The Writer’s Life interview

Sheryl A. Keen has a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in English literature from the University of the West Indies. She lives in Canada where she works in administration.
In addition to prose, Sheryl also writes and publishes poetry. When she is not writing, one of her other loves is painting. She does semi abstract works that she considers conversation pieces.

Welcome to The Writer’s Life, Sheryl. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I am both a writer and an artist. These two processes complement each other in that a lot of details are used to create a big picture. So they both end up giving the reader or the viewer a certain point of view.  I have been a writer all of my life. I can remember writing short stories from the age of eight but maybe I started to be more serious about the process in my teens. Literary/commercial fiction is the genre that I am partial to but I am not opposed to learning and trying other types of writing especially if it will enhance my work.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

My novel is Journal According to John. It’s about a divorced man who keeps a journal with the hope that it will provide a tool with which to make sense of his failed marriage and his life. Very early on in writing into his journal, he realizes that his mother, the curator of a gallery that specializes in steel art and other nontraditional works, has largely shaped his thoughts and his actions. He also comes to the conclusion that her ongoing promiscuity has affected his ability to have any close, intimate relationship. But can he blame her for his dysfunctional life?

I wanted to write a novel from a male’s perspective that told a compelling and emotional story about a mother-son relationship but I wanted to do it in a way that was not necessarily masculine. The main character is a man who is trying to find himself and his journal entries are in direct opposition of the manhood that he is seeking. The entries do lend themselves to intimacy between the readers and the main character. However, can John come to terms with his masculinity while writing in this way?

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

Perhaps my biggest challenge was trying to write from a male’s perspective in an introspective way. I was concerned that the character would not be authentic enough. Also, the use of actual journal entries was a device that I questioned because it didn’t seem like something that a man would do. But it was for that exact reason that I wanted to use that method. I simply reminded myself that writers are supposed to be imaginative and creative. Moreover, there are all types of men out there, so my character does in fact exist in some shape or form.

Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

Presently I do not have a press kit but I am working on one that would include a summary of the book, a statement about why the book should be read, reviews, marketing information, cover art, a photograph, bio and contact information.

Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

I have spoken to groups at a few book clubs and to other groups at the local libraries. I plan to use the press kit as a marketing tool to get me into print, audio and visual media. I am also depending on word of mouth which is the best marketing tool.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Presently, I do not have an agent. However, I think an agent is still relevant in terms of negotiating with publishers on behalf of authors. They can show great diplomacy too between these two sides. I have read and heard a lot that agents are slowly becoming obsolete because of self publishing. This may or may not be true but agents do a huge amount of drudge work that I, as a writer, would prefer not to do. I would rather be writing than doing self representation.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

No, I did not prepare a media blitz before the book came out. There wasn’t even one when the book did come out. Budgetary constraints did not allow for this, we just went online and started marketing. I also did an interview with PageOneLit.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes. I have two in the works. One geared towards young adults about four girls lost on a school trip and the other is about the travails of office life. The former should be ready by the end of the year.

Thank you for your interview, Sheryl. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Readers can find me at my website: www.sherylkeen.com. I also have an author page at http://authors.aalbc.com/sheryl.htm. I am also on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace.