Q & A with Sunny Serafino, award-winning author

Sunny Serafino is the author of eleven books, the winner of four Royal Palm Literary Awards and the recipient of the 2011 Florida Writer’s Association Unpublished Book of the Year Award. She is well known for her heart-wrenching stories of women struggling against impossible odds and finding
a way to survive. In addition to being a close and treasured friend, Sunny is here today to share a few of her secrets to success…

 Q:        Sunny, you’ve won earlier awards for your novels, but this year in addition to a First Place Award, “Finding Amy” also won the much-coveted “Unpublished Book of the Year Award” – What do you think made this story so special?

A:        Writing is such an individual pursuit that perhaps receiving awards from your peers takes on a different measure of recognition. But, trophies are not the only rewards to value. Is a story or book special if it receives an award? Perhaps, but I like to think it was special because it eached the heart and soul of the reader; that there was something real, unique or compelling about the story and the characters which made it special. I write
every book from my heart and “Finding Amy” was a story I loved telling.

 Q:        Like most of your books, “Finding Amy” is a character-driven story, what do you believe is the key element for creating a believable character?

 A:        Although the plot is very important, I think readers relate more to the people in the story rather than the circumstances or settings. All components are important and need careful attention but I try to focus on giving my characters believability by making them flawed in some small way so they are less than perfect but still likeable.

 Q:        How do you rate the ratio of importance in story versus style?

 A:        I personally believe that the story is most important but a writer should never forget his or her style because it makes the written word more individual to the writer and, therefore, very important to the telling of the story. Style is how the story-teller differentiates his or her work from other similar works.

 Q:        What inspires you in the development of a story line?

 A:        Tough question. I think my original inspiration, which precedes every story, comes in discovering just what I want to write about. Most of the time I think of, or come across, a situation that intrigues me and that thought is developed in many ways. My readers are already familiar with the general subject of my work; it’s courageous women and family situations. But each book is different and usually begins with what I call my “what if” syndrome. Can I take a situation and make it into a story that hasn’t been told before?

 Q:        What is your primary consideration in developing a character’s voice and how do you differentiate one character’s voice from the 0thers?

A:        I think in my own voice and then alter it to fit the character. When I begin a manuscript I have a general idea of the personality and disposition of the main character but often it grows or changes as the plot moves forward and adjustments must be made. Minor characters provide a wonderful opportunity to insert color and taste to the writing so  I give them a distinctly different voice—a voice that reflects echoes their personality, i.e.
educated, uneducated, or one that comes from a different part of our world or country.

 Q:        Do current events or social trends influence your storyline?

 A:        I make certain they don’t because it’s important to keep to the time period you are writing about. I don’t want to confuse my readers, I want
them to have a clear picture of the timeframe and setting of the story. How ridiculous would it be to have a cell phone in the 1930s? Shakespeare once
wrote about Roman times and mentioned a clock striking…there were no striking clocks back then.

 Q:        Okay, honestly speaking, if the story is great—do spelling and punctuation really count? In other words, do you still need that final edit?

 A:        Absolutely, spelling and punctuation really do count. When I teach creative writing, I make it a point to stress that. For your draft, just keep writing but when the work is done, it needs a fine-toothed combing to make sure it’s clean and cleared of any scriveners errors. The readers deserve that attention. A final edit, and perhaps several edits are an absolute must and it is very difficult for a writer to see the errors in his or her own work. If you want to be published, get edited.

 Q:        Over the past decade, to what do you attribute your growth as a writer?

 A:        I’ve been writing fiction for about 14 years and in that time have produced ten novels and one memoir. I have another novel at a publisher for consideration and I’m beginning number thirteen. Do I think I’ve grown? I do, and my faithful collection of readers agrees. Fulfilling a life-long dream is motivation enough to keep going and keep improving. I’m an avid reader so I have had the opportunity to pick up things from other authors. In appreciation for this gift, I try to give back as much as possible. I help other budding writers by teaching, holding workshops and sponsoring and leading critique groups. Writing is very important to me; it’s a true labor of love. I write because I’ve wanted to do that all my life but never got the chance or time until now.

Q:        Every novelist dreads boiling a 100,000 word manuscript down into a two page synopsis—what suggestions do you have for tackling this task?

A:        Concentrate on the key points of the story. Set aside minor characters and events, regardless of how colorful they are. Squeezing 100,000 words into a two page synopsis is much more difficult than writing the 100,000 words. It isn’t easy and you struggle, but the effort is worthwhile because the synopsis is your key to having an agent or publisher request the complete manuscript.

Q:        Which of the characters you’ve created do you most identify with – and why?

A:        That’s a very difficult question; it’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves most. Every character represents some part of the author whether they think so or not. You can’t live through the experiences, face the challenges and reap the rewards as your protagonist marches through all those pages without a very close connection. All of my main characters are courageous women and I think I’ve been one myself. If forced to
make a decision, and it is a very difficult decision, I think it would be a tie between Lili in Echoes and Cathy in Forgiven. Even in saying this I find myself apologizing to the other ladies I’ve created along the way.

Sunny Serafino’s most recent novel “Forgiven” is available on Amazon to read an excerpt or buy the book click here   http://tinyurl.com/3fow3b7

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