An interview with author Shari Lopatin.
Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?
Hi! Thanks for having me on your blog today. I’m super excited to be here! So … background on me as an author and writer … I usually say I tell stories that matter. Initially, I began my career as an award-winning journalist. But now, I write complex and stimulating suspense novels that tie into modern-day social issues. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, public relations professional, social media manager, and (my favorite) earned the title of “Cat Mom of the Year.” As an author, I’m releasing my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, on May 19, 2018.
What got you into writing?
OMG, what didn’t get me into writing? Seriously though, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first short story when I was seven years old about a group of aliens who befriended a girl on earth; they all had names of food items, such as "Butter."
However, I began writing professionally in 2005, after I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree in Journalism. My mom talked me into going that route after I floundered in my original major, Marketing. Too many numbers. My mom said, “Give journalism a try. I think you’ll like it.” Glad I listened to her!
What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?
I came up with the idea for The Apollo Illusion while having dinner with my mom, sister, and boyfriend. My mom commented on a news story she'd watched that reported how babies are learning the swiping motion of a tablet before they learn to speak. We started discussing the societal repercussions of a generation brought up with that foundation, and the idea for my book sparked.
Additionally, I'd been watching the effects of social media on my beloved profession of print journalism and had been contemplating issues around the rapid advancement of technology. After that dinner with my family, I started writing in this frenzy, and my book developed organically from there.
Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?
I think my favorite character is Andrew, one of the two main protagonists. Andrew starts out as your typical, breast-obsessed, 19-year-old boy, kind of post-adolescence but not quite “adult” yet. He’s a total ladies man, the heartthrob of the book. But that face is really a mask hiding a deeper pain steeped in abandonment issues and a mentally ill mother.
Without saying too much, I gave Andrew a strong character arc and enjoyed seeing how he grew before my eyes. I think I had the most fun with his character because I got to write from a male perspective, but I also infused strong emotional drivers into Andrew’s character, which made him more alive and real for me.
What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?
My favorite scene is actually one of the surprise plot points, so I cannot talk about it! But it's a very emotional discovery in the book, one that I cried while writing. Without giving away spoilers, this scene deals with a theme that I value deeply: family. And I think in a way, I was writing a "wish" that I have for someone in my life who I love, and this was my way of waving my magic wand and giving this person something in my story that I know will not happen in life.
What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?
Oh that’s a hard one! I love writing dialogue; in fact, I think it’s one of my stronger points. But maybe it goes deeper than that.
The rush of creation, and the thrill of publication, I think. I know technically those are two things, but they are equally as joyful for me. The creative process—as I'm writing—is both euphoric and exciting. I feel tranquil when I'm writing; I sort of disconnect from the outside world and live inside this new reality I've developed.
Subsequently, I revel in readers' reactions to my work after publication. It's this profound feeling of pure accomplishment, and I enjoy watching others join me in the excitement of the story. It takes on a life of its own.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?
I’ve written two books so far, and each one took me more than a year to complete for the first draft. But I also work a full-time job. I think if I had eight hours from Monday through Friday to write, I could knock out a book once every four to six months! With breaks in between, of course. 😊
I cannot work from an outline, though. I always have a general direction that I'm running toward, and I may have some plot points in my head, but I let the characters (and therefore the plot line) develop organically. I need to allow my creative energy to flow without too much structure. I can always fix things later or improve the story arc during the editing process.
What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?
I looooove dystopias. Seriously. Three of my favorite books of all-time are The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 1984 by George Orwell, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I’m not sure if dystopias ignite the philosopher and critical thinker in me, or if they’re just exciting, but I’m addicted to them. I try to write the stories I crave to read, so I hope others feel the same way about my book!
Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?
Yes! Junot Diaz might be my favorite, and I adore his book, This Is How You Lose Her. I also love Khaled Husseini (The Kite Runner), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale), George Orwell (1984), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), Judy Blume (about every young adult book I read growing up), Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides), and Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle). I’ve picked up favorite techniques from all of them.
Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?
I do! Sometimes, my characters surprise me by their actions or the things they say, and I've actually developed some exciting plot twists this way. Other times, I’m writing from a place of deep emotional valleys, so when I re-read the chapter later, I think, “Whoa, I wrote that?” Of course, those moments are always offset by the days I want to scream at the drivel I allowed onto the page. Oh the joys of writing!
Thanks for stopping by!
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world. A dystopian suspense for young adults and millennials, it follows bullied nineteen-year-old Flora into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival when she stumbles upon a dark secret about her walled-off home state of Apollo. To learn more or pre-order, visit www.sharilopatin.com/books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shari Lopatin tells stories that matter. An award-winning journalist, she writes complex and stimulating suspense novels that tie into modern-day social issues. Her debut novel, “The Apollo Illusion,” is releasing . Learn more at www.sharilopatin.com/books, or pre-order your digital copy for just $2.99 from Kindle,iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble (Nook), or Smashwords. Want a print copy? Sign up for The Readers Club to be notified the moment they become available!