An Interview with C.A. Simonson

This interview was conducted by a high school senior for her writing class.

What made you want to become a writer?  

I have been writing stories since grade school (read “The Budding of a Writer”). But, I didn’t start writing for publication until my 30s. I began with nonfiction DIY (do-it-yourself) articles and motivational pieces. I didn’t think I could write fiction until I joined our local writers’ guild and received encouragement from fellow writers and authors. Now I have four novels, a book of devotions, a food book, an anthology, and a coloring book.

What are the challenges you face everyday with writing?

Until November 2016, my biggest challenge was finding the time to write, as I worked full-time. I had to fit it in whenever I could. The ideas were there, but not the time. Now that I’m retired I can devote much more time to the craft.

What motivates you to complete your books?

My books are Christian drama, adventure, romance, with a little mystery thrown in. With every book or story, I try to end with a good moral, encouraging or uplifting thought or principle to share. For instance, my first novel is about a family of seven abandoned children who must separate to survive. It’s a coming-of-age story as the middle child searches for and finds true love. The message is hope and love in the midst of despair. 

So, my motivation is to find something that motivates, encourages, inspires, or provokes the reader to thought. In so doing, perhaps they will find answers to some of their own questions.

Have you ever had writer’s block? what helped you get out of it?

Writer’s block has never been a problem for me. I see stories in everything, and when I do, I jot them down. I always keep a notebook with me, and when it isn’t there, there’s a handy note app on my phone. I write down fun names of people and places, or descriptions, or ideas as they pop up. For instance, the lady in charge of the orphanage in my second book, Love Looks Back, is a skinny spinster with straw-like, wispy hair piled on top of her head like a bird’s nest. She has a beak for a nose on which her wire-rimmed glasses keep slipping down. I saw this lady on a cruise. I made mental note of her and sketched her so I would remember. Later, I heard a couple of names that fit her perfectly, Marva Smarkel (actual names – two different people).  I keep a notepad by my bed for the same purpose, as many times, I will get ideas in the middle of the night (or have a wonderful dream)!  

How do/did you gain your creativity to be an author?

Again, I think it’s just being attentive to everything around you. Look for ideas in people, places, happenings. Think, “but what if….??”  Think of what could happen.  If it’s nonfiction that you write, look for ways to motivate people, describe how to do something, etc. Tell what you know.

Do you believe writing helps with stress?

Of course. Writing takes you to your own world where you “think” the people in it will do everything you tell them to do. As many writers will tell you, your characters often have a mind of their own, and sometimes surprise you. Sounds weird, but yeah, it happens, and when it does, you are living in a world you have created.

What have you learned from writing your books?

I’ve learned a lot of the technical ends – the plotting, the planning, the research — oh, so much research.  When I wrote my first novel, someone asked me what time period it was in. I had no idea. What audience are you trying to reach?  Hmmm…didn’t think about it. Where did it happen? What part of the world? Again– no clue.  These were all things I had to think about in the re-write. Also, I had to research after I decided the time period was in the 1930s –had certain items, such as the electric fence, even been invented yet? Research was a big one for me.

Attending a writer’s guild/club helps as well because other writers help hone your skill, your grammar, punctuation, style. You learn much from rubbing shoulders with other writers who have gone through the process already.

What’s your advice on how to write a good book? 

First and foremost — READ what you would like to write about. Do  you write mysteries? Read some of the great mystery writers. Thrillers? Read Stephen King or some others – see their style.  It’s not that you are going to copy their style, but you get a feel of how they describe things, how they show action instead of telling about it.  Once you get an idea – start writing down everything you can. Don’t worry about complete sentences at first. Get an outline or put it on index cards, sticky notes, Evernote, or whatever to get your thoughts on paper. You will come back to it later for revision a few times. Then start your research for the things you don’t know. Then, find a good writing group (there are many online too) where you can bounce ideas off of others, get good critiques and focus on your skills.

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