Fellow Atlanta Area author Beth Hermes joins the podcast this week. Beth has been a professional writer for over 30 years, she teaches creative and business writing workshops to children and adults, and is the author behind the spiritual/fantasy fiction series The Lightbearers. I wanted to speak with Beth about what it’s like being a writer, teaching writing, and learning about writing as an adult.
We discuss Beth’s early career as an author and how she got her start as a shadow artist (2:01), how being an outsider seems to be a requirement for being a writer (8:51), why she believes it’s important to keep her writing life separate from her regular life (10:25), what techniques she uses to draw stories out of some of the non-authors she works with in writing workshops (15:42), why she advises new authors to read as much as possible (21:51), what it’s like teaching this new generation of kids to read and write (25:13), her advice for aspiring authors (28:15), how writing about dragons has taught her that we’re not so different from one-another after all (36:22), and how losing her beloved horse taught her so much about life (38:16).
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I’m a lifelong Southerner married to an Indian man who grew up in South Africa during apartheid.
And I am fiercely proud about. If you don’t like that Well bless your heart. I’m Sheryl Prabhoo and this is southern life Indian wife.
Welcome to Southern life Indian wife.
I have got fellow Atlanta area author Beth Hermes with me today and I wanted to just do a little bit of an introduction about her. She is totally an overachiever when it comes to her writing. I feel so inferior not all. So she’s been a professional writer for over 30 years and she teaches creative writing and business writing workshops to adults and also to kids and a prolific author of a spiritual fantasy fiction series called The Lightbearers .
How many books are you into with that series? Six have been published the seventh is in progress right now and I was hoping you would be out this year but it’ll probably be early 2020.
He and I’ve written one huh. Well you’ll be you’re my inspiration. Thank you. Yeah. And so Beth does a million other things too in the writing community. But you know I’m just not going to name them because it also makes me feel inferior.
No not at all. I mean your book has done wonders and it’s a beautifully written books. Well I’m very proud of it.
Thank you. I wanted to talk with you today basically about what it’s like to be a writer and teaching writing. Yes. And learning writing as an adult because for me I was always a writer I always kept a journal but I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was about thirty seven OK taken workshops and getting into it and kind of giving myself permission to be a writer. Yeah and I know that you work with people a lot in helping them to give themselves permission.
I do. I do. But you know it’s funny when you say that I gave myself permission to write but if you’ve done Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way or heard about it at all. She talks about shadow artists and I was one of those for a very very long time I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult career. But I was a journalist and a PR director for different companies and non-profits. So I was the shadow artist I always had books in me and I knew that. But I was always afraid because I thought you had to be someone else or do something else to get to the point where you were allowed to write books. So I was writing for other people. I was writing for businesses. I was writing for newspapers and magazines and that felt safe right. So I was let’s see it was two thousand eight when I started writing my first book. I’d been journaling like you for my whole entire life. But it was the first time I had written a book and I felt this freedom that came from that. And I had some opportunities that opened up from that I guess when you do something that’s right for you finally your spirit says that’s it. And then all of a sudden other things come up and that’s when all of this started happening.
Yeah yeah that’s absolutely true because like with you said you feel like you have to have done something else in order to to be able to write a book. Yeah yeah yeah. And I always felt like that I’m like who’s gonna want to read anything that I write. You know. Yeah. So I started a blog. OK. And that sort of gave me permission because I found that oh there’s a lot of people out there that want to hear what I have to say. Yes yes. Yeah.
So and it’s gratifying to be able to say to have a conversation and I think that’s what all communication is whether it’s written or verbal it’s communication. And you you tells a story and people react to it and then there’s this this interaction and that’s really what it’s all about.
Yeah yeah that makes sense. That makes sense. So do you have any funny stories about interactions with people here in the south coming down here.
Does that does that inspire any of your writing.
Well sometimes it does yes because there’s always that you know you put yourself. You write what you know and you put yourself part of yourself into everything that you write and you hear these things all the time and when you start writing you realize oh my goodness it wasn’t what I thought it was. You know when I first moved here I had and she wound up being my best friend here in Georgia. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. But when I first met her was my first day in my history class.
We moved here when I was 14 or 15. And so I was in high school and I grew up in New York and we speak very differently. Yeah. And so this girl leaned over and she said Excuse me can I borrow a “pin”. And I thought that was a really strange request for the beginning of the history class because she wanted a pen she wanted a pen. So I said sure. And I had a safety pin on one of my key chains and I handed it to her and she looked at me really strange and she says no no. A pen. And she started moving her hand.
