Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shelagh Watkins' Writing Machine

I first "met" Shelagh Watkins when she invited me to the Published Authors community on Ning. In addition to being a gifted (and humble about it, such a rarity) writer, she's also proven herself to have an amazing knack for bringing other writers together in a forum based on excitement and mutual respect.

Since I know she's nine shades of awesome, I figured it was time you discovered that too.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest work, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine, is the second book in the Planemaker series. This is a book for very bright kids, and adults who enjoy reading books written for very bright kids. It demands a certain amount of concentration not required of books aimed at a similar target audience. Despite the levels of concentration expected of the reader; the book is easy to read; it is the concepts that are challenging. For anyone with a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning, this book is for you. For readers looking for less challenging forms of entertainment, there are passages in the book that can be skimmed over.  These short explanations are necessary to show the reader that certain actions have been taken, but only those with a desire to know how things work will want the complete low down. In other words, if readers are happy to know that an apple falls perpendicularly from a tree because of gravity without an explanation of Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, then skipping the explanations will not detract from the story.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Gosh, there’s a question. Anything and everything. I write from experience, from research and from imagination. Often all three combined in one story. The themes can be travel, exploration, education or relationships (with a touch of romance). Subjects can be based on science, fantasy, realism, sport, entertainment or adventure.

What would be your dream project?

I don’t think I have one. I like the idea of a film being made of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine. Two children climbing aboard a space module on top of a two-hundred-foot rocket, about to be hurled into space, conjures up a vivid picture. I can see the two children in their space suits walking across to the launch pad in stark contrast to the towering rocket that is about to fire them into orbit around the Earth. Seeing that on screen would be amazing. Apart from that, there’s nothing else I would consider to be a dream project.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I guess all my past projects could be improved upon. When I wrote Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, I gave each chapter to my husband for critique. After I made the corrections to the first chapter, I asked him to read the chapter again. He began reading, and then said, indignantly, “I’ve already read this!” He wanted to know what happened next. It was a good lesson. Once a book is finished, readers want the next story, not a better version of the first.

What inspires you to write?

You’re not going to get a standard reply to this question. Nothing much inspires me. I don’t consider myself to be particularly good at writing. I don’t write for the money (which is just as well because I’ve made very little out of writing). I like the challenge of doing something that others claim is easy, but is actually difficult for me. I don’t have an endless supply of story ideas, I have to do a great deal of research to write anything and I always wonder if I’ll make it to the end. If you are wondering why I bother, I guess it has a lot to do with writing for others. If readers like my books, then I will write them. If they consider my books are not worth reading, then I guess I will reach the conclusion that they are not worth writing.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

One thing I have tried to avoid is trying to write in the style of my favorite author(s). Since I have just admitted that I’m not very good at writing, adopting the style of a well-known author and doing it badly, while they do it well, would serve no purpose. At least I can only be judged on the way I write.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or is it a science continuum?" Why?

For me, writing falls between the two, fifty-fifty. Without the creative side of writing, books would be a dull read for readers. Without all the background research, they would be shallow and make poor reading, no matter how creative they were in use of language and storyline. The reader must be swept along in a world of make-believe. Facts should fit in seamlessly so that the reader is not jerked out of the story wanting to know why something happened the way it did. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to write a hospital drama, but you do need to make sure that the medical procedures are accurate.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

The latest book, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine, is available on Kindle and in Print format. Any feedback from any of my work would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for dropping by.

Thank you, Sean, for inviting me to Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action. It was a blast; I’ll come again.