IndieView with Shannon Mullen, author of See What Flowers

Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you? Shannon Mullen – 3 August 2017
The Back Flap
All that remains is a note: “Gone to get pancakes.”
Her 30th birthday party’s over, yet it’s the happiest Emma Watters has ever been. So I re-draft and edit previous sections. If you want to write, write. Motivation. Wild, beautiful, and terrifying, See What Flowers is a thrilling depiction of love’s attempts to survive in the face of undiagnosed mental illness. Were there any parts of the book where you struggled? I actually listen to talk radio. Since I’m such a spontaneous, impulsive writer, if ideas aren’t coming when I’m trying to write, I won’t be able to advance with my writing. Do you listen to music while you write? Both characters came out of my own mind and imagination! My brother Pat edited the entire manuscript from the initial draft to the final stages. (But also scolded me for all of the steps I should have considered!) But I’ve contacted book bloggers, am doing some readings at cafés and libraries, have hosted giveaway contests, so I’m learning as I go. Absolutely not. After finishing the first draft, I realized that the writing was more emotional, more honest, and more impactful when I put more of myself into it. For more from Shannon, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter. The next morning, Adam is gone. How long did it take you to write it? People who are close to me definitely think that I am Emma. Emma’s shocked. About You
Where did you grow up? I find it gives me a enough of a distraction when my mind wanders or when I lose focus so that I don’t get sucked into other distractions like compulsively checking my Facebook or Instagram (although I still do that from time to time). I edit as I go. Sometimes the end result is terrible. We all know how important it is for writers to read. Right now, I’m working on marking independent studies and getting ready for exams! Yes, I submitted my work to agents. Otherwise, I probably never would have finished. Since I’m Canadian, I mostly submitted to agents in Canada, and there aren’t as many agents who accept unsolicited manuscripts as there are in the US. The initial image: of Adam disappearing from and ending up in a jail thousands of miles away from his home, is loosely based on an experience that one of my friends had. That’s basically my writing process. However I gained confidence as I wrote. Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself? So during the editing, I added bits of personal experience to add depth and emotion to the characters. Where’s Adam? No. I currently live in Toronto, Canada, but since graduating from Teacher’s College in 2009, I have lived in England, Colombia, the Canadian Arctic and Northern British Columbia. Yes I struggled with how much of myself to put into it. I wrote it after working as a high school teacher in the Canadian Arctic, where suicide rates are more than 10x the national average, so I was hyper-conscious of the devastating impact that mental illness can have on relationships. At first I wrote very afraid and tried to keep a distance between the characters and my own lived experiences. Life couldn’t be more perfect. He is an editor for a magazine so is a ‘real editor’. What are you working on now? About the book
What is the book about? The woman who designed my cover is actually Croatian! I just sit down and do it with no real plan and see what happens. I had over 100 designs to choose from. Most of my ideas come to me when I’m doing something other than writing, like walking, biking, running, cooking, etc. I’m actually a high school English teacher and I tell my students “everyone else is going to tell you that brainstorming and outlining are crucial…and this is how you do it…but I don’t write that way and it is okay if that way of writing doesn’t work for you either.”   But I can’t follow a recipe when I cook. End of Interview. How can there not be? Get your copy of   See What Flowers from Amazon US or Amazon UK. While the characters are fictional they are based on a combination of my own experiences of people and life, as well as research. See What Flowers is a contemporary fiction about love and mental illness. Has she been dating Walter White all along? Do you have a target reader? I grew up in Ottawa, Canada. I hired him so that I could stay accountable to meeting my timelines. Elements of my friends and myself are present in all of the characters in the novel, but the characters are more fictitious than real. Where do you live now? Yes. Has her life become an episode of Breaking Bad? The next book might be even better. It took me about 6 months of full-time writing to complete the first draft and another year and a half of spurts of editing to polish the manuscript. I started writing the book in March 2015 after an image of a man waking up in jail with no memory of how he got there came to me while I was riding my bike while on vacation with my parents in Arizona. What came easily? You will never know until you try! I anticipate that I won’t start another novel until I am done my PhD. She isn’t me. Writing is a process. I love travel and adventure and take every opportunity to explore the world and learn about new people and cultures. In the summer, I intend to write some short personal essays and promote my novel. Through alternating “he said/she said” personal narratives, See