Interview with Award-Winning Author Bonnie Shimko
Get to know Bonnie…
My first novel, LETTERS IN THE ATTIC, was published by Academy Chicago Publishers when I was sixty and won a Lambda Literary Award.
My new young adult novel, KAT’S PROMISE, has just been released by Harcourt. I’ve always been fascinated by coming-of-age stories, and like Kat, “I like sad and dark–troubled characters with empty cupboards and empty souls.”
When I was growing up, there was a stark, scary orphanage building in my hometown. I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids who were inside, and what went on behind those cold cement walls. From those imaginings, Kat was born. To learn more, visit my website.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
Unlike most authors, I never wanted to be one. I was a second-grade teacher for thirty-three years and didn’t write a thing, other than report card comments and grocery lists. Oh, wait. I’m lying. I did write a limerick for a contest in the Saturday Evening Post magazine. I thought it was pretty good–a winner, for sure. I was actually thinking how I’d spend the $100 prize. But some woman in Iowa won my fame and my $100, so I gave up my limerick-writing dream. Years later, when I retired, I didn’t have enough to do, so I bought a computer, took a class to learn how to use it, and starting writing books. My first novel was published when I was sixty!
What was your favorite book to write?
My first one, Letters in the Attic, because I was totally surprised that I could actually write a book. Then, amazingly, it was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. I got to go to Los Angeles, have dinner in a swanky hotel with famous people in tuxedos and fancy dresses, and have my name in the program (my book was competing against Harvey Fierstein’s–just before he won the Tony for Hairspray—and three others in the children’s/young adult category). And, miracle of miracles, Letters in the Attic won. I’m looking at the award right now and it takes me right back to that wonderful night.
Where do you get your ideas?
They just arrive–usually in the shower. I know the beginning and the end of the book, but I have no idea how I’m going to get from one point to the other. Same with characters. They just appear and take me where they want to go. When I get stuck, I know that I’m trying to make the story go in the wrong direction, and my characters are digging their heels in the dirt so I won’t go too far off course.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
It’s a young adult novel called The Voices in Maggie Feigenbaum’s Head. She’s a tiny bit sweet, a tiny bit funny, and a big bit psychotic. It’s weird, but fun to write.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure where I read or heard this, but it’s “Don’t define yourself by your writing.” Writers can get pretty down on themselves because of all the rejection, bad reviews, etc. If you make sure that your writing is only one part of who you are (and not the most important part) you’ll be a lot happier and reviews that compare your work to a bad case of the flu won’t sting nearly as much.
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