Monday, April 11, 2016

Release day Interview with Shari Schwarz for TREASURE AT LURE LAKE

It's with a mega grin and confetti that I announce that my dear fried Shari L. Schwarz is releasing her debut middle grade labor of love, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE. This story has been through a ton of revisions and late night talk-it-out sessions, plus all the other craziness that debuts normally do. Shari is an incredible mom and critique partner, but even more so, a friend. She offered to do an interview, and I thought what better way to let all of my readers really get to know her? So once you've swooned over the cover, fallen in love with the plot teaser, and read a bit about Shari, we get to really get to know her below. Without further adieu....

It's it shiny and beautiful???

Twelve-year-old Bryce’s best-laid plans for a backpacking trip with his grandpa seem about to fall through all because his big brother, Jack, is threatening to boycott the trip. But when Bryce stumbles upon a secret treasure map in his grandpa's barn loft, he doesn't mean to steal it or unearth a painful family secret that will explain the root of the brothers’ conflict. Bryce is determined to find the treasure even if it means lying to his grandpa.

As Bryce, Jack, and Grandpa hike to a remote cabin in the Rocky Mountains, sibling rivalry clouds the brothers' judgment, and all Bryce's plans for an epic adventure go downriver. The boys must work together to survive the dangers of the wilderness, and each other, or the treasure and their family's secret may never see the light of day.

Shari Schwarz lives in Colorado with her husband and their four boys. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE is her debut middle grade adventure which reflects her love for a good adventure story and spending time hiking and camping in the Northern Colorado Rockies.

EM: How many versions of TREASURE's manuscript did you go through?

SS: It went through five major versions of the story which included POV changes, plot changes, and even character changes. I always had the grandfather in the story, but in the first version, he was a very minor, background character. In the final version, he's the one who goes on the backpacking trip with the boys.

EM: What was the hardest part of writing TREASURE?

SS: The hardest part was learning what advice to use on my writing. I had well over 30 critique partners or beta readers look at parts of or the whole manuscript. At first, I tried to take almost every piece of advice. It was like trying to constantly do a patch job on my manuscript. I learned the hard way that, although I became good at receiving critiques, the process wasn't meant for pleasing every single person. I had to learn to pick and choose the advice that I knew would work with the story I was trying to tell.

EM: How about the easiest part of writing it?

Ha! The easiest was planning and writing the first draft! It only took two months and pretty much just came out as a whole story. If I had been told then that it would be the easiest part, I would have laughed! I wrote a book! At the time it didn't seem so easy.

EM: What personal experiences, if any, influenced this story?

SS: I actually made a list of these recently and there are at least twenty different people in my life that I owe a nod of thanks to (or much more than that) for the experiences that in some way shaped TREASURE AT LURE LAKE. One experience was camping with my husband in the mountains one June and enduring a surprise ice storm that night. Another experience that went into the book was my love for rock-climbing or bouldering along rivers when I was younger and the terror I have felt when one time I was sure I was going to fall off the rock face to my death.

EM: Yeah, that all seems like too much real-life adventure for me. Did you do any special research to write TREASURE?

SS: Yes! I researched a lot of near-death or out-of-body experiences...people who have died and then come back to life with stories of life on the other side, so to speak. I also researched a lot of survival techniques like starting fires, setting traps, skinning and cooking a know, normal stuff like that. I also had to research the habits of bears, elk and mountain lions, although the mountain lion scene didn't make it into the book.

EM: I bet you were getting camping gear ads on your computer side bars. lol. Do you feel like the multi-age POV will mean that your readers can be of both age groups? Why or why not?

SS: This is a great question. I really struggled with the ages of the boys. Originally I had them as 16 and 14 years old because they were going on the hike alone. But I really wanted to write a book geared towards middle schoolers, not high schoolers, so I toyed with lowering their age and sending their grandpa along with them. Right now, two of my own boys are reading it and love it and they are ages 11 and 14, the exact age range that I was shooting for, so I feel like I got that right.

EM: At least you had a firm grip on what you wanted your readership to be in terms of age. That can be hard sometimes. In what ways do you think this story will most resonate with middle grade boys?

