Author Interview with Shawn Stout

Get to know Shawn…

Shawn K. Stout is the author of the Fiona Finkelstein books (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster) and the Penelope Crumb series (Philomel/Penguin) for middle grade readers. She has an M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. For more info, visit her website

Let the conversation begin!

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Be persistent. A writing teacher told me to keep on writing, no matter the number of rejection letters, no matter if you think you can’t. If you love it, you must keep doing it.

When was the last time you were nervous?

Five minutes ago.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Sleeping in. First day of school. Lazy summers.

What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

Reading in a hammock.

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

With a baby in the house, a full-time job, and writing deadlines, I barely have 30 seconds of free time. But when I do, I close my eyes and enjoy the stillness and quiet.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?

Catherine Earnshaw, because I am a romantic and would love to live in the moor countryside. But I would make a point of not marrying Edgar Linton no matter how many times I was bitten by dogs.

The best part of waking up is?

Seeing my husband and baby daughter.

What age did you become an adult?

I’m still waiting for that to happen. I fear I will always remain ten years old.

What piece of advice would you give the younger you?

Stop worrying so much.

If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like?

A dinner party in an old barn with twinkle lights, bottles of wine passed about, lots of laughter, and a breeze that cools the neck.

Ever written a book that never got published? Ever think you’ll give it a second chance?

Yes, lots. I’m not sure they are worth revisiting at this point, if I could even find them in my mess of a desk. In some ways, whether they are ever published or not, I have learned something from writing them and will use that knowledge toward other works.

Outliner or Seat-of-the-Pantser?

It depends. If I’m writing on a deadline, I’m a definite outliner. I have to know where I’m going or else I’ll get stuck on chapter 3 and question whether or not I should keep going. If I’m not on deadline, I meander with my characters a bit more.

Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Ha. That’s funny.

Where’s Waldo?

You know, I don’t know. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. I’m basically dead to him. 

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Author Interview with Shari Maurer

Get to know Shari… 

Shari Maurer lives in New City, New York, where she grew up. This serves as a constant reminder of her teen years and enables her to write using very fresh memories. She went to undergrad at Duke University and grad school at NYU, studying English and Dramatic Writing and yelling loud at basketball games. For six years, Shari was at the Children’s Television Workshop, working on international productions of Sesame Street and is the co-author of The Parents’ Guide to Children’s Congenital Heart Defects. She married Mat, the boy she met at 17 (another source of fresh memories) and they have three children, Lissie, Josh and Eric. Mat is now a cardiologist, which came in very handy when she was writing CHANGE OF HEART, her YA novel published by West Side Books. For more info, visit her website. You can find her on Facebook too!

Let the conversation begin!

What advice would you give young writers?

Read as much as possible and write what you love. 

What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

Cactus. I was in Mexico when I worked on international productions of Sesame Street. 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

There’s no such thing as a bad first draft (or maybe all first drafts are bad, but it doesn’t matter). Just get something on the page and go from there. 

What one word describes you? Why?

Obsessive. Because when I get a thought or idea, I grab a hold of it and don’t let go. This can be a negative thing, particularly if I obsess over something I can’t control, but more often it’s positive—obsessing over a story makes it better and obsessing over a project gets it done. 

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?

I have a critique group that is amazing. I rely on the thoughts and advice of these two talented writers. When I have a draft that I feel good about, I also seek the advice of my daughter and other teen readers. 

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Everything from a cake decorator to a child psychologist. But when I wrote the sixth grade play (adapted from a favorite novel) and heard the applause, I was hooked. 

Earliest childhood memory?

I stole Razzles (first it’s a candy, then it’s a gum) from a convenience store. My mother made me confess and return them. Not sure if this is my earliest memory, but it’s a strong one from that era. 

If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?

I think I would cuddle in bed with my family and watch movies and eat some really yummy food. 

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Author Interview with Shellie Neumeier

Shellie NeumeierGet to know Shellie…

Married for over 20 years, Shellie Neumeier and her husband have four wonderful kiddos and two goofy greyhounds. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, she went on to acquire an early childhood education certificate.  Shellie also served in youth, children’s, special needs and family ministries for over twenty-two years. Now she enjoys teaching her teens how to drive and chauffeuring her preteens across the Wisconsin countryside.  And once in a while, she loves to read big people books (you know the kind without pictures). Shellie writes because it keeps her away from her husband’s power tools and because every now and then, she doesn’t have the choice, it just takes over.  Her best inspiration comes from God and the occasional walk along a country road with her greyhounds. Be sure to check out her Amazon page!

Let the conversation begin!

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

If we’re talking fiction, I’d say before. I write everyday now, but a lot of it is non-fiction related or marketing stuff. I miss my characters and the fun we had together.

Are your characters completely fictional?

People in my life sneak into my characters. It’s such fun when a friend finds a trait or two they have in common with the MC and they ask if that was purposeful. Of course I’m careful not to mention who inspired the demon in Driven. (Are you curious? J Nope not going to say…but I do like dark chocolate if you’re thinking about bribes.)  

What advice would you give young writers?

You have a story, write it. When you’re done, break into the world of critics one toe at a time. Let your best friend/Mom/Dad read it first (whoever would be the kindest). With a little confidence and experience in your pen, find people who are authors or aspiring authors and let them read your story. Don’t panic if (when) they come back with things you may need to change. Take a day to nurse your wounds and then go back to your writing. Guess my advice is pretty simple: you CAN do it and DON’T give up. If that doesn’t encourage you, email me I’ll pull out the old cheerleader pom-poms.

When are you the most productive?

So morning. I crammed edits into the night (pulled an all-nighter once) and it showed. I’m better off waking up at a nightmarish time and taking a nap later. I know…that’s so old:D.

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?

Does adding a writing space, count? I don’t have one—at all. Right now I write at the snack counter or on the couch when the TV is off. So if money weren’t an obstacle, I’d add an entire writing space. Then I’d hang a sign above the door that said:

Mom’s writing space.

Girls only.

Girls over forty only.

Girls over forty bearing coffee only.

Come on in.

Do you write with music?

Absolutely. Every WIP seems to beg for one song to be played over and over and over. It drives my family nuts, but it works. Music pulls me into a mood which flows into my writing. I even edit with the same music in the background. I can write in silence, come to think of it the words flow faster, but not with as much emotion and strength. So music it is. 

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