Me: Today I have the pleasure of speaking with author S.J. Francis on the release day of Shattered Lies. Francis and I are published by the same house, Black Opal Books. Thank you for spending time with me today. You have such an impressive bio, with over three hundred publishing credits. Can you tell us about your writing career before your debut novel?
S.J. First, I must say, thank you, Ronnie for sharing this exciting day with me and for hosting me on your blog.
What should I say that won’t bore anyone? While a senior in high school, after complaining to a friend about what I should do with all the story ideas dancing about in my head, I began writing them down and sending them out for publication. Finally, after submitting about a dozen stories to different publications and getting more discouraged by the day with each rejection letter, I sold my first short story to a national magazine a year later. Then another. I also became an intern at a local newspaper. While in college, I interned at FOX TV and therein began my career in television production rising to executive producer. I directed, and created two original series. I wrote some scripts. I still wrote short stories and articles during all the years, which were published in various magazines under different pen names. To date, I’ve written over a dozen novels, but Shattered Lies is the first one I actively sought for publication, and here I am.
Me: What made you decide to make the transition into novel writing? What did you have to learn that was out of your original skill-set?
S.J. As I said, I’ve written over a dozen novels. I love writing. I always wanted to write a book. I figured, why not? If I don’t try, I’ll never know. Writing a book involved more work but it came easy for me. I tend to write big anyway, so going into detail, stretching out the story from short story to a novel wasn’t really that different for me. However, doing research for a novel entails a great deal more than research for a short story.
Me: What is the genre of Shattered Lies and why did you choose it? Is the local and setting one with which you were familiar? How real are the locations? What did you fictionalize?
S.J. Officially, Shattered Lies is women’s fiction/mainstream, but that is just the label the publishers gave it. For me, Shattered Lies is also contemporary, family saga, epic. I didn’t choose the genre. The genre chose me. All the novels I wrote, most of the short stories I wrote all somehow seem to center on families, not necessarily all conventional families, but families in the sense that the characters all come together to become a family. Either through blood or friendship, the family comes to life.
As for the locations in Shattered Lies, they are very real. I travel a great deal. I live in Mississippi, and I grew up in New York City, and yes, I still did research. Yes, I’m a born and bred Yankee that became a Dixie. Shattered Lies was always going to be set down south. I just never knew where until I moved to Mississippi. When I moved there, Shattered Lies basically wrote itself.
What did I fictionalize? Though, I do have some acreage, I don’t live on a large horse farm, and I’m not a veterinarian. That is all made up.
Me: As a novelist, I put a lot of me into my novels and the more I’m speaking to authors, they do as well. I ask this of all the authors I interview. What parts of you are in the characters? The heroine, Kate, or her grandmother? What did you learn about yourself through the creation of Shattered Lies?
S.J. Ooh, now this one is going to make me think. I know a great deal of novelists say they put a lot of them into their novels and stories. I don’t think I do. Okay. Perhaps, a little. I think that Kate’s drive to continue, to seek the truth, though it is killing her to do so is a bit of me. I don’t stop either despite the odds that I should. Kate’s love for her family and friends and being color blind to everyone is something else Kate and I share in common. Like Kate and her grandmother, I also don’t believe in backing down to anyone.
In Shattered Lies, I learned patience. My belief that all people are the same no matter where they are, despite sex, color, religion, what have you, when it is all said and done, we’re really all the same was reaffirmed. Yes, we each have our unique characteristics and eccentricities, but in the end, we are really no different. Why behave as if we are?
Me: What is your writing process? Are you a plotter, panster or planster? Why one over the other? What is your writing schedule?
S.J. Oh, I’m definitely a panster. I’ve tried being a plotter. I’ve tried planning. I’ve used notebooks, charts, index cards even writing software. None of them worked for me. I would wind up getting distracted and frustrated trying to plot or plan when all I wanted to do was begin the story. For me, I have to put the story down and let it evolve from there. After the draft is done, I go back and fine tune everything, adding details from research as necessary.
I really don’t have a writing schedule, per se. I’m always writing in my head, in the shower, or walking the dogs and put everything down later on. Whenever I have a free moment, you can find me writing. Sometimes it may just be a sentence, or a scene and from that comes a story, an article or in this case, a novel.
Me: How has your very impressive credentials–that our readers will read in your bio–affected your journey toward the publication of Shattered Lies? What was your journey? How did you find BOB?
S.J. Oh- do I dare answer this one? I’ve found that as I’ve aged and gained more experience in life, writing, and the more education I’ve obtained, through writing classes and three doctorates, the more stubborn I’ve become. I don’t tolerate fools. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt, but when I find mistakes, dumb ones missed by those that should know better, experts in their fields, I can’t keep my mouth shut. I have to speak up and not everyone appreciates that. Traveling a great deal and having lived in over a dozen states and three countries, I’ve seen and heard a great deal. When I write something down only to hear that it isn’t “credible”, I laugh because I saw it.
