Wet Stuff : The Art of Painting a Business

On the Way to Being Published with Shannon Yvonne Moreau

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Visit Albuquerque Writer, Shannon Yvonne Moreau's website.


Neeley, “This is KD Neeley. I’m here with Shannon Moreau. She’s a creative writer. We’re going to talk about creative writing today. Hi Shannon, thank you for this interview.”

Moreau, “Hi. Thank you for having me.”

Neeley, “So when did you first become a writer?”

Moreau, “Well, I think my official age when I started writing was about eight years old. I started writing little kid stories because I was a kid and that’s what I read. I would write like Peter Rabbit, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and all the little animal stories where they’re like people but they’re animals. I even used to draw. So I would write little stories, and I would illustrate them, and I tried to publish my first little book that I did. I did this little handmade story that I liked, stapled together and sent off to a publisher and of course, they very nicely said no this isn’t what we’re looking for, and I somehow got past that initial rejection and just kept writing, and I’m still doing it now.”

Neeley, “So you were eight years old when you sent a book off to a publisher.”

Moreau, “Yeah I know.”

Neeley, “You just went for it.”

Moreau, “I did I just went for it.”

Neeley, “Why not?”

Moreau, “I don’t even remember which publisher it was I’m sure it was one of the ones that did children stories, and it was probably one of the ones that published one of the books I was reading.”

Neeley, “Were your parents supportive of that did they help you?”

Moreau, “My mom yeah she was pretty much supportive of every crazy, creative, artistic thing I tried to do because that’s just the kind of person she was.”

Neeley, “Nice.”

Moreau, “Yeah.”

Neeley, “So writing has always been serious to you then. It’s always been a thing to do that you want to share with others.”

Moreau, “Yes. Yeah.”

Neeley, “Nice.”

Moreau, “It started out as being something that I did to fill the time. Then it became something that it’s kind of like I think her name is Sandra Cisneros she said at one point she said you do you your art because you’re lonely and then you have to be alone to do your art, and that is exactly what happened for me. I was an only child. We were not very well off at all, but we somehow were living in a very well to do neighborhood. I was aware--and it was every day very clear to me that there was a huge difference between my income status and everybody around me. I felt very isolated and alone as a kid, and I think that’s why I started writing. Because it was a way of keeping myself company and occupied so ironically then at some point, it’s like I have to shut out the world so I can write because I need to write to be fulfilled.”

Neeley, “Do you ever dry up? Do you ever need inspiration or get--”

Moreau, “so far I’ve never had a shortage of ideas I want to explore but sometimes I hit plot walls where it’s like I know that I need to get my character here but I don’t know how to get them there, so that’s usually how my writer’s block manifests and then I usually will do I’ll either brainstorm and sometimes brainstorming will just be me writing down I have no idea what to do next I’ve been stuck in this scene for the last hour this sucks every Idea I’ve had is horrible but somehow even just writing that stuff down something will loosen up and then I’ll be like oh I could do that, or I could do this, so that’s one way I get past the writer’s block.”

Neeley, “so you have a conversation with yourself through writing.”

Moreau, “pretty much yeah.”

Neeley, “Nice.”

Moreau, “Yeah. So I’ll do that, or I might just take a break or read a book or watch a movie or watch tv and look at somebody’ else’s creative success. to get me out of my head and that will also sometimes inspire something.”

Neeley, “Have you ever heard of The Artist’s Way.”

Moreau, “Yes.”

Neeley, “did you go through that book did you use it?”

Moreau, “No, but a lot of people have mentioned it to me.”

Neeley, “Yeah what you described just now reminds me of an exercise in that book where she’s talking about just doing morning pages she calls them morning pages.”

Moreau, “Yes I know people who do that I’ve heard of that.”

Neeley, “and that’s what you do you write down I have nothing to say this sucks I haven o thoughts in my head I don’t know why I’m doing this-this is pointless blah blah blah and you’re writing blah blah blah.”

Moreau, “Yes, yeah absolutely.”

Neeley, “And you just get it out of your system that’s a fantastic exercise.”

