Linda Lucretia Shuler wrote her first story when she was around six or so, Koko the Monkey, which is still tucked into a drawer somewhere. Her first published work was a poem she wrote in the third grade about a dappled pony; she’d never seen one, but conjured up something fanciful in her imagination. Since then poems and stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals, and a handful of plays have been produced in schools and community theatres.
Ms. Shuler planned to begin a novel “someday soon.” But after receiving a BFA and MA in theatre, her career veered into teaching Theatre Arts, directing dozens of shows, and acting in community theaters. When she couldn’t resist the desire to write any longer, she retired early and focused on that “someday soon” novel – just a good deal later than originally intended. Hidden Shadows is the result.
She enjoys participating in writer critique groups and community theatres, and is an award-winning member of Toastmasters International. She’s also an enthusiastic fan of the San Antonio basketball team, the Spurs.
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Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
I’ve never asked myself why I wanted to write. It was, and is, simply a natural part of me, something that’s always been there. I can’t imagine not writing. I even write in my sleep – well, sort of. I dream stories at night and daydream during the day, scribbling down ideas before they desert me on whatever is handy at the moment: a restaurant menu, an envelope, the back of a bill, a tattered notebook.
I write because I want to write, for whatever reason. It makes me happy. It also drives men nuts, but that’s part and parcel of creativity. The yin and yang.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
Well, what is it cracked up to be? An author, dressed to the nines, dashing about for book signings, television appearances, mingling with wine glass in hand among awe-struck crowds? If so, I’m laughing. Picture instead a frazzled creature slouched in front of a computer, alone, eyes dazed. Piles of pages are scattered about or crumpled in an overflowing trash basket. A cup of coffee sits nearby, cold and forgotten.
However, if you looked closely, you’d likely see a smile – especially if that face were mine.
The perks: The satisfaction of seeing the story and characters born in my imagination come to life in print. The sense that readers are touched by this invented world, that it lingers in their thoughts, becomes a part of them. The ego-boosting “Yea!” when reading a favorable critique. The feeling that I’ve accomplished something good, and perhaps made a difference in someone’s life – if only for a moment.
The demands: It takes work. A lot of it. Patience. Fortitude. Non-creative, non-fun necessary stuff. I’m like a kid wanting to kick her heels and howl in a temper tantrum because she can’t have her dessert now, immediately! So much work, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to shift mental gears from a finished novel to the beginning of a new one. It can be frustrating.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
I’m fortunate to have a traditional small publisher with a stellar reputation, Twilight Times. An author friend had published several books with them, led me in that direction, and so here I am. I’ve found it a pleasure, to be honest. The “low down” doesn’t include nasty stuff, only what would be expected from any worthwhile endeavor – work, and lots of it. Satisfaction and disappointment. Exaltation and exasperation. More yin and yang.
My experience may not be the same for other authors. Each of us has our own story, our own fortune or lack thereof. I try to count my blessings and not gnash my teeth with envy when I glimpse a full-page advertisement for a novel splashed in a glossy magazine, or read about the zillion-dollar advance to some lucky other author, and so on so forth.
The publishing world has changed drastically over the last few years, and continues to morph. It would be easy to feel lost among the throngs of writers, of the multitudes of books released. Oh, to be listed among the top ten! That’s the dream of all writers, isn’t it? But satisfaction must lie in the present moment, and what we hold in our hands.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
I live alone. My family consists of siblings, their kids and grandkids, and of course my close friends. All of them think I’m wonderful – a bit eccentric, perhaps, but understandably so. They forgive me the time it takes to hide away in the study and write, to become a hermit or a grouch or a crazed ninny in the throes of creativity and what that demands.
Any difficulties that may arise from spending time doing what needs to be done come from yours truly. I can be my own worst enemy. I’m the one who grouches about how long it takes me to hide away and write. I’m the one who fusses at the necessary editing I have to do. I’m the one who groans in frustration at the demanding publishing process and all it entails.
