Okay, first I just have to do a bit of gushing! Sheila Roberts is one of my absolute favorite authors and I am blown away to have this opportunity to ask her a few questions about her upcoming new release Small Change, as well as herself and her writing process. If you have not read Ms. Roberts' work yet, you must run out and get started now! A few choice titles are Angel Lane ( Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009), Love in Bloom, Bikini Season and, of course Small Change, due to release March 30th, 2010!
Ms. Roberts is the author of 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction, published under pseudonyms and translated into different languages. In addition, her novels have been optioned for book clubs and film. When not writing, Sheila Roberts may be found speaking at conferences, women's groups or hanging out with her girlfriends. Ms. Roberts resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and is the proud mother of three children.
Please enjoy the following question/answer session and be sure to check out Sheila Roberts' website as well as all of her writing works.
First of all, could you tell us a bit about Small Change? What is the story about, who are the characters, etc.
Small Change is a novel about three girlfriends, all facing money challenges, who form a financial support group called the Small Change Club – helping each other sort out their financial (and life) problems. I’m very excited about it because not only is it a fun read, it’s also got some great money tips and recipes in it.
What do you want readers to take away from reading Small Change?
I want readers to come away feeling good. I’d also love to see them come away inspired and ready to conquer their money challenges.
What was the most fun about writing Small Change?
I had a wonderful time collecting the money tips we included in the book. Helping women build a big, wonderful life on a small budget is something I’m passionate about.
What was the hardest part about writing Small Change?
I think the hardest part came after writing Small Change. We writers are always seeing places where we can improve our writing. It’s hard to let go. Even at the point where I wasn’t supposed to be making many changes I was still trying to slip in more little tweaks.
What kind of research did you do for Small Change?
I didn’t do as much research this time around as I have for some of my other books. I did interview friends who are teachers, though, to make sure my character Rachel felt authentic. And, of course, I had to research some of my money information. My husband, who worked in banking for many years, helped me with much of that.
Do you have a favorite excerpt from Small Change? Could you share that with us, please?
Tiffany was in the middle of painting Maude Schuller’s nails cotton candy pink when Jess and Rachel walked in with their finds.
“It’s important to learn to manage your money,” said Maude, assuming she was part of the conversation. “The problem with your generation is that you girls don’t know the value of a dollar.”
Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Yeah, we do, Maude. It doesn’t have any value.”
“That’s for sure,” said Cara the stylist on duty, who was busy giving a zitty teenage girl a hot new hair look. Today Cara’s hair was maroon. Six months earlier it had been raven’s wing black with blue highlights. “You know how much cigarettes cost these days? Not that you should smoke,” she quickly added for her client’s benefit.
“A dollar still has value when you know how to stretch it,” Maude insisted. “I was always careful with my money. That’s why I can afford to come here and get my nails done. If you’re not careful when you’re young, you wind up sorry when you’re old. I have friends who have to get their food from the food bank because they were foolish when they were younger.”
“I’m going to live with my children anyway,” said Rachel with a grin. “Payback.”
Maude shook her head in reprimand, making her loose jowls jiggle. She waggled a pink-tipped finger at Rachel. “You joke now, but when you’re there it’s not funny.”
Rachel suddenly didn’t look amused.
“Let’s see those books,” said Tiffany weakly.
“We got one specially with you in mind,” Rachel told her, and dug the book out of her plastic bag.
Tiffany read the cover and actually smiled. “Diva on a Dime? I like the diva part.”
“We knew you would,” said Rachel. “So start reading. You can give us a book report next month when we meet at my place.”
“We never did decide what we want to make,” said Jess.
“Something cheap,” said Rachel.
“Nothing is cheap,” said Tiffany with a sigh.
“You girls,” Maude said in disgust. “When I was young we made all kinds of things on the cheap: bath salts, friendship tea, Amish friendship bread.”
Tiffany made a face. “Amish what?”
Maude frowned at her. “It’s delicious. I have recipes for all those things. I’ll give them to you if you like.”
“Uh, sure. Thanks,” said Tiffany, looking anything but thankful.
“People don’t know how to be self-sufficient any more,” Maude said with a frown.
“Hey, I’m self-sufficient,” said Cara, highly offended.
“Oh, I don’t mean as far as work goes,” said Maude. “I mean knowing how to grow and preserve your own food and sew your own clothes.”
“I can buy clothes cheaper on sale at the mall,” insisted Tiffany.
