MEOW, MY GUEST TODAY IS AUTHOR SHARON FARROW!
Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties, with her first novel released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes the Berry Basket cozy mystery series. The first book in the series, Dying for Strawberries, was published in 2016. Blackberry Burial will be released Oct. 31, 2017. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins historical mysteries.
In addition to writing, Sharon has had a number of job titles, including college history instructor, photographic classifier for the Frick Art Reference Library, archaeologist, art gallery assistant, and owner of an office services company. Although she’s lived in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, she’s quite happy to be back in her home state, specifically the beautiful coastline of Lake Michigan.
Welcome Sharon!Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! I was the kid who read under the covers with a flashlight. The pediatrician told my parents I spent too much time reading indoors and needed to get out in the fresh air more. So I brought my books outside. I began submitting to magazines as a teenager, scoring my first sale a decade later. Because writing rarely pays all the bills, I’ve always had a day job; my favorites were those spent working in museums and universities. Initially, I wrote short stories and articles, although I also had a one-act play produced off-Broadway. Not until the 1990s did I begin writing novels, and was thrilled when my first novel was released in 1998.
I probably put off writing novels for so long because of my first attempt. In 9th grade, I decided to write a thriller called The Bloody Kitchen, which contained a lurid scene where the heroine enters the kitchen and finds it literally dripping with blood. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to end the story and bailed on it midway through. I still regret not keeping the spiral notebook I wrote the unfinished manuscript in. I have no idea why a blood soaked kitchen was so integral to my story, but I’d love to re-read the tale of mayhem and murder my 14-year-old self was intent on telling.
Tell us a bit about your Berry Basket mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
In 2008 I moved to a scenic village along the shores of Lake Michigan. The beauty of the locale, along with its unique shops and galleries, made it the perfect setting for a cozy. A shop devoted to all things berry was a natural choice since this region not only boasts beautiful beaches and sand dunes, it’s a fruit belt filled with orchards. I also took inspiration from The Blueberry Store in neighboring South Haven. Btw, when I moved to the village, I worked part time in several shops and galleries. Perfect experience for writing about a store owner in a resort beach town.
Tell us about your “Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins” mystery series.
The series is based on the characters from George Bernard Shaw’s famous play Pygmalion and the musical it inspired, My Fair Lady. Several years ago, friend and fellow author Meg Mims drove across the state to visit me while listening to the soundtrack of My Fair Lady. As soon as she arrived, she proposed we team up to write a series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins as amateur sleuths. The idea was too delightful to resist, but we did have to learn how to collaborate, something neither of us had done before. The series is currently up for its second Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery, so I think we made the right decision.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
My characters reveal themselves to me in their own time, usually through dialogue. They tell me things only my writing subconscious knows. And I must “see” what a character looks like before I begin to write about them. A character isn’t ready to be put on the page if I can’t imagine them standing in front of me. I also need to choose the right name. I once found myself unable to get past the first chapter until I realized the heroine had the wrong name. After the perfect name for her popped into my head, the book flowed beautifully. In fact, it ended up being the easiest novel I’ve ever written.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I was a pantser for many years. Now I write lengthy outlines. In the D.E. Ireland series I co-write, a long, detailed outline is mandatory in order to prevent us from going off in different directions. As for the series I write on my own, my editor at Kensington prefers a detailed outline for each book. My outlines average about 30 pages, which is probably longer than he anticipated. However, those outlines help keep me on schedule, especially since I write two series concurrently.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. One of my favorite quotes is “Character is destiny”. If you create a fascinating character, an intriguing plot is sure to follow.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I find it difficult to write if things are extremely stressful in my personal life. When my father became ill, I stopped writing novels for several years because his health issues were so overwhelming. Some authors escape into their writing when they go through painful personal issues. I’m not one of them. I require a measure of peace and stability to do really good work. As for what keeps me motivated, being a writer has been my dream since I was nine years old and announced my decision to my mother. The pleasure and satisfaction of telling stories outweighs all the speed bumps that are part a writing career.
Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I acquired my most recent agent when Meg and I were almost done writing our first Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins mystery. Fellow mystery author Barbara Ross was kind enough to recommend us to her agent. We emailed him a brief proposal and he accepted us as clients that same day. Two weeks later, he sold the series to St. Martin’s Press. Thank you, Barb. And thank you, John.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m writing Killed on Blueberry Hill, the third book in my Berry Basket cozy series for Kensington. In addition, Meg and I are working on the fourth book in our Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins series. With two deadlines looming ahead before autumn, I don’t have time for much else at the moment.
Plotter or Pantser?
Plotter. Years ago, I wrote romantic suspense and prided myself on being a pantser. That changed when I got to the climax of one of my manuscripts and realized I had no idea how to save my heroine from being murdered. I’d written myself into a corner where I’d end up with a dead heroine. I had to go all the way back to the beginning of the manuscript and try to figure it out. Ever since, I’ve been a plotter.
What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Never give up. I’ve known a lot of talented people who walked away from writing due to the frustrations and obstacles all authors deal with. You never know if the next manuscript is the one which will snag your first publishing contract or jumpstart your career. Hold on.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Years ago I worked for a nonprofit which gave drug prevention workshops for children. The workshops utilized both animal puppets and people who wore big furry costumes representing these puppets. On occasion, I was drafted to dress as a giant cat or dog and dance to one of the workshop songs before an audience. I once performed at a shopping mall at the same time several Detroit Tigers made an autographing appearance. I’m sure Tiger pitcher Dave Rozema is still puzzled about giving an autograph to a person wearing a yellow furry suit and a giant cat head.
What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I trained as an archaeologist and worked on a number of archaeological digs, including a Roman site in Britain, a Civil War fort, Native American settlements, and Ellis Island.
If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
Principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. But I’d need to be much younger. And thinner. And possess dancing skills.
What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
Friends who make me laugh. And Harry & David dark chocolate truffles.
What’s the last tv show that made you laugh?
What store could you browse in for hours?
Barnes and Noble.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) I plead the fifth. That’s like asking if I have a favorite child.
Beach or Pool? Pool for swimming. Beach for walking, reading, relaxing.
Steak or salad? Salad, especially if sprinkled with feta cheese.
Favorite Drink? A Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino. With whip, of course.
Favorite Book? Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
Favorite TV Series? Survivor.
Favorite Movie? The Godfather
Favorite Actor: Tom Hanks
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Can I choose Maine instead?
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: Anne Boleyn. I love all things Tudor, and she is the most intriguing person from that period.
If I had just one wish, it would be: World peace. Yes, I’m stealing the punch line from Miss Congeniality, but things are so crazy right now, nothing is more urgent.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: I can’t think of anyone I’d currently switch places with. Back in the 1970s, I would have traded lives with the young Canadian ballerina Karen Kain, who often danced with my idol Rudolf Nureyev.
Thanks Sharon! You can find her at:
Sharon will give away a signed copy of Dying for Strawberries, the first book in the Berry Basket Mysteries.
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