Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Interview with Shawn Reilly Simmons

MM: Shawn, give us the backstory on your writing career?

When I was young, I won the Best Creative Writing award my senior year of high school, which was totally unexpected. When I went to college the next year, I majored in English and took some creative writing classes. One day a professor pulled me aside and said I should really pursue writing, that I had a gift for storytelling. She was a published author, and I really took to heart what she said. At the time I didn’t have confidence that I could pursue writing as a career, and make a decent living at it, although I really wanted to! After college I moved to New York City and started working in sales and marketing, always keeping writing as my “dream career” for when I hit the lottery or had some other financial windfall that would support my passion.  

I was always a fan of mysteries and crime fiction. Eventually I became an editor, and was asked to join the Board of Malice Domestic. After my son was born, I decided to leave my job at the local paper (a division of the Washington Post) and stay home with him. That’s when I really sat down and decided to write a whole book, whether it would be published or not, just to say that I did it. That book ended up being my debut novel, Murder on a Silver Platter.

MM: What is your current writing project?

I am finishing up revisions and final edits on the third book in my series, Murder on a Designer Diet, which will be published by Henery Press in June 2016.

MM: Tell us about being a published author?

For me, it’s a dream come true, because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. Writing requires a lot of commitment, patience, and hard work. And sometimes you have to produce words even when you’re not particularly inspired to, because you have a deadline to make, and others are counting on you. It’s wonderful to be a published author, but that doesn’t minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to produce a book (or three). 

MM: 2016 what is in store for your readers?

2016 is a busy year! My first two books, Murder on a Silver Platter and Murder on the Half Shell, will be published in February by Henery Press. And then the third, Murder on a Designer Diet, will be published in June. I also have a short story in the upcoming Malice Domestic Anthology: Murder Most Conventional titled “A Gathering of Great Detectives,” which comes out in May in time for the convention.

MM: Is your personal life as exciting or more exciting than your fictional life?

Ha good question! My books are about an on-set movie caterer based out of New Jersey, which is a job I’ve done, so I can say my life was once almost as exciting as Penelope Sutherland’s (my protagonist). Luckily I didn’t run into as many dead bodies as she does when I was catering, bartending and working dinner parties. When I was in my 20s & early 30s, I lived in New York, and did my fair share of traveling and enjoying all the city has to offer. These days I’m a work-from-home mom with a five year old and a busy social schedule, which is its own kind of excitement.

MM: What would your characters tell us about their creator?

That she knows exactly how hard it is to cook for fifteen hours straight, because she’s done it. And she never asks them to do anything that she wouldn’t do herself.

MM: What author would you like to interview?

There are so many…I’m very fortunate as a board member of Malice Domestic to have had the opportunity to moderate many wonderful panels through the years. If I could interview a current author, it would be Sue Grafton and Stephen King (I had to pick 2). If it could be anyone from the past, I’d pick Agatha Christie (of course).  

MM: What advice do you have for novice writers?

The most important thing is to have confidence, and move forward with your story every day, either in writing or plotting. If you think about writing an entire book the first day you sit down, it can be overwhelming. But if you take one step at a time, you’ll finish eventually. Start with a goal (20 minutes in the chair or 100 words a day, for example) that doesn’t overwhelm you and build from there.

MM: What do you desire most in this world?

The life I have right now. And lots of red wine. 

MM: Besides books what are you other interests?

I am a runner, and I do yoga and lift weights every week. I cook every day, and love trying new things in the kitchen (even if my picky 5 year old doesn’t always appreciate it). And I’m a big movie fan—my favorite thing to do is make a big bowl of popcorn, open a bottle of wine and have movie night at home.

MM: They say it takes a village to write and publish. Who is in your village?

That’s the truth! The whole team at HeneryPress, who couldn’t be more encouraging and supportive, my family, who indulge my odd job, which requires I stare at the computer for hours at a time. And my mom and mother-in-law who are always willing to pitch in with babysitting, getting my son off the school bus, or whatever else I may need when I have to do something work-related.

MM: Okay for a few fun questions. Do you like to binge watch movies or television shows? Your favorite meal, place to vacation and song?

Yes! When I have the time. I am mostly able to binge watch shows on the treadmill, because I have to be on there anyway…and it’s a good way to take your mind off the fact you’re running for so long. I watched all of Breaking Bad, every season, while running on the treadmill, no exaggeration.

My favorite meal…that’s a hard one because I love everything. When I’m going out I love getting tappas with my friends. My go-to cuisines are Greek, Spanish, Italian or Sushi. I let whoever I’m going out to eat with pick where we go and what to share because I literally love everything.

Vacation: I’m a beach girl, so give me some sun and sand and an frosty drink and I’m very happy. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale on the beach, so it’s part of my DNA. I’m never more relaxed than when I’m swimming in the ocean or lounging in the sand with a good book. 

MM: In closing what was your "best" moment of 2015?
That’s a hard one…I’m a pretty fortunate person in all areas of life. As far as my writing goes, the best moment last year was when I got the call from Henery Press that they loved my work, and wanted to be my publisher. That was a pretty awesome day.

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