Moreau, “It is. I just stumbled upon it, and I found that it worked and it’s a relief it’s a relief to realize you can brainstorm by just writing down all my ideas are horrible I hate this scene why does this keep troubling me and that something will happen.”

Neeley, “How many stories have you written?”

Moreau, “Let’s see I have written. It’s hard to count. Right now I’m working on three different stories, so I have one that I have been working on for years and years and finally got it done. It turns out it’s way too long because there’s a certain word length that publishers are looking for. I’ve been working on restructuring that to get it within an acceptable word count. There’s that one, and that one’s always in my head because I've been working on it for so long. The characters have become as real to me as actual people. There’s one that I have just finished rewriting the third draft on, and now I’m just doing some research fill in on that. and then there’s another one I’ve conceptualized, and I have a first draft, and this conference I just went to we brainstormed some ideas for that one, and so that’s like three active stories that I’m working on.”

Neeley, “So you’re actively working on three different stories, one’s been a project you’ve pursued for years the others are possibly shorter endeavors, and you also take part in conferences and writing groups.”

Moreau, “Yes yeah.”

Neeley, “So you find that helpful as well.”

Moreau, “Very helpful. I started off with Southwest Writers, that was the first group that I knew when I was looking for writers groups. Then I switched over to L.E.R.A. which is short for Land of Enchantment Romance Authors, and it’s the local chapter for R.W.A. which is Romance Writers of America. That is a very, very serious group. It has a lot of extremely talented people, and serious writers like people make money--and they’re full-time writers, which is my goal someday. It’s just a great network of very current and up to date information, everything from the business of writing to the craft of writing. The group that I’m in is extremely talented and most importantly supportive so very generous with information with assistance networking all that.”

Neeley, “So what have you learned about the business of writing?”

Moreau, “Probably more than I want to at this point and not nearly enough but what I have learned is that you have to somehow find where your creative passion and where the current audience and market meet and that’s the biggest challenge that and that sort of diversifying your output like trying different genres or trying different media everything from print to ebook is beneficial because honestly sadly enough theres a lot of publishers that are going under so if you have all of your eggs in that basket shall we say and that goes under you’re kind of out of luck but if you have different publishers and stuff that you’re working with that can kind of offset if one goes down.”

Neeley, “Where do you see the future of writing heading?”

Moreau, “It’s really hard to say because it keeps changing. I am by no means an expert in the future of it. I can say that even though it seems like you’re constantly hearing that nobody's reading anymore and that the publishing industry is going down, there’s never a shortage of people that want to read and who want to read good stories that are just always gonna be there. That’s never ending, so it’s just a matter of figuring out how to navigate the changing terrain.”

Neeley, “How do you feel about audio books?”

Moreau, “I love audiobooks!”

Neeley, “Yeah Me too!”

Moreau, “I do! And when I first heard of them I’m like having someone read to me a story that I am perfectly capable of reading myself that sounds horrible and how did I start reading audio books? I think it was because I wanted something to keep my brain occupied while I was doing things that I don’t enjoy or that stresses me out. Like doing chores which is boring or driving. I was going on a long road trip so that can be boring or stressful or both. I've been getting more into yoga and sometimes if I don’t have something that I’m listening to relax me I can’t relax enough to do yoga. That’s how I think I started listening to audiobooks. I used to go over to Aardvark they’re no longer in business I think the owner retired I used to go over there and like let me try this audiobook.”

Neeley, “Have you ever heard of Archie’s Audio Books?”

Moreau, “No, I don’t think so.”

Neeley, ““Oh my god you gotta to go there!”

Moreau, “Is it up on San Mateo and Osuna?”

Neeley, “Yeah.”

Moreau, “Okay I have heard of it, and I was like oh I’ve got to check that out!”

Neeley, “Yeah you gotta go check that out that’s a fantastic place to get your audiobooks.”

Moreau, “Okay yeah.”

Neeley, “And Nick Balanos is the owner, and he can give you--he’ll give you all kinds of recommendations and do one-on-one customer service. He’s great.”

Moreau, “Okay I’m going to make a point of going over there.”

Neeley, “Awesome, yeah Archie’s Audio Books.”

Moreau, “So I love audiobooks there are some books that I find more pleasurable to read than to listen to or vice versa which is kind of interesting.”

