For the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the guest interviews over the last few years that I thought you might enjoy reading. I have updated the authors and books to today’s date.
This is an interview with author Sharon Marchisello from January 2018 where she talks about her genre, her publishing adventures, most useful invention and activities she feels we should experience.
About Sharon Marchisello
Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press, Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). She is an active member of Sisters in Crime.
She contributed short stories to anthologies Shhhh…Murder! (Darkhouse Books, 2018) and Finally Home (Bienvenue Press, 2019). Her personal finance book Live Well, Grow Wealth was originally published as Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy, an e-book on Smashwords. Sharon has published travel articles, book reviews, and corporate training manuals, and she writes a personal finance blog called Countdown to Financial Fitness.
She grew up in Tyler, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English. She studied for a year in Tours, France, on a Rotary scholarship and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Masters in Professional Writing at the University of Southern California.
Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, doing volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society and the Fayette County Master Gardeners UGA Extension.
Tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?
My chosen genre is mystery. I started out writing “mainstream” fiction, but when I was in graduate school at the University of Southern California, one of my professors suggested I pick a genre, as it would be easier to get published that way. He loved mysteries, but I wasn’t a fan, so I tried to write romance. I found I couldn’t make my stories fit the formula, though.
For my third novel, I got an idea for a mystery, and I had so much fun writing it. It’s like putting together a puzzle. I set up a crime and then created a cast of suspects, all with motive and opportunity. I wasn’t even sure who did it until I’d been writing for a while. Unfortunately, although I found an agent who shopped it around for a while, that book never got published.
Writing mystery teaches you a lot about using suspense, which is needed in any story to keep the reader turning the pages.
My fourth novel, Going Home, the first one to get a publisher, is also a mystery. It was inspired by my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, which prompted me to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory.
What adventures have you had publishing your work?
Publishing my first novel was a long process. I began writing Going Home in 2003; it was 2013 before I finally got a contract, and 2014 by the time the book was released. It went through seven drafts. I pitched to both agents and small publishers that would look at unagented material. I paid $50 for a critique from an agent at a conference and he spent half of our 15-minute session on his cell phone making lunch plans. All he had to say to me was, “I didn’t like your heroine as much as I wanted to, but keep writing.”
The first draft was a cumbersome 100,000 words filled with backstory, flashbacks, interior dialogue, and the protagonist’s opinions about everything. I was lucky to find an excellent beta reader from my Sisters in Crime chapter. Her advice was to cut, cut, cut all the superfluous prose that didn’t advance the plot; what I had was a mystery, so focus on that.
Several drafts later, I had a lean, mean, 75,000-word mystery, but it was still getting rejected. One agent said she loved it, read the whole thing on an airplane. “But,” she said. “It’s not a mystery. It’s more about the relationship between mother and daughter. This needs to be a mainstream novel. Give it more layers, and take it up to about 100,000 words.” She said she’d look at it after I did the rewrite, but suggested I seek other opinions.
My manuscript never made it back to 100,000 words, but I managed to flesh it out to around 89,000. Since I hadn’t really done what she’d asked, I didn’t resubmit to that agent.
I had a small press ask for the full manuscript, and then I didn’t hear from them for six months. When I finally got in touch (at a new email address I’d happened to find online), the editor admitted she’d lost my manuscript before getting a chance to read it. (She still had the SASE.) She’d been afraid to ask me to re-send it, because she kept thinking it would turn up. She let me resubmit electronically, but then she ignored me again. After a few months, I followed up, and she said she’d decided to pass; she wasn’t interested in publishing fiction anymore. I had wasted almost a year with her, for nothing.
When I finally got a contract from Sunbury Press, I was afraid to tell many people, for fear of jinxing things. What if they went out of business or cut their list before they got around to publishing my manuscript? What if they changed their mind? As a result, I made a lot of mistakes regarding marketing: I didn’t build a website or start a blog, didn’t get on social media and create hype, didn’t try to get advance reviews and blurbs. In my contract, I was entitled to some free copies. But I didn’t realize they wouldn’t be sent to me automatically; I had to go to the publisher’s website and order them. So the book had been out more than a month before I had my launch party.
I’ve been in writers groups and networking for years, so I should have known better, but I’m the type who can only learn by making the mistakes myself!
In your lifetime what event or invention has most impacted your own life or work?
I’d have to say the word processor/computer. When I first started writing, I wrote in pencil, long hand, on lined notebook paper. By the time I completed a manuscript, I had so many scratch-throughs and arrows and insertions, I could barely read what I wrote. When I finished, I’d type it up on an IBM Selectric typewriter. That would be the first time it would be possible to show my work to anyone else and get feedback. But once it was typed, I was resistant to making changes, especially those that required major retyping. With Microsoft Word, I can pull up the document and add/delete/move text around and then reprint easily. Makes it much easier to do rewrites, and rewriting is probably the most important part of writing, if you want to produce a book that is fit to publish.