I try to approach my angst-self with patience, as if I were dealing with a temperamental twin: the two of us identical, except one is level-headed and the other far too emotional. So I attempt to talk myself out of the grumps caused by publishing demands, and focus on the simple, creative joy of writing.
Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
I had a beautiful, much beloved Papillion. Although he’s not with me now except in memory, he was with me during the inception of Hidden Shadows. And yes, Harlie got his food right on time, and his daily brushing, and walks, and cuddling. He was my four-legged, furry baby.
He did have his tricks, however. He would plop down at the doorway to my office, and sigh. He was a small little fellow, but that sigh drifted in the air, lingering, as if he felt utterly abandoned by his human mama. And of course I always succumbed – after finishing a sentence or two.
Are they actually still alive?
I adore plants. Gorgeous ones, with bright flowers and lush leaves. I buy dozens and dangle them in hanging pots from just about everywhere on my two small patios. Each available space is covered with pots in all shapes and sizes, including one of my favorite – a Talavera frog – all filled with some sort of plant.
Right now most of them are breathing their last, partly due to the hot Texas sun. When I glance up from my computer I can almost hear their desperate gasps. I’ll water them – later. After I finish writing.
In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
The phone ringing is a siren call, luring me away from what I should be writing. To combat the temptation, I leave it unanswered, letting the caller hear my recorded voice asking for a message. My friends usually know what’s going on and say, “It’s me! Answer already!” So of course I do – unless Muse has me in its grip. Then I’m oblivious to just about everything.
As for the rest – a family needing dinner or the boss calling – I’m in luck. Unmarried, retired, and free to follow any inclination I so desire. There is a problem, however: I have no excuse for not doing what needs to be done. If I’m not waxing creative, there’s nothing and no one I can blame except myself.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
The craziest thing that happened to me in the publishing process is when it screeched to a sudden stop. I faced unexpected surgery and chemo, and came out fine months later. It’s a long, crazy story with a happy ending. The publication dates for Hidden Shadows were delayed – but not halted. So all is well.
Other than that, I can’t think of a thing.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I’m the perfect example techno-phobia. Just working with a computer fills me with awe. I feel as if I should genuflect and offer sacrifices to it.
So don’t ask me about social networking. I’m still dragging my feet in the last decade. However, I’m learning! For example, Facebook is a fascinating resource. I’ve communicated with friends gathered through the years, have met interesting strangers from all over the world, and joined dozens of intriguing sites. I especially appreciate the online camaraderie of professional writer organizations, which are supportive and informative. Every single individual I connect to in this fashion has something unique to offer, and is also a potential reader – so yes, I highly recommend Facebook.
Twitter? It doesn’t appeal to me since I’m not the quick-chat sort, but I’m willing to give it a try. As for LinkedIn, I’d avoid it. Run from it, in fact. When I made the mistake of joining, it grabbed every single contact in my address book and sent them unwanted messages – theoretically from me. “Linda Shuler wants you to join …” Blah blah blah. Some of those contacts were important business associates in the publishing world. Talk about embarrassing! I sent each a letter, apologizing.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
Hidden Shadows is a debut novel, fresh from release as an E-book and scheduled for soft cover publication in December 2015. I don’t yet know how sales will “happen,” since I’ve barely started. But I do have a long list of marketing ideas. Now all I need is to get started!
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
I’m tap dancing on the roof in my imagination, champagne glass in hand (careful not to spill), shouting to one and all: I did it! Mission accomplished! Hidden Shadows is done, fini, complete! I have a terrific publisher, a book I’m proud of, a cover I love, and so on so forth. Halleluja!
Then reality kicks in: Marketing. Lots of work ahead. Ah, well. I’ll finish his glass of champagne –maybe the bottle, too – climb off the roof (or slide, as the case may be), settle down in front of the computer, and get to work.
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
When I first held Hidden Shadows in my hands, I found myself whispering, “I did it! This is me – these characters, this setting, this story – they came from within me, they are me.” It was a wondrous feeling, almost as if I were holding a newborn child. In that moment, all the labor that went into the book’s creation, the months of struggles and doubts and frustrations and exultations, vanished from memory. I had – and have – only the pure joy.