Today's blog features author, Sherry V. Ostroff! Thank you so much for spending some time with us for an interview!
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: CALEDONIA is historical fiction. A few years back I was reading a book on the history of Scotland and learned about a fascinating, little-known event. The Scots planned to establish their own colony (Central America) in the New World in 1698. It was hoped that New Caledonia would solve two problems: reduce Scotland’s debt and put the country on equal footing along with other European colonial powers. What happened to the colony and its inhabitants was riveting, and I thought it could be the basis for a great novel.
2. Can you tell me about the book?
Answer: Anna Issac’s choices are bleak. Suicide is more appealing than marrying the revolting Frenchman her spiteful brother has chosen for her. The only other option is to beg a man she barely knows, a Highlander, to help her run away. Escape would be a challenge for any fifteen-year-old, but it is particularly difficult for a Jewess living in 17th century Scotland.
Anna’s tale would have remained a secret, except three centuries later the death of Hanna Duncan's father on 9/11 unleashes a chain of events that leads her to an ancient key with a peculiar etching. Once deciphered, the clue points Hanna toward a safe deposit box in Edinburgh where Hanna uncovers Anna’s role in the creation of Scotland’s only colony.
Caledonia promised to be the trading hub of the New World, but starvation, ship’s fever, and incompetent leadership dogged the 1,200 colonists from the moment they left Scotland. More than half would be buried at sea or in the colony's muddy cemetery, and Anna would not be immune from the dreadful conditions. The outpost was deserted in less than a year.
CALEDONIA is a tale of these two strong women separated by time but bound by mysterious circumstances. 21st century Hanna keeps uncovering evidence linking her to 17th century Anna. Both women experience romance, adventure, and tragedy as the reader witnesses them becoming more and more connected.
3. What is your writing process like?
I am a pantser. My process does not include outlines, timelines, or character sketches. I have a basic idea of what I’m going to write, and then I sit down and do it. My ideas come as my characters show me the way. My goal is to get a 1000 words down and then edit, add, edit and add some more until the chapter takes shape with a cliffhanger ending. I’m mostly a linear writing, but have no problem creating a future scene to be used if and when needed.
4. What did you learn when writing the book?
Answer: How hard it is to write fiction. Up until this book, I had only written non-fiction.
5. What surprised you the most?
Answer: Fictional writing has so many parts to it: back story, dialogue, POV, description, creating tension and conflict, character development, theme, plot, research, and setting.
6. What does the title mean?
Answer: CALEDONIA is the Latin word for Scotland. New Caledonia was the name of Scotland’s only colony located in Central America.
7. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
8. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Answer: There are two main characters, and their story continues in a sequel.
9. What advice do you have for writers?
Answer: Write every day, develop relationships with other authors/beta readers, and take your time writing and editing.
10. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: Publishing too quickly - before the real job of editing is done.
12. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Answer: Classical music.
13. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
14. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: I write what I would love to read.
15. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: Each book stands on its own.
16. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: My second book is about to be published. I have started writing the sequel.
17. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: My research depends on where the story takes me. The amount of time varies depending on the subject matter. In some cases, I travel to the places I write about. In others, I contact experts in their fields. I also belong to a very large online writing group, and I often find help there.
18. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Answer: I didn’t start writing until I could do it full-time.
19. How many hours a day do you write?
Answer: Depends on my schedule and where I am in the book, but anywhere from 2 to 6 hours.
20. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
21. What did you edit out of this book?
Answer: Anything that didn’t advance the story and stopped the action.
22. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: Some are ethnic names and some are based on people in my life.
23. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: Teach writing.
24. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: Some scenes just seem to write themselves, others are like brain surgery. Fight scenes and sex scenes are tricky.
25. What is your favorite childhood book?
Answer: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
26. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: 2-3 years.
27. Do you believe in writer’s block?
28. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Answer: Computer for the manuscript, longhand for research.
29. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: When I was a young child, but I didn’t act on it until much later.
30. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Answer: Not hard at all. I knew what I wanted to write.
31. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: No. My writing is not constrained by time-frames.
32. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: I prefer letting my characters lead me.
33. Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Answer: If you mean writer’s block, one way is not to write in sequence. Pick a scene, even from the end of the book, and write it. You can fit it in later. It’s important to keep writing..
34. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: I read all the time. I consider it a part of my writing and it makes me a better writer. I also read and edit other author’s work. That also improves my writing. Favorite authors: Gabaldon, Wouk, Uris, Michener, Austen, Bernard Cornwell, Peter May, George R. R. Martin.
35. What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
Answer: Well developed, well written, with characters you wish were real.
36. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Answer: It’s the dues new writers have to pay when starting in the business. Disappointment and rejection will make you stronger.
37. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor was the first adult historical novel.
38. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: Writers write what they know.
39. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: Family members. Their support helps me get the job done.
40. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: My husband.
41. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Answer: It’s fun to think that there is a muse or two watching over my shoulder, and if so, it would be Clio for my love of history and Euterpe provides the inspirational music that keeps the juices flowing..
42. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Answer: I know it sounds cliché to say I care more about readers choosing my book than the money involved. But it’s true. I don’t do it for the money.
43. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
44. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
45. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Answer: I’ve never co-authored. Unless the book is a compilation of short stories, each written by a different author, I would not be interested in co-writing a book.
46. Is writing book series more challenging?
Answer: I don’t know, but I’m about to find out.
47. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: Yes. I’ve learned to write it down immediately.
48. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
Answer: Yes, when I’m sure that the fifth draft is better.
49. Can you tell us about your current projects?
Answer: I am about to publish my first novel: CALEDONIA. I have started writing the sequel: ON THE EDGE OF A PRECIPICE.
50. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
51. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
Answer: Yes. I value any ideas. You never know when it will be useful.
Want to be part of our blog as one of our guest author interviews? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!