What are the top five experiences or activities that you feel that everyone should complete in their lifetime?
- Travel – I’ve always been curious about new places and love learning about other cultures. Travel opens your eyes to different worldviews, different ways of doing things. And yet, in some ways, we’re all very similar. My husband and I have visited over 100 countries on six continents. When I finished graduate school, I got a job with an airline, and in my 27-year career, I took full advantage of the travel perks.
- Reading – I can’t imagine not being able to read. It’s essential to learning, and discovering new worlds. It can take you away from reality for a few hours, into a new world different from the one you’re living in.
- Having a pet – Nothing beats the unconditional love of a furry creature who can comfort you when you’re down and forgive you when you screw up.
- Learning another language – Not only does it help you understand another culture, it helps you understand the structure of your own language better. I learned a lot more about verb tenses in English after I studied French and Spanish.
- Creative Writing – I realize this is not for everyone, but for me, writing is essential to my sanity. I made up stories before I learned to write my name. Writing allows me to create a world where I am in control. Bad things happen to bad people. And the heroine, so much lovelier and more talented than me, can succeed where I fail, always saying the right thing and acting nobly.
Sharon’s latest book that I recently reviewed.
About the book
Shattered by a broken engagement and a business venture derailed by Jerome Haddad, her unscrupulous partner, Giovanna Rogers goes on a luxury Galapagos cruise with her grandmother to decompress.
At least that’s what her grandmother thinks. Giovanna is determined to make Jerome pay for what he’s done, and she has a tip he’s headed for the Galapagos.
While snorkeling in Gardner Bay off the coast of Española Island, Giovanna and another cruise passenger, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo, both become separated from the group and Laurel is left behind. No one on the ship will acknowledge Laurel is missing, and Giovanna suspects a cover-up.
When the police come on board to investigate a death, Giovanna is sure the victim is Laurel. She’s anxious to give her testimony to the attractive local detective assigned to the case. Instead, she learns someone else is dead, and she’s a person of interest.
Resolved to keep searching for Laurel and make sense of her disappearance, Giovanna finds that several people on board the cruise ship have reasons to want Laurel gone. One is a scam involving Tio Armando, the famous Galapagos giant tortoise and a major tourist attraction in the archipelago. And Jerome Haddad has a hand in it. Thinking she’s the cat in this game, Giovanna gets too involved and becomes the mouse, putting her life in jeopardy. But if she doesn’t stop him, Jerome will go on to ruin others.
My review for the book November 10th 2020
What an amazing location to set this novel which rapidly turns a cruise of a lifetime into a murder scene, and a deepening mystery about the star of the Galapagos islands, a giant tortoise called Tio Armando.
These celebrated islands are heavily reliant on tourism for the funding of conservation projects involving the unique flora and fauna, some of which is near extinction. There are several interested parties in maintaining this lucrative business opportunity and some are therefore keen to cover up discrepancies and even murder.
Things are not adding up on board the luxury cruise liner and the mystery deepens as one of the passengers appears to have disappeared under suspicious circumstances. This is followed as the passengers disembark for guided tours of the various conservation projects to find that promised exhibits are missing.
Giovanna is not only there to take in the sights and is on a mission to expose and get justice after being fleeced by a habitual conman, discovering in the processs that she is not the only one aboard the ship who has been taken to the cleaners. The subject of her investigation however has his own agenda, with prospective victims already drawn into his schemes. Lives are at risk as well as fortunes and the action heats up in a race against time.
The author has written articles on her visit to the Galapagos Islands and clearly spent her time well on researching the various islands and conservation efforts. This gives the novel a very authentic feel.
The action is played out on the ship, in the waters rich with marine life surrounding the islands and ashore as the group of sightseers visit scientific projects and the capital of the Galagapos.
The players are diverse and some of them you wouldn’t necessarily want to be trapped on a cruise liner with, but all have a part to play as the mystery unravels. There are some lovely interludes as we tag along with the passengers exploring this incredible region, where we are introduced to the wonders of the nature to be found there. And there is also the burgeoning romance between Giovanna and the young detective, who may be the only person who can bring all the threads of this mystery together to provide us with a satisfactory conclusion.
This is an exciting adventure as well as a murder mystery with the bonus of being a wonderful introduction to the Galapagos Islands.
Also by Sharon Marchisello
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed discovering more about Sharon’s books and recommendations for life experiences.. thanks Sally.