Thursday, October 23, 2014

Twenty Questions With Sharon Buchbinder

Among the myriad of cool things about the Creatures, Crime, and Creativity conference is the ability to spend time with readers and writers from outside one’s chosen niche. Crime, thrillers, science fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, erotica all got together to share their enthusiasm for their chose genre(s). (Sorry if your got missed.) No one I came across had any issues about being The Cool Kid, or working in The Cool Genre. Everyone had something worthwhile to say, and everyone listened and learned.

Over the next several weeks OBAAT will feature writers I came across at C3. Today we begin with Sharon Buchbinder, who, after working in health care delivery for years, became an association executive, a health care researcher, and an academic in higher education. She had it all--a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it an obsession) kept beckoning her to "come on back" to writing fiction. Thanks to the kindness of family, friends, critique partners, and beta readers, she is published in contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and romantic suspense. When not attempting to make students, colleagues, and babies laugh, she can be found herding cats, waiting on a large gray dog, fishing, dining with good friends, or writing. You can find her at

One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Some Other Child.
Sharon Buchbinder: Between the responsibility for the care of her injured mother and straightening out her muddled finances, public health researcher Sarah Wright hasn't a minute to herself, much less time to repair a fractured romance. After a much loved aunt goes missing, Sarah is convinced it's a kidnapping but the police refuse to investigate. Former fiancĂ© Dan flies to Sarah's side to help—and it looks like things might come back together for the two of them—until Sarah is arrested for her aunt's murder. As evidence stacks up against her, Sarah must find the real culprits as well as unravel decades old family secrets along the way.

OBAAT: Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you? (Notice I didn’t ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I was careful to ask where you got this idea.)
SB: At the time I went back to my first love (writing fiction), Baltimore had the dubious distinction of being number one in the US for congenital syphilis. I used this fact as the nucleus of the story. Drawing on my family of origin for the heroine's back story, I placed the tale in Baltimore using many famous landmarks and institutions as settings for the mystery and suspense.

OBAAT: How long did it take to write Some Other Child, start to finish?
SB:  I wrote the first draft between 2004 and 2005. The book's gestation period exceeded that of an elephant. It took almost ten years with repeated rewrites and umpteen revisions.

OBAAT: What’s the back story on the main character or characters?
SB: Sarah Wright sacrifices her romance to be a "good daughter." She devotes her life to her work as a pediatric researcher and taking care of her alcoholic mother. Her next door neighbor, "Aunt" Ida Katz, is her mother's best friend and polar opposite. Neither her mother nor Ida will ever discuss how they met. When Sarah arrives home from work one winter day, she is confronted by police cars and ambulances. Her mother, who had been on the wagon, went outside in a drunken stupor and fell on the ice. She is hypothermic and near death. Sarah is devastated. Just when it looks like things can't get much worse, Aunt Ida vanishes. The police won't put out a missing person alert because Ida is competent. Sarah knows something is terribly wrong and starts her own investigation. Just a hint: things get much worse for Sarah before they get better.

OBAAT: In what time and place is Some Other Child set? How important is the setting to the book as a whole?
SB: The book is set in contemporary times in Baltimore and its suburbs. The city is an interesting mix of cultures and ethnicities, which gives it great charm and fascinating characters.  Although I changed the names of a number of places in the book, local readers love recognizing their favorite haunts. The academic medical center is intrinsic to the plot lines and ability of the main character to conduct her amateur sleuthing

OBAAT: How did Some Other Child come to be published?
SB: After I wrote the book, Some Other Child was beta read by my family, friends, colleague, and even a professor of literature. Based on their input, I revised the book. Then I tried to get it published. No luck. So, I hired a professional editor, who gave me great feedback, including the fact that the book was in the wrong point of view (first person). I revised the book, again. Between revisions, I found Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers. I discovered the romance genre had a large umbrella that covered many subgenres. I put my firstborn book aside, despite many readers telling me I needed to get it published. I plunged into romance, writing and selling seven short stories and novellas. I pulled Some Other Child out of the drawer, added more romance, and began re-submitting to romance publishers. After the third rejection, I decided to self-publish.  As you can well imagine, it was enormously gratifying to receive the Paranormal Romance Guild Best Mystery/Thriller Award for 2012.  After I self-published (and received the award) one of the editors at The Wild Rose Press who worked with me on my short stories and novellas reached out to me and asked me to submit the manuscript. And she bought the book! Happy dance!

OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?
SB: Genre fiction, including historical, mystery, suspense, thrillers, supernatural, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, sci-fi, and fantasy. My desert island books are The Eight by Katherine Neville and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. A very short list of my favorite authors include: Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Connie Willis, Ken Follett, F Paul Wilson, JD Robb (Nora Roberts), Elizabeth Cunningham, Lucia St Clair Robson, to mention but a few.

OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences?
SB: Nancy Drew! She got me hooked on girl-driven stories. Heinlein opened doors to other worlds, literally. Neville showed me how to write a book in two different eras and wrap the two plots together. She is also, by the way, incredibly kind and gracious to fan girls.

OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants? Do you even wear pants when you write?
SB: My pants are always seated firmly in a framework that used to be loose, but gets tighter with each subsequent story. Part of the reason Some Other Child took so long to be born is because I wrote it as a pantser. Now that I'm working on my fourth novel, I'm thrilled to have a road map that gives me direction, but allows for scenic detours.

OBAAT: Give us an idea of your process. Do you edit as you go? Throw anything into a first draft knowing the hard work is in the revisions? Something in between?
SB: Something in between. In a writing frenzy, I will move forward as fast as I can. I let that chunk "cool" then review it later. Then the warts come out. Revise, rewrite, set on fire. Or, on rare occasion, "Did I write that?" Beta readers are incredibly important to me. They tell me what works and doesn't work. Then revise, rewrite, or burn.

OBAAT: If you could give a novice writer a single piece of advice, what would it be?
SB: Read the genre you want to write so you know the rules--then make it your own voice, not the voice of the author you love. It's your story. Not his or hers.

OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.
SB: Playing with my grandson.

OBAAT: Which do you take to bed at night, the money earned or the good review?
SB: Good reviews. I live for good feedback.

OBAAT: Would you stop writing if someone paid you enough money so you’d never have to work again, on the condition you could also never write again?
SB: No. It's an obsession. I can't stop.

OBAAT: If you were just starting out, which would you prefer: 1. Form your own indie publishing house and put your work out in paper and e-book yourself? 2. Go with a small or medium traditional house that offers very little or no advance, a royalty that is only a fraction of what you'd get on your own, and also makes no promise of any type of publicity push, keeping in mind that you also will lose the publishing rights for a period, sometimes indefinitely? 3. Go with a Big Six or legacy publisher that offers a larger advance, legitimate review possibilities, entrance to industry literary awards, and exposure on the shelves of brick and mortar stores. Pick one and say why.
SB: I've done all except number 3, so I'd like to rewind and try that for a change. Big Six, no matter what the dynamics of the publishing industry, is still the Ivy League or Major League or whatever metaphor you choose. It is a stamp of recognition that few other publishing venues offer.

OBAAT: Beer, mixed drinks, or hard liquor?
SB: Wine.

OBAAT: Baseball or football?
SB: The Ravens.

OBAAT: What question have you always wanted an interviewer to ask, but they never do?
SB:  How did it feel to sell your first book?

OBAAT: What’s the answer?

OBAAT: What are you working on now?
SB: Kiss of the Burmese Prince, third in my Kiss Series (Kiss of the Silver Wolf, Kiss of the Virgin Queen). Kiss of the Burmese Prince is the story about a jinni hunter retracing her "crazy" grandmother's bedtime stories about her journey into the Jinni Realm during World War II in the China-Burma-India theatre. The jinni hunter follows her grandmother's journal and discovers the truth of her own origins and finds love along the way.

Thanks, Sharon, for taking the time to let OBAAT readers have a look at writing other than the usual here. I’ll be appearing on Sharon’s blog, Snap, Crackle, and Popping, on December 30.

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