And she said like what you write with and I sit and rat with she was born in Alpharetta and I said Oh a pen know correct way of saying a my very new york way of saying oh a pen. Yeah.
So we had a good laugh about it. And then she was in my P.E. class and one of the girls said Oh you need to meet this girl she’s got a horse too because I had a horse. And so this girl came over and she said yeah. We already met. I borrowed a pen from her filthy over enunciated the E.
Funny. So that’s one of my funniest ones.
And then of course you know I always had people when I would come back from New York. Your accent gets thicker you know. And so they’d say Oh did you have coffee while you were there.
So I said well I wasn’t always that bad.
But yeah yeah yeah. When you told me that you’re from Long Island I had known you for quite a while and it kind of shocked me because you’re not scary when you.
I went to journalism school in Auburn, Alabama and they beat it out of us. I guess they told us we had to sound like we were from nowhere so that we could blended with whoever we interviewed.
That makes sense. Yeah.
My son is in theater school in New York and he’s learning that basic you know non you know just very generic American accent you know so that everybody can understand and relate actually. Yeah. And for him coming from the south that’s kind of hard.
Oh yeah it’s funny. Yeah. You know the pin thing that reminds me when I moved to North Carolina as a kid even though I was Southern you know there’s different twang different southern accents and people called their dads their diddies. Well and I was like What the heck is a diddy.
Oh it’s your dad OK got it. OK. So there’s language barriers everywhere.
And mine was my father my father. Going to sleep with the fish.
So when you moved down here did you feel like an outsider.
Oh gosh yes. In nineteen eighty one I went to Milton High School in Alpharetta and Alpharetta was not even close to what it is today. Now it’s very upscale and lots of you know it’s the desired place to live. And back then the real estate agent looked at my parents and said Why do you want to live there. And was it the Boondocks is the boondocks. And Milton High School was a 60 or 70 year old conglomeration of buildings they had just put a new one in because of the growth. But we still had hallways in old buildings that had been there since the beginning of time. And you’d walk down the hallway and the lockers would lean in when you were walking on the wooden floors. Holy crap. It was crazy. So yeah that was that was interesting. But the culture shock of it was that there were a lot of us moving in. I was one of. And I still am friends with most of these people today.
About 20 people who moved in that school year I just moved in in November or October and they moved in it was November and they moved in the beginning of the school year so they started school there and I started my my 11th or 10th grade year up in New York and then moved down here in the middle. And so I met these people and we bonded because we were from somewhere else. I got a girl from Florida and there was a girl from Washington state and so you know all these people who came from somewhere else we just kind of got to know each other became very close.
Yeah all the outsiders Yeah yeah kind of acting together huh. Yeah. And I think for me and probably for you being a writer. Yes we’ve got that community.
Oh yeah. And I think being the outsider is almost a requirement for being a writer. Yeah. As you observe and you learn and the things that you experience make for great storytelling.
Yes. Yeah. My favorite little meme that I found on line of course because I love the little quotes and means is you better be careful what you do because you might end up in my novel.
That’s right. Yeah that’s right. Yeah I’ve seen that one and then I also have some one of my students gave me a little sign that I have on my desk. It’s actually at the entrance to my office and it says Don’t piss me off or I’ll kill you in my book.
I like that one better. It’s kind of cool.
So yeah like this is like don’t mess with me because I’ll pick up your bad traits and I’ll make them kill you.
Yeah. Yeah. There was this one female person that I know of who is in my memoir and of course she’s heavily disguised but you know all of her little catty actions and attitudes man I put that into that book I’m making sure you know hopefully she won’t recognize herself and sue me but she know that cause the people who recognize themselves by their bad traits never want to claim that it’s really them.
Well that’s true. So yeah Extra read that.
Yeah. So you know this writing community like you said you know we have to be outsiders and I think it makes us a little bit weird think and I don’t know about you but I have a lot of regular suburban mom friends you know the ones that play tennis. The PTA. You know just regular people work regular jobs. Right. And my writing life is completely separate from theirs. Yes. And it’s kind of sad because I want to be able to share that with everybody but it’s also my thing. And it’s that beautiful thing that bonds us writers together. Absolutely.
