Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spotlight shines on Sharon Lathan

I have loved Pride and Prejudice so when the opportunity came to read a story that started after the wedding I jumped at it. I'll post my review later. I also got the opportunity to interview the author Sharon Lathan. I want to thank her for coming on the Write by Faith blog.

Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Of course! But first allow me to take a moment and thank Donna for giving me the opportunity to visit with her readers. It is an honor to be here. I love that Donna states she is an ‘ordinary woman.’ I claim the same thing in all my bios. I like being ordinary, or average as I sometimes put it, in a world that ofttimes pushes women to be something beyond. I am thrilled to be first and foremost a wife of over 23 years and a mother of two (my daughter is 21 and my son 16). Additionally, God has blessed me with a vocation; a calling since I was very young, and that is to be a nurse. For 25 years I have been granted the joy of ministering to sick newborns in the NICU setting, aiding families through the difficulties, and discovering personal fulfillment from the challenges therein. I never asked for anything more than to be a beloved wife, appreciated parent (Proverbs 31 anyone?!), and an excellent nurse. But God, in His infinite desire to bestow gifts upon us, has further blessed me with a storytelling talent I had no clue I possessed. Isn’t He amazing?
You make ordinary sound so wonderful!!

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Crazy and Sharon Lathan really do not go together at all. What daredevil instincts I ever possessed have dissipated with adulthood. When I was young, growing up in the mountains, I was quite the tomboy. Very little frightened me or gave me pause. Hmm…maybe I should think on that a bit! LOL! Not sure what happened to me, but somewhere along the line timidity and extreme caution became the norm.
I know what you mean. As a kiddo I was a dare devil too. I think it has something to do with growing up and knowing it hurts to fall.

What made you want to write fan fiction?
Strangely enough, I did not think about it as writing ‘fan fiction’ per se. Obviously my novels are fan fiction, in the strictest definition of the phrase, but I was merely desiring to tell a story of happily-ever-after and committed love. The dreams and after-stories that would dance through my brain upon reading or watching an intriguing story was a common phenomenon all my life. The pre-existence of Jane Austen fan fiction gave me the place to share my first attempts in writing those visions into something coherent. The love story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet was my inspiration. As with other ideas that have occurred to me from time to time, it was being touched by something profound and beautiful that opened the door. It was the yearning to elaborate upon their relationship, and keep the warm sentiments going that truly set me on this path.

Could you please tell us a little about your journey in completing Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Fun, but also convoluted. And frequently tear-inducing! Writing about these characters is effortless. Too bad getting their story out into the real world for readers to enjoy is not so painless. The full tale – and believe me, it is a tale – can be read about on my website. I self-published first, after posting the chapters for over a year on my own website. Self-publishing was a surprisingly successful venture, but it is certainly a tremendous improvement to have a publishing company that embraces and esteems authors. Sourcebooks is an incredible company and I am extremely happy. They, more than anyone else out there, value the Austen writing community, but also see beyond the Austen-crazy-marketplace and respect the literary achievements of novelists like me.

What did you find most challenging in writing this novel?
Initially it was finding the balance between creating characters that were my own ideals while also holding true to what Miss Austen wrote. It was imperative to me to present Lizzy, Darcy, and all the others as how I imagined them to be. After all, this is my story now, and these characters are growing and evolving as we all do when life progresses and events alter us. Nevertheless, Austen created them, and I have never taken that for granted or shoved it aside. Realizing that I was never going to please everyone and myself at the same time was tough, but eventually I learned to accept the reality of how it has to be for every person who tackles fan fiction.
I can see how that would be extremely difficult.

Secondly it was the research. Studying history itself is natural for me as I love it and am a scholar at heart. But I quickly realized the importance of getting every nuance, historical fact, geographical locale, clothing item, servant duty, and so on precisely right. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have worked tremendously hard to showcase the Regency world. In fact, I consider the backdrop of Georgian England with all its details as much a star character of my saga as the people who populate it!

What do you hope readers take away from Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Hope, belief, and faith that true love can be found and that marriage can be a wonderful, blessed relationship to possess. I never set out to make Lizzy and Darcy miserable. I wanted to give them what I imagined Jane planned for them: happiness. The subtitle is “Two Shall Become One” and should be a huge clue as to what my beliefs are.

