Publicists often advise authors to write and respond to interview questions they anticipate in connection with their books. Here, author Sharon Randolph of Sitka shares her thoughts in this format. She's also helping us spread the word in Sitka about Alaska Book Week (Oct. 8-15).
As an author, the questions I am asked most often are: When did you begin writing; where do you get your ideas; and what is your process?
When did I begin?
In first grade, it was discovered that I had a reading problem. Not much was known about dyslexia then, but my teacher spent long hours helping me, and by the time I started second grade, I could read. It wasn't, however, until we moved to Bermuda when I was ten that words came alive for me. My fifth grade teacher's enthusiasm for reading opened up a world of wonder for the students in her class. That summer I began to write. When I wasn't in the ballet studio, I could be found hidden beneath the low hanging branches of a casuarina tree. This was my writing habitat—the place where the sound of the ocean, the distant cry of the long tail, and the scents of frangipani and Easter lily erased the dramas of the day. Curled up on a blanket, I wrote in my journal, created poetry, and wrote short stories about places I’d never been. This was the beginning of a life long love of the power of words.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from everywhere. A four-word prompt, "once upon a time" given to me by a fellow writer and a trip to New York City inspired The DiMensioner's Revenge. How did these two things provide the impetus for creating a fantasy fiction novel that takes place in another galaxy on the last remaining piece of Old Earth?
New York is an amazing city. I have lived and worked there, and I visit it periodically. Children playing in the streets or in cement schoolyards have always tugged at my heartstrings. What if . . ."once upon a time" . . . there was, tucked away in a vacant lot between tall buildings, a tiny cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden. What if . . . children discovered this cottage, and the kind, old woman (my grandmother) who lived there invited them in for cookies and milk? And what if . . . when the children passed through the doorway, they found themselves in another dimension, one where they could explore a garden or a barn or lush, green forest?
What is my writing process?
I'd like to say that I outline the entire story, do character sketches, and create the setting before I begin writing, but my creative process is much too messy for that. It is something I began to explore when I was asked to choreograph Hansel and Gretel in eighth grade. Choreography is all about storytelling, about linking steps together in ways that make sense, have flow, and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Over the course of a forty-year career in dance and the creation of sixty original ballets, I learned not to second-guess myself or the direction my imagination was taking me.
My creative process in dance works like this:
I find music that inspires me to move and listen until I become it and it becomes me.
I consider a place to begin and a place to end.
I enter the studio with dancers and forget everything but being in the moment.
I create the work . . . let it pour out unedited until it is complete.
I go back to the beginning and clean (edit) one step, one arm movement, one head direction at a time.
And I add detail and clarify the storyline.
When I write, my creative process parallels what I learned as a choreographer. I let an idea settle into my psyche for a few days. Then, I sit down at my computer and begin to type. Like the first "draft" of a new choreographic piece, my first written draft is a far cry from the finished product. Once the draft is complete, I go back and begin at the beginning. Now, I know the story, and I know the characters. I add detail, provide motivation, and take out what does not add to the dramatic intent of the novel. I write like I choreograph, but instead of steps and bodies, I use an enchaînement of words to create the story, the characters, and the setting. From Old Earth to the Fourth Galaxy from the Great Central Sun to a beautiful place called Myrrh, words dance across the page, creating the patterns and pictures that bring the story to life.
The DiMensioner’s Revenge was written and published in Sitka, AK where I live on a thirty-foot sailboat named Lightfoot. For more information, please take a look at my website: