Today I’m interviewing Sharon Lynn Fisher, one of eight finalists in the Paranormal division of the prestigious Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart Award for unpublished manuscripts. The title of Sharon’s novel is GHOST PLANET.
Q: Hi, Sharon, thanks for offering to share your experiences with other SFR writers and fans. Being a finalist for the RWA Golden Heart Award for Paranormal Romance must be very exciting.
A: Thanks very much for having me, Laurie! This was my first time to enter the GH, and I really had no idea what to expect. I knew competition was stiff, so I tried to put it out of my mind. Yes, getting the call that morning was quite a thrill!
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
A: Well, let’s see. I live in Seattle with my husband and young daughter. My “day job” is freelance copywriting, though I’ve been on hiatus from that for about a year now. I lost a dear colleague last summer, and that started me thinking about how easy it is to put off your dreams until it’s too late.
I’ve been writing fiction off and on since I was 6. I read nonstop as a child, and I won an Honorable Mention in a Cricket Magazine contest when I was about 10. That’s really where it all started! GHOST PLANET is the first manuscript I’ve finalized and polished with the intent to seek publication.
Q: What sparked your interest in writing SFR? Are there any particular books or authors that inspired you?
A: The book that probably planted the seed was A Wrinkle in Time, though the “romance” between Meg and Calvin is pretty subtle. I loved the adventure and mystery, and the strong family bonds that hold the tale together.
Also I came of age over the course of the Star Wars saga, so that was a huge influence. I was probably the only gal who preferred moody, intense Luke to Han. (I never forgave Lucas for Luke being Leia’s brother.)
Q: Where did you get the idea or inspiration for GHOST PLANET, how long did it take you to write it and what’s the approximate length of the novel?
A: I had been writing fantasy shorts, sort of experimenting with what kind of speculative fiction I wanted to write, and had received a few Honorable Mentions from the Writers of the Future Contest. I decided I wanted to try something more in the sci-fi vein, and noodling around one day, the title GHOST PLANET popped into my head.
That got the creative juices flowing. I knew I wanted it to be a story of love and longing in impossible circumstances. I wrote the first 25 pages as a short story in a single day (it was more like the story wrote ME - my muse is a sumo wrestler). But the story was clearly too big for those britches, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened next. I had a first draft of 90,000 words in about six weeks.
Q: Do you have other writers or authors you work with for critiquing or beta-reading your work?
A: This was really my first time through this process and I was making it up as I went along. My husband turned out to be an excellent first reader and editor, and he helped me tremendously. Several friends offered to read it and provide feedback, including a couple other writers. Their support kept me sane (and still does). I may try working with a critique partner next time around.
Q: I understand GHOST PLANET has already won other awards or contests. Can you tell us about those?
Great Expectations (RWA chapter contest) – 1st place, specialized category
The Emily (RWA chapter contest) – 2nd place, paranormal category
The Sandy (general fiction contest) – Finalist, sci-fi/fantasy category (winners TBA)
Q: What steps or events led to GHOST PLANET becoming a Golden Heart nominee?
A: I looked into contests as a way to get feedback, and also as a way to get my work in front of agents and editors. I thought of GP as sci-fi, but the romance is central to the plot, so I started looking at RWA contests. I found they almost all included a category for speculative fiction, and that was pretty exciting. So I entered a handful, including the Golden Heart, and waited to see what would happen!
Q: Can you share your pitch or log line for GHOST PLANET?
A: For my agent queries I used a general statement about larger themes, followed by a hook, followed by a short synopsis. Here are the general statement and hook ...
GHOST PLANET explores the question of what makes us human, while probing the boundaries between love, dependence, and obsession.
Within 24 hours of arriving on Ghost Planet, Elizabeth Cole has discovered she's not the person - or even the species - she thinks she is.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the main characters and the setting?
A: Ardagh 1 (Ghost Planet) - Mysterious, Earth-like planet that hosts scientific colonies from Earth. In response to the colonists’ arrival, the planet has produced a race of symbiotic beings the colonists call “ghosts.”
Elizabeth Cole – Post-grad psychology intern who has just arrived on Ghost Planet to work at the New Seattle Counseling Center, which helps colonists adjust to the presence of ghosts.
Grayson Murphy – Lead psychologist at the Counseling Center, and co-creator of a “ghost protocol” that forbids interaction between colonists and ghosts.
(Shameless plug: There are a few excerpts, some back story teasers, and an iMix on my web site.)
Q: Any other projects in the works?
A: I do have a number of other ideas in various stages of development (all SFR with paranormal elements). But at the moment I’m focused on finalizing revisions to GP (intending to have the manuscript ready for my agent to pitch by the time RWA rolls around).
I’m working on a short story for Writers of the Future, as signing a book contract will make me forevermore ineligible. (A tradeoff I think I’m willing to accept!)
Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to offer other writers?
A: I think the best piece of advice I read, just before starting GP, was to write a story you feel passionate about. Hook yourself so you can hook other people.
Keep at it, no matter what. Joseph Campbell, one of my heroes, once said something like: “If you’re doing the thing you’re meant to do, the universe will help you. Doors will open for you that might not open for other people.” So how do you know if you’re doing the thing you’re meant to do? Writers KNOW. (Am I right?)
Also, if you’re writing in a genre that offers contests, enter them. The quarterly Writers of the Future Contests gave me a goal to keep me writing, and the RWA contests provide objective feedback and real opportunities for recognition (an agent requested my manuscript as a result of The Emily).
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’d just like to say thanks, again, for having me, Laurie. I really enjoy keeping up with your blog, and I wish you and your readers all the best in their writing endeavors!
Thanks for your thoughts and insights, Sharon. We’d like to extend our best wishes to you and GHOST PLANET for the upcoming Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, which will be held in conjunction with the RITA Awards on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at the National RWA Conference in Washington, DC. We’ll be rooting for you!
Be sure to check out Sharon Lynn Fisher’s website to read excerpts and story-related posts about GHOST PLANET.