Maude ignored her. “We made our cakes and casseroles from scratch, not out of a box. And we made our own syrups and jams. I can tell you, there is nothing like homemade huckleberry jam.” She looked in the direction of the teenager and lowered her voice. “I even have a recipe for blackberry cordial.”
“Cordial, what’s that?” asked Tiffany.
“Booze,” Rachel explained.
“Now, that’s something I wouldn’t mind learning how to make,” Jess said with a smile. “We’ll take it.”
“If you girls like, I’ll also give you some of my rhubarb to plant,” Maude offered. “You can make all kinds of things from rhubarb.”
“Free food? We’ll take it,” said Rachel. “And any other recipes you want to share. Maybe I’ll do an Internet search and find a bunch of recipes we can make out of all this free food we’re going to scrounge. As soon as school’s out I’m going to have nothing to do but job hunt and worry anyway.”
“You girls,” Maude began with another shake of her faux strawberry blonde head.
“Had better be going,” Jess said, edging away.
“See you later,” Rachel added, following her.
Once they were outside, Jess turned to Rachel. “That woman creeps me out. She’s like the ghost of Finance Future, all gloom and doom.”
“And free rhubarb,” Rachel reminded her. “Don’t forget the free rhubarb.”
“I can guarantee you it won’t be free,” said Jess. “We’ll have to pay by listening to more charming tales of all her friends who whooped it up instead of saving and are now eating dog food. That hits a little too close to the bone for me.”
“She did paint a grim picture,” Rachel agreed. “I sure don’t want to end up a broke old lady.”
“Well, we’re not there yet. We still have time to get our act together,” Jess assured them both.
Could you please tell us about your writing process?
I’m afraid my process isn’t very glamorous. I come up with a basic idea I’d like to explore and then dream up my characters. I always have a rough plot outline in place before I start writing. That way I have my “story route” mapped out. I may take a detour or two along the way, but I always know where I’m going.
Do you ever put yourself within your characters?
I have to admit, a little of me always creeps into one character in a book.
Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc.
Well, I have always found chocolate to be good brain food. I often work in silence. When I do play music it is something bland and background so I can’t get distracted and start singing along.
Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?
Inspiration can come from anywhere: something I read in the paper, something I saw on TV, or something I experienced in real life. (My naughty husband inspired my book On Strike for Christmas.) Small Change simply grew out of something I’m passionate about: mastering the challenge of living well on a budget.
How did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Were there any authors or books that made you think "Wow, that's what I want to do – craft stories of my own for others to read"?
I have been writing since I was little girl. And, of course, I loved to read. But no, there was no particular author, no “moment” when I said, “Ah-ha. That’s what I’ll do.” Writing has always been an integral part of my life.
What made you take that leap from "wanting" to be a writer, as opposed to "becoming" a writer? Many talk of being a writer and dip their toes in, but it seems there is often a sort of "push" to bring one over that wall.
You know, that’s difficult to answer. I think for some of us, we just feel so strongly that writing is what we’re meant to do that we scale the wall with very little prodding. Maybe there’s some ego involved as well. Maybe somewhere deep inside a little voice whispers, “You were meant to make something of your life. This is the ‘something’ so get to it.”
How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!
Finding names is always fun, and I often try to match my character’s names to their particular journeys.
Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what were some of your favorite books?
Favorite books: Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion (can you tell I went through a horse phase?), and of course, just about every Nancy Drew book I could lay my hands on.
If you had to summarize your life and give it a book title, what would that title be?
Fun with Sheila. Hmm. I may have to write that!
What are you working on right now? Could you give us a taste/teaser (aka excerpt) from your current WIP?
Right now my current work in progress, The Snow Globe, is getting copy-edited so I’d better wait on sharing excerpts. I can, however, tell you that I’ve seen the cover art for it and it’s simply gorgeous! It will be out later this year, in time for Christmas.
What are you reading right now?
I’m enjoying Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
That is hard to say since I have so many, but, to list a few, Jane Austen, Donald E. Westlake, and Elizabeth Peters.
If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Donald E. Westlake. I just love his sense of humor and his clever plots. I wish I could have met him before he died.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?
Oh, that is a good question. I so love what I’m doing and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve already been given it seems almost greedy to ask for more. But, since we’re dreaming, I’d like to achieve a little more name recognition. I think that would open the door for more travel and more opportunities to meet readers.
Is there anything that you would like to add? That you would like readers to know about you or your writing?
My goal is to give readers a fun read and inspire them. I hope I’ve done that with past books and I’m sure going to try to do it with future ones!
Where can readers get in touch with you? Twitter, Blog, Facebook, etc?