Sharon Dow won the Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest in 2013 for her novel, Huldah: Prophetess. Dow joins us on the blog this month to discuss writing, research, and the merits of focusing on little-known Bible characters.
Sharon Dow grew up in a family where education and books were considered important. Her mother often became frustrated trying to find enough books to satisfy her daughter’s love of reading.
It seemed only natural that Sharon would follow a course of education. She first graduated from Teachers’ College and then from the University of New Brunswick with a degree in education. She taught in Junior High schools for a number of years and ultimately became principal of a Christian elementary school.
Sharon retired as an educator in 2008. Since that time, she has devoted herself to writing. Her first book, Antipas: Martyr, was released in March 2011 and the sequel, Pergamum: Satan’s Throne, was released in February 2013. Huldah: Prophetess is her third book. She is currently working on the manuscript for Sapphir*SD:* Unveiled. These books are Christian historical fiction and are based on obscure biblical characters. She finds writing fulfilling and satisfying. It is the culmination of a lifelong dream to write and publish a book. She also currently writes for ‘Tween Magazine, an online Christian magazine for girls between the ages of nine and twelve, and writes devotionals for FaithWriters.
Sharon accepted the Lord at the age of eight and has been involved in her church in many capacities including piano, singing, missions, Bible studies, and Vacation Bible School. Her interests include reading, writing, gardening, scrapbooking, piano, and spending time with her family.
She has three married sons, six grandchildren, and lives in Guelph, Ontario with George, her husband of forty-five years.
WAP: Where do you get the ideas for your books?
SD: Sometimes it seems as though I come upon the topics by chance, but I think I’m always on the lookout for new subjects. I will often find a subject while reading a passage of scripture, or observing life in general.
WAP: Is Huldah a real biblical character?
SD: Yes. She is found in 2 Kings 22:14–20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22–28. Huldah was the prophetess when Josiah was king. When a portion of scripture was found in the temple, she was the prophetess who identified it.
WAP: What led you to write about Huldah?
SD: I was intrigued by what I imagined her story could be. She lived in a time when being a female wasn’t always easy. Very few women held positions of importance, yet here she is, a prophetess commanding respect in a male-dominated world.
WAP: What is the underlying message of Huldah: Prophetess?
SD: No matter how difficult the situation, God is still in control and has a plan in place. His timing is perfect. His power extends beyond the evil of humanity.
WAP: What impact would you like your books to have on your reading audience?
SD: I would like my readers to understand that God wants them to draw them to him, that he is interested in the small things in our lives as well as the big ones. His power is just as potent today as it was in the days of Huldah. He’s still in the business of combating evil.
WAP: Why have you chosen obscure biblical characters for your stories?
SD: For two reasons. I love being creative and building characters and scenes and not having to stick to many facts, but I also love to do research. I like my books to have the flavour of the times and be as accurate as I can make them. Obscure Biblical characters fit both of my writing loves. I also like to bring to life people who managed to have their names recorded in Scripture. I don’t think we should ignore them or skip over them lightly.
WAP: Could you tell us about your previous publishing experience?
SD: When I completed my first manuscript, I had no idea where to go from there. With the help of people, research, and an internet submissions site, I eventually published with Deep River Books in 2011. It was easy to write the book, but a difficult journey to publish. I completed the second manuscript and entered it into a publishing contest where my manuscript was awarded a Certificate of Merit, and I was offered a publishing contract. It was published by Deep River Books in 2013. The third manuscript was entered into the Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest, where it won the 2013 prize for fiction. Huldah: Prophetess is now being released by Word Alive Press!
WAP: How do you begin to write a book?
SD: I love the creative process of writing. I don’t use outlines, although I think in many cases it is a good idea. For me, I find the story flows and I write the words. When I first began to write, I sat at my computer and began. I knew the topic, the title, and roughly where the story was going, but the chapter-by-chapter events occurred as I wrote them. Once the characters were developed, they seemed to take over and I merely followed their lead. I was often surprised at the direction the story took, and at the end of a day of writing, I would be delighted at the twists and turns, unknown to me that morning.
WAP: Do you do much research?
SD: Yes, I love to do research. Because my books are historical fiction, I want them to be as authentic and believable as possible. I do some research before I begin, but I do most of my research as I work through the writing of the manuscript. For example, I want to know what the people wore, what they ate, what the flora and fauna is of the region, names common to the time and location, religious festivals, and any other thing I feel would add to the flavour of the story.
WAP: Do you have any advice for new writers?
SD: I learned two things early on:
(1) Watch the point of view of your characters. Be very clear about which character is in control of any given section. Before you write a section, decide the point of view. No head-hopping! This helps the flow of the story and keeps clarity for your reader.
(2) Show, don’t tell. Let the characters tell the story by their words and actions. This makes the story much more interesting for the reader and helps keep the story flowing.
November 3: Sharon will be featured on K. Dawn Byrd’s Blog.
November 8: Sharon will have a book table at the Something for Everyone consultant event in Fergus, Ontario.
November 10—12: A book table at Fellowship National Convention, in Toronto, Ontario.
November 16: Interview at Grandview Baptist Church, Kitchener ON
November 22: Sharon is holding a book launch from 2:00–4:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Guelph, Ontario.
Sharon Dow is a retired teacher with twenty-seven years’ experience teaching Junior High, serving as vice-principal, and finally as principal. She enjoys speaking to groups to share her writing and encourage others in their Christian walk.
Learn more at http://www.sharondow.ca/.