What Flowers, tells the story of a young couple’s journey to accept and understand how undiagnosed mental illness has impacted their relationship. It   begins with Adam Davison waking up in Vancouver, Canada, with no idea where he is or how he got there. After finishing the first draft, I realized that the writing was more emotional, more honest, and more impactful when I put more of myself into it. The story develops organically, as I’m writing. What would you like readers to know about you? It is quite scary for me to self-publish as I don’t have that stamp of legitimacy or worthiness that a traditional publisher gives. I always kept self-publishing as an option but it took me about a year to work up the courage to do it. What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? If so can you please describe it? When I started writing, I had also just finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which probably influenced the alternating narrative style. So during the editing, I added bits of personal experience to add depth and emotion to the characters. I try to but I just can’t. Do you outline? I ran a contest through 99designs.ca. Set in the hectic, cosmopolitan cities of Toronto and Vancouver, as well as against the harsh, rugged landscape of the Canadian Arctic, it’s a raw and compelling journey towards understanding, forgiveness, and, ultimately, escape. And sometimes it is fantastic. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? I am a binge writer for sure. About Publishing
Did you submit your work to Agents? The target reader is women in their mid-late 30s or early 40s. Did you hire a professional editor? When did you start writing the book? While Emma is very similar to me: she likes to run, she’s a perfectionist, she works in the Arctic, and she’s a go-getter. I was surprised by how determined I was to finish a draft. Uhh….winging it….and definitely learning what I should have done….one of my brothers is a publicist, so he has helped me tremendously. I’m also halfway through a PhD in Sociology at the University of Ottawa. At first, she decides that Adam’s having an affair and scavenges through photos on Facebook, trying to identify “the other woman.” But as the days pass, Emma seeks out help from the Toronto Police and floods social media with pleas for assistance. I was also so insecure and lacked confidence in my writing, so he really supported me and encouraged me as I went, much like a personal trainer. I blog about my adventures in teaching and travel at shannonmullen.me. Don’t attach your self-worth to whether your book is successful or if it becomes a best-seller or if it gets good reviews. While I was writing, I knew that I would have to find a teaching job in September, so I was very invested in finishing before then. To be honest, I think there is as much of “me” in Adam as there is in Emma. I would highly recommend this route to other writers thinking of self-publishing their books. If you want to publish a book, publish a book. Do it for yourself. Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it? I really wouldn’t have finished the book—or even started, without him. Reading memoirs written by writers who had had experience with mental illness had the greatest influence on my writing and character development, particularly Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life, and Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. Where did you get the idea from? So I have to have a thick skin about the whole thing and remind myself that in the end, I published for myself, and if readers connect with the book in some way, then that’s just bonus. Professionally done. I cannot even write an outline for an essay. So if ideas aren’t coming, I don’t want to waste time. My experience was very positive and it was a cost-effective way of having many different designers from around the world pitch cover designs. I am the kind of cook that adds a little bit of this and a little bit of that until it tastes good. When I sit down to write, I try to connect these new ideas to what I’ve previously written. I had to get over my self-doubt and fear of failure and come to a place where I was proud for writing a book, something I always wanted to do. The ending is set in the Canadian Arctic and definitely contains the strongest writing in the novel. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Was it a particular event or a gradual process? Meanwhile his girlfriend, Emma Watters, is at their home in Toronto, searching desperately for information about Adam’s whereabouts. As much as I wish I could, I cannot follow a plan. Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know? However, the story starts with that image and then was created by interweaving research with my imagination. I had taken almost a year off teaching to complete the novel and gave myself permission to focus on writing during that time. She’s an emergency room doctor and shares a home in Toronto with the love of her life, Adam Davison. Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? My writing process is so chaotic. If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences? (My day job sometimes gets in the way of my writing). If yes, what gets the fingers tapping? About Writing
Do you have a writing process? I decided to self-publish because I believe that my book is worthy of publication and didn’t want it to remain as a file on my computer any longer.