And I think that it’s good to keep those things separate because you’re outside your writing world friends. First of all they provide fodder for your stories. But second they keep you grounded. I think you know writers we tend to to sail off of the earth a little bit with our stories. They kind of make us fly away and we can get lost in that and our our friends who are outside of that really keep us real. I think I’m on a horseback rider so I’ve got my bar family. And if you think you’re lost in the world when you’re going writing you know doing writing any any kind of writing I don’t care if it’s business or fun. They should all be fun. But anyway. But when I go to the horse farm you have to be president. You have to be there. So in my writing world my brain goes off to wherever it wants to. And when I’m on my horse I have to be right there all the time and my friends who are there and we’re very close we’re like family out there and they really do all of us kind of have this. We’re in the moment. That’s I think a very good thing for for a writer to have is something that brings you to the moment because we’re not usually there but that’s absolutely true.
Because I get lost in writing and I hate driving down the road and you go oh crap how did I get here.
Somebody else got this whole story working in the back of my mind and I just pulled into the Chick fil A parking lot right
What the hell am I doing. Exactly. Yeah. I hope I didn’t hurt anybody. Yeah exactly. But if I did it’s going in the book.
That’s right. Things that happened in here may may appear real but it’s just a coincidence.
Yeah. All the more reason to go with it.
It’s true. So you know I know we’ve kind of you know connected with our writing who we are but you help people who are not writers but want to become writers learn that process. Right. But what I’m curious about is the people that you teach and I know you teach different things. What is it that they are wanting to get out of there right. Oh yeah. Is that something that you ask them right away.
Times I ask what brings them to class. We usually do an icebreaker in the very first class. And I do it with. I did a boot camp last night and we always have an icebreaker at the beginning of boot camp because I want people to feel connected and safe to everybody in the group. So one of the one of the last questions of the five or six that I asked at the beginning is what brought you here. And a lot of people it’s funny no matter what age they are want to leave something behind because there’s this this sense of immortality that comes with writing down a story whether it’s a true story or not you get that that ISBN number in the Library of Congress and you’re alive forever. So there’s that feeling of immortality a lot of people like that. Some people just want to write their stories down so that they’re not forgotten and they want to leave it to their kids and grandkids and that’s that’s as far as they want to go with it and other people have been in jobs perhaps because I teach a lot of active adults they’re either retired or close to retirement. And I get a lot of people from technical fields. You’d be amazed at how many CPA days and all that I’ve had in these classes and technical field people like I have had a couple of people who worked with with NASA and aerospace industry. Wow. Yeah. And they they come in because they’ve always had to follow strict rules and guidelines and when they do reports they’re very technical and very dictated by what they what the industry says they have to do and when they come to my classes they have all these ideas and they’re first they’re like in a box. You know they’ve got these little blinders on they’re walking through this very narrow path. And when we show them the light in there that they can go wherever they want. A lot of times they just are off the chain after that. And it’s fun to hear what they’re able to write and the joy in their faces and their demeanors is really fulfilling.
Yeah that’s that’s interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody with that sort of scientific geek brain that reads it. Yeah. Or for pleasure or wants to write and maybe it’s just because they haven’t been given that opportunity.
Exactly to let loose. Yeah. And I think to you know now we’re raising hopefully kids who are a little bit more well-rounded. Back when you and I were in school and even before when our parents were in school. I think that you were taught you do this you do this you do this and then you choose one and you you focus on that and do it well right. And now I think you know we’re raising at least my kids where they have a skill and then they have something that they do for pleasure as well maybe multiple things. And so I think that’s what what the if it is of teaching active adults is that they’re learning that they don’t have to specialize in one thing they can do things for pleasure.
Yeah that makes sense. Do you ever run into adults that are just you know they want to write that great American novel. Do you always wanted to do it. They had it burning inside them. Yeah. Yeah. And how do you coax that out of them.
Well I let them know that because a lot of times what happens with those folks it’s been it’s been brimming inside their heads for so many years and they start writing it and they peter out. Usually it’s by Chapter Three which is the weirdest thing they get. Chapter one is like advocate. This is awesome they’re introducing the characters or are engaging in everything else. The setting is beautiful. Chapter 2 they introduce a problem. Chapter 3. What do I do from here. Yeah. And so a lot of them are thrilled that they got three chapters out of this story that’s been living with them their entire adult lives. But one of the exercises that we go through is write down all the problems that you can throw at them and they’re like well you know they have this one problem and I’m like No. Our job as writers is to be as cruel to our characters as we possibly can. You know writers want everything resolved. I mean readers want everything resolved. Writers want to throw every problem they can write and so write down all the problems they don’t have to be enormous problems have the big overarching problem or maybe two or three of those and then have little ones in between that they completely fail. So we keep interest in the story and we feel connected because as human beings we’re fallible. You know we’re not perfect. So why do we expect the characters in our books to be right.
