Sheryl McFarlane

1. Where do you get your ideas from?

Ideas, ideas, ideas everywhere. I have more ideas for stories than I could possibly ever write. They come from snippets or conversations I overhear, newspaper articles, radio clips, things that happen to me, or anecdotes that I am told. I keep an idea file, and whenever something interesting comes along, I jot it down and throw it into my bulging filing cabinet.

2. How many books have you written?

So far I have published five books. I have a sixth book called Country Fair coming out in the spring of 1996. Two others are in the works. I try to discipline myself to write one book a year.

3. How long does it take you to write a book?

It usually takes me between six months and a year to write the text for a picture book. I generally spend a fair amount of time on research and I almost always do five or more drafts of each project.

Waiting for the Whales took ten drafts. I've been working on two different novels for two years.

4. What advice do you have for the children?

The best advice that I can give someone interested in becoming a writer is to READ READ READ! The more you expose yourself to both good and bad writing, the better you will be able to tell one from the other.

The second bit of advice I would offer is don't talk about writing, DO IT! The third piece of advice is a lot harder to follow. Learn to accept constructive criticism while finding and respecting your own voice. By voice, I mean the perspective that you as a unique human being bring to your own writing: imitators are rarely successful.

5. Is it hard to write?

It can be. But sometimes it's easy. The story seems to flow out. Other times, you just feel like giving up and getting a regular job with a regular pay cheque. But, that feeling always seems to pass. Usually if I get stuck, I start working on something different.

6 Who inspired you?

That is a difficult question to answer. I certainly find many other writers inspiring. I love to read anything and everything, poetry, history, science fiction, contemporary fiction, fantasy etc.

I did have an English teacher in high school who encouraged me. The one really memorable thing that may have set me on the writing path was going to an author reading by Robert Kroetsch, a Canadian poet and fiction writer. What was surprising was to find out he was just a regular sort of person. It surprised me to find out that writers are just like anyone else.

7. Do you do a lot of research?

Yes. Research is a big part of how I prepare for a book. Sometimes an idea I'm interested in will lead to a story, and reading about it helps me to solidify my ideas. This is the case with my newest book, Tides of Change.

As my knowledge of the Northwest Coast increased, the book began to take shape. But when I wrote Waiting for Whales, the main focus was to ensure that I was portraying killer whales accurately.

In Eagle Dreams I had included a section of an eagle dropping its injured mate food. An eagle expert confirmed this for me but told me it would only happen during mating season, or if the injured eagle was a young bird. I was glad I had done my research and could change the story before it went to print.

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