1 Jun 2018

Author Interview / Shelly Reuben (My Mostly Happy Life)

1.  If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
If I could work with any other author, it would be O. Henry.  Partly because I learned so much from him about structuring a story, and partly because I would feel honored to be in his presence. Mostly, though,I would enjoy watching his face when he smiled or frowned; and I would love to look into his eyes when he formulated a story or a thought.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
If I am on a deadline, I get up at 5:00 a.m., usually make it to my desk by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., and I work until I run out of steam.  If I am making my own schedule, I don't get to my desk until about 10:00 a.m. and, with a break for lunch and running errands, I will work until 5:00 or 7:00 p.m.
I have a small office with windows on all three sides.  But (wisely) my computer is on a desk facing the one wall.  I write my newspaper columns on a legal pad in bed, and I edit hard copy of books and columns on a swivel chair in the living room with a lap desk and an erasable ball point pen.

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?  
After I come up with the idea for a story, the hardest part is working out the main conflict (who is the bad guy and what is his motive?) and figuring out all of the plot twists.  

4.  When and why did you first start writing?
I decided to become a writer when I was 17 years old, and realized that one had to actually DO something when he or she grew up, and not just spend their entire lives reading.  It made sense to me that if I became a writer, then I could spend my entire life reading.  So I did!!!

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?
The idea for My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree just popped into my head.  I thought, "Wouldn't it be interesting if I could write a story about trees who loved and needed children so much that they would die if they were deprived of human contact. Then, I actually saw trees in front of a library in Unadilla, New York that looked exactly like the climbing trees in my mind (photos below and attached). It was then that I decided to have the book illustrated.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I am an avid reader.  Right now I am reading a biography of Edna Ferber and rereading Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Two pieces of advice.  One.  Keep writing.  Don't write your first book or story and decide that it is the greatest piece of literature every written.  No matter how good it is, practice does make perfect.  Think of great pianists and violinists,  and how they practice hours a day to get good enough to perform in public.  It's the same with writing.  Each story will be better than the last and make you a better writer, and over time, you will develop skills worthy of a professional.  
Two.  Find an editor you can respect, and listen to him or her.  Editing is a valid, important, and skilled profession, and good editors know exactly what they are doing. Often, when writers start out (even seasoned pros are guilty of this), we over-write.  From a good editor, we can learn that "less is more."