Eileen Schuh is a fellow Canadian author but, more importantly, a good friend and supporter of other authors. She is an up and coming author who finally feels herself now that she’s retired and free to write the stories which have been told to her for years.
Read on to determine when she felt the perfect time to shine was, what she fears and what she thinks of her fans.
1. You recently came out with two ebooks – The Traz and Schrödinger’s Cat – and you’re taking the literary world by storm! Congratulations. How do all of these incredible reviews make you feel?
I love my reviews. Novelists have no bosses around to give them performance appraisals, point out their mistakes, give them raises, or demote them. We must rely on our readers for feedback. When the feedback is positive—it makes my day! Just as importantly, reviews prove that people are reading what I write. It’s comforting to know I’m not talking to myself.
2. You’re going to Denver for a science fiction convention and taking part in Edmonton’s Pure Spec festival, do you regret waiting until retirement to be published or do you agree that it was a perfect time for you to devote your time to marketing your work?
Ah, yes. Well… I’m probably not the only one who wishes they could live more than one life. I envy the fact my character Chordelia in Schrodinger’s Cat has two lives to live. If I got to live my life over again, would I do things differently? Definitely! But mostly because I already did it this way once and would like to try something new and different. I really can’t and shouldn’t complain about my life being too full to accommodate a writing career earlier. My prime years were full of good stuff like marriage; three babies in three years; pets; camping; soccer and football; music lessons, competitions, performances; aging parents; the family business; etc. I made the choices to live that life and when one’s choices involve relationships, we ought to honour our commitments. I didn’t chose to live alone and focus on my writing, I chose to marry and have children.
Although it was very tempting at times to abandon that decision, I must say I’m glad I didn’t.
Most writers suffer from the obsessive need to create. This compulsion to work with words is more than a desire and definitely not a decision. It is a calling. One’s soul is never altogether at peace until one answers their calling. I managed to be respectful of my family commitments and write when I could. I fell back on my journalism career a few times. I used my writing skills in the office of the family business. I wrote letters and diaries. I sometimes even got novels written (but never polished or published).
Eventually, though, the compulsion to write novels became unbearable and I told my family I was henceforth going to hole up with my laptop and write novels.
It turns out, Sarah, that yes—this is the perfect time for me to launch my career as a novelist. I am financially stable and can afford to take my time learning and perfecting my craft. I have the money to do things like hire editors and go to conferences to promote my book. I am not rushed or interrupted or feeling guilty during my long hours at the computer. I have a wealth of social experiences to draw upon for my character building, and much living and knowledge to strengthen my plots.
Sometimes when people retire from their jobs, they relax and feel their lives are over. I feel mine is just beginning. I’ve learned sooo much these last 5 years, had so many successes, and look forward to the future with amazement and expectation. Yes, this is the perfect time.
3. Were these written recently or have they been sitting on a shelf or being continuously worked on?
My novella Schrodinger’s Cat is based on a story that I wrote in my brain while in the midst of raising 3 toddlers. At the beginning of the book, Chordelia is cleaning the toilet and contemplating how differently she’d expected and wanted her life to turn out. That’s me—I was Chordelia—suffocating under the mindless chores that make up a good portion of a stay-at-home mother’s life. Cleaning toilets, folding diapers (this was before disposables were the norm), wiping noses, doing laundry, making beds… I always promised myself, ‘when I’m done this, I’ll sit down and write…” But as soon as I was “done that”, the baby woke, or the husband called, or the oldest dumped her juice on the floor.
So I daydreamed while I worked…inventing characters and stories in my head to keep me amused and to keep my brain from going to mush. I daydreamed that I was washing my kitchen floor and the doorbell rang. At the door was a mystical, spiritual man who whisked me off to another universe. When I got back from my many adventures, it was the same time as when I had left, the mop was where I’d dropped it, and nobody had missed me.
As the kids grew older and one by one set off for school, I began filling my spare moments with reading intriguing stuff like quantum physics. When I learned about Everett’s Many Worlds Theory, I added that to my daydream.
Years and years later, after the kids were grown and gone. After I’d written THE TRAZ and many other stories in the BackTracker series. After I’d received enough rejection slips to wallpaper my office, that strange, mystical man came back to haunt me. I was compelled to put his story to print. It evolved into a different story than the one I’d originally imagined. I also took the liberty of including some updated science facts. I was distressed though, when it turned out to be only 35,000 words. I couldn’t find a publisher that wanted such a short novel or such a long short-story. I posted a plea on one of the writers’ forums and learned the word ‘novella’. I googled this term and sifted through the results. I found two publishers accepting sci-fi novellas and, bonus, both accepted email submissions (this was when email submissions were not generally accepted). It was February when I submitted to both publishers. A couple of weeks later, I got my very first email rejection. (Can’t even use it for wallpaper!)
From then, into and through the summer, I was working with my book marketing coach, Cheryl Tardif, “creating a strong cyberspace presence”. I learned about blogs, and websites, and facebook, and twitter and directed all my energy into that type of writing. That was also the summer I quit smoking—so I had lots of excellent emotional things to blog about!
That winter, I began hunting in earnest for an agent. One of my juvenile novels placed second in the Bookland Press Literary Contest. I became a grandma for the second time. And I decided that since agents and publishers didn’t like me, I might be in the wrong profession. Cheryl convinced me to try self-publishing. I decided to use some of the money I’d saved from quitting smoking to finance that endeavour. I set to work choosing which novel to publish, what it would be called, who’d design the cover, what my target readership would be, how many swear words I should delete, etc. I wrote and polished and edited and re-wrote and sent the ms out to both family and professional editors.
