S.M. Stevens Interview Published on: 20, Jan 2020

Where were you born and brought up? What about that place is your favorite thing?

I was born and raised in the small town of Gorham, Maine (in the U.S.). I love the sense of community and relative safety you get in a small town. Even though I couldn’t wait to escape by the time I was 16, I always recognized it’s value and looked for a similarly sized town in which to raise my daughters!

Where did you go to college and what was your major? What interested you in it?

I majored in English at Cornell University. I was always better with words than numbers and both my parents were reporters so English was the natural choice.

What inspired you to begin writing fiction during back-to-back health crisis?

I wrote my middle-grade novel “Shannon’s Odyssey” for my animal- and adventure-loving daughter while stuck on crutches for three months with a broken pelvis. Unable to cook, clean (OK, that part was fun), walk my dogs or drive my kids anywhere, I took to writing to stay sane.

A year later, when diagnosed with ovarian cancer (now cancer free!), I used my treatment and recuperation phase to start what became a series of Young Adult books called “Bit Players” for my other daughter.

Do you ever have writer’s block? How do you overcome it?

Thankfully not too often thanks to this strategy: I never stop writing for the night unless I know what’s coming next. I’ll sketch out the scene or leave myself a note or two and pick right up the next day.

What is the one thing apart from writing that you enjoy doing the most in your free time?

Spending time with my family including the furry ones, preferably walking in the woods.

Which was the first book you wrote? How have you grown as a writer since then?

My first manuscript was the original version of my newest book, the Contemporary Adult novel “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”. It was terrible. Ten years later I picked it up again when the Harvey Weinstein situation drove me to write a #MeToo novel. By then I had learned a lot about crafting a novel. I re-wrote pretty much the entire thing, including the addition of the workplace sexual harassment plot line.

Apart from writing women fiction, do you also enjoy reading it? Which is your favorite women's fiction book?

I find women’s fiction a peculiar term. We don’t have men’s fiction after all, and who’s to say men or other gender-identifying individuals won’t enjoy a story billed as women’s fiction? I love any novel that has a compelling hero regardless of gender, and makes me think as well as hopefully laugh and cry.

"Bit Players, Has-Been Actors and Other Posers” is a novel for teen lovers of musical theater and show choir! Do you love music too? What type of music do you generally listen to?

Yes, I was the first kid my age to have a real stereo back in the day, and I was in the school choir and band. Plus I’ve always loved musical theatre. I tried to capture the magic of being part of a theatre production in the “Bit Players” series. As for music, I mostly listen to alternative although I like to think when I retire maybe I’ll start listening to jazz to broaden my horizons.

What is the sweetest fan-mail you have ever received for your children's books?

Fan mail? I cherish the thought :-) But I do love the children’s reviews posted for “Shannon’s Odyssey” because they are so sincere and unabashed. One of the best compliments is always “I couldn't’ stop reading”.

For “Bit Players”, I love that one reader said the books are better than the current vampire stories! That’s high praise. (Read those reviews here: https://bitplayers.me/reviews/)

Who inspired the characters of Shelby and Astrid in “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”?

Like many authors, they reflect a mixture of me, my friends, people I’ve read about, and figments of my own imagination.

What things do you keep in mind while tackling tough topics such as bullying and sexual orientation?

I’m all about revealing the motivations behind our actions and words. I always think there’s a reason people are the way they are—even if the reason is simply genetics—and I like to show all sides of an issue through characters when I can.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer till now?

Getting a publisher (TouchPoint Press) to take a chance on “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” because it’s not about the type of extreme abuse that publishers seem to think sells the best. It’s about “less severe” sexual harassment and abuse situations that I think many, many women (and men!) will relate to.

What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?

Practice your craft. You need to have something to say. You need to be able to write in different styles based on the need. And you have to understand the mechanics of shaping a novel-length work. I learned so much from a weekend course on novel development and will continue to learn as long as I’m writing!

Which is the next book you are working on? Is it another women's fiction?

Not sure which juicy topic I’ll tackle next. My day job (marketing solar energy) keeps me busy but I hope to start my next novel this spring.

When did you join AllAuthor? How has your experience been?

I joined about six months ago when I was starting the heavy promotion for “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” and have been very happy! I especially love the promotional images I can make with the Magic Tool and the mockup banners. That saves me endless hours of design frustration and produces a really professional product! I also love the Review GIF maker—those GIFs do quite well engaging people on social media.

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