And I think for me and most of the people that I know that read fiction that just absolutely love fiction as you want to read about people that are more screwed up than you. Exactly. It’s like watching a train wreck. Yeah and sometimes you want to see them get better and sometimes it’s kind of satisfying to see that. Oh yeah. You know they had a development in their character but they’re still right in a tough spot.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s in my blood and the complete hot mess.
You know exactly it’s like watching a reality show. Yeah yeah. So one thing that you know of course we authors know is that you have to read voraciously to be a good writer. So is there a reading list that you give your students.
I don’t. Well I say that but I have books that I really enjoy and I recommend and you know just that they read or whatever. And I just mentioned Martha cut. I don’t write things down. I don’t have a reading list. But one of my students last spring who’s taken I think six classes with me well has kept a list so she has what she calls Beth’s reading list. And she put it together and she’s been working her way through it. OK. And so she came back at the end of last semester and she said well what else do you recommend that I read. And I said well there’s this and this she goes No I’ve read those ready you know. She goes I’ve been reading best reading list and I went Oh cool. So it made me happy that you know I just throw things out because they inspire me and my my big thing is I try to read a mixture of fiction and nonfiction because I think when you read fiction exclusively you know it’s great to read about characters and everything else but you. You do it’s like the horseback riding I have to have that that foot back in reality again to ground me so that I can get onto the next thing right. And she’s read both. And I thought Oh this is wonderful. So what are the questions that you asked when you said this ever previously as you know some of the things that I recommend I absolutely diet that love Diana Gabaldon Outlander series. I think that she does excellent research. Her books are not for the lighthearted reader. They are very very heavy. They go to dark places and you talk about just torturing characters. These poor characters have been tortured for you know well between the time travel hundreds of years. And but they’re wonderful because the relationship stay strong and I think that’s that’s what I love about the story. One of my favorite books and I’m thrilled. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I can’t wait to. Is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stine. Oh yeah. And one of the reasons that I love and recommend that book to so many people is because all fiction is about the human condition. And this book is told entirely from the point of view of a dog but it’s the human condition. And it’s amazing and it’s done so well. And I really I love it and everybody I’ve ever recommended that book to reads it and they get to the end they should said you should have told me that it was a cry fest and I said well I can’t tell you that because then you wouldn’t read it but it’s an excellent human condition study. OK well that’s good love that book. And then right now I’m just I’m I’m reading because I’ve got so many people when they when I get a lot of folks who tell me you should read this and I have this motto that says Don’t shut on me but when it comes to reading there are certain people I trust and several people have told me to read the discovery of which is series Deborah Harkness. OK. And so I’ve been reading that over the summer and I’m on the last in the trilogy right now. And she’s really good too because like me she’s interested in kind of a supernatural and explaining things through mythology and all that. And I’m enjoying the history that the research that she’s done in history about all of this.
OK. Yeah OK. Very cool. Yeah. I love to read books that are very tragic. Yeah and they make me feel and they make me cry. I guess maybe it’s because I’ve had a lot of that in my life but not nearly. So what’s your plan. Well right now I’m reading La Rose by Louise Erdrich . OK. Oh crap. I don’t want to give any spoilers but man if you’ve got kids really. That’s a tough tough book. I guess I can talk about how it starts it starts where you know there’s two families two half sisters who live close together. They both have children. And one of the husbands accidentally shoots and kills one of the up the other families five year old son.
You know I just I heard about this the other day. Yes. So OK that’s a..
Yeah it’s wow. It’s amazing and the writing is amazing and cool. Yeah I stayed up till about 2:00 in the morning last night reading gosh. Yeah but one of the beauty one of the beautiful things about reading especially while you’re writing because like right now you know that I’m finishing my memoir. I go through books and I’m not plagiarizing by any means but I go through and go wow that’s how this author described. Yes this body language this what I’ve been trying to get to and it helps to stir death you know get your wheels turning a little bit.
It’s one of the things that it’s read my writing students ask me is you know I don’t read a whole lot what do you recommend and I’m like start with the little stories in Reader’s Digest magazines that are short read some something anything. Yeah because it’s not. And we all know how to write. We know the mechanics of writing we were taught everything from elementary school on you know. But I think in order to learn the craft of writing you have to understand exactly what you just said how other people approach. Why do we get so connected to this character. Right. Why do we feel like we are in this location. There is a gift that comes with that. And you have to learn that through the storytelling process and the way that you do that as you learn as an apprentice and we are lucky because we don’t have to hang out with somebody else and ask questions over their shoulder we read what they’ve already written and go Oh yeah.
Have you recommended Stephen King’s On Writing.
I’ve troughs and class savvy rhymes and different locations and several people have taken it over and over again and that is one that I recommend people have on their bookshelves if they even think that they want to be a writer. Yeah because he didn’t come by it easily. He started out really I say damaged but he was he had a really difficult childhood and you know with health problems and family problems and everything else. And then he explains how he used that and the lucky break that he got. And I don’t think people realize how many lucky breaks writers have to have in order to become a household name. Yeah. You know we have we’re lucky. I mean I feel grateful that I have the right or the reading community that I have for my books. It’s nothing compared to you know somebody who is is internationally known right. And whether I get that opportunity at some point or not you know I just I have a community that I’ve built up that is very loyal to the books that I have that I’ve offered and they are always excited when I’ve got something else to come out. So you know I think that that we have to redefine what a lucky break is right and we’re not going to be Stephen King right.
Very few people are going to be a Stephen King and I love the fact that his book points that out then you know if you want to write right for crying out loud. Right. And it has his one of my favorite quotes by him is somebody asked him how do you write. He says one word at a time.
Yeah absolutely. And you don’t become a writer to make a million dollars because if that’s your reason for saying I’m going to write a book it’s not going to happen is that do not quit your day job. Yeah there are the chances of the kid becoming Stephen King or it’s pretty much not right. Nothing.
And you have to love writing and if you have dollar signs in your eyes you’re going to be you’re going to stray away from what the story is. Yes. Yeah absolutely. Can we make a career of it. Sure. We’re not going to be living in a mansion. So that’s one of the things that I prompt that I give to my writing students is you know describe a day in the life after you’ve published. I have a house on the beach and I’ve got this kind of cover and I’m like OK so you’ve won the lottery and published a book.
Right. Exactly. Maybe that’s how you were able to take the time to write that book.
So it’s funny trying to set expectations and that’s another thing I don’t want to ever dissuade someone from writing. But I do like people to write for the right reasons.
Yes yes absolutely. Write for the correct. Write, write, write, write . We are older we grew up in a generation where we did learn writing a certain way structured we had to read the classics when we were in high school and it was just a very regimented way of learning. And we didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have smartphones. And when I was a kid I I was kind of the outcast and kind of antisocial so I would lay on the couch and read all weekend long. Oh yeah. And I learned so much. And of course you know that sinks in. And that’s what makes a person become a writer I think. You teach kids now. Yes. Is it different. I see differences in my kids. Yeah. So what is it like to teach kids of this generation.
You asked that and I gave it a lot of thought because I looked over the questions yesterday and was able to sleep on them. You know I’m lucky because I don’t I’m not in a classroom with kids five days a week throughout the school year. I get them for a week during summer camp OK. And so that’s a little bit different. They are there. Most of them want to be there they asked for the writing camp.
I’ve heard from a couple of my students that their parents punish them because they failed English and they stuck them in there and I was like thanks for that. Oh wow.
But what’s great is that they leave loving what we did in there and appreciating what goes into writing and therefore reading anything. In fact one kid said I’m not going to tell my mom I liked this because I want to come back next year and I wanted to punish the girl while he funny.
So yeah but that they do write about video games like I had a couple of kids this year who I do get some learning disabled kids in the camps and they are really into the video games and all that. So they write about the video game characters a lot of times and they make up scenarios which is great because if you look at it a video game is truly as somebody has written down a script for that whole game. Right. And it’s all these these variables in there so these kids are learning storytelling but just a different platform maybe their brain isn’t wired for sitting down and reading a long book but they’re they’re definitely learning you know one action versus the next. So that was an interesting thing to have a couple of kids do that this summer but these children are really well read and very well informed really. I have a teach from fourth grade up through senior in high school the summer camps and these kids the reading lists that they have just for fun. This is not even what’s assigned in school. Blows my mind. So they’re very well read. They read the classics we could discuss the classics which just thrilled me beyond belief. You know classics for elementary schoolers is different than classics or high schoolers. And then they’ve told me about books. I had them actually put a reading list on the board based on their recommendations this summer from my middle school class and the parents came in and they said what’s that of those books you recommend. And I said no these are the ones these kids have read and recommended that I’m putting on my reading list. And they went Oh OK that’s enough.
