H. M. Shepherd On Writing, Romance, and her new release Just for Nice (guest interview/tour)

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Just for Nice (States of Love) by H.M. Shepherd
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host H.M. Shepherd here today on tour with her new book. Just for Nice.  Welcome!

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with H.M. Shepherd ~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

Too much, probably, and since Just For Nice was particularly personal I probably poured more of myself into the characters than I typically would. I’m a longtime Pennsylvania resident and my background contains Italian and Pennsylvania Dutch, so I drew on that quite a bit. I think Nick took on more than Sam; thinking on it now, I gave him names from my family tree, made his grandmother from the same town as my great-grandfather, and gave him a job in my field. But while he and I share similarities, he is certainly not a carbon-copy of me.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

I don’t think so. I remember when I was reading (and writing, to my eternal embarrassment) fanfiction I became a little irritated when commenters started blurring the line between a Mary Sue fic and a self-insert fic because they aren’t necessarily the same thing. I say this because I think giving characters elements of your own personality or your own experience is a great way to for an author connect them with their settings on an emotional level without beating your readers about the head with it.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I always end up doing at least a little bit of research even if I’m writing about a topic I know inside and out. There is always, always more to know, and even if it never makes it into the story I think it helps ground things better if the author can be authoritative about their subject. This includes fantasy settings–I’m currently working on a story that spun out of control from a retelling of the fairy tale Godfather Death. It’s set firmly in another world, and I’m still researching nomadic steppe cultures and how the government of the Holy Roman Empire was structured.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Oh absolutely, and I think anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. I write the stories that I would like to read, and what I like to read hasn’t changed way too much from when I was younger. It’s just gotten more mature.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

I have several works in progress that have been sitting around for wildly varying amounts of time because I just don’t have the means to finish them. It may be because of writer’s block, or a lack of time, or because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. And while I hate to admit it, sometimes it’s just because of boredom. I’m a very lazy writer.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

There’s a chapter in one of the earlier issues of Sandman where the narrator talks about a diner waitress and her writing. I don’t remember her being a particularly nice character, but I remember one line from her that still resonates with me: You have to know where to end a story, otherwise everything ends with death. I don’t believe in HEA; things get inevitably difficult, and tragic, and messy. Both main characters in Just For Nice have flaws that could put serious strain on a relationship and take away the HEA … but where I’ve ended things, they are definitely happy for now and have the potential to remain so if they continue to work for it. I think I prefer those endings.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

Funny enough, I rarely read romance, at least not those that are published by mainstream companies. I don’t find that there’s a ton of variety to them, and it’s boring to read the same story over and over and over. Now works by smaller publishers, or even work just posted online? I have and still do read it voraciously.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

I hate to answer this, because I don’t want to claim that I’m anywhere near the caliber of writer that these people are. But there are definitely a few authors that I look up to. Growing up (and who am I kidding, to this day) those writers were J.K. Rowling and Garth Nix. Right now it’s probably George R. R. Martin. I’m still amazed that someone can write a series with dragons and warlocks and still make feel it so realistic.

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I moved about a year ago and had to pack up my pretty substantial personal library and I have to tell you, while I still love actual books I absolutely despise moving them. I have so many books on my Kindle and on Google Play, not to mention everything I downloaded off of Gutenberg and just thinking of having to physically box up and move all of it makes my back ache.

As for where ebooks are going, I actually did a part of my undergrad thesis on this. I wrote a lot about how it would making reading a social activity and connect us on a broader scale. Mind you, this was back when I was young and too stupidly optimistic to see where social media was taking us. I still think that the ability to connect is a good thing, but I’m a little more cautious about what that could lead to. I mean, sure it’s great when you can click a link right from the book to its Goodreads page to see what other people are saying about it and recommended similar works, but what if that book was The Turner Diaries?

If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”?  Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?

Yes, it’s possible. It’s possible in reality, too. There are some people who for reasons that may or may not be in their own control are not able to function as one half of a couple. I think it’s terrible when people romanticize the idea of one person acting as his or her significant other’s sole means of emotional/financial/psychological/social support and compensate for all of their shortcomings, while receiving none of that support in return. A relationship should be a partnership and I don’t care how unromantic and boring that sounds.

Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

Write drunk, edit sober, right? I’ve never actually written drunk, but there is a possibility that I may have hypothetically outlined a story under the influence of a substance that is not strictly legal but may be in your state (or country; looking at you, Canada). And–still hypothetically speaking, of course–I may have found that it kept my own worst critic silent for a little bit, and made my mind wander in directions it may not have if I still had those pesky boundaries and inhibitions.

If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

I actually wrote most of Just For Nice in a diner. Once a week it was my job to pick up my sister after she was done her shift as hostess, so I’d go early so I could get dinner. It was perfect. Nice and quiet, with minimal distractions and the knowledge that sooner or later someone would be by with my coffee and eggs Benedict. She’s no longer working there, though, so I’ll have to find somewhere new.

With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

I write because I daydream a lot, and sometimes it does get depressing to keep dreaming about myself and the way things could turn out for me. I write because it’s nice to invent people and their stories and have a modicum of control over the way those stories turn out. I write because I read, and sometimes I think that while the choices the author made are all right, I would have preferred to see things turn a certain way and wanted to see how that would play out. I write because there are no stories that explore the worlds I want to know, or the worlds that I do know and want to share. I write because I like to play with words and see what I can make them do. I write because I can, and because sometimes I have to before I explode.

Blurb

Nick Caratelli flees the city in an attempt to escape a broken relationship and a career he never wanted. He plans to set up a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—despite the fact he has no experience in renovating the old building. Luckily his handsome neighbor Sam approaches him with a curious proposal: he’ll help with the restoration in exchange for Nick babysitting his niece.

As they work to have the bed-and-breakfast open for business by summer’s end, their lives become interwoven without them even trying. Before he knows it, Nick is recovering from his loss and taking his place in the unconventional family that seems determined to form. But for Nick and Sam to be together in all the ways they desire, they’ll have to realize all the arguments against romance exist only in their heads….

About the Author

H. M. Shepherd is a twentysomething paralegal living in Berks County, Pennsylvania, with both parents, two dogs, a baby sister who should stop growing up, and a brother who similarly failed to launch. Contrary to the Millennial stereotype, however, she does not live in the basement—a blessing considering the size of the spiders down there. She crochets as a hobby, cooks when she can, and reads as though it were her vocation. She is also an amateur genealogist and spends entirely too much time squinting at old census records and church documents. A little spacey, she once managed to forget that her car needed an oil change until it stopped running, and regularly has milk-in-the-cupboard-cereal-in-the-fridge moments. While she is an avid writer, Just for Nice is her first and so far only professional publication.

Social Media Links:

Tumblr: http://hmshepherd-blog.tumblr.com

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