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30 May 2011

Why Shellie Neumeier, author of Driven, reads Mark Twain

This week's host: Jennifer Slattery

Young adults are one of the most difficult audiences to write for. They demand excellence and authenticity. If a novel doesn't grab them, they'll toss it aside and pop on Facebook, or Skype.

Yet Shellie Neumeier knows her audience and manages to draw them in and keep them there until the final page. Perhaps this is partially because of the connection she shares with her kids. When brainstorming novels, she spends a great deal of time dialoguing with her family.

"The plot [for Driven] morphed over several dinner conversations with my kids and my hubby," Neumeier says. "It started with a whole lot of what-if questions and ended with a girl, a demon, and a whole lot of forgiveness."

Now that had to make for one interesting dinner conversation! Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Neumeier house!

When crafting her novels, Shellie dives into the skin of all her characters, but in Driven, she most related to Robyn. "She’s tough on herself, oftentimes expecting near perfection which frustrates her…and drives her," Neumeier says. "Plus the poor girl gets gum tossed in her hair. Been there…done that."

Ugh! I've not had gum in my hair (that I remember) but I've held the scissors and peanut butter more times than I care to remember.

So how does Shellie find time to write? Does she barricade herself in a silent office, with a 'Disturb and Die' sign taped to it?

Nope. She writes in the fray, balancing her mom and writer hats on her head with grace. "I wish I could say I love to write while I sit beside a pond warmed by the summer sun," Neumeier says, "but with four children I write at the snack bar or sitting on the couch. It really depends on whether the TV is on or off. I have even been known to write in the car while my husband is driving. In this season of life, I enjoy writing wherever I can get it wedged in."

Writing could very well be God's gifts to moms. It's something that can be done from the comfort of your home, when time avails.

Shellie wasn't always a novelist. "Before I began writing fiction, I wrote technical pieces and made minor non-fiction contributions to a published business book," Neumeier says. "My fiction journey began in April of 2010. So depending on how you look at it, the answer may vary from not long to several years.

And writing sort of snuck up on her. "I suffered through English, Creative Writing, and Advanced Comp. classes," Neumeier says. "It left a bitter taste for all things written for a long time. But I’ve learned that writing is not just about the commas, it’s about the story and the characters. When they come to life in your imagination, they take over and for a moment, you live in their world surviving the adventure they take. That’s a whole lot more fun than punctuation for me. So, I’ve learned to be very kind (and grateful…to the point of chocolates, even) to my critique partners and editors."

What a reminder of the truth presented in James 3:13-17. God has a plan for each of us, but often we don't realize or understand that plan until it is upon us.

So what does Shellie hope readers will take away from Driven?

"Hopefully my readers will come away with a renewed sense of power," Neumeier says. "A sense of I-can-do-that, whatever “that” God designs for their lives. And of course I hope they come away having enjoyed a great ride from the story."

Now that Driven's completed and on the shelves, Neumeier's moved on to her next book, written for tweens.

"I’m thrilled to say I’m under contract with my mid-grade chapter book to be released in 2/2012 entitled The Wishing Ring," Neumeier says. "My twelve and nine year-old helped develop the plot, which makes the story one wild and imaginative ride. I’ve also teamed up with a dear friend in writing a romance novel. I enjoyed writing the young adult sections. But my favorite project is another YA novel written about a young boy with special needs. After a fit of rage, he finds himself struggling to survive life in a treatment center. It’s been eye-opening writing that piece."

So how does Shellie keep her writing fresh and engaging? She learns from the best, like Mark Twain. "His characters are so imaginative and playful," Neumeier says. "He captures the best and worst of youth in a way that awakens that part of an adult that tends to fall asleep. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I’d recommend it. With that said, it is interesting to read classics with today’s publishing world as a backdrop. Kind of like watching Bambi after watching Gnomeo and Juliet (plot and effects are worlds apart, but each merits kudos in their own right)."

I've often found most great authors tend to live in two worlds--story world and reality. (We all know which world is better. Grin.) If Shellie found a crystal ball, or an old, yellow-paged novel that transported readers back in time, where would she prefer to land?

"Part of me would love to jump into a historical novel just to experience life as it once was," Neumeier says. "Another part of me would jump into a dystopian novel to experience life as it could be. But all of me would love to jump into the pages of Tuck Everlasting or Bridge to Terabithia. Both books add adventure with imagination to paint such a vivid story. Love that."

Shellie's experienced a great deal of success in a relatively short period of time, not because she forged her own way, but because she surrendered to the One who holds her life in His hands. Her life is an example of her favorite verse,“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

"Awesome to know I’m not a random player wandering about without purpose," Shellie says. "I (as are you) am loved, cared for, and designed for a specific purpose. Humbling!"

Visit Shellie's website to find out more about her and her writing.

Thanks, Shellie, for stopping by! And readers, she's got a question for you:

What do authors do that drives you nuts? (Is it our series teasers? Unfinished plot points? Crazy hairstyles? What...you can tell me:)

And remember, there's still time to be entered into our drawing! Leave a comment, fb share us, tweet us or subscribe, then shoot us an email letting us know.

Come back Wednesday to meet Julie Carobini, author of Fade to Blue and hop on over to Amazon to order a copy of Driven now.

Don't forget about our book club launching on Wednesday! Visit COTT Book Club to find out more!
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Item Reviewed: Why Shellie Neumeier, author of Driven, reads Mark Twain Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jennifer Slattery