That was pretty cool. That’s eye opening to me because my experience has not been that way with kids. Yeah. So what would you say to the budding writer somebody that comes into your classroom or somebody that just sends you an e-mail find finding your email address online or you know somebody in the grocery store. That says I’ve always wanted to write a book because don’t you find when you tell somebody that you’re an author either Oh I’ve always wanted to write a book let me tell you my story yes or how can I get published. Can you help me get published right. But what would you tell somebody that’s just to the point that you know they want to start writing. They don’t know what to do.
Times what they read and if they’ve been jotting down story ideas a lot of times it’s funny because closet writer’s writer wannabes have notebooks full of ideas maybe a couple of paragraphs or just titles or something like that. And that’s a great treasure trove. So I mean I encourage people don’t ever throw that stuff away. You know yes we’re hoarders too but I think that’s important is to keep those things at close hand and refer to those and try to pick up the veins of the story and you know keep their eyes open now for story ideas if there’s it depends too on what they want to write if they want to write a novel look at what they like to read now what’s on their reading list right now. What what are the books that they most enjoy. What are the ones that influence them. Because I’ve found that when you write a lot of times if you look at what you have read that’s what you’re going to be good at writing too because you’re familiar with Chandra. Absolutely. If you read across the board that’s even better because if you choose a genre and you don’t have to stick with us on rye anymore it’s not like if you start out with horror fiction you’ve got to write horror fiction for your whole entire life. You know like it used to be. And so that people can kind of change lanes a little bit. And I think that the more variety you have in your reading list the better writer you become because you have examples from all different genres.
I agree with that because I think it becomes who you are. It soaks in. It’s like I take it in by osmosis. Oh yeah yeah.
So if you are a part of every character you’ve ever written then you are also writing a part of every character you’ve ever read because they become a part of you.
Yes. So it’s really cool. Yeah because that’s one of the things that I always tell people is if you want to start writing you write for yourself and you write what you know because if you try to write like your favorite author yeah it’s going to come out like crap. One of my favorite prompts is.
I have people choose a book off the shelves and I have I tell them turn to page 88 and count down seven lines or whatever and they will and I’ll say whatever that line is write that line don’t write anything before it. Don’t write anything f it after it. I don’t care if it’s in the middle of a sentence. I don’t want you to be familiar with the book choose the book by its cover and they will pick up there and then I’ll have them close the book and for 10 minutes we’ll write just from that line.
Oh I love that. That’s. I love those kind of pens.
So it’s really cool because they write someone else that maybe is someone they’ve heard of maybe someone they haven’t heard of. And that person is now published in a book. So they’re copying this one line. Then the ideas become their own. And I think that’s the whole idea of becoming a writer is that you’re influenced by everyone you’ve ever met. Everyone you’ve ever read all of that influences your writing. But when it comes down to it you’re in a room with a pen and paper or a computer and the words and the thoughts and the ideas all become your own.
Yeah absolutely. Absolutely. I love that. And so you write books about dragons. Yes it is. So how does that fit into this writing what you know your character’s being a part of you.
I’ve been very curious about that because you don’t look like a drag and I don’t hide my wings really well today.
My sharp teeth now I think that that what it is is that the archetype of the dragon is more because people say I feel like I’m powerless. Well there were none of us are perilous and I think what the archetype of the dragon is and what’s trying to be said in this book is the women in my books the characters in my books are their people they’re not characters. They get very angry when I call them characters but they are real people that you would meet unassuming on the street you know you’re your represent your state representative your accountant the coffee shop person you know they’re all just normal people but there is a power hidden inside of them and that’s what the dragon is. They discover their power they are the dragons and they have a power to influence everything. And so you know it just happens that they find out that in their their shadow life or whatever the the life that they they kind of keep suppressed because they’re human beings. They’re dragons. And so they have a way of influencing the world when they embrace that power.
That’s freaking cool. So it’s really fun. Do they turn into dragons physically.
No not really in in. It’s all about kind of like string theory you know. So there’s multiple iterations of everybody’s life that we’re living concurrently OK. And so you know we’ll be sitting here having this conversation now but in another way you know if I had taken a left turn instead of a right coming into your subdivision I might be at a coffee shop having a conversation with somebody or I might be stopping a bank robbery or you know so it’s all these these nifty little things it’s the decisions that we make. Has all of these ripples and so all of those things influence us so much to think about.
