Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on local author Sharon Ross Legasey, who will be at the store THIS SUNDAY from 2:00 – 4:00 PM. She is debuting her first novel, a middle grade, The House of Wonder. Joining her will be the book’s illustrator, Monique Legasey-Pappas.
Thank you very much for joining us, Sharon! Let’s start by finding a little more about you. What can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Worcester, MA. and attended Worcester schools with my ten siblings. I now live in the neighboring town of Spencer with my husband of over forty years. We have five grown children and several grandchildren. I graduated with an Early Childhood Degree, magna cum laude from Quinsigamond Community College.
Storytelling was always a love of mine. I use to make up games we played out in a doll house. Sometimes I took my younger siblings on walks in the neighborhood and made up stories on our way. We’d imagine we were in different places or even countries. This form of storytelling went on even for my own children. When I was alone, I found pleasure in writing and recording my thoughts in journals. I never thought about writing a book though, until one night, as I was telling a bedtime story to my youngest son, my husband and teenaged children told me I should write some of the stories down. To my surprise, they admitted they had been listening the past few nights and liked the story I was developing.
When I finished writing it, I learned that T.M. Murphy, author of the Belltown Mystery Series, was going to be a guest at my son’s school. One phone call to the office secretary got me an invitation to meet him. After all the children left the auditorium, I went and introduced myself. He signed one of his books for me and handed to me, asking if I had a story. I held my first story in a notebook in my arms. He asked if he could look at it; I didn’t mind. Surprised that a published author wanted to take time to look at my book was a shock, so I said yes and handed it to him. He leafed through it and then offered to read it and give me some advice. He changed my life that day! His interest and later comments encouraged me to believe in myself and my stories.
Since his review, I have completed three bedtime animal adventure stories. One of these adventure stories is awaiting a publisher’s response. In September 2014, I went on a short term mission trip and wrote a story for the children living in an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. It was a lot of fun going there and telling this story because it was the first time telling a story with the help of an interpreter. In July 2015, I went on another mission trip with a group called YWAM (Youth with a Mission.) Part of my mission in Belfast, Ireland was to tell a story to the children about a patron saint’s life from childhood to adulthood, one that was written just for them and never heard before. I was invited to tell the story to the entire crowd of 200 people.
My most recent work has been working on a sequel to The House of Wonder. I am hoping to release it this Fall, 2016.
How would you describe yourself as a writer? What can we expect from your writing?
I like to write fiction laced with historical facts and adventure. Since I am a teacher, I really like to teach through my stories—it could be a childhood lesson or a moral character building trait. I always try to encourage the reader through the episodes of my characters. They take chances based on the characters’ ages. I also have strong values for family and relationship, so I find ways to weave those traits throughout my stories. Some of the bedtime stories for children are the same ones I told my son when he was four. However, many people from eleven to ninety have enjoyed listening to and reading these stories and The House of Wonder. During the Spring of 2015, the children at North Brookfield Elementary school looked forward to my visits so I could read another chapter of The House of Wonder to them. I hope to be invited to other schools to do the same thing. We all enjoyed it.
What kind of research went into writing the The House of Wonder and the upcoming sequel?
Lots! Although the computer is a great tool for researching and gathering information from different sites, it is not the only way to find information. Talking to people, listening as they share their story helps one to learn about the genealogy and culture of a family, as well as the period in time they lived. Choosing the location for the story is also important. In order to complete The House of Wonder, I needed to find a place where the mountains meet the ocean. Researching on the computer helped me [find] two such places, both in Maine. So I took a couple days and visited Camden, Maine. Once I drove up Mount Battie, I knew it would be in that area our main characters, Princess Myriam and Patrick, would be settling down. That’s when the story had a setting. Having experienced the drive up Mount Battie better enabled me to develop the words in action for writing about Rosalie as she made the journey in the book. This trip was very important and most exciting part of writing the book.
There are many interesting facts that were gathered, but not all entered in this story; however, you will find some of them in the sequel. After the words were written, then came choosing the right artist and drawings to enhance the story. The artist is Monique Pappas, founder of Creative Communications Art Studio in Leicester, MA. Her pen and ink drawings framed in Victorian inspired designs finished the book.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
It’s very important to me; I love New England. It offers everything here as many other authors have discovered. The October winds and color changing leaves of New England are a pleasure to write about. Maine offered the perfect setting for The House of Wonder where the mountains and ocean meet, entrapping a little fishing village. If you ever visit there, be sure to drive up Mount Battie and peek down upon the village nestled at its foot. Then look to the right and gaze upon Mt. Megunticook. I think it brings the story home to a reader when the setting is about what they are about. Another point I’d like to make is the fact that Maine is a vacation spot for many adventurers looking for beautiful natural sites. The House of Wonder helps to bring that vacation home with the traveler.
What are some of your other writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?
Genealogy and history are very important to me, as well as sewing and scrapbooking. Going hiking and traveling are also experiences that help me find words and places to write about. Sometimes a desire to know how to write about a subject leads me to crazy adventures. Like the time I wanted to write about the flight of a bird. My desire to find out exactly what it was like to fly led me to Cancun and onto a boat so I could “fly” in a parasail over the ocean! Crazy Right?
What is the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome it?
Writing and researching are challenging, as well as time consuming, but fun too. Some of the toughest challenges are learning the process and purpose of social media and learning how to write in such a way that an agent, editor, or publisher will be attracted to the manuscript. Knowing and understanding the need to build a following is another challenge because it helps to get people to know the author. This is where social media helps. I have enjoyed marketing myself and meeting everyone who buys my book. But it is a slower way to build a platform. I am overcoming all these challenges by attending seminars and conventions. I attended the Writer’s Digest Convention last summer where they taught on all the above challenges. I also am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The e-mails I receive always offer classes and books to read to help a writer develop the skills needed to be a success. Lastly, all I can say is once you send out that manuscript, the waiting for a publisher requires patience and perseverance. But it is worth the wait. In order to overcome these obstacles, do what you like to do, KEEP WRITING! While waiting, join a group, help a fellow writer, or work on enhancing your need to be known.
Are there groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
Being alone on the path to a writing career is not easy. But can be overcome by engaging with other writers at a local writer’s group. Why not take a class at your local college where other writers may be found, or join a seminar or a writing conference to learn more about your trade. A conference is great place to network with other authors. There is a slogan I heard for years, “birds of a feather, fly together.” Encouragement is found when you are amongst like-minded people.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
The House of Wonder can be purchased at Annie’s Book Stop Worcester; Zep’s in North Conway, NH; the White Birch Book store, in North Conway, NH; several Sherman’s Book Stores in the Camden, Maine area; and also on line at Amazon or Trafford Book Sites. Or send a request to purchase a copy through my author page on Face Book at SRossLegasey.
Thank you for the lovely interview, Sharon! ABSW looks forward to hosting you this Sunday from 2:00 – 4:00 PM to talk about The House of Wonder and more!