Welcome back everyone. The pukah have been out scouting for new authors to introduce to us. Tonight, they’ve invited Sharon Sasaki back to visit.
Welcome Sharon. Will you start us off by telling us a little about yourself?
- I am a family physician who now spends all of her working hours in the operating room, assisting in surgery. I work days, evenings, weekends, holidays and I love assisting in all types of surgeries. That is why I write medical science fiction. I want to give people a taste of what it is like to be in the operating room. I just put the setting in the future on a medical space station so I can extrapolate ideas.
- I write humorous SF thrillers. I like to make people laugh. Laughter is the Best Medicine, you know.
- I also paint collages which can be seen on my Website.
I can imagine you have quite a bit of material to use for your stories. How did you get into writing with such a demanding career?
- I was always writing as a child. A pad and pencil went with me everywhere. When I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they said, ‘You’ll starve! You have to be a doctor. ‘ I became a doctor but I always wanted to write, so I eventually, after the children were off to university, picked up the computer and started to follow my dreams.
- I write when I am not catching up on my sleep. Because of my crazy hours, I don’t have much of a social life. Haha.
Social life? There’s such a thing as that?
- Haha. I have heard rumors that such a thing exists. I have yet to see proof but I dream that it exists. It would be nice!
Agreed. What do you do for self-care, since you have such a crazy schedule?
- Self care? What is that? Lol. Um, I play tennis with my husband, I read, I walk. I sleep! I never get enough sleep!
If I can catch a few zzzz’s any time, I will. Helps me from getting in car accidents and putting the public at risk.
- The writing does help with the de-stressing. We have a great group of people at our hospital who all are dedicated and love what we do, so going into work is wonderful and I love it!
::Chuckles:: Sounds like you and I are in the same boat. Lots of pieces to keep in the air, and not enough arms to catch them all as they come due. Do you ever get a chance to read new-to-you authors? If so, any that have become favorites?
- I have read E.M. Swift-Hook’s novels, Trust a Few and the prequel to Fated Sky. I really like her stories.
- I am starting Leviathan’s Wake by J.A. Corey and it is fantastic. I read Dan Abraham in the past and I loved his writing.
E.M.’s books are on my list, just haven’t gotten there (yet). Though I do agree – she’s got a wonderful writing style.
Speaking of personal styles and voices – do you feel you’ve developed your own, or is it still in the process?
- Well, most reviewers say that my books are like nothing they have ever read before, so that is good. I believe that I have a distinct voice because most people who write SF do not include humour. People who read my books say they laugh out loud. If I can make a reader laugh, I am very pleased.
When you’re achieving a goal with your writing, that definitely deserves bragging rights.
- Thank you. I try to make things funny. Part of the operating room is the humour. Doctors and nurses tease each other I think as a stress reliever and I try to capture the banter in my books.
- Writing style is always a work in progress and I write very differently for my fantasy novels
Oh, you write in different genres? What’s your impression of the marketing for your work?
- I have written the fantasy trilogy but I have not tried to publish it yet. I have only marketed my SF books. It is very competitive. There are so many books out there, many are free. I have Welcome to the Madhouse permafree and I promote it primarily. Bud by the Grace of God, the sequel, is picking up sales gradually. I hope it continues to rise in sales as people discover Madhouse.
I do not have a lot of time to spend on marketing. I like the writing better. Thank god I have a good day job!
If you are asking what I do for marketing, I promote Madhouse on sites like Freebooksy, Book Barbarian, Ereadernewstoday, The Fussy Librarian. They are all fairly inexpensive. I hope
I hope that if they like the free first book, they will be interested in paying for the second and subsequent books.
::Laughs:: Fully agree with needing the day job to keep writing.
On your writer’s journey, do you have anyone mentoring you (either directly, or by example) for your writing and/or marketing?
- For marketing, I have joined Nick Stephenson’s and Mark Dawson’s programs.
- For writing, I used to advance read and copy edit for Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. I think I learnt a lot following how Steve wrote, especially. I read a lot of Neal Asher but I can’t say I have a mentor. I have a very experienced editor in Robert Runte and he will not hesitate to rake me over the coals for anything blasé or cliché.
- I have learnt so much from Robert Runté on writing style as he is very strict on anything that hints of repetition or slows the pace of the book.
The whip marks across my back are finally healing. Hahaha!
But wait! I have the third book with him and am awaiting my new set of whip marks very soon! Goody! ;D
Ouch. I only subjected myself to that once. Haven’t had the courage to repeat the experience, though it did uncover my own “red repetition button.” Do you find the critiques from your editor help with any harsh reviews that may come up?
- I did not use Runté for my first book. I used him for the second book and I will continue to use him for all subsequent books. As one gets better and self edits, he tells me his comments will become rarer. I feel it is always good to have a very experienced eye go over the text because they know what readers like and what makes a person put the book down and never pick it up again. He is tough but he has my interests at heart. He wants me to put out the best book I can and I am developing a thick skin. My goal is also to put out the best product I can and two heads are better than one.
