This time we head to Huntington, West Virginia to talk to the genre hopping S.G. Redling.
Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?
I’m Sheila Redling, writing as S.G. Redling. I live in my hometown, Huntington WV. I write all kinds of stuff but I make my living writing thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, and urban fantasy.
Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.
I’m making my first foray into self-publishing this spring. Wow, that is a LOT of work. I’m putting out the next two books in urban fantasy Nahan series. Book One was Ourselves; Book Two is The Reaches; Book Three is Empire. Book Four is just a twinkle in my eye.
What made you decide to self publish your latest books? What one thing about it surprised you in terms of being more work that you expected?
I’ve been sitting on Books 2 and 3 of the Nahan series for some time. It’s a strange series (like most of the stuff I write.) The relationship with the original publisher didn’t quite go the way I liked so we parted ways after Book 1. I decided that I missed the characters and I might as well put them out into the world. As for the difficulty, honestly, I was surprised at how easy it is to get a book online. I was expecting to be exasperated at every turn but I found a great cover designer and formatter. KDP and Create Space made the launch incredibly easy. Now SELLING the books may be a different matter.
In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?
Genre definition has been a big problem for me. I like weird, not-entirely reality-based thrillers. That’s what I like to read, that’s what I like to write. However, most of my thrillers are traditional and reality based. As for why I chose what I chose, I wish I knew. The stories choose me.
Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.
Man, I wish I could. I have completed over a dozen full-length manuscripts, seven of them sold to publishers, three are in the pipe for release on my own time, and the rest will probably never see the light of day. Every single time I start a book, I feel like I’m starting at the very beginning of my career and skill set. Every book is different; every story has new and aggravating challenges. It often feels like I don’t even know how to type.
The consistent parts of my process are showing up, making notes, daydreaming a lot during long walks, and easing myself into a writing schedule. I base my schedule on word count – daily, weekly, monthly. At the beginning of a book, I’ll keep the count low – 500 words a day X 5 days a week. Usually that’s enough to get a story to catch on fire. From there, I average 2500 words a day, seven days a week. I write quickly and forward, with only the slightest edits as I go. Once the manuscript is done, I read through, make changes, and then share it with some trusted readers. I enjoy rewrites; I feel they are the do-overs we don’t get anywhere else in our lives.
Are there stories that have chosen you that have been more difficult to write than others? What made them difficult?
(Sobs into hands) Uh, yeah. I have a thriller I’ve been working on for months that is going to be the death of me. I love puzzlers and twisty stories and unfortunately am writing one that is outwitting me at every turn. While it’s terrifying and frustrating and often demoralizing, I think it’s important to always write at the very edge of your ability level. You should always be writing a book that you’re not sure you can handle. It makes you a better writer.
Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?
That’s a tough question. I do really love my characters, with all their triggers and questionable hygiene. At the risk of sounding precious, they have broken my heart more than once. The one I’m fondest of as a human being is Loul Pell, the comic book nerd from the planet Didet in Damocles. Of all the characters who have walked in my head, he had the largest heart and the greatest faith in humanity. He is the only character I’ve ever written that I miss the way one misses a dear friend.
What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?
You should probably ask my sister, Monica, this question. As a nurse, she is my go-to for all questions about medical issues. (How long can you hide a body in a wall before it smells? How quickly does an adult male bleed out?” How much pressure would it take to nail a foot to the floor?)
But my favorite research adventure was the discovery of a highly flammable epoxy. My friend (and fellow WV writer) Lynne Squires recommended the epoxy when I knocked my side mirror off. When I looked at the box, the directions were basically just “Squirt and stick.” The rest of the packaging was covered in tiny print with the pages of warnings of flammability. I had to know just how flammable. So I sat in my driveway with a steel bowl, a box of matches, paper and cardboard, a bucket of dirt, a bucket of water, and a fire extinguisher. Long story short – the epoxy was insanely flammable and proceeded to play an important role in the finale of my latest thriller, At Risk. My neighbor deserves a medal for all the foolishness she puts up with sharing a fence with me.
JD – This is definitely the “winner” so far of this question!
What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?
Writing is too much work to do for anyone but yourself. Be careful to the point of paranoia about whom you let in your head. Trust your gut. Write what you love and remember that even when you hate it, you love writing. If you don’t love it, don’t do it.
If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?
I guess there’s only one way to find out. *watches for check in the mail*
Until then, I suppose it would greatly improve my technological landscape which is currently like an outtake from the original Mad Max.
Who am I kidding? It would all go to wine and cat food.
What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?
I recently asked the Facebook Hive Mind for recommendations for alien invasion stories and was not disappointed. One of the happiest takeaways for me was the discovery of Wil McIntosh, whose books Defenders and Faller were two big highlights of my reading list.
What do you think you’re next project will be?
Right now I’m focused on this new territory of self-publishing the next two Nahan books. I’m writing the next Dani Britton book and there has to be at least one more after that because I owe Eric Douglas a crossover with his Mike Scott character. I’ve got the first of a new mystery series waiting in the wings and most of a completely insane thriller finished. As it stands now, my immediate future holds gallons of coffee and wine, barrels of chocolate, miles to walk, and enough typing to break my shoulders. It’s a good plan.
Have you found it difficult to find an audience that will follow you from genre to genre?
Did my agent ask you to ask me that?
It has been challenging. One of my biggest setbacks is that I don’t effectively brand myself. At least not in an easily commercialized way. I think I have a type – mind-bending, usually violent, with complex female leads – but unfortunately there’s no section in the bookstore with that title. All I can hope is that readers will keep taking a chance on me, that I’ve earned their trust in delivering a quality story.