February rolled around. It was a full year since I’d submitted Schrodinger’s Cat to WolfSinger Publications. I opened my email and found my first-ever publishing contract!
That’s how THE CAT happened. THE TRAZ? Well, that’s another long story.
4. How many novels should your fans expect to come out in the coming years? Are you finding any time to write new material while keeping on top of your marketing?
I have many, many draft novels. There are at least 7 sequels to THE TRAZ. I started another sci-fi novella last November for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Writers pledge themselves to write each day and to finish a draft of a novel during the month of November. I didn’t quite get finished. I intend to finish it this November. I don’t usually do outlines before writing novels, but I did for this one. Thank heavens! I’d never remember how it was supposed to end, otherwise. I’ll likely spend most of the next year polishing and publishing the sequel to THE TRAZ, finishing that sci-fi, and promoting my published novels. I will also spend a fair amount of time playing BubbleShooter and Bejewelled…and babysitting.
5. You’ve recently quit smoking, Congratulations!! You exceed willpower. 🙂 Any tips for those still struggling?
It will be two years at the end of August since I drew in my last puff. Quitting was a beastly experience but, having quit a few times previously, I was prepared for all that the nicotine demons threw at me. Therein lies my best advice to those wishing to conquer an addiction: be prepared. Educate yourself. Talk. Surround yourself with supportive people. Choose your crutches wisely but don’t be afraid to use crutches (I used a smoking-cessation drug to help and ate lots of candies). If your efforts fail, try again. And again. Each time you fail, you learn something and are more prepared the next time. I had to brace myself for the way withdrawing would affect my thought processes. I knew I would start thinking that I didn’t really want to quit. I’d start believing I couldn’t survive the struggles of life without the help of nicotine. I’d become certain that I loved smoking. I’d be convinced I should just have one or two puffs to calm me down. I knew this would happen because that’s what happened during my previous attempts. I knew I had to separate myself from those thoughts and laugh at them…well, not laugh. Perhaps curse or cry.
6. Your website alludes to you being a rough and tumble lady. Parasailing, ATV’ing, visiting Penis Park in Korea. Are you afraid of anything?
Oh, my. I didn’t know I came off as rough and tumble…but I kinda like that personnae. Not that any of my exploits are outright lies—it’s just, well, not as rough and tumble as my perverse writing skills might make it sound. Everyone where I live owns an ATV and when I parasail I’m strapped in and don’t even get my toes wet. And Penis Park…well, that was a true adventure.
Am I afraid of anything? I’m terrified of dying and feel about the same toward heights—unless I have a safety harness on. Whereupon I quite enjoy zip-lining and parasailing.
7. Your short story/ blog post “Empty Eyes, Empty Heart” is very intriguing, Is this currently a section of another story or do you plan to extend it?
“I met a man with empty eyes” and “Empty eyes, empty heart” are the most visited pages on my website and elicit the most comments. They are true accounts of my encounter with a psychopath while a student nurse. I don’t intend to do anything with these stories. However, similar dangerous and intriguing psychopathic personalities show up several throughout my BackTracker series.
8. Any tips for emerging authors? Especially fellow Canadian authors like yourself?
The advice I keep giving myself is to not give up and to enjoy what I’m doing. Outside of that I’d like to encourage all authors to spend more time bonding with readers. I offered to participate at the MileHi Sci-Fi Convention in Denver. I was told I’d have a better chance of being chosen if I requested to participate in sessions aimed at science fiction readers rather than writers—because most authors wanted to present at sessions geared toward writers, and those panels filled quickly. This amazed me. Although it will be cool to meet other authors, I am NOT going to Denver to mix and mingle with other writers—I do that at my writing groups’ conventions. I’m going there to meet, greet, and engage readers.
Perhaps because authors often augment their writing income with running workshops or offering services such as editing to aspiring writers, they spend a lot of time courting business. If that is the part of the writing profession you most enjoy, go for it! However, if your books are the most important part—woo those readers and reviewers.
9. In your biography on your site you end it so sweetly with “I stroke the baby’s palm and he curls his fingers tightly around mine. “Peter,” I whisper. “I know who I am, but what will I become?”” Who do you want to become, Eileen?
I’m not sure we ever “become” anything. I think we are a process, rather than an entity. We’re constantly in flux, interacting and reacting with our environment. To ‘become’ something is to be deemed a finished product. Human beings are never complete; we’re always becoming. (pun intended)
10. In your process of becoming famous, have you anticipated being asked one particular question in an interview?
Thank you for suggesting I’m on my way to fame…that’s cool. I always wanted to be famous and leak strange and mysterious stories about myself to the National Enquirer. I was never quite certain if I would pay them for that chance at publicity or if they’d pay me for the stories.
Stuart McLean tells of time he was asked what he’d do if he was told his characters were in the next room. Would he want to meet them? I thought that was a real neat question. McLean, after thinking about it, decided he wouldn’t want to meet them because he was scared they wouldn’t like him!
A) If so, what is it and what’s the answer?
Someone should ask me that question. I love my characters and I know them so well. To meet them in person would be awesome. But just for a few minutes because any longer and I’m sure they’d get me into major trouble—perhaps even kill me…or set me on the roof of a skyscraper…with no safety belt. Wow.
Thanks for joining me, Eileen.
And thank you for reading!