Shirley Sorbello is a native of southern New Jersey. She majored in psychology at Rutgers University and later attended Widener University where she graduated with an MSW in 1995. For a number of years, Shirley worked in the human services field as a social worker, therapist and administrator. Early in 2012 she embarked on her life-long dream of writing and published her first short story in September 2013. Shirley enjoys Italian music, genealogy, traveling and chocolate.
How did you get into writing? I wrote poems and short stories as a teenager and always believed I would spend more time writing in later life when I had more time. A brush with cancer late in 2011 convinced me not to wait any longer.
What genre do you write? At this point I am not limiting myself to one genre. My first published work is a western short story to which I am currently writing a sequel. I am also working on a novel that could be considered “spiritual, new age” fiction. With my background as a therapist, I am also interested in the self-help category. I have written some short articles of this nature on my blog that I may develop further in the future. There’s a children’s book about coping with parental divorce in the works, too.
What is your target audience? Except for the children’s book, I would say women, age twenty through seventy, but that’s very generally speaking.
What have you published to date? Do you write under a pseudonym? Last September I published a short story entitled, “That’s Just the Way It Is.” I am not planning to use a pseudonym.
If you are self-published, what led to this choice? I had written an article about coping with cancer early in 2012 which was reviewed by an experienced, published writer who told me it was very marketable. As it turned out, I had difficulty in getting responses and found I was spending more time playing submission games than writing. I realized that at the age of sixty-six, I did not have tons of time to wait for publishers to decide whether they liked something. In addition, I knew I wanted to publish my own words, not see my work torn apart by editors who didn’t “get it.” Some of my writing is not mainstream in the sense that some of my works will be considered “new age” or have a strong spiritual nature that many publishers may not be willing to take a chance on.
How would you review your book for readers who might be considering it? I found it extremely difficult to give an objective review of my own work. Let me just say that it’s a rather unconventional short story of love, violence and clash of values in the Old West that has a spiritual twist. There are some reviews with the Amazon book listing here: http://www.amazon.com/Thats-Just-Way-ebook/dp/B00F23Q41O/
Are your books available as e-books? Any other formats? My current publication is available as an e-book. My novel will be an e-book and paperback.
How did you choose the title / cover of your books? How important do you think title/cover is to the book? With my recent short story, I looked for something that reflected the genre (western) and the nature of the story which is a difficult relationship. The silhouette of a western couple walking away from each other was ideal in this case, and I liked it as soon as I saw it. Titles are harder to choose for me because I want something catchy that at the same time intrigues the prospective reader without giving the story completely away. I think that both the title and cover are extremely important because you may only have a couple of seconds to effectively attract someone’s attention to your book.
What are you working on at the moment? Are you planning on another book? At this moment, I am working on a sequel to my short story, “That’s Just the Way it Is.” The story ended abruptly and there is plenty more to be told. In retrospect, I probably should have made it a novel or novella. As soon as the sequel is completed I will jump right back into my novel. I am pretty sure the title will be “Trip to a Lifetime.” It’s a story about reincarnation where two people meet and one of them instinctively remembers the other. I’m really looking forward to completing it and getting it out there.
Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? I have not been able to put aside time for writing every day even though I know I should. There are times when the writing is almost painful to do and other occasions when it flows so unexpectedly that I have to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing to go write it down. I’ve learned though to just keep writing, even when I know it isn’t very good; it still moves the story along, and it will be thoroughly edited later.
Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it? I pretty much get the idea and begin to flow with it and see where it goes. With the novel I have had to outline some of it in order to keep from making errors in timing of events and basically to make sure it flows properly. For me, writing a novel is a bit of a bear. You have to keep a lot of things in your head at the same time, and it can become overwhelming.
Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names, and what do you think makes them believable? I tend to use names that I like and that are appropriate to the time and place of the story. I have too much of a tendency to write about “nice” characters. I find it more difficult to show their weaknesses and faults, but I know this is one of the things that makes a character believable. Also, the protagonist has to be likeable enough that the reader will care what happens to him or her. Otherwise, they might stop reading.
Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed? I do lots of editing. I have a tendency to write too fast just to get the thoughts down before I lose them. I have always written this way and have learned to be content doing it.
How much research do you do? I do whatever research is required by the time period or location for the story because I want the story to be believable and not suffer from inconsistencies. In my novel, some of which takes place in Virginia Beach, I even picked a house that was on the market there so I could see the neighborhood and pictures of the house to help me create the scenes. This made it more realistic for me. I have a tendency to not be descriptive enough in writing my scenes, and this helped.
What point of view do you usually write in: first person or third person? I have written in both. I really do like first-person because I think feelings come across more effectively, but first-person is so limiting because you can only write what that character thinks or experiences. My short story is in first-person and my novel is in third-person.
How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or for yourself as a ‘brand’? What types of marketing have you found to be the most successful? As a self-published author, I do all the marketing and am still in the process of learning what works best for me. I know I’ve received sales both from a Facebook presence and my WordPress blog. I have heard recently that Goodreads works better for some so I am about to move in that direction. There is so much out there and what works for one author may not for another. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to get lost in marketing that you don’t have time to write, which is an issue I’m dealing with.
What your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything about your writing surprised you? Struggling to keep a daily writing schedule is my least favorite aspect. When I first started writing my novel, I became enchanted with the power of creation. It is so much fun to create anything out of nothing! I was pleasantly surprised also when one of the characters in my novel started taking my story in a slightly different direction than I had originally planned.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Write, write, write and make sure you know the basics of the craft. Then start keeping up with what’s going on in the publishing industry if publishing is your goal. There are many wonderful writers today who find their outlet by blogging and don’t feel the need to go further. In any case, just don’t stop writing.
Do you have a favorite phrase or quote?
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
—— Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3
These words resonated with me when I first read them as a teenager. I believe that in life, as in writing, it’s important to put my authentic self out there. That way, I will more easily connect with the people, lessons, and purpose in my life that I’m meant to. It’s not always easy to do this, but it has become easier with age.
Do you have any hobbies? How do you think they enhance your creativity? I enjoy Italian music and genealogy. Listening to music definitely puts me in touch with my creativity. I find genealogy fascinating and additive. I’ve come across many ideas for stories when I’ve tried to fill in the blanks about my ancestors’ lives. For example, around 1750 one of my ancestors was shunned by Quakers for marring outside his church and later allegedly hung himself in his front yard. Now there’s a story…
Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful? Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a gem. I also found “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King very helpful. As for websites, I have found www.janefriedman.com and www.writersdigest.com very useful.
Are you on any forums or networking sites? I am a member of several writers’ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
What do you think the future holds for writers? It’s impossible to predict because the publishing industry is changing so rapidly now. I am hopeful that there will continue to be numerous opportunities, especially for new writers.
Where can readers find out more about you and your writing? There’s more information on my blog at www.shirleysorbello.com .
Is there anything else you’d like to mention? I would like to thank to Marion Marchetto for this wonderful opportunity to share more of myself and my work.
Note to Shirley: You’re very welcome! It’s a pleasure to interview you and I wish you the best of luck!!
In this short story, twenty-two year old Rebecca moves from Philadelphia to Texas with her parents in 1860 where her father opens a general store. She soon meets John Coulter, a cowboy whose father owns a cattle ranch. Six months later they wed, and Rebecca believes that her childhood dream of marrying a handsome cowboy and raising a family on the Western frontier has come true.
Four children are born to Becky and John during the first ten years of their relationship. During this time, John starts drinking heavily and becomes more distant and abusive with Becky and the children. At the same he assumes more responsibility with the family business.
Becky struggles to keep the family together for another ten years, but after John beats their oldest child, Emily, who then leaves home, Rebecca is forced to make a decision that destroys her childhood fantasies and changes her life forever.