Sandi Kahn Shelton

Read more about Sandi Kahn Shelton.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: April 01, 2007

Sandi Kahn Shelton's Web Site

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Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?

Sure! I'm the author of two chick-lit novels ("A Piece of Normal" and "What Comes After Crazy") and three non-fiction humor books about parenting. I'm a mom and a part-time feature reporter for the New Haven Register, and I've known since I was five that I wanted to be a writer, even though no one ever believed me. (They didn't understand why I was always carrying around a little pad and pencil and making little notes about them.:))

If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?

Hmm, that's kind of a tough question, since my characters have so many problems! Maybe, though, I'd really like to be Lily in "A Piece of Normal," who gets to be an advice columnist for her local newspaper, and lives in the same beach cottage she grew up in. (She doesn't even have a mortgage.) She's the person everybody depends upon to be stable and real-her ex-husband even is waiting for her to fix him up with one of her friends so he can get on with his life-yet she gets to figure out that life isn't about being safe. It's about taking risks and having fun. After she buys a do-it-yourself hair color kit and turns her hair a weird splotchy orange, she realizes that life doesn't always turn out like you planned.and then she gets to fall in love with a hunky guy. I won't say any more about her than that. But, yeah, I'd be Lily.

Who or what influences you when you write?

Wow, influences come zinging in from everywhere when I'm writing. It can be a song on the radio, a snippet of conversation that I hear, a movie I'm remembering. Writing a novel is like being in kind of a magic zone-everything going on kind of sticks to the novel and enters it somehow. You're often not aware of where things are coming from-but then there they are, showing up as character traits in your book. It's wonderful, like you're open to absolutely everything that wafts past you!

What do you do on a typical writing day?

Lately, I've been on such a tight deadline for my newest novel that I get up in the morning, shower and get dressed, make a lunch and a huge glass of iced tea and head off somewhere else-anywhere else but my house!-to write. I often write at the library, or sometimes I go to Starbucks, anyplace there's not a bathtub to clean or a chicken to cook! Because when I'm writing, any little thing can distract me away from my book.and I need to be able to focus. I usually write for about six hours and then I go for a walk, and then later, after dinner, go back to what I've written during the day and fix things up. Often I'll write until about midnight-and even sometimes I get up in the middle of the night, having dreamed some new thing about the book. I've learned not to count on myself to remember things in the morning; I have to get up and write them down before they disappear into thin air!

When you have writer's block how do you break free?

I have a theory that writers' block is just another name for anxiety. So doing anything that gets me relaxed and "flowy" again solves it. Usually writing emails or a letter to someone, reading somebody else's writing that I love, even dancing around the room to fast, loud music. All of this helps dislodge the block and gets me writing again.

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?

Yes! I'm currently writing a love story, which I am calling "Kissing Games of the World." Although both my previous novels had love interests in them, they weren't specifically about the process of two people falling in love. They were more about getting rid of the past so that love could come. But this new book (and I'm almost done!) is about two very unlikely people being thrown together and then discovering that they're absolutely passionate about each first passionately against each other, and then quite the opposite. It's been a lot of fun to write.

In 5 years, where do you see yourself? In general and in you're writing career.

I know I'll still be writing novels. This is the life I was made for. I wake up each day, just so excited that I get to do this.

What do you do for inspiration?

I read a lot, and go for walks-but I'd say my main inspiration comes from talking to people. I'm a part-time reporter as well as a novelist, and I just adore getting to go out on assignments and interview people and learn about what they do that they love. I get so many ideas from being out in the world. I don't think I could ever be one of those writers who just stays inside writing full-time without a break. I need people around me-and lots of iced tea!

Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?

LOL! I hate to say it-maybe it's my training as a journalist, or maybe it's that there are so many other things I love doing as much as I love writing-but I almost always need a deadline to get myself in gear! My first novel took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to write, and that's because no one was waiting for it. True, in the meantime, I was raising kids and writing a humor column for the paper and for Working Mother magazine, teaching writing, and being a reporter, and writing three non-fiction books, so I was busy-but I just never gave that novel the priority it demanded. It was the thing I could do only when the laundry was done, there were no carpools to run, or elephant costumes to make for know how it is. My second novel was done in 10 months, and that's the way the third one is going, too. If someone says, "We need this on this date," then I can do it. If not-hey, I'm going to the movies!

What would you like to tell your readers?

I want to tell them all THANK YOU! I get so much positive feedback and wonderful encouragement from readers.

What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?

The best advice I've ever received is to not wait for a mystical thing called "inspiration" before you sit down to write. Have cramps, feeling grouchy, hungry, tired, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived? Write anyway. Sit down every day and write-and you'll be amazed at how the pages pile up, and you honestly can't tell which ones you wrote when you just couldn't wait to get to the computer, and which ones you wrote when you had to be dragged there and practically chained to the chair!

The worst advice for me was when a writing teacher told me that you can't write a novel without outlining it very carefully first. Although I would never quarrel with anyone who wanted to write a book that way, my books seem to come from some little tiny moment, and if I sit down and just let myself start writing from that point, gradually I learn what the book is going to be about. I find I work best, not with an outline, but with kind of a story wheel. I use a notebook to plug in all the events that I know are going to happen, and then I shift things around as I need to. An outline (when I've tried to make them) feels stifling, and takes all the fun out of discovering what's going to happen next, and how I'm going to lead the reader there.

What was your first published work and when was it published?

I had been writing for newspapers and magazines (Redbook, Working Mother, Salon, Reader's Digest) when a publisher contacted me and wanted to publish a collection of my humor columns from Working Mother magazine. That collection-called "You Might As Well Laugh"-became my first book, published in 1997. That led to two subsequent books about family life and parenting, all of which are about how parenting is just so crazy. One is called "Sleeping Through the Night.and Other Lies" and the other is "Preschool Confidential."

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

The best way is probably through my website, above. My books can be ordered through the web site or on Amazon. And I am happy to talk by phone to book groups who are reading my books. There's a link for that, also, on my web site. That has been loads of fun!

Thank you so much for letting me visit your wonderful site.