Today I have women’s fiction writer, Novelist Sharon Struth with me. She believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, received first place in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest and second place in the Golden Heart. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut, along with her husband, two daughters and canine companions. She’s a graduate of Marist College.
Her other writing credits include essays in several Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, the anthology A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers, Sasee Magazine and WritersWeekly.com. Her current work-in-progress Share the Moon received second place in the Unpublished Beacon Contest. She is represented by Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency (http://www.blueridgeagency.com/).
Prior to writing full-time, Sharon worked for thirteen years at the headquarters of Waldenbooks/Borders Books. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America and Treasurer of The Romance Writers of Southern Connecticut and Lower New York (CoLoNY).
Joanne: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
Sharon: When people think “writer” they think Hemmingway or John Grisham, but I always loved to write anything; papers for school, the minutes to a meeting, a fun birthday poem. In fact, I never thought about becoming a writer because I was always a practical kind of gal. But when I turned forty, I gave my lifelong career in accounting and financial systems some serious thought. Is this what I want to do for the rest of my days. The answer was a big fat NO! Eight years later, during an adult education writing class, I found my passion in writing. All the made up stories in my head while on the grocery store line suddenly made sense.
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Sharon: I didn’t start out writing a book. I enjoyed the process of learning how to write through personal essays, taking classes in adult education and on-line classes. Then, within a year, I landed in a national anthology with one of my essays. Then another. After a few publications I decided to tackle a novel.
My success came from three things; 1) learning every little thing I could about the craft and industry, whether in a class or Writer’s Digest or a book on craft and 2) writing every single day 3) having the patience to know writing success doesn’t happen overnight.
Joanne: How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
Sharon: My first manuscript sits in a drawer. I call it my practice book. But while writing that one, I came up with the idea for The Hourglass. When I finished my “test drive” novel, I began The Hourglass. The first draft took a year. I then fine-tuned it for close to another year until it felt perfect. As the saying goes, writing is rewriting. I submitted it to RWA contests along the way and learned a great deal about how to improve what I’d done. Many complain about contests, but if you learn to filter through the advice (because some of it IS wrong at times) you can learn a great deal as a new writer.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Sharon: I found an agent after about thirty rejections. My agent was listed in the Women’s Fiction RWA files. She had only started out about three years earlier, but she had signed quite a few contracts. Her authors loved her and she had success with many mid-sized and smaller publishers; none with NY. But I decided to go with her anyway, give her a chance like she was giving me one. I’m so glad I did. She now has signed more contracts than I can count with quiet a few big NY publishers. She’s also turned me into a better writer and helped make The Hourglass a book I’m proud to have my name on. She’s currently shopping my next book Share the Moon.
Joanne: I love the cover of your book. What is the premise of your novel, The Hourglass we are promoting today?
This book is mainly for my generation…middle-aged folks, baby boomers, those of believe 50 is the new 40. Yet my thirty-something year old neighbor loved the book and so did an eighteen-year-old daughter of my friend. My novelist tagline is “Stories about life and love…for the ageless at heart.” I write stories where life doesn’t always go according to plan, but the hope for a second chance always lingers.
Here’s a blurb from The Hourglass:
Can forgiveness survive lies and unspoken truths?
Until Brenda McAllister’s husband committed suicide, she appeared to have the ideal life: a thriving psychology practice, success as a self-help author, and a model family. But her guilt over her affair with Jack’s best friend prevents her from moving on. Did Jack learn of her infidelity? Was she the cause of his death?
The release of Brenda’s second book forces her into an unexpected assignment with arrogant celebrity author CJ Morrison, whose irritating and edgy exterior hides the torment of his own mistakes. But as she grows closer to CJ, Brenda learns she wasn’t the only one with secrets—Jack had secrets of his own, unsavory ones that may have led to his death. While CJ helps Brenda uncover the truth about her husband, she finds the path to forgiveness isn’t always on the map.
Joanne: Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite.
Sharon: Sure. Here’s an excerpt:
An unexpected gravitational pull swelled Brenda’s anger. Her cute quip ran into hiding. She no longer cared about winning this man’s favor. His rudeness left her feeling as if she’d been doused with hot coffee this time. Brenda clenched her fists. A year of internal browbeating over Jack’s suicide had left her easily irritated.
Brenda gripped the frail edges of her self-control. “I once again offer my apologies for the accident, by definition an unplanned event with lack of intent.” He looked down his sturdy, Grecian nose at her, so she stood and put her hands on her hips. “Shouldn’t you, as a writer, know that?”
Every line on his face tensed. “I could do without your sarcasm.” He leaned closer. “Thanks to you, I missed my meeting. Maybe tomorrow morning you could get room service.”
The brunette unleashed a tight smirk. CJ motioned for them to move on.
Brenda fumbled for a good retort. As he stepped away, the last word went with him. The same way Jack had the last word in their life together. A silent explosion went off inside Brenda’s head and propelled her anger forward.
“Mr. Morrison?” She raised her voice to be heard above the crowd.
He looked over his shoulder and arched a questioning eyebrow.
Brenda crossed her arms and fixed a phony smile as she nodded toward his companion. “It’s so nice of you to bring your daughter to the conference.”
Joanne: Where can readers go to buy your novel?
Books can also be purchased at these retail links:
All Romance Ebooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thehourglass-1173513-149.html
Joanne: Thank you so much for being with us today on Writing Under Fire. I know I am going to order my copy right away. I hope to see you around the block at Women Fiction Writing Association.