SS: From the feedback I've gotten from the few middle school boys who have read it/are reading it, they say that it's exciting and suspenseful. My 14yo son said that it's one of the best survival books he's ever read. I also hope that there might be something that boys with siblings can take away from the complicated relationship between Jack and Bryce, the brothers in the story. Despite the deep issues they have to work through, they are able to come out knowing that their bond as brothers is stronger than just about anything...even death.

EM: What else are you working on now that TREASURE is out in the world?

SS: I'm working on several picture books and a chapter book. I also have a YA historical fiction set in WWI that is written but needs a lot of revising time. I can't wait to get back to that soon!

EM: I can't wait to help you look over the WWI book. Some people claim this book is religious, but you are surprised by this reaction and how do you respond to it?

SS: I asked my husband what he thought about this the other day when he finished reading TREASURE AT LURE LAKE. He said he was surprised at how non-religious it was. It was not my intention to write a religious book...there certainly is no overt religion in it. There is, however, the near-death-experience which points to an afterlife. There is also a point at which one of the brothers becomes so desperate that he tries praying. More than anything, my intention was to address themes of purpose, worth and hope. Themes that children in their early teens really start to question and wonder about. I hope that these are the takeaways, not any one religion.

EM: Love this answer. When I read through the draft, I was surprised how un-religious those parts felt. They felt very real to me, not preachy at all. So I agree with your husband. So tell us. Are you a fly-by-the-tap-of-your-fingers pantser or twelve-piles-of-paperwork plotter?

SS: I am a plotter, for sure. I love the process and all of the different kinds of outlines and worksheets that can help you along the way. I'm kind of a geek that way! One of my favorite ways to plot is to use the Plot Whisperers Workbook by Martha Alderson. However, I didn't know about that when I wrote TREASURE AT LURE LAKE as I was quite the newbie to writing at the time.

EM: Do you prefer the writing or editing stage more?

SS: This is a hard one! I love editing, and I'm constantly learning more about it. But the writing process probably edges out for first place for me. I love writing and always have. I love the freedom of writing a first draft. I don't edit much as I go. Even though I have things plotted out in advance, I still allow room for twists and turns that I didn't see coming. This is so exciting to me...just like reading a book with plot twists or a movie where you're on the edge of the seat as the scenes unfold. As the words come out, sometimes I am shocked or moved. It's an amazing process! Writing is how I express myself.

EM: What is your favorite drink if any while writing and editing?

SS: An almond milk latte or spicy chai...every time...all the time! :) I love writing at coffee shops while my son is in preschool or my big boys are at youth group.

EM: Do you have any other writing rituals? (music, quiet, place, space, etc...)

SS: It makes me sad, but I cannot write with music on. I just can't concentrate unless it's background music. But I can write in the middle of anything. I write in the kitchen, in the carpool line, at coffee shops. However, I can't edit that way. When I'm editing, I need a pretty quite and concentrated amount of time. That's the hard work of writing a book!

EM: I can think of a few places we've hung out that you probably wrote chapters at. Now the question some people are dying to know. Which house of Hogwarts?

SS: Seriously? Are you going to ask me this question? (Shhh...don't tell anyone. I have started Harry Potter three times and have't gotten past the second chapter. Ugh! I promise I will someday!)

EM: Don't worry. I won't tell anyone. haha. If I had to guess I'd say you were Hufflepuff. Bet that will make you get reading. :) What's your favorite outdoor activity?

SS: I love hiking! We live close to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and I can walk from my front door and be hiking in them in about seven minutes. I also love mountain biking and rock climbing but my old body is not letting me do those activities these days. I'm working on getting back in shape to take my boys mountain biking this summer.

EM: Now for the most important question (or at least I think). What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

SS: Anything with chocolate and peanut butter or caramel. Oh, and Ben and Jerry's, 'Everything But The.'

EM: Girl after my own heart. Lastly, if you could go anywhere in the world for free, where would it be?

SS: One place?! Hmm...In my mind, I keep coming back to Italy, somewhere along the coast. I'd love to go on a photography tour where you get to experience the culture and learn photography. Is there something like that? Now you've got me thinking!

EM: I'm cool like that. I'd go to Italy with you. We can hunker down in coffee shops and write for an hour each morning and then spend the rest of the day exploring. We gotta make that happen!

Thank you so much for stopping by Shari and congrats on the release of TREASURE AT LURE LAKE!