Neeley, “What makes a book better to read than to listen to?”

Moreau, “I think that books that have like a lot of back and forth dialogue is more enjoyable to read. There’s one series that I love--she’s a local New Mexican author, Darinda Jones. She writes paranormal, really funny, snarky, and kind of wacky paranormal mystery slash romance. Her characters are very funny and snappy. --back and forth dialogue and reading it is just wonderful. It’s hilarious, and it keeps your mind engaged because there’s a lot of angles going on at once. I thought oh I'd read this once let me listen to it on audiobook and the audiobook narrator was extremely talented. She was a really good narrator, not all narrators are created equal that’s for sure, but I just found that I enjoyed this more reading it. I think it’s just how I was processing that.”

Neeley, “I think it’s especially applicable when it comes to comedy because the tone of voice is so important when it comes to comedy and you don’t really hear the tone of voice when you’re reading it but you’ll get a sense of it from the words when you have been into the story you have a sense of the characters you think you know them a certain way and it’s mysterious but it’s pretty awesome.”

Moreau, “Yes it is yeah and your imagination does do a lot of the work that’s also a great thing. you’re hearing a tone of voice and a rhythm that’s funny to you as well as reading what’s on the page.”

Neeley, “Are there any books that you’ve enjoyed more as audiobooks?”

Moreau, “There are a couple of mystery writers that I enjoy as audiobooks. One is Robert Crace, and he writes like Elvis Cole, his character is Elvis Cole and Jill Pike. He also has another series that is based on an LAPD detective. His first book was about him recovering from having witnessed his partner get gunned down in the streets, and he barely survived that encounter. So he’s having major issues pain flashbacks, debilitating flashbacks, and somehow he gets into this program with PTSD therapy dogs. And that therapy dog had come back from, I think it was Iraq, and she had watched her handler get blown up. So she was traumatized as well. It was about how the two of them came together and helped each other. Yeah, it’s a great story. So that’s how I got introduced to that author, Robert Crace. I love listening to all his books on audiobook. Another one I enjoy is Walter Mosley. He writes detective series and that detective is Easy Rollins. And I heard about that because I started getting into Luke Cage on Netflix and that was one of the books that the character was reading in one of the first episodes was--yeah! So that’s how I got into that, and the narrator for that is just fantastic I could listen to him all day long.”

Neeley, “That’s interesting too to think about how it’s a new occupation now to be an audiobook narrator it’s not like being an actor or even being a video host or a DJ, it’s it’s own thing.”

Moreau, “It is, and some are incredible and some not so much. There was one time I was listening to a young adult series, and the narrator kept changing from book to book. That was jarring because you would get used to hearing one voice, you would get used to her voice, and the next book would be in somebody else’s voice, and it was like.”

Neeley, “Oh yeah so it’s really important to find the right narrator.”

Moreau, “It is and consistency. I don’t know why they don’t keep them consistent. Have the same narrator for each book in a series.”

Neeley, “How do you feel about authors narrating their work?”

Moreau, “That can work too. I just listened to Elizabeth Gilbert, she wrote Eat Pray Love, ever heard of that one?”

Neeley, “Yeah.”

Moreau, “Yeah, so she is the author of that and she also recently wrote a nonfiction book about creativity called Big Magic. She narrated her book, and she was great. Yeah, that was a good match, so sometimes that can work well.”

Neeley, “Would you narrate your books for audio? No Why not?”

Moreau, “Because I hate the sound of my voice.”

Neeley, “Oh no! So you’re not going to listen to this podcast, are you?”

Moreau, “No, I will. I will.”

Neeley, “Alright.”

Neeley, ““Is that something you think you could get over?”

Moreau, “Yeah probably, like the older you get, the more accepting you become of who you are and how you are in the world. But I know the first time I heard myself recorded I was like is that what I sound like? Really? Oh my God!”

Neeley, “I had that sensation too as a kid.”

Moreau, “Yeah I think it’s like an adolescence because I think I was 12 13 somewhere in there where you become self-conscious.”

Neeley, “And that’s also when your voice is changing.”

Moreau, “Exactly.”

