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Sharon Maas Interview

Posted on 05 July 2005. © Copyright 2004-2017 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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Writewords talks to author Sharon Maasabout her novels, what inspires her and how important My Friend Flicka really is

Tell us something about your background.

Iíve been writing all my life, since I was a child; as I was extremely shy, writing was my way both of expression and communication. I used to write adventure novels when I was eight. Later, I became a journalist in my home country, Guyana. I always longed to write fiction, but didnít have the confidence to actually write anything till my late forties! I now have three novels in print, published by HarperCollins. Iíve just finished a fourth novel and am in the middle of revising it.
I also write occasional freelance articles for Yoga magazine and Spotlight (a German English language mag)

How did you start writing?

I knew I wanted write novels but it seemed impossible. I couldnít even begin to think how to go about it, and all the books I read said you had to plan everything very carefully first. Since I am the worldís worst planner, it seemed the door was closed. And then I came across Dorothea Brandeís marvellous book, Becoming a Writer. She speaks about the source of creativity within us; she says that it is the unconscious mind that actually writes our stories, and what we have to do is access that inner source and the stories would start to flow. That hit a nerve. I had already been to India, and had been practicing meditation for years; it was an easy thing for me to tune into that part of me, and once I knew the way all I had to do was sit down and my fingers did all the work. It was as if I was taking dictation ĖI never had to plan anything in advanceÖ thatís how my first novel came; even though itís a complicated story with three entirely different, but interwoven, threads.
Of course, thatís only the first draft. The next phase is revision, which needs a totally different approachÖ - there, I am ruthless and sometimes make very radical changes, cutting out entire chapters that no longer fit!



Who are your favourite writers and why?

I donít have favourite writers as much as favourite books Ė often Iíve loved a book by one author, then read another book by the same author and hated it. For instance, one of my favourite books of all time is Hemingwayís For Whom the Bell Tolls. I was completely overwhelmed when I read it; it was my first book by him. I then read The Sun Also Rises Ė and could hardly finish it, it was so bad. I loved Vikram Sethís A Suitable Boy, but found An Equal Music rather so-so.One author who never disappoints is Rohinton Mistry - I'd name him as my favourite contemporary author.
Growing up, I loved Mary OíHaraís Flicka books and read them over and over. The same with Jane Eyre.. and many more than I could mention here.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?

I read about an agent whoíd just set up a new practice in Writersí News, and wrote her. She thought my first novel was terrific, however, she never sold it, in spite of my re-writing the whole thing again and again for five years. Finally I gave that one up and started another. This time, I was more concerned with getting the novel right than getting it published. That first agent seemed to have given up on me; she never read it, so I sent it to a literary assessment service to get some feedback. After Iíd rewritten it according to their suggestions they sent it straight to an agent.



Whatís the worst thing about writing?

Promotion! Iíve always been very shy; public speaking was always what I feared the most in school. I found all speaking difficult, but I loved writing. That hasnít changed much. I still hate speaking, and even worse is the idea of going out telling people to read my books, soliciting for attention. It goes against my very nature; I prefer to be in the background, unnoticed, observing rather than being in the limelight. I never understood the concept of celebrity authors. But once youíre published you have to promote your books (if you want the sales to enable you to give up the day job), and that was the worst hurdle for me. Now, I quite enjoy small gatherings where I can talk to my readers; if itís all very relaxed and personal I donít mind.

And the best?

When the story is flowing and I am so caught up in it I forget everything around me; Iím living it, I have lost myself in it completely.

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences and if/how this affects/influences your writing

At first I was terrified of feedback; but when it came it was mostly good and that increased my confidence no end. The greatest joy is knowing that others have entered the spirit of my story. Itís a very intense kind of communication. When youíre writing it, youíre all alone and you can never know if what youíre writing is going to convince anyone. So when it does, itís as if a sort of magic has taken place; the story has become real for someone else, it has worked! I believe that writing is foremost about feeling; if I can feel the story and my characters, if I can laugh and cry with them, so will my readers. If I am bored while writing, if itís all a horrible chore, if my characters are bland and donít move me, thatís the way they will come across to the reader. So I am very aware of how involved I feel while writing. More than once Iíve scrapped hundreds of pages that just didnít work for me. I knew they wouldnít work for readers either.



What was your breakthrough moment?

I went on holiday to Trinidad and Tobago, and was staying with my cousin there. I was still sleeping off my jet lag when my cousin woke me: a telephone call from my agent. Three publishers wanted my fist novel, and I had to make my choice!



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.






Comments by other Members



Al T at 12:41 on 05 July 2005  Report this post
Inspirational, Sharon. Thank you.

Adele.

anisoara at 12:41 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
Very nice interview. Although there are many insights, this struck the deepest:

When youíre writing it, youíre all alone and you can never know if what youíre writing is going to convince anyone. So when it does, itís as if a sort of magic has taken place; the story has become real for someone else, it has worked! I believe that writing is foremost about feeling; if I can feel the story and my characters, if I can laugh and cry with them, so will my readers. If I am bored while writing, if itís all a horrible chore, if my characters are bland and donít move me, thatís the way they will come across to the reader.


Thanks, Aruna!

Ani

JoPo at 18:52 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
Sharon - great story and an inspiration to us all. Best wishes for the future.

Joe

JoPo at 18:52 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
Sharon - great story and an inspiration to us all. Best wishes for the future.

Joe

Elbowsnitch at 21:02 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
I love what you say about accessing the unconscious mind - very encouraging to read this!

Frances

Elbowsnitch at 21:03 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
I love what you say about accessing the unconscious mind - very encouraging to read this!

Frances

ashlinn at 21:46 on 06 July 2005  Report this post
Sharon, thank you for such an honest and genuine interview. It sounds as though you have been through both the best and the worst of what a writing career has to offer and I hope the very best is yet to come.
Ashlinn.

aruna at 07:58 on 07 July 2005  Report this post
Thanks to all of you for your kind words! Writing for me has been a roller coaster ride - and it's not over yet! Sometimes I wish I was back ina nice, safe secure 9-5... but then again, maybe not. Good luck to all of you....

Cornelia at 08:16 on 15 July 2005  Report this post
Sharon, I haven't come across your books yet, but the very honest and open voice in your interview makes me want to seek them out, soon.


Sheila


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