As for finding Black Opal Books, I can’t really recall. When I began shopping Shattered Lies around, I was looking for receptive agents and publishers. I knew the story was a controversial subject, but I also knew it was a good one, a unique one. BOB was actually just one of three publishers that wanted to acquire Shattered Lies. I was lucky in being able to have a choice in selection as to which publisher I should go with. After careful research, and communicating with a number of authors from each publishing house, I decided on Black Opal Books. It seemed to be the perfect fit for me. They took a chance on me and I hope to justify that choice on both sides.
Me: I like to give our readers something they could learn about our industry. What is one piece of advice you’d give our readers about the writing process or becoming traditionally published, that they couldn’t find in a Google search?
S.J. Though, I’ve been writing for many years, I’m still learning so my first piece of advice must be, never stop learning, and I don’t mean having to go to college. Study your craft. Learn it well. Never stop reading. Reading helps you become a better writer. Read outside your genre. Never stop writing. Practice makes perfect. If you want to write, just write. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. As long as you believe you can write, you can. Discouragement lurks behind every corner. Some days you are going to want to quit. Don’t. Never give up. Never let fear win. Never. For the day you do, you will give up. There are so many ways to get your work published now. There’s no better time to write than now, and despite what some may tell you, you don’t need an agent.
As the late, great Jackie Collins once told me when I needed encouragement the most, “Keep your writing passion on fore.” Don’t let anything get in the way of your writing.
Of course, these words of wisdom don’t apply to just writing. If you want to do something, just do it. Don’t ever let anyone sway you. Don’t let anyone say you can’t. You’ll only regret it.
To our readers, I must say, thank you! Without you, Ronnie and I, and the host of other authors wouldn’t be able to do what we love must of all. That is writing. You keep reading, and we’ll keep writing.
Me: What upcoming appearances do you have so our readers could come out and meet you?
S.J. Thanks, Ronnie, for asking, but right now due to prior commitments, my appearances are limited to a blog tour that begins today and runs into January. To find out more on where to find me on the internet, please check out my website for updates at www.sjfranciswriter.com
Thank you so much, S.J.
Thank you so much, Ronnie for having me. It was a great pleasure. Keep writing!
S. J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist. Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Francis’ background also encompasses working as a television producer. A frequent traveler, Francis has resided in thirteen states and three countries. A confirmed bibliophile, when not writing Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. Francis currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places, and considers the world a notebook full of endless ideas. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. The family dynamic is a never ending source of ideas and Shattered Lies is no exception. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, it’s all about family. Future projects include a sequel to Shattered Lies and a novel about the dynamic relationships in Hollywood. Shattered Lies will be released by Black Opal Books in 2015.
She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…
Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.
She knew that bigotry existed, but she had never experienced it quite like this before…
Kate couldn’t say anything for a moment. She was just too astonished. “Wh—what? Excuse me? What you did you say?”
The other boy with brown hair spoke, “Sorry, miss.” He giggled too. “You have to excuse my friend. He’s a little drunk.”
“How old are you two?”
They didn’t look older than eighteen, and had acne breakouts on their cheeks, but she knew better than anyone that looks could be deceiving.
“We’re old enough,” the rude one said.
Sam returned just as the rude one spoke again and pointed, “Hey look, it’s the Jolly Giant Nigger.”
Kate shot to her feet so that she was between Sam and them.
A porter was with Sam. “Is there a problem, miss?”
“Yes,” she said without facing him. “We’d like to change our seat.”
“Of course, Sam asked too. We have another place for you over here, if you both come with me.”
Kate moved to leave. The two young men said nothing, which was a good thing. She swore she could feel her blood boiling in her veins. If they said one more thing…
Sam stood aside to let her exit and then she heard the young man. “Goodbye now, Uncle Tom.” Giggling. “Enjoy your meal, Uncle Tom, so nice to see you.” More giggling. “Dumb nigg—”
He didn’t have a chance to finish. Kate snatched the water glass from the table, threw the water at him, slammed the empty glass down hard on the table directly in front of him, and glared into his eyes. “You disgust me! It’s people like you who have turned this world into shit!”
My Black Opal Books Author Page:
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/33550975-s-j
And now for a GIVEAWAY!!!
In honor of the launch of Shattered Lies, I’m offering a giveaway for someone to win a printed copy. To all those who leave a comment here today, or those that contact me at my website, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a personally autographed copy of my debut novel, Shattered Lies. Two copies are available giving two of you a chance to win.
Just leave a comment here or go to my website and drop me a line with “Giveaway” in subject line at:
Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by. It was my pleasure to spend time with you. Thank you so much, Jackie for hosting me. It’s always my pleasure to connect with other authors and readers.
FYI: The drawing will take place at the end of my blog tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. I will contact the winner at that time to request your mailing address to send you the printed copy of Shattered Lies.
Please feel free to leave comments and questions for S.J! And remember the giveaway for those who comment! Hope you enjoyed this interview.
The Sign Behind The Crime,