Sheri Levy taught Special Needs children for sixteen years, and worked nine years with adults to attain their GED. After retiring Sheri wrote her Trina Ryan series, "Seven Days to Goodbye,” and "Starting Over.” both novels have won awards. Soon to be published is "For Keeps.” Being a dog lover, her books include service dogs, special needs and teen issues.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Why do you write about service dogs?
Since I taught Special Needs children, before I started writing I researched service dog organizations. I wanted to know more about these special dogs' skills. I called around
the USA and accidently found PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services) a non- profit organization close to my home. I spent time learning about their program and took notes. Their dogs helped children with autism, veterans with PTSD and mobility issues. Then I wrote Seven Days to Goodbye.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
After having coffee, and walking my dogs, I love to write in the morning. I allow myself to change routine when I have another activity, unless I have a deadline. Then my social activities are put on hold.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
If I need a boost, I read a favorite novel, or do new research on my particular subject.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Start writing! If you don't write daily, your writing won't ever blossom. Do not critique your first pages, but keep writing and your skills will improve.
What are your current/future projects?
I have just completed the last novel of my Trina Ryan YA Series. The first novel is, "Seven Days to Goodbye," the sequel is, "Starting Over." "For Keeps," is with the publisher, waiting to be revised. My next project is a true-life historical story shared with me from my friend who escaped form Hungary in 1956.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I have always been a dog lover and involved with special needs. My husband and I vacationed on Edisto Island, S.C. for years with our best friends. It was fun to create a story and exaggerate our experiences and personal relationships.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I believe an independent writer will find it much harder to publicize their work. If the story is written well and they learn how to promote their novels, it may open new doors.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am traditionally published. I sent out my manuscript and received a contract. Barking Rain Press has published my series of three novels.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
Doing author presentations for schools, women's clubs, and other special events, helped bring interest to novels. My audience asked wonderful questions and helped promote my novels by purchasing books and passing the word about the stories.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I have found many online promotion strategies. Writing on peoples blogs, doing interviews, attending librarian conferences and teacher workshops.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
I am not self-published.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
I write Young Adult, which encompasses ages 12 and up. My readers are as young as ten and many adults have reviewed my work. I taught school and became familiar with the student’s personalities and life desires. After I connected with PAALS service dog organization, I used them for more research on special needs and their service dogs.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
If I find my mind creating new ideas, I will add notes on my phone before the idea floats away.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I have completed three novels and I wrote until the story ended. The last novel of the series, For Keeps, was my longest. I wrote until I had completed all of the conflicts and left the reader with a feeling of satisfaction.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
Writing has opened my eyes to teens and their needs. I would like to believe my stories
have added helpful ideas to readers on how to work with others, and the importance of friendship.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I have been very fortunate to have wonderful illustrators. They create the covers without my input. I love my covers for the two novels already published. Seven Days to Goodbye is set on Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Starting Over is set in the country side of Greenville, South Carolina. I am waiting to see the last cover on, "For Keeps,” which is set around the southern coastal area of Bluffton and Hilton Head. I do believe readers will be influenced by the cover. Then they may read the synopsis and read the first few chapters before they make a decision to purchase the book.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I have enjoyed the attention from having a press release, and even more so, sharing ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) with interested readers.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
I have found reviews to be helpful. But there are those reviewers who want to sabotage a book and everyone has their own opinion. Every review will bring some thoughts and highlights. A writer needs to have thick skin! Enjoy the wonderful review and move forward with the negative.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
These are choices each writer must make. You will always have different opinions and an author can't dwell on the negative.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I do believe some readers like to sabotage writers. But again, I read them and if there is some good suggestions, I would use them to improve. The rest I would ignore.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
Since I have done many events, I have had only positive experiences. Sometimes their questions bring laughter. This last week, I had a roomful of seventh graders, boys and girls, and as they read their reviews out loud, they warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
With self-publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an overabundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
I pass on self-published books. Especially if they haven't been edited, I will close the book.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
I haven't had a fear of publishing. My publisher and editor have been behind my writing since I sent in my first manuscript. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful team supporting my work.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
To date, I have two novels published in my Trina Ryan Novel series and I must say, the first novel, Seven Days to Goodbye, is probably my readers favorite and mine. There is more emotion in this story. Trina has completed training her first service dog and he connects with a young boy with autism. I was able to use my own experiences in this story. "Starting Over," has horses, boys and dogs, and a girl who needs a friend. I will have to wait and see the readers' reactions on "For Keeps."
What is the intended audience for you book?
My audience is around the age of ten and up. The story is very innocent and yet, I have adults sharing the novels with their friends.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
I use a lot of my own experiences in the stories. I have used characteristics from good friends and they have enjoyed catching themselves in my novels.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Read more! Read what you love to read and get lost in the story.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I enjoy Facebook the most. I have moved from California to South Carolina and it is a thrill to share my novels with friends and relatives across the country. The other technologies of blogging and emails help stay in touch.
What makes a good story, why?
A good story will depend on the interest of reader, and the genre they enjoy. Since I use dogs in my stories, this would be an attraction for dog lovers. I also like to use emotion and make my reader feel.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are fun to play with, and I have used special names that meant a lot to me. But I am careful that each name starts with a different letter and are not similar to each other.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews when offered. I always thank the reader for reading the novel, even if it is a bad review. Since they took the time to read the book, I will say something positive and move on. I do pay attention to all comments. Some I digest, and others are tossed.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
Teaching writing with students is a very positive experience. Their questions help me learn new things and maybe even influence my own writing.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
The hardest scene for me to write is one full of emotion. In Seven Days to Goodbye, I spent a week crying and writing the last chapter.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
I have completed my fictional series and am now working on a true story from a friend who escaped from Hungary in 1956. This my first time writing a historical true story.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
While sleeping sometimes an idea or conflict that I need for my story will appear in my dream. Then I add it to my story in the morning.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
Not right now! I have enough going on in my mind. Until I complete my projects I will not think about any new stories.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
I made up my stories but used some real people.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Good writing uses interesting sentences, strong verbs, and shows the action of feelings without telling.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
As a child I read tons of books. My parents took me to the library and I checked out many books. Nancy Drew was my childhood favorite. Now, one of my favorite writers is Mary Alice Monroe. Reading has encouraged me to write.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
I like reading both, but my favorite is holding the book in my hands and turning pages.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
Writing as turned into a career, but because I love writing I want to treat it has a hobby so I don't burn out.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
I used PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services) for my research on service dogs.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I do proof read my own manuscripts but my editor does the final revisions.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
I believe traditional publishing is easier to connect with readers.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I do not plan to write about sex.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
Life motivates me. I love to watch people and animals and let them stir my imagination.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
The cover helps to gain attention, but I believe reading the synopsis will catch interest.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
- My illustrator does the job.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
I love writing the story, but the hardest part is the rewriting. Sometimes I move chapters around and have to rewrite over and over again.