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Interview with Sheryl A. Keen, Author of Journal According to John

Journal According to JohnSheryl A. Keen has a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in English Literature from the University of the West Indies. She lives in Canada where she works in Administration.

In addition to prose, Sheryl also writes poetry. When she is not writing, one of her other loves is painting.

You can visit Sheryl A. Keen’s website at www.sherylkeen.com.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Sheryl. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This is my first published novel but I have published some of my poems before this.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

It’s called “Our Fathers Hand” and it’s not published. I think that it is a good story about fathers and the role they play in our lives. Sometimes they are positive influences and sometimes they are negative. It’s also a personal story and I felt like I needed to take a step back from it, leave it for a while and come back to it with a more objective mind frame. I especially felt this way after I gave the manuscript to a friend to read and her comment was that the first chapter was very self- involved.

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I don’t recall how many rejection letters I received but it’s not just a question of rejection. It’s also the length of time that prospective agents take to get back to you. A week ago I received a letter from an agent about my book. I was confused because I didn’t recall sending out any query letters in the recent past. When I checked into it, I found out that I had queried this agent two years ago. I do understand that agents are busy and get hundreds of queries each day. At some point an author has to make bold decisions when she believes in her work. I chose to self publish.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

Rejection is never a good feeling but it’s a small event in your life. It is not your life. I use rejection and any kind of failure as fuel to go on. If you are a boxer in a ring and you get knocked down, you don’t stay down. You think about your strength and the prize and you get back up and fight. Usually the round will end and you will get a chance to go to your corner regroup and come back strong. I believe my work is good and that keeps me going.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

“Journal According to John” was published in November 2008. I chose Iuniverse to publish it because I did a lot of research on self publishing companies and they seemed like the best choice at the time.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It is the most euphoric feeling ever to see your work in print and to hold the book for the first time. I was in fact holding hours upon hours of work in the palm of my hand. There was no huge celebration; I just had a drink with my best friend.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I got on to the major social networking sites to network and did an interview with John Weaver from PageOneLit.

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. The decision provided me with many learning experiences that I would never get if I went another route. I am using those experiences today to guide me on my next project.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I have not published since then but I plan to do so very soon. I have grown as an author because I write almost every day which really hone my skills. I also try to read and implement advice from reputable magazines and books.

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I think that I could have sent out my query letters sooner and not waited until the manuscript was actually finished. This would have cut out some of the time spent waiting for agents to respond.

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I feel a sense of accomplishment every time I hear from readers who say that they enjoyed my work and that they can relate to the story. Ultimately, it’s all about the readers who we write for.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I wouldn’t want to choose another profession. There is nothing better than the act of creating something that other humans can connect with. If I was forced to choose, I would do law. I wouldn’t necessarily do cases in court. I would probably lecture, research and write papers.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I am confident that I could do both if I chose to do law.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years I see myself as a successful author in a financial sense but more importantly, having a great body of work.

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