I have had pretty good reviews on the Bud by the Grace of God which Runté edited for me. I have had only one warm review and the reviewer wrote: If you like lots of humour, unconventional characters, racing fast-paced action, and a classic SF story, then buy this book. He just did not like that type of book. Haha. So for a negative review, I think he captured the essence of what I am writing.
- I have been lucky to have two excellent Kirkus Reviews for Madhouse and Bud by the Grace of God. I do not discuss my reviews with my editor. People write what they like and you have to roll with the punches. Often a review reveals more about the person writing the review than the book itself, so I don’t write to the people who do not like the book. I write for the people who love my books and I hope to keep them as avid fans. A book that is pleasant for everyone is not what I am interested in writing.
Nice. I agree, for a “critical review” it seems that you’ve managed to still convey the spirit of your work to that reader.
- I am sorry that you had a bad experience with an editor. Perhaps the editor was not a good one?
I have been given names of other good editor by my editor. He said one of them would make him look like Florence Nightingale. lol.
He was a good one, we just weren’t a good mix together. I’ve got a good one now, along with several excellent beta readers who all accept the challenge of tackling monsters and taming them into manuscripts. Wouldn’t have made it so far on my journey without them.
Since you’ve got a third book in the editing phase, are you at a point where you can share a snippet?
- [This is from Amazing Grace – one of my upcoming novels]
Dr. Mikhail Lewandowski slipped behind his small desk and folded his long legs beneath it, placing his crane-like hands one on top of the other. Dr. Hiro Al-Fadi faced him, seated in an antigrav chair, dressed in a hospital gown, shapeless housecoat, and faux-hide slippers. Mikhail was convinced he could feel the intense heat wafting from the surgeon’s incandescent glare. To say Dr. Al-Fadi looked furious would have been a gross understatement. Mikhail fought the childish urge to crawl under his desk.
This was not only the Chief of Staff he was meeting for the first time, but also his employer. For some cruel and malicious reason, Dr. Weisman had specifically asked for Mikhail to assess this man. Mikhail wondered if Dr. Weisman already had it out for him, although he could not fathom why. He had not even met this doctor yet. As he forced himself to placidly and calmly face Al-Fadi’s thunderhead glower, Mikhail decided that there were worse places to be than unemployed. He suspected he was in one of them.
“Who the Hell are you . . . and what makes you think you can counsel me?” Dr. Al-Fadi spat. The surgeon’s dark eyes bored into Mikhail’s.
Mikhail envisioned Al-Fadi as a giant black widow spider preparing to pounce upon him and inject him with venom. He took a deep breath, donned his cheeriest smile, and leapt into the web.
“I’m Dr. Mikhail Lewandowski from Europa, Dr. Al-Fadi. I’m a fully trained psychiatrist, Board certified, with three years of fellowship training in trauma therapy. I’m up-to-date on all of Dr. Nestor’s methods and theories . . .”
“That is highly unlikely,” Dr. Al-Fadi said, dryly, his frown unchanged.
“Well, I’m familiar with his documented theories and am up-to-date on his published research. I’ve been using his mind-link technique successfully for several years on trauma patients.”
“Three years is not several. How many patients?”
“Well, the final year of my fellowship was the most intense. Ah, I would say . . . close to two hundred patients in total?”
“And what do you consider ‘successful’?” Dr. Al-Fadi asked, too softly.
“Well . . . they got better,” Mikhail offered, moisture trickling down his temples.
“What do you mean . . . better?” the surgeon asked, making Mikhail change his assessment from spider to cobra.
“Well, they . . .”
“They didn’t come back?” Dr. Al-Fadi suggested.
“Some of them . . . didn’t come back to see me, yes,” Mikhail stuttered, acutely aware of the sweat in his armpits.
“What did you believe you did for them, Doctor?” Dr. Al-Fadi asked, a strange smile forming on his face. Mikhail did not feel comforted by that expression at all. It was the smile one might see on a wolf. Pulling back his shoulders and sitting up straight, Mikhail decided enough was enough. No matter who this man was, Mikhail could not let the patient control the interview. Time to assert himself.
“I believe I helped them cope with their trauma better,” Mikhail said. “I believe I made their lives a little easier.”
“That is probably the first truthful thing you have said to me, other than stating your name,” Al-Fadi snapped. “You’re not from Europa. You’re from Bratis, but you trained on Europa during your fellowship. You did your medical training on Proxima Centauri, as well as your psychiatric residency. I read applications, Dr. Littlemanski. I do not just rubber-stamp them. So far, you have failed to impress me in the least, and I refuse to have you as my—babysitter?
“This interview is finished. But first, a piece of advice to you, doctor. When you start a relationship with a patient, I would advise you to at least give the patient some proper clothes. How dare you think you can summon me to your office, dressed in a hospital gown, and think we will have a nice little chat? Do you know nothing about how to establish a patient-doctor relationship?”
