Welcome to author Sherrill Joseph who comes to us with a fascinating history of how she got into writing.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
A cozy garret in a multi-storied old mansion. There’s a mullioned window looking down on a secret garden that I can see from my desk.
Describe your current writing spot or space.
At a desk in my bedroom. I have a desk lamp, stand-up file handy, copies of my book, and a computer and printer, of course.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write, market, and promote my books seven days a week, usually from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I rarely take time off unless it’s to stretch, walk and play with my dog, or for an errand or occasional appointment. I used to go out to lunch a couple times a month with friends before COVID-19.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The first draft–about three months, not counting research.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Book 3 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series is next up for publishing. Book 4 in the series is currently being written.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If not, have you ever considered it?
No pseudonym. Never wanted one.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
My detective characters came to me first back in 2012. They were inspired by my fifth-grade students and young twin cousins. Now, plot comes first.
How do you select the names of your characters?
The Detectives: Lanny’s real name is Lanyon. That’s my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name. Lexi’s real name is Alexia. I saw her name on a bag of French fries in the frozen food section of the grocery store and liked it! Moki is the name of a boy I met in Hawaii. Rani, from India, means “queen” in her country.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have to draw more on my boy students’ language, interests, and mannerisms than I do for the girls.
Can you hear your characters talking?
Since middle-grade (MG) fiction relies heavily on dialog, yes, I do hear and visualize them talking and transcribe what they say.
Were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? For how long?
I was a part-time writer from the age of ten when I discovered Nancy Drew mysteries and started writing little stories of Nancy and her friends. I continued writing short stories and poetry through high school. Then, I was an English major in college and wrote daily. As a teacher, I taught writing. When I gave my students a writing assignment, I would do the assignment along with them and use it as an example, sharing my struggles and successes with them to make writing authentic for them.
How much time do you spend on research before starting a book? While writing?
It depends on the book. It’s difficult for me to quantify it. For Book 1, I already knew much about ancient Egypt, but I still verified all the information. Also, I had to research snakes and their venom, which was very new information for me, not being a lover of snakes. For Book 2, I had to do considerable research on gemstones of antiquity as well as emeralds. For Book 3, there was much for me to learn via research about the California Gold Rush; Bass Reeves, who was the prototype for my character Pappy Mayfield; and, the system of mining for gold. Book 4 involves ongoing research about Pearl Harbor and related subjects.
I do much research before beginning to write. It sometimes makes my plot take a turn! I also do continuous research while writing to verify information or to check out some new needed information.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My spirit animal has always been the Owl. My dog Jimmy Lambchop is my cowriter. I feel his support behind me on my bed.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have to check my email and social media accounts first daily, making sure there is nothing pressing. Only then can I settle into my writing and give it my full attention.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Going to college.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Pre COVID-19, I enjoyed playing tennis, reading, yoga, working out, having lunch with friends, and traveling to see my family back East. During the pandemic, I enjoy long, brisk walks alone and with my dog, reading, and watching classic Hollywood movies on DVD or TCM.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Hmm, now there’s an idea!
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Answer.I would tell her, “All your reading and writing will pay off, so keep it up!”
Do you have anything in common with your characters?
Yes! I have Lanny’s love of reading, words, old movies, and Sherlock Holmes. Lexi and I are both emotional, “hands on,” and love poetry. I have Moki’s dry sense of humor, love of pineapple and the Hawaiian language, and fear of snakes. Rani and I are both lexical-gustatory syntesthetes. But all four detectives have much more courage and poise than I had at their age. I hope my readers take after them.
Sherrill Joseph will be forever inspired by her beautiful students in the San Diego public schools where she taught for thirty-five years before retiring and becoming a published author.
She has peopled and themed her mysteries with characters of various abilities, races, cultures, and interests, strongly believing that children need to find themselves but also others unlike themselves in books if all are to become tolerant, anti-racist world citizens.
The author patterned her detectives after her fifth graders and young twin cousins to be mature, smart, polite role models for her readers.
Like her detective character Rani Kumar, Sherrill is a lexical-gustatory synesthete. She is a native San Diegan where she lives with her adorable poodle-bichon rescue, Jimmy Lambchop. Her other loves include her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, dark chocolate, popcorn, old movies, purple, and daisies. Having never lived in a two-story house, she is naturally fascinated by staircases.
Sherrill is a member of SCBWI and the Authors Guild and promise many more adventures with the squad to come!
5 thoughts on “Author: Sherrill Joseph”
What a great interview! Love the insight on the characters — and the process of building the stories!
Thanks, Donna B. McNicol, for this fabulous opportunity. It was fun!
Great interview, Sherrill! When you find that favorite writing space, please see if there’s a room I could rent right next to you. Sounds marvelous! Thanks for hosting this post, Cozy Capers.
Will do, Margaret! Thanks.
Comments are closed.