Interview with Sharon Naylor, author of over 35 books on weddings for the bride, bridesmaids and the moms.
How long have you been writing for?
I started my writing career when I was 16, with my first short story published in True Love and then moving on to write short service pieces, like ‘how to clean your air ducts’ for Woman’s Day, and landing my first feature for Woman’s Day at age 18. I absolutely fell in love with writing, and when an article on planning a budget wedding turned out to be way too long, I sought a literary agent, landed a great one and started writing wedding books. You have to pick one topic and specialize in it to build your reputation and really expose you to all the quickly-changing trends and top personalities in that field. I’m in my 25th year of being a professional writer, and my career has led me to such exciting opportunities as shooting a segment for the Oprah show, and hugging Oprah herself, and now I’m a blogger for top resorts, which has me traveling the world.
What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?
Since I write both books and articles, I’d say the most difficult part of writing a book is the fact that it’s a really slow process. It can take months for a publisher to give you a book deal after they first see your idea, then months to write and edit, and it could be another six months before you see the book in print. Not to mention how long it takes to get royalty checks! You have to have a lot of patience to be an author, and you have to have very thick skin…because constructive criticism is part of the game, and you can’t please everyone all the time. So you just have to accept that some readers will love what you wrote, and some will give you a 1-star review. As an author, you learn quickly that rejection or criticism isn’t personal: it’s just how someone received the book, according to whatever mood they’re in, or how a topic hits them.
What genre do you generally write?
I write in the weddings genre, which allows me to branch out into travel for honeymoons, fashion for brides’ and bridesmaids’ dresses, entertaining and food for receptions and showers, lots of topics that I love. Being in such a multi-faceted genre keeps things exciting, and there are always new innovations to cover in so many different fields. Advice for any aspiring authors: pick a genre that has a lot of branches to it, and you’ll always have new adventures as you write.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
I read so much fiction, but right now I’m devouring Sarah Addison Allen’s The Girl Who Chased the Moon, having loved The Peach Keeper and her other novels. I love how she sprinkles in these wonderful little magical elements, yet still has sensational plotting and character development. It’s like having just the right amount of spice in a pie. She really knows how to develop a storyline, and add in enticing bits that keep you going. I’ve been waking up at 5am just to have time to read this new book of hers, I love it so much. I also read everything by Philippa Gregory, since I love the era she writes about, the intrigue of the court, and the relationships she paints.
What is your book called and how did you choose this title?
One of my favorite books is It’s My Wedding Too, which is something I hear mothers of the bride and groom say so often, frustrated as they are about sharing the wedding-planning with the groom, or with each other – which can be really challenging when the moms are so different.
It’s My Wedding Too has the upper-crust, romance novelist mother of the bride butting heads with the earthy, a –little-too-attached-to-her-son, Italian mother of the groom. The hapless bride and her groom (who thankfully isn’t a Mama’s Boy) have to walk through a minefield of the mothers’ sensitivities and competition as they plan their wedding, and the moms clash in comical ways – one changes the other’s name on the invitation (don’t worry…they catch it in time,) and they wind up throwing dresses at each other in a bridal salon. Comedy aside, the moms have good reasons for freaking out over the wedding, and the maid of honor has her issues as well. She’s broken-hearted by a breakup, obsessed with feng shui, and even as a bit of a mess is there for the bride at every minute.
Has your book been published and how did you go about this?
Yes, it’s been in print for a few years, and it’s under consideration to become a television movie. I submitted it to one of my publishers who did my wedding non-fiction books, and they loved it. I had a book deal in a matter of weeks, and then they gave me another fiction deal shortly after that.
Approximately how long did it take you to finish your book?
I spent about 3 months writing it, in between writing the non-fiction book I was writing at the same time. It took another month to edit, and when it arrived in print form in the mail, I cried. This was such a big goal of mine, and there it was. When you open that big box of your books, it has a smell. The ink, the newness of it, the paper. I love that smell.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Don’t try to control the process too much. With fiction, the characters are going to be so real to you (if you’re doing it right) that they’re going to veer off into thoughts and decisions, and it seems like you’re just following along. Give yourself plenty of time, and don’t listen to how long it takes anyone else to write their books. This is your own custom process, done your way…and if you try to rush or write like someone else, it will seem like work. You won’t get that bliss out of it, and I’ve always believed that what you feel while writing your book is what your readers will feel.
The same goes for writers of non-fiction. Don’t rush. And a book doesn’t have to be written in order. I like to skip around and write whichever chapter calls to me, maybe the shorter ones so I feel like I’ve accomplished more right away. This then takes a careful eye in editing to be sure you didn’t repeat anything, but I find it to be more fun to write this way. I leave the longest, most challenging chapters for the end, then I break those up into sections so I still get that accomplishment feeling that I need, and not get discouraged.
And always, always provide information that no one can say, “oh, that’s all out there on the Internet.” Find unique tips and details to make your book a stand-out, something that readers will want to buy, since it’s packed with fresh content and new information, written in an engaging way.
Do you use social media to promote your book, if yes then which social networks do you like the most?
Oh, yes, you have to use social media these days! I find Facebook to be the most effective at promoting my books and blog posts, since it fosters conversations, and when someone comments, all of their people see what they said. My blog hits come mostly from links at Facebook, so that’s what’s working for me. I’m also getting a lot of promotional power from LinkedIn, making sure I join great, active groups in my genre, and offering book giveaways in addition to being an active participant in conversations there. You can’t just pitch your book all the time. People hate that and will unfollow you. Make your social media about interaction, your personality, humor, and tips to help others, and then people will seek out your book and blog. Twitter’s not really doing it for me these days, although I’ve had great success with Twitter parties paired with excellent giveaways.
What do you feel is the most important stage of writing a book?
Editing, by far. You have to put your writing away for a few days, then go back to it with a fresh eye, and that’s when the awkward stuff will jump out at you, the missing info, the opportunities to expand and make it even more useful. Don’t expect that a copyeditor will catch everything. I’ve always caught little things that editors have missed, no matter how great the editor is, and reviewers are so fierce these days, they’ll actually put in their amazon reviews that there were four typos in the book!
I also like the minute one stage of having 400 black pieces of paper there waiting to become a book, which I think back on when I’m printing out the final, finished version. (Although now, you don’t have to send in print copies, so that’s been something I miss in the digital publishing age.)
Do you have a day job (if so, what do you do?) or do you write full-time?
I write full-time, starting at 7am and going til 4pm when it’s time to work out, clean, garden and other activities that I love.
Where is your book available to buy?
To find out more about Sharon check out her blog Sharon Naylor Wedding Books, also…
These are the blogs I write for the Rosewood Resorts Jumby Bay and Caneel Bay. My writing has led me to the exciting position as the destination wedding and honeymoon blogger for these celebrity-favorite, award-winning resorts [I approached them with my credits and landed the gig; I’ve been with Caneel for 3 years and just started with Jumby Bay.] My writing credits and social media activity really helped snag me a fabulous position here, and I’m enjoying every minute of writing for them…which has led me to delve into more travel writing in general. See how it all evolves, connection by connection?