Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Sharon K. Souza

Need a pick me up? In search of some inspiration? Take a moment with Sharon K. Souza today and be encouraged!
Where will your tenacity take you today?
Sharon K. Souza is a freelance author whose passion is writing inspirational fiction. Two novels, Every Good & Perfect Gift and Lying on Sunday, were released by NavPress in 2008. Her novella, A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown, released in December 2004, has been converted to a play, and has been performed in Northern California.
She and her husband Rick have been married 37 years. They have three grown children (one who now resides in Heaven) and seven grandchildren. Her husband is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, and together they are appointed missionaries at large with the Assemblies, based in the US.
Sharon has traveled with Rick to various countries, including Mexico, Japan, South Africa and Jamaica, where Rick is involved in physically and strategically building the kingdom of God. He has traveled to more than 30 countries, has experienced Siberia in December, been robbed in Columbia, and called in for questioning by the authorities in Cuba.
While Rick lives the adventure, Sharon is satisfied to create her own through her fiction.

1) When did you know for certain being a writer was a goal you weren’t going to give up on?
It was a 20-year journey for me from the time I began working on my first novel to the time I received my first contract. There were numerous times of discouragement as I went from one novel to the next, but I was truly driven to continue. I had a passion to write inspirational fiction, but not only were the doors closed, there didn’t seem to be a door in the brick wall I kept butting my head against. I wrestled often with God during that time, asking , “Is this really my call? And if so, why all the rejections?” (I have folders full of rejection letters, and finally I quit saving them.)

But two things really kept me going – other than the incredible support of my family. My husband and I love Jack London and have been to the Jack London museum in Glen Ellen, California, several times. On our first visit I learned that Jack had more than 800 rejections before he went on to create some of our finest fiction in his short life. I thought, “Well, I don’t have 800 – yet.” And that piece of information kept me going. But I absolutely knew I wasn’t going to give up, ever, when I heard Ted Dekker speak at Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference a few years ago. He said that writing is like a pyramid. At the base you have thousands of people who want to be published. Move up the pyramid a bit and you have a smaller number of people who will actually write to be published. Move up further and you have even fewer people who will hone their craft enough to be publishable. Move to the pinnacle and you’ll find those who persevered. I decided that night I was going to be among those who didn’t quit.
I had no idea as I listened to Ted how close I was to achieving my goal.

2) Who believed in you the most? What role did they play in your ability to keep going?
My husband and three children have been incredibly supportive during this journey. They encouraged me when I got down, they read and reread my work and cheered me on. They had faith to believe I could achieve my dreams when my faith was weak. I would never have continued in the early days without their support. My son Brian knew about my contract, and had read the manuscript for Every Good & Perfect Gift, but he passed away before he could actually hold the book in his hand. Still, he shares in my success as much as my husband and daughters.

3) What were the top three obstacles you encountered on the road to being published?
Once I had actually written a manuscript that was publishable, it seemed like the old Catch 22 came into play. No one wants to publish you until you’ve been published, but how do you get published if no one will publish you? I don’t think I was the only one out there asking that question. I had written and published some non-fiction articles, and had worked on three non-fiction books with another author, so that helped. But publishing is a business and publishers want a sure thing, especially in an economy such as we have now. So that was one. Second, I needed an agent, and finding one is as difficult as finding a publisher. Third, was having what a publisher wanted when they wanted it. Case in point, early on I wrote a historical novel (WW2 era) and began to send it out. I heard back from so many publishers that they were looking for contemporary novels. So I rewrote it as a Desert Storm novel. Still nothing happened. I finally moved on to another project and considered the writing of both versions of that novel as a great training exercise. I’ve never been good at projecting the future market as you so often hear, so I write what I think I write best. I’ve experimented with different genres and have found my niche.

4) How many rejections did you face?
Oh boy, if I began counting it would be several hundred. Not as many as poor Jack, but whew, a lot. Out of the many, Many, MANY rejections only a few contained anything of a personal nature. Mostly they were standard thanks-but-no-thanks notes. I understand editors don’t have time to write letters toall the people they reject, but I took heart in the ones that said things like, “Good writing!” even if they did pass on it.

5) What helped you to stay tenacious even when faced with rejection?
Aside from what I mentioned in previous questions, it was the “fire shut up in my bones.” I was driven to write, and to write fiction specifically. I had well-meaning friends who advised me to give up writing novels and just write non-fiction. After all, I’d had some---albeit minute--- success at nonfiction. But the stories . . . they lived in me and I had to write them out. If they were never read by anyone but my faithful family and friends, I had to write them out.

6) What has being tenacious taught you about yourself?
When you decide you’re not going to quit at one thing, you generally don’t quit at other things. You learn there’s a point to the process and you try to get the most you can out of the process, regardless of the goal. Because you’ll never reach the goal without the process. Every aspect of our lives is about the race Paul writes about in 2 Timothy. The finish line is the goal, but to get there we have to put one foot in front of the other, get up when we stumble, and keep on keeping on. (I love that phrase from the 60s – but then I love everything about the 60s : ) So I think what I’ve learned is not to fear the process, because, really, it’s what produces the desired goal

7) What advice do you have for a writer who is facing “no” right now?
Draw yourself a pyramid with you standing on top and put it wherever you write. Stretch to be the best writer you can be, don’t settle for mediocrity, and understand that what you’re doing is not an exercise in futility. You’re honing your craft with every word you write. And if you’ve committed yourself and your work to the Lord, trust that he can open a door where you don’t even see one.
You can catch more of Sharon K. Souza today on the new author blog Novel Matters. Today is her first blog post on this one of a kind blog. Drop in and say "Hi" to all of us there!
I bid you good writing.


Anonymous said...

OH, great interview. Very encouraging for those facing "no" very frequently of late. **smile**

I really enjoy your blog, Bonnie. So encouraging yet straight shooting.

Have a great day!

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Great interview. I love her book cover! And that Jack story is always a good pick-me-up...