Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Guest Blogger: R.B. Shifman
Please tell us about your latest book.
“Everyone Leaves This Place” is about an eighteen-year-old young woman, Evee Salazar, who undergoes an out-of-body experience. In her senior year, Evee butts heads with her mom and wavers between two guys, one of whom she thinks might be stalking her. To slow her down, her mom sends Evee to sit with her Gramma Cynthia at assisted living on Friday nights. To teach her granddaughter some gratitude, Gramma, who’s descended from Pilgrims/witches, decides to switch bodies with Evee temporarily. Mayhem ensues, and, worse, a mysterious figure steals Gramma Cynthia’s spell book and threatens to ruin Evee’s life forever.
The story starts off sort of light and fun, Freaky Friday-ish, if you will. However, I pleasantly surprised myself at how heartfelt the last third of the book turned out. Beta readers thought it’s funny too.
What can we expect from you in the future?
This book is part of an Upper YA/NA series, Savage Spells, in which I plan to write two more novels. The series becomes darker and more deliciously devious and mystical with each novel. In Book 2, the simple witch story from Book 1 will take some wicked turns and involve some science fiction elements. The next books will incorporate a level of mysticism absent in the first book—they will expand the mythology surrounding Evee Salazar and the ‘Witches of America.’
I’m also starting another series, probably a trilogy, for Upper MG/YA. It’s tightly under wraps. The only thing I’ll say is that it’s SWEEEEET!
How do we find out about you and your books?
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Let’s say enough of my life experience is in my work to make my wife mildly uncomfortable.
But seriously, I always write about what I know, usually from experience. For example, as a slightly-past-middle-aged man, I felt qualified to write about the interactions between three generations (Gen Z, Gen X, & the Silent Gen) in my debut novel. I also take inspiration from my current hometown of Doylestown, PA in creating the fictional Dairytown, PA.
In other works, which are unpublished for now, I’ve drawn on intensely personal and painful experiences.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I wrote some stuff in my early teens, but I truly began writing with a passion when I hit my mid-thirties in 2002. At this time, I felt compelled to write a novel that harkened to the nostalgia of my childhood – “Riverwood: Remembrance,” which is part of my “Seams Along the Near World” series. I wrote four books in that urban fantasy series from 2002-2018. I’m proud of “Dark Water & the Maiden,” which I wrote last, from 2013-2018; this story is a prequel. This book, set mainly in 1973, could be the most emotionally resonant work I’ve ever created. I submitted ‘Dark Water,’ because it had all 5-star reviews on a free site, but it didn’t get picked up.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I try to write in the morning, for a few hours, at least a few times a week. I do work a contract job, where the work is variable, so I often need to adjust my schedule.
What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
People leave me alone. Mostly.
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
I work out. I walk because I have a bad knee and can’t run anymore. I listen to music. And, last but not least, I chill with my wife, Sheri, watching TV or hanging out around Doylestown.
Where do your ideas come from?
The ether. Seriously, sometimes it feels like my ideas come from another dimension.
Do you feel humor is important in books and why?
Yes. It keeps people engaged and makes characters likable. I’ve never understood people in real life who are humorless, as they seem to take themselves too seriously. A certain amount of humor keeps the ball rolling so to speak, moving that narrative forward.
What kind of research do you do?
For this debut, I researched the Salem Witch Trials and the Pilgrims to help create Gramma Cynthia’s backstory. An expert on late-seventeenth-century English helped me with dialogue for a short, ‘cut-scene’ chapter in 1692. I researched online how people lived in the colonies in the late seventeenth century. But most of the rest of the novel is inspired or informed by my real-life experience. Though of course, as I said earlier, everything in the story—people, places, and situations—is fictional!
Please tell us about yourself.
God is the most important, guiding force in my life. Without God I truly believe nothing else in my life would fall into place. Doesn’t mean God always makes things perfect for me, but because of God, my wife and I have a close, loving relationship, and I learn more every day about my purpose here on earth.
My family is important to me, including my wife, son (20) and daughter (18). My daughter is transgender, and LGBTQ rights are important to me (they were important to me before I knew she was transgender).
I’m a writer by nature. I wrote an awful book when I was fourteen on a typewriter. I’ve worked as a market researcher, but a writer is what I am.
What are some of your favorite things to do?
If you want to know about my interests, outside of hanging with my wife—I like dancing to DJ Earworm when nobody is watching, reading all sorts of stuff (from bestsellers like ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ to YA like ‘We Are Okay.’), working out/walking (I was a wrestler in high school and a coach for youth wrestling many years), and watching University of Miami Football. I do like a good Netflix series. We just finished Season 2 of ‘Dark,’ which was mind blowing.
I’d like to travel abroad someday.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
C.S. Lewis. Other than that, a wide array. I like the Fredrik Backman books. I love ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman
What do you think of critique groups in general?
I don’t know much about them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If things proceed as I desire, writing full time. We’ll see. I do like market research contracting, but if I could make a full-time living by writing, I probably would.
How many books have you written, how many have been published?
My Seams series has four books. And there’s this debut that is published. So five total.
After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
Haha, I’m doing that now. It’s hard because I read it dozens of times during editing.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
Evee Salazar from ‘Everyone Leaves This Place,’ is near and dear to my heart.
After this, Paul Branch from ‘Dark Water & the Maiden.’
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
When somebody says your book touched their heart. If you write from the heart, you tap into this universal need for connection and permanence, which I believe is Divine. If a book makes you shed a tear, that’s where it’s coming from. My debut, at first, seems very light-hearted (sort of like the reader’s first impression of Evee), but I believe it taps into some deep emotional territory. I hope it resonates with people, which is most rewarding.
Also, when you write something, and you know it’s super-hot (well crafted, sharp, highly readable, engaging, etc.). That’s a GREAT feeling because it only happens, for me, about 20-25% of the time.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I honestly don’t know.
What is your greatest desire?
To see my wife and children thrive and to serve a higher purpose here on earth. I know that’s two things. I believe these two things are connected though.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Sixteen years. That’s how long it took me between writing my first novel and publishing. Also, keep your mind open to advice and learning new things to improve your writing. It helped me for sure.