break on the weekend, since it’s work (even if it’s not my day job). Taking a break also helps me brainstorm new ideas.
4. Do you self publish, traditionally publish, or both? Why do you choose those methods?
I do both. My books are all self-published, and I’ve had short stories traditionally published in collections and ezines.
I like submitting my work to publications because it’s great to be a part of a collection with other authors, and it’s also nice to not be the entire brains behind a book or collection’s release sometimes.
I say sometimes, though, because the main reason I like self-publishing is for creative control. I like being able to choose my editor (I always work with Evelyn Duffy) and my cover artist+graphic designer (I always work with Doug Puller). I like being able to determine my title, release date, book length, and marketing strategy.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
My favorite author is John Irving. His prose is astonishing. It’s breathtaking. It’s every overblown word you see in a movie poster blurb, and it deserves each one. I also love his characters and the way he manages to make long books not feel long at all.
I also love Augusten Burroughs. He has an amazing dry wit, and I love the way he writes about terrible and shocking things: with a shrug and a joke.
My other favorite authors are Rainbow Rowell and Toni Morrison.
6. Do you remember a time that a book made you cry or frightened you so much you had to put it down? Which book and what scene?
The end of Y: The Last Man. I have never sobbed that hard over any story (as an adult, at least). It’s ten volumes of an amazing story that I was so invested in, and the ending was so sad and so perfect. I was ugly-crying over that one. Read it. You won’t regret it.
7. What are some lessons you’ve learned as a writer in terms of writing process, routine, publishing, etc?
Giving yourself time is its own form of discipline. Never writing isn’t good; but, if the words just aren’t coming, take a step back and think about why. Are you stressed? Busy? Out of ideas? Maybe write some notes instead. Or write nothing, if it’s just too difficult. It’ll get written. Trust yourself.
Be sure to also build in time if you plan to self-publish. Give yourself ample time to get it edited and beta-read; and to have it formatted properly. But even when it’s all finished and polished and ready to go, give yourself time to market it. Set up a pre-order link if you want, but give yourself a month or two to reach out to reviewers and get them advance reader copies (ARCs).
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
All first drafts are bad, no matter how many you’ve written. This is true of all writers. The only story that fails is the one that isn’t written. Write it down, fix it afterward. But write it, and start out by writing it for yourself. What’ve you got to lose?
9. If you could meet one author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Do cookbook authors count? Because I’d love to meet Ina Garten.
In all seriousness, if we’re allowed to pick a deceased author, I’d love to meet Douglas Adams and ask him how he came up with his hilarious analogies. Perhaps we can dine at the restaurant at the end of the universe.
10. In your opinion, what are the most important elements of good writing?
Believability -- but, I’m not talking about the world(s) created or suspension of disbelief. I’m talking believability in the little things we take for granted, especially in dialogue. I’m taken straight out of a book if the dialogue is wooden, clunky, unrealistic, or reads like prose. Dialogue is not the place for life-changing prose. It’s the place for good narrative flow, showing things about characters instead of telling, and maybe a few key quotes that rock one’s world (but, emphasis on few -- I also find it unbelievable that someone is that quick-witted and clever all the time).
I also think confidence is important, both in the story you’re telling and in the intellect of your reader. Have faith that what you’re showing is coming across, and don’t over-explain what’s going on -- a good editor will tell you if something is missing or unclear. I tend to over-explain in my first drafts, and Evelyn’s constantly removing sentences explaining what the characters are feeling. I find she’s right when I remove the sentence, that the words they speak are sufficient.
11. Where can readers purchase your books?
My books are on Amazon in ebook and paperback. You can find all of them on my Amazon author page.
You can also find paperback copies of my books on Bookshop.org, a site that helps local and independent bookstores.
In that spirit, I’d also like to promote my local bookstore, One More Page Books. You can find my books in paperback through their online portal, and they ship anywhere in the country.
12. Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
My website is a great place to start: sonorawrites.com.
I’m also very active on Twitter: @sonorawrites
Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,'” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror eZine. Her work has also appeared in Frozen Wavelets, a speculative flash fiction and poetry journal; Mercurial Stories, a weekly flash fiction literary journal; Tales to Terrify, a weekly horror podcast; and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. Her third short story collection, Little Paranoias, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.
Written by Stephanie (Sterp) Evelyn
I am Sterp. I write horror fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup will be in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet in 2020. I am also a painter.
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