I want young ladies to set their goals higher, thus waiting for the man who will cherish them as they should be cherished. I want to restore faith in others who are weary of the search for ‘Mr. Right.’ I want to show women how a decent relationship can be, if both parties strive for it and place the other person first. And yes, I wanted to show two people who are completely committed, crazy in love, and sexually fulfilled so that readers can aim for the same!

But mostly, I just want the reader to have a good time. This is a book you can curl up with, tea and chocolates near at hand, and know will feel happy while reading.

If your novel was being discussed in a book club what do you think most of the discussion would center on?
Depends on the group! An Austen Book Club would spend the whole time arguing over whether I ‘got it right’ or should have touched it in the first place – no one agreeing. LOL! A general, book loving group would hopefully discuss the relationship I have built between Darcy and Lizzy, talk about the attention to detail and accuracy, and the sheer joy in reading a novel that is not traumatic or heart-breaking. My primary goal has always been to weave a tale that is entertaining to read, puts a smile on one’s face, can be read over and over, and makes you long for more.

What book are you reading now? What books are found lying around your home?
I am reading some of the romances written by my fellow Sourcebooks Casablanca authors, gradually learning to appreciate the romance genre. But my heart is forever enamored with fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. I have everything from an entire JRR Tolkien collection to some Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, CS Lewis, Stephenie Meyer, Victoria Holt, and so on. Quite eclectic!

What are your pet peeves in the writing industry?
Too often the author seems to be secondary, if not even a bother. Whether it is acquiring an agent, dealing with the publishing process, or withstanding the reviews, there is too often, IMHO, a sense of the writer as being, if not superfluous, at least a nuisance that is barely endured! It is horribly difficult to break into the industry and get your book published. Granted, not all books published are prize-winning or extraordinary, but the writer did put their heart and blood into it, usually with only the desire to please the reader in some way. So I am still scratching my head at the need to break them down, shatter their chances at success, and destroy their creativity. I have read a wealth of amazing books in my life, and I now know what the author went through to get their words out there. Thank God someone believed in them! But I can’t help but wonder how many masterpieces never saw the light of day because of the difficulties, arrogance, and downright nastiness that pervades the industry.
It is an extremely tough business. Breaking in seems to me like the hardest part.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Persevere. Be tough. Know who you are and what you are trying to say in your writing. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write what is in your head! I am not referring to honest, well-meaning critique here. Writer’s groups and friends who Beta-read is one thing and can be very helpful. But you know who your characters are and what they should or should not do. You know the story you are trying to tell. Keep at it and remember that you are the storyteller!
I think perseverance is one of the hardest things to learn. That is great advice.

Thanks again Donna. I pray my passion for the Darcys has come through. Of course I have so much more to share with your readers about my series. I encourage anyone remotely intrigued to pop over to my website: The Darcy Saga is comprised of 3 books (so far). “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One” is available now and is only the beginning of the life and adventures I have created for these characters. After all, life never has an end, does it?
What readers might want to know: This is not a Christian Fiction book and does include sex


Sharon Lathan said...

Thanks again for hosting me Donna. It was wonderful to answer your questions with my faith forefront in my mind. I am glad that you pointed out that there is sexual content in my novel. I would never wish for anyone to be offended. I have never had one of my Christian readers be disturbed as the intimacy is written beautifully and tempered, but obviously people differ in what they are comfortable with reading. I encourage everyone to read the passages I offer at my website.

I will be checking back frequently throughout the day to respond to any further questions or comments. Bring them on!

Donna said...

Thanks again Sharon for stopping by. I do always try to point out if there is something in a novel that someone might object too. I was not offended by the writing but I kept in mind that it was a married couple.

A lot of my readers only read christian fiction so I feel like I need to let them know. I'll post my review soon.

I could tell by the title alone that your faith is important to you. I loved your answer about showing women what a true marriage looks like and how important it is to wait.

Vee said...

Great interview Donna and Sharon. We are all blessed with Sharon's inspirational story telling. I have loved reading her beauttiful words for a few years now and have renewed my belief that new romance can be found within even a long standing comfortable relationship!

Darcy and Lizzy are a couple I enjoy "visiting" through Sharons story telling. Keep up the great work!
TSBO devotee