Neeley, “That’s funny, oh man. So when you envision your books do you envision your books as being books in somebody’s hand where they’re reading through the pages or do you envision somebody listening to them as an audiobook or both?”

Moreau, “I envision them reading it.”

Neeley, “Reading it.”

Neeley, “Okay, cool.”

Moreau, “Yeah Well when I’m writing it I envision it as scenes in my head yeah.”

Neeley, “Oh okay, so is that like watching a movie in your head?”

Moreau, “Yeah.”

Neeley, “Do you think your stuff would be fit for a film?”

Moreau, “Possibly, yeah.”

Neeley, ““Yeah? They’d make good movies?”

Moreau, “Maybe, once I can get it short enough.”

Neeley, “Or TV series?”

Moreau, “Yeah the one that’s too long would probably work as a tv series because I had a lot of scenes that are exploring different aspects of the characters lives which is more suitable to a TV series than a book which is where I think I went wrong with that one .”

Neeley, ““You know I enjoy Tv Series-there’s some really good movies out there but tv series I enjoy them more because I like deep stories I like the complexity.”

Moreau, “And I like watching the same characters go through a lot of different situations and slowly change, and I like watching all the relationships you know the classic which guy is she gonna get with this season? You know or is she gonna ever get back with so and so, that happens like over series in a movie it’s a lot more truncated and cut and dry it’s like one guy is it gonna be him and is it gonna work out or not? And That’s it. With a TV series, it’s like the complexity of ongoing.”

Neeley, “TV series are more suited for romance for sure.”

Moreau, “Yeah because you can play around with that whole dynamic forever for as long as you want.”

Neeley, “So do you consider yourself a romance novelist?”

Moreau, “I do because my stories always have a central romance relationship going on that everything else is revolving around or there’s a central romance story along with everything else.”

Neeley, “How does it relate to your own life?”

Moreau, “It relates to my own life in that I am always one of those people who is shipping shall we say? Who’s always looking for a little romantic spark in every story. I like a little romance in all of my stories. I’m one of those people that even if there’s, I love everything from like the epic love to the ongoing romantic tension that’s just simmering beneath the surface. I love all of that stuff, so I’m always thinking in those terms, so I’m like well why not write about it then if I’m always thinking about it?”

Neeley, “Nice. What’s your favorite way to explore a new character like how do you develop a new character?”

Moreau, “I don’t know because all three of my stories came about differently, so I think I usually start off with doing like a first draft where I just let them appear and then I have to go back and refine them and fill them in. And you always find out new things about them the more you rewrite them. One example I have is in the story I have that’s too long I had this idea for one of the main characters is the protagonist’s dad. And he was an interesting character for me to write because I did not have a relationship with my dad he was an absent father so I had to create a character in a relationship that I’ve never experienced. So which is the cool thing about being a writer is that you’re forced to get outside of your own life and your hermit tendencies because I’m one of those people who could whole up for weeks at a time and never interact so I have to make myself get out there. I had to write about a strong father-daughter relationship, so I drew from other people I knew and from TV and books and stuff like that. He’s somebody that I had written like three drafts before I went back and did the whole --where you sit down and figure out your character’s bio: where did they grow up? Where did he go to school? What was their career? And I realized I always had known he was going to be an Army vet and a truck driver, blue collar, somebody who never went to college and that’s why he wants his daughter to go to college so bad, so that’s where they kind of they but heads because she has other ideas. And then when I was going back and figuring out when he was born and when he would have entered the military, I realized that he would have been in the Vietnam war which was --that’s such a horrifying war, you know? The war itself and everything that happened is so horrifying. I was like oh no because by that time I had thought of him almost as my father, so it was just so sad to think about him having to have gone through some horrific experiences, but I also realized it explained a lot of his character which I had already written. So that was kind of an interesting thing where you don't always think of all the obvious things right up front it happens over time.”

Neeley, “Do you do the same exploration with people in your life?”

Moreau, “No. I, Well, do I? Maybe, I tend to.”

Neeley, “Like, have you ever written the bio of your parents just to explore your parents?”

