It’s my pleasure to welcome the amazing Shasta Kearns Moore to Seven Questions today. She’s a journalist and blogger, and she recently completed her first novella, A TWIST OF FATE.
I met Shasta back when she was the always-on-the-go editor of the Southwest Community Connection, my local newspaper. While we never overlapped at Pamplin Media Group, we both worked there and had coworkers in common.
As we got to know each other, Shasta and I found ourselves discussing creative writing, craft books and how to engineer a book-length manuscript, seeing as we were both trained to write concise, economical prose on deadline featuring real events and people.
A year ago, she gave birth to premature twin boys, and her life changed. This past February, Shasta began chronicling her experience with her sons, one of whom was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, on her blog, Outrageous Fortune. She employs the same sparkling, concise style she perfected in the newspaper world, but now she’s applying her facility with language to the challenges she’s facing in her own life. And let me tell you, the result is breathtaking.
Shasta has that rare gift of being able to describe exactly what she’s going through, no matter how heartbreaking or frustrating. Outrageous Fortune is as much about hope for the future as it is about her day-to-day obstacles and the research she’s been doing about cerebral palsy in the hopes of helping her son.
I’m so honored to interview Shasta today. Welcome to Seven Questions!
1. Tell us about your novella, Shasta.
Oh good, I’ve been working on my elevator pitch for A TWIST OF FATE. Here goes:
Three women — a coke-addicted New York City stripper, an Orange County gold trader’s business-savvy daughter and a water-fetching slumdog in Mumbai — suddenly switch lives. They discover the personality traits that got them into trouble in their own life lead to success and happiness in their counterpart’s life. But when they are rotated again into the second woman’s life, those same traits lead very quickly to certain death.
So, that’s the story. But what it’s about is that people are often blamed for the bad situations they are in because there must be something wrong with them, but I wanted to show how those same traits can be good in the right circumstances.
2. You’ve been able to finish the manuscript this past year, despite having twin boys last June. Wow! How do you find the time to write? Is there any advice you want to share with other new moms?
Sure, marry an awesome husband like mine. At least once and usually twice a week he takes the boys away for the whole day so that I can relax, catch up on paperwork and — most of all — write.
That said though, the draft manuscript is only 27,600 words so it’s not like an epic novel or something.
3. You’ve honed your reporting, writing and editing skills as a full-time, award-winning journalist. What made you decide to write fiction? Has the experience of completing a manuscript changed your perception of yourself as a writer?
Well — and you have full rights to laugh at me when I say this — I thought that I would make money as a journalist. I always wanted to write fiction but I decided (laying awake one night in bed as a high school junior) that getting a degree in journalism would be more practical because it was a profession.
So, no, it hasn’t changed my perception of myself as a writer, but writing fiction is much different. When I was a journalist, I would think: “It would be so much easier if I could make this up!” But when I was writing fiction, I would think: “It would be so much easier if I had something to base this on!”
4. As a journalist you learned how to churn out massive amounts of copy on deadline. There’s no time for writers’ block. Did you find yourself stuck at any point while working on A TWIST OF FATE, or were you able to approach your story like an assignment and just keep going?
Oh, yeah, I was stuck a lot. I got the idea for this book… I dunno… years ago. When my world collapsed due to risk factors with my pregnancy and I had to go on bed rest for 10 weeks, that would have been a perfect time to write, right? I think I only wrote two scenes that whole time. I just couldn’t get motivated.
One thing that really helped was I bought a software program called Scrivener (any kickbacks, Scrivener?) and it really helped me organize my story and break it down into do-able chunks. So then it wasn’t like: “I HAVE TO WRITE A WHOLE NOVEL.” It was like: “Oh yeah, what should I write about for this scene?”
5. Newspaper writing has its own elaborate set of rules and customs. Have you had to unlearn certain habits when writing fiction? How has your newspaper work, and getting to tell lots of people’s stories over the years, informed your novel-writing?
Umm…. I mean, I have no idea what book publishers’ stylebooks are like. For example, in newspapers you write figures for numbers greater than 10, but it seems like books always spell out numbers. So, proofreading things like that are different. Otherwise, my reporting style (except for straight hard news) was sort of always narrative nonfiction, so I don’t think it was a huge shift.
6. Your blog, OutrageousFortune.net, focuses on your journey raising twin boys, Jaden and Malachi. When and why did you start chronicling your experiences and Malachi’s cerebral palsy diagnosis? How has the process of writing about your family enhanced or expanded your life as a new mom?
I started in February of this year after a local mom of a boy with CP got me in touch with the author of LoveThatMax.com. After reading that blog, I posted “To blog or not to blog” on Facebook and a surprising number of people urged me to blog. I had avoided writing for almost a year because I felt like if I was going to spend my precious free time on anything it should be freelance work, but I didn’t have the energy for that.
It feels really good to write the blog, though, and I’m glad I can talk about what’s going on in my life in a way that can help others (known and unknown) understand a little more about what it’s like to have a son with a brain injury. Having a special needs kid is very isolating because it’s so rare and nobody knows quite how to talk to you about it. I hope my blog helps people feel a little more comfortable about people with disabilities.
But mostly, I’m just writing for me. It’s been wonderful to write again after going so long without that outlet.
7. Your blog posts are so beautifully written, honest and sometimes heartbreaking, and in a short time, you’ve earned a lot of devoted followers. What feedback have you received from the blogosphere? And how have you gotten your name out there?
Oh, thank you. The feedback from the blogosphere has been 99 percent positive, which I’m frankly surprised at. I’ve only gotten one mean nasty comment and I’ve written some pretty controversial stuff and allow anonymous comments. Dare I hope that the Internet is maturing a little?
Hmm. Probably not.
Well, maybe even the mean nasties have a soft spot for grieving moms.
As for how I’ve gotten my name out there, I think the vast majority of the traffic started from my very supportive Facebook friends (and their Facebook friends and so on). I also follow and comment on several blogs and I’ve joined a few blog networking groups. I also think that the disability community is pretty tight knit. I mean, you have to go through some rough shit to be part of it, so there’s a sense of instant camaraderie. People with whom I might otherwise have very little in common are now friends and help me out.
Thanks so much for participating in Seven Questions, Shasta! For more information, check out her amazing blog, OutrageousFortune.net. Follow her on Twitter at outrageousblog. And if you want to read an excerpt of TWIST OF FATE, she recently posted one here.