Shirley Tucker has been with Athanatos since 2011, after she won the Novel Contest.
Q1: Why do you write?
I love words. I love how placing certain ones together can paint a picture which takes you by the hand and flies you to faraway places, to experience new sights, sounds and smells and touch, to spend time with people you want to be like, to open your eyes to things you wish didn’t know but need to, to change your heart, bring understanding. Words placed in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason have real power and I get the privilege to wield it.
Q2: How would you describe your writing ‘method’?
This question has multi-faceted answers when a person writes in various categories – novels, short story, devotionals, prose etc. Novels obviously need a lot more research, planning, characterization and plotting before you even start. But the very nature of creativity insists there’s an element of surprise and enjoyment for me as the writer.
So, in my book, Diamonds in the Dust, I only mapped out the bones of the story, some of the main incidents and the ending (which I knew only in terms of the outcome). Then the journey of writing became one of discovery as I waited for my characters to tell me where to go. I wove many true stories into the tale and so painted the faces of some of the orphans in South Africa. It was important to me that readers saw the child not the statistic. It was done in the context of a mystery, which kept the pages turning yet revealed the heartbeat and resilience of children surviving in appalling circumstances.
For short story, depending on its purpose, the twist in the ‘tail’ is what catches my attention and I spend time working on it. Or if the story is more of an allegory or word picture to illustrate a truth or point, I concentrate on a creative way to show it through story in a non-preachy, non- judgmental way. For the devotional, it often comes through my own time with God as He speaks to me. For all of them, intentionality and clarity is what I strive for.
Q3: How would you respond to the classic question, “Is there Christian art, or artists who are Christians?”
Writing is an art. Christians are the artists. Words are their paintbrush.
Q4: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Study and hone the craft of writing. Don’t be satisfied by natural talent or gift. Be the best writer you can be. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. There’s no shortcut to good writing. Be creative. Use strong verbs. Be particular about using the right word. Understand shades of meaning in words. Even in your creativity, be concise. Once you’ve gained success, don’t get complacent.
Q5: Which of your creations has brought you the most joy?
Hard to answer so instead I’ll say, I get joy when I read something I’ve written and think, “That’s good! It achieves exactly what I set out to do,” whether it’s a four liner or a story.
Q6: Which has brought you the most heartache?
I have a passion for the plight of our rhinos which are being killed at an alarming rate in my country, South Africa. So I started writing about poaching in an adult mystery. After several chapters it wasn’t working for me so I decided to write it as a children’s mystery. After working on that for a while, it didn’t work either. So, I’m still passionate but stuck.
Q7: Is there anything you’d like to say?
It’s a privilege to write. Our words enter the homes and lives of people whatever the genre of writing. The power of words to bring laughter, wonder, thrills, adventure, mystery, understanding, also brings responsibility. Writers, of whatever persuasion, can shape the beliefs, opinions, or understanding of readers – especially children. I feel that responsibility strongly. I want to make my writing to count. Somehow.