Mikhail’s mouth dropped open. His cheeks felt like coal embers.
“Get someone to take me back to my room now,” Dr. Al-Fadi barked.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Al-Fadi,” Mikhail said.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, boy,” Dr. Al-Fadi growled at Mikhail. “I eat fools like you for lunch.”
“Could we try again, another time?” Mikhail asked.
For the first time, the frown left the surgeon’s face, replaced by a look of surprise.
“You want me to see you again?”
“Yes. I would like to be given a second chance, sir. I did not know what to expect when I walked into this room. Your lack of decent apparel was not of my doing. I would be happy to come to your room. I would actually be more comfortable if you were dressed in your usual attire. I meant no disrespect and I apologize if I did not seem wholly truthful.”
Dr. Al-Fadi sighed. “I will still eat you for lunch, kid. You should start with someone you can handle.”
“I am not a quitter, Dr. Al-Fadi, and I’m not a pushover, contrary to your initial assessment of me.”
“You are annoying and patronizing.”
“You are aggressive and a bully.”
“Hm, you’ve got that right, but that does not make you a great psychiatrist. A blind man could see that.”
“You’re afraid I’ll find something that will interfere with your ability to return to work and that’s why you’re so unhappy to be here. Someone has to approve your return to work. You would prefer it to be someone you know, maybe someone you can coerce or manipulate. I’m a complete stranger, so you’re not sure you can control me. Best for you to demand someone new.”
Dr. Al-Fadi’s brows shot upwards, then rammed down. He examined Mikhail more closely. Mikhail refused to drop his gaze. They stared at each other like two bulls, sizing each other up, seeing who would capitulate and be the more submissive. It was the most primal experience Mikhail had ever experienced.
The Chief of Staff sniffed.
“You’re not as stupid as you look, Lubberdowski.”
“That’s Lewandowski . . . and you said that on purpose.”
“I did. We will have to give you that one, too.”
“The other new psychiatrist who has just arrived on the station is a female sex therapist,” Mikhail said.
“ . . . Okay, I’ll give you one more try, Lewdandlowski, but I’d better have some clean surgical greens delivered to my room before you arrive . . . along with two chairs.”
“Most certainly, Dr. Al-Fadi . . . And that’s Lewandowski.”
“This doesn’t mean you have won in the least, Lewdmanowski,” Dr. Al-Fadi snarled, as a door bell chimed, indicating that the android porter had arrived to take Al-Fadi back to his room.
“I’ll contact you about a new appointment time, Dr. Al-Fadi,” Mikhail said, getting up and bowing. “ . . . And that’s Lewandowski.”
He saw a ghost of a smile appear on the surgeon’s face.
“Be prepared, Loser-louse-key.”
With that, Dr. Al-Fadi was pushed out of the room.
Mikhail fell back into his chair and blew out his breath. He ran his right hand through his damp hair. His clothes were soaked and he desperately wanted a shower. For a little man, the Chief of Staff had the most powerful personality Mikhail had ever encountered.
Perhaps the next time he met with Dr. Al-Fadi, he should show up in the nude.
::Chortles:: For some reason, that exchange looks awfully familiar. Not sure why though, unless it’s something I dealt with going through my grad classes.
Do you have any supporters (other than family) who’ve helped keep you going when things get tough?
- Yes. Advanced readers. Ed Greenwood was particularly encouraging to me.
- I have quite a few local fans in my small town and at the hospital who always ask when the next book is coming out. They buy the paperback which is much more expensive than the ebook. They give the novels for Christmas presents and birthday presents and the receiver asks for the next book when it becomes available. That always puts a smile on my face when people I know and work with are asking when the next book comes out.
Sounds like you’ve got a devoted fan base, and are gaining traction with your writing.
And, the elephant that always hangs out when writers are talking: Do you have any advice for your fellow authors?
- Ah! Advice. Finish your WIP. Always.
Don’t let anyone tell you your idea is stupid, whatever. Write it out. Finish it.
Describe your character’s feelings with all five senses.
Avoid long info dumps or make them thrilling info dumps.
I believe you should use an editor. Be humble. Be a sponge. Don’t assume you know how to write. If you haven’t done it before, you don’t know how to write. It is a learning process, just like learning to operate. You would not want to be operated on by a person who has just watched some website videos. Learn from people who know what readers want and know how to write.
Last question: If someone should wish to connect, where can they find you?
Have to agree with you about the Roundtable.
Sharon, thank you for stopping by to visit. I look forward to your return in a couple of days with (insert character name) for a follow up. Any last words before we wrap up completely?
- Thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate your time and I hope it was not too boring. My books are far funnier than I am. Lol. ;D
- Thank you for offering to interview new self-publishing authors. What you do is wonderful for all of us. I just hope we can be entertaining enough to your readers! Thank you so much!
Sharon, thank you in return for making the trip down from Canada for our visit. It has been a joy getting to know you a little better.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Discussions are always welcome.