Moreau, “No, I haven’t. No, I just kind of let --I tend to be the kind of person that I let people tell me what they want to tell me, and that’s how I get to know people. If at some point they let you know a little more about themselves --because some people I know like to just question people all the time, and I tend to be the kind of person who --I don’t like to bug people with a lot of questions. I like to let them reveal themselves to me. Sometimes all you have to do is just ask a few little things, and they’re telling you all kinds of great stuff. That’s how I approach --that’s usually how my relationships work out.”

Neeley, “Have you written any characters based on people you know?”

Moreau, “Yeah definitely. People that you know inspire characters. For example, in the second book that I’m writing one of the characters is based on somebody I was really good friends with in college. My friend in college was visually impaired because she had had cancer at a young age and the treatment for cancer affected her vision. I thought that would be a really good opportunity to put some diversity in my stories because there’s a lot of call for diverse characters. Diverse race-ethnicity and ability. I’m like oh this is a great opportunity to put that in because I know somebody and so you kind of draw from that experience. I didn’t want to rip off everything from her life, so I had to decide later what was going to be the cause of her visual impairment. It had to be something completely different, and so that’s been fun to kind of figure out. So it’s based on her, but she’s not exactly her at all either.”

Neeley, “So you feel that there’s a sense of creative merit to reimagining a life instead of just copying from real life.”

Moreau, “Yes.”

Neeley, “Instead of just copying from real life, so is that why you’re not a non--Would you ever be a nonfiction writer?”

Moreau, “I have written some nonfiction. I wrote a couple of articles and got them published about a civil rights activist from the late 1800’s, Ida B. Wells. She was an anti-lynching activist. She was a journalist and anti-lynching activist back in the day when women and blacks didn’t have any rights. I thought she was just an amazing character and so when I learned about her I was just fascinated with her. That’s how I started getting into the publishing aspect of writing, was by writing articles about her, which I enjoyed, and enjoyed figuring out a colorful yet clear way of describing her and her life. Then I started getting into fiction and the stories I wanted to write started taking over, so that’s what I’ve been working on since then so I’ve done both.”

Neeley, “Nice. So fiction is your favorite though that’s where your passion is.”

Moreau, “It is you can make crap up which is fun and kinda cathartic in a way.”

Neeley, “So tell me about the big project, the story that’s too long what’s it called?”

Moreau, “The working title is A Long Dry Spell. The premise is that the main character had decided she was going to pursue her dream of being a writer. When she did that, everything fell a part. Her father disowned her, her boyfriend dumped her, and she couldn’t make a living. She ended up having to move back in with her mom. She’s decided that she’s going to go back to school and do the right thing, and just as she’s decided she wants to do that her mom gets remarried and kicks her out. So she’s basically like I gotta find a place to live, and that’s when her dad came back into the picture and was like Oh now you’re doing what it is that I want you to do so I’ll support you while you’re going to school. Once she goes down that road, she’s caught between really wanting to do what her father wants her to do but also realizing that her passion that she’s abandoned is eating her up. That’s that story, and there’s a love story in there too so that’s all part of it but yeah that’s my long one.”

Neeley, “When is that gonna come out.”

Moreau, “That one when I can rewrite it and get it published I’ve had people really like the premise when I have pitched it people like the premise a lot of people have liked the first few chapters, but it’s just it’s still too long it’s like the longest a book I think the sweet spot is like ninety thousand words and it’s like a hundred and thirty-five thousand words after having cut it considerably, so there’s a lot of work to do on that one still.”

Neeley, “How do you feel about working with an editor?”

Moreau, “I would love to work with an editor. The problem is that you have to get --you don’t get an editor until you get an agent, and you have to have it in really great shape before you can get an agent. It’s kind of this --you have to have your stuff in really good shape. Then you get professionals who will help you get it published.”

Neeley, “Wow yeah, so you've never gone out searching for an editor on your own?”

Moreau, “I’ve gone out I’ve submitted to agents and have had a lot of agents express interest and then be like oh no it’s too slow your pacing too long, so that’s the work that I’m having to do on that story.”

Neeley, “To pick up the pace in the story.”

Moreau, “Yeah and get it within that pesky word length. It’s the bane of my existence. Yeah, I overwrite and then have to cut.”