Yeah. So many more layers than the stuff that I write about I write about mother in laws and oh trust me you got have a dragon to deal with the mother in law. That’s right.
And for the record I love my mother in law. I really truly do my mother in law and I now respect each other very much. Yeah. Took a minute. Yeah exactly. There’s that growing period. You know those growing pains.
Yeah. So what book did you say you’re on with your series. Number seven. Number seven yeah.
I’m writing number seven right now and this is gonna be a fun one because the first six there’s eleven in the series. So this is really the pivotal one. And in book 7 we go back without giving too much away we go back to the origins of where some of their the reasons that they’ve denied who they are in this lifetime why they do that. And of course you know this lifetime is concurrent with the one that they they got these these problems from. You know they started with these issues so they can buy ideas maybe they can fix them if they figure out where they started. So it’s called alphas. It’s all about the origins alphas.
OK. OK. I’m definitely going to have to start the series. I’ve never really been attracted to fantasy. Yeah. Just because I’m into you know the human condition and seeing people more miserable than me. But maybe that would be a little bit more a little bit lighter. Not so much tragedy.
Tragedy has definitely tragedy because you know there’s a lot of characters in this there’s a there’s eight dragon sisters OK. And each one of them has a significant other who may or may not be their mate. And I call them their guardians and they’ve been together a lifetime after lifetime. And those are not dragons. So you know they’re they’re significant other like that. My main character Kara whose name means face which is why she’s she’s the face of the dragon she was the very first one of her significant other is a wolf. And if you go back through all the mythological stories throughout all the different cultures in the world the twins were always guarded by the wolf when the mother became incapacitated or unavailable. So Rome was founded by twins whose mother was not available. And you know Romulus and Remus were raised by a wolf in Native American culture. There were twins and they were raised by wolves. So you know it’s interesting when you look and that’s why I like kind of pulling all the similarities of all the cultures around the world together. When you research all of this stuff you like we’re not so different after all.
Oh yeah. And we just happen to be dragons. And.
Dragons Indian culture Southern culture. I mean is it really is this just different iterations of the same thing or all people. Right. Well dragons yeah sort of yeah.
Every culture throughout history has had two things in common. They all have dragons lore and they all have pie.
They all have pie. All have. I did not know. Yes. So I was like I have to start putting pie in my books. Yeah definitely. Do you have a tie for you know all of my launch parties. Yeah. Excellent. Excellent.
So what’s on tap for you next. What are you working on now.
I’m currently I’m working on about midway through alphas. Like I said that’ll hopefully come out next year and then I’m working on. This has been an almost eight year process. I’m working on a memoir and it’s about halfway done and it’s beautiful and it just it’s amazing how I feel like I’m in that part of my life when I’m writing and you know if somebody interrupts me while I’m writing that part it’s jarring because I feel like I’m back in the past. It’s interesting but things that I hadn’t remembered that I’m writing down and I’m writing the story and the next thing comes up and I’m like Oh. And I always tell my memoir students when you write something you’ll remember the next thing even if you if it’s not right at the top of your mind and sure enough it’s happening to me. So yes yeah but it’s been really fun. The story is I had a horse from the time that I was she was born when I was 14 15. She was born in 1980 so she was one and when I was 14 and I got her when she was three months old she came into my life and my parents actually officially bought her for me less than a year later. So she was part of my life until I was while she was in my life for 32 years. Oh my goodness. And she died in my arms and it was she taught me so much because you know being an outsider here she was my common every day. This was my normalcy. And so I got to know people through my horse. I got to spend time with something where it didn’t matter where on this planet I was if we were together. It was normal right. And so she really saved me when we moved down here to Georgia and when I lost her in in 2012 it was heartbreaking. And my husband had always said I’ve been around when your parents divorced. I’ve been around when your grandmother passed away was very close to my grandmother he said when that horse goes I want to be out of the country. And he had never ever gone out of the country for business or anything else. He was in India when she passed away and I had to put her down and we would Skype every morning and night because of the time difference. And he said Are you sure you can’t wait until I get home and I said I can’t. She’s in pain. And so I put her down and sure enough it was a it was a profound experience. I didn’t think I could go through it. I I would just deny that she was getting older all the time. She had an issue I’d fix it you know. Right. But this isn’t you can’t fix old age you can’t fix when they’re tired you can’t fix when they’re ready to go. And so I promised her when she was taking her final breaths I’m going to write your story and everybody is going to know what a profound impact you had. And so that’s I’m keeping my promise now.