Neeley, “Well I guess that’s better than not having enough.”

Moreau, “Yeah. Yeah, it is. I guess..”

Neeley, “Or is it?”

Moreau, “I guess it depends sometimes cutting can be painful you know it’s like all those words gone!”

Neeley, “Do you ever have like you know how we have like the Director’s Cut of a movie and everyone wants the Director’s Cut? Have we ever had something similar to that in books? Like the Author’s Cut.”

Moreau, “No. What author’s do is, if they’ve written a scene that they love and it gets cut from the book, they’ll post it on their blog, or their website, or they will include it in a newsletter for fans who sign up for their newsletter. That’s another way of giving, of being able to like give that precious cut scene an audience and also give something to your readers.”

Neeley, “One of the biggest things that a visual artist need is a website these days do you find that’s true with authors with writers?”

Moreau, “Yeah, I had to do a website because that’s what I was hearing is like you need to have a presence you need to have a presence even before you need to start building that before publishing.”

Neeley, “So what’s your website?”

Moreau, “ShannonYvonneMoreau.com.”

Neeley, “So what’s important to include on your website as a writer?”

Moreau, “So to have a nice landing page that reflects kind of what you write states clear upfront your name and what type of stuff you write. On my website, I’ll have like a little excerpt from something that I’ve written. The menu items should be like home, a quick bio, contact info, what you’re working on like your books --right now I just have listed what I’m working on, but you’re supposed to definitely have a books section. Then I also blog, not as much as I used to, but I have a link to that as well.”

Neeley, “Nice, Do you think the blog is important as a writer?”

Moreau, “Well I think it used to be a lot more people used to blog a lot more is what I hear but now everybody blogs so it can kind of get lost in the noise. I have blogged for probably about four or five years. I find that it’s really hard for me to just do a really quick blog post. Even if it’s just like a few words, it ends up taking me an hour to get posted. Sometimes if I’m on a tight self-imposed deadline, it’s like I need that hour for my project I’m working on. So I don’t blog as much as I would like to. I do enjoy it, it is a great way to find an audience as well, and to kind of let people know here I am and this is what I’m about.”

Neeley, “So what do you envision for your future?”

Moreau, “I would love to be a full-time writer just because I love the work so much that I would like to be spending most of my time doing that. So that is my goal is to get the books published and to have them find an audience that loves what I write enough that I can do it full time.”

Neeley, “What’s your favorite book?”

Moreau, “That I have read?”

Neeley, “Yes.”

Moreau, “I have so many. Right now I love there’s a young adult author named Jenny Han she writes the series “To all the boys I’ve loved before” it’s a really popular young adult series I love her I love her stories I love her writing style I love just about everything about her books. So that’s one author that I love right now. I’m really into the Walter Mosley Easy Rollin series. And another one of my favorite authors that’s been around for a while is Judy Bloom. I think she was my inspiration for my voice and the type of stories that I like to write.”

Neeley, “What’s the best way to contact you?”

Moreau, “My website, I’m also on Facebook and Instagram, and Twitter. Although I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be just because there’s a lot going on on Twitter and I’m easy to get sucked into the Twittersphere and never come back. So I’m not on there as much as I’d like to be but I’m on there as well.”

Neeley, “I’ve never heard that about Twitter before. I hear that about Facebook all the time that people get sucked in, and they need to take a.”

Moreau, “Yeah you can get sucked into Facebook I just with some reason with Twitter there’s so many things going on at once that it’s a lot it’s really easy just to be all.”

Neeley, “Is Twitter a better platform as a writer?”

Moreau, “It depends some writers have utilized Twitter to their advantage some writers just love it they can do the clever 140 character tweets and do a whole string of them, and I’m still the kind of person who’s like no that sucks.”

Neeley, “You have to edit your tweets.”

Moreau, “I have to edit my Tweets which is not the point, so that’s why I’m not on there as much as some of the other writers who are good at just rattling them off.”

Neeley, “Thank you so much for your time, thank you for talking to us about writing today. This was Shannon Yvonne Moreau, and you can reach her at www.ShannonYvonneMoreau.com.”

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