Oh I love that. That’s so wonderful. Thanks.
I want to read it for you. Oh trust me it’s this.
This time it’s going to be finished because I wasn’t sure what to do with it for a while. I was trying different formats and then I just started writing it this summer and I said this is I took the month of July off from pretty much regular work. I’d finished on my campus in June and I sat down and I said this is the month I’m going to start this. And I just I kicked butt on it in July. And it’s you know it’s got teeth now when it hit 10000 words I announced that I was working on it because at ten thousand words I feel like it’s at least got legs. Yes. And now it’s gotten relief because it’s over 20 thousand words. So I feel like we’re we’re in good shape now that’s not saying these are finished words. These are these are draft words so some of them are crap words on the page. Yeah I just there are base holders but it’s getting me to tell this story. But I feel really really good about this one. And I feel like I’m I’m fulfilling the promise to her and it makes me feel really good about it.
That is wonderful. Thank you. And I think that’s a huge inspiration to anyone listening that is wanting to become a writer because you exemplify that. Thank you. You know you’re going through that whole process and you’re able to teach people that you know you hit your stumbling blocks and you overcome it and you get to it and get the job done right.
I’m glad you brought that up too because people who are writers think they look at the finished book and they think I can do that. And then when it doesn’t sound like that in the first draft of theirs they give up. Well how many pages have we hit delete or run away or burned in the burn barrel or whatever.
I mean I know so many people that have got two and three books that are sitting in a drawer and a bed that will never see the light of day. But exactly. They did it. Yeah.
I think that’s important to remember is that we’re all writers we all have a story in there whether we write it down or not. We all have stories people. And to quote Dr. Who We’re all stories in the end. Who’s in love. It is true. Yeah. And so we have to remember that. And every day you know whether we’re writing it down or someone’s taking note somewhere else. You know there’s a writer lurking around there watching you too.
So watch what you do.
Absolutely. Yeah. So if there’s somebody listening to us right now and they are wanting to get started maybe they don’t live in Atlanta near you. What’s a good way to find a writing coach or a workshop or you know certain books. Yeah that would be good to order independent bookstores. OK. Yeah.
A lot of time I I am a huge advocate of indicate independent bookstores Fox tail has been a godsend to this small community in Georgia in Woodstock.
Yeah they’re the reason that I finished my book because I met my writing coach there at a workshop.
Perfect. Yes. So you know go to your independent bookstores because they have book clubs and a lot of times they’ll have writing coaches or writing classes through those. Also the local university they don’t just give you degrees where you don’t just pay for your degrees. A lot of times they have self-improvement self enrichment classes. I teach through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute O.L.L.I. It’s called Olli and they have one at just about every university at least one in every state. And so you can go to that and you have to be 50 and up to take those classes. But a lot of people when they finally have the time to do it that’s when they they find that right. But also there are writing classes and writing workshops that you can go to there or through a publishing house or you know there’s so many different ways to do it. And if you don’t know how to do it reach out to an agent or an editor and see if they have somebody they recommend because every community has somebody like me who’s willing to say OK I’ll meet you for an hour or two for coffee and we’ll go over the pages that you have and set you on the right path.
That’s great. That’s great because I think sometimes if you just get that one little push yes you can just keep go on. Yeah.
Yeah. That is my job. So I charge for that. But yeah you know we can’t do this. We love what we do and we would do it for free. But we can’t because unfortunately the mortgage company doesn’t allow us to write houses for free. So yeah.
So please buy our books new from an independent bookstore. And expect to pay someone for their writing coaching editing service. Yeah it’s just the way of the world. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Well this is fantastic. I appreciate all this information and advice that you’ve given us. Absolutely. Thanks for having me tonight. You’re very welcome and I wish you the best in the release of your memoir and your latest light Baer’s book and probably the many dozens more books that you’ve brought inside there.
Yeah there’s a lot they’re piling up I can tell. It’s just big is made to be read list which is pretty bad.
I see that little glint in your eye and they talk about. Well thank you so much for being I appreciate it. Thanks.
If you like this podcast so far please continue following along by tapping the subscribe button wherever you listen to podcasts. If you really liked it go on, be awesome and leave a rating and a review. Find me on all social media too by searching Sheryl with an S… Par bhoo. That’s p a r b h o o. Thanks for listening to Southern life Indian Wife.