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Interview with SJ Wilke

She has traveled the world but currently lives in Wisconsin. She has a background in psychology and technology, which has provided resources for all of her books. Her books are an outlet for her overactive imagination. She is a storyteller with plenty of stories to tell, preferring to stay within the realm of fantasy in order to create stories that make you lose time, fall into another place, and leave reality.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I am autistic. Most people don’t understand what that means. For me, it means I am uncomfortable in social groups and have difficulty socializing. However, this doesn’t affect the social ability of my characters.

Q.2 What inspired you to write Crossing in a Heartbeat?
Anyone who has had a tedious job where you sit in a cubical often finds themselves daydreaming. Crossing In A Heartbeat is taken from that environment. The character, Kara, feels like she is having hallucinations, but much more is happening. 

Her reality changes, literally. I also wanted as much fantasy in the book as I could fit, like dragons, wizards, trolls, and hunky men. But I like to add twists to all these roles, and the bad guys aren’t who you think.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I am always working on a book or two. After Crossing In A Heartbeat, I worked on and finished book 5 of my Banter series, which is about the life of a female gun-for-hire who ends up working for the police. 

My next book is a paranormal thriller, The Smell of Death, about a young woman who can smell death - whether it be from someone dying from an illness or about to be murdered. She is employed by an assassin who uses her ability to tell whether he will be successful or not.

Q.4 What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have no difficulty writing about characters of the opposite sex. First, the point of view is always from my main character, who is always female. We see men from her point of view. 

Second, I have an excellent ability to watch people and their behaviors. I’m always stashing away these behaviors to use later. Plus, I’ve been married a few times. Still looking for that great guy that shows up in my stories. LOL

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I always have an opening scene, sort of like a movie. I tend to introduce the main characters in this chapter. I then write out how I want the book to end. The ending doesn’t mean the end of the book, but the resolution to the central conflict. The last chapter is always used to tidy up any subplots. After the first and last chapters are written, I just fill in the middle.

However, I do make notes about when certain things need to happen, but a lot of “where it takes you” also happens. I call it life. Life happens. Characters are “human” and need to eat, bathe, pay bills, and deal with traffic, even if that traffic is in the air with other dragons.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
I’m not average, and I don’t have an average time. In the winter, I can write a book in a month. In the summer, it might take a few months because good weather interferes.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
My writing is my work. I write every day. And if I’m not actually putting words to paper, so to speak (I’m totally digital), I’m thinking of where to go with a plot. 

My schedule consists pretty much as follows: breakfast, goof off on the internet, write a few words, goof off some more, take a walk, then suddenly, right before bed, I get the urge to finish the chapter.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Daydream. If I no longer wrote, I’d have to find some more hobbies. I’m already somewhat active with kayaking, gardening, hiking, and such, which is why summer is the slow time for finishing a book.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have written 19 books and am on number 20. Crossing In A Heartbeat (Number 18) is my favorite because it starts in the modern world, then jumps into a fantasy world with dragons, wizards, trolls, and kings. I love fantasy. However, my favorite character is Banter from my Banter series.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
One of the best things I ever did to get readers and exposure was to put out my books for free. During the pandemic, I put them all out on a free site. From there, books apps found me, and now they are paying me to have my books on their site. I think only 5 of my books are still out there for free. Also, some people enjoyed the books so much that they purchased copies to keep, despite they just read them for free.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I’d love to be someone with magical abilities. Or perhaps be a dragon. Maybe one of the ornery ones in Crossing In A Heartbeat.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
A. Laura
from A String of Murder. She is a simple girl with extraordinary abilities. She can see strings which are emotional ties we have to objects or people. I’d love to hear about any strings she sees around me.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
A. 1.
Action, I write with the impression that people have short attention spans and something has to happen in every chapter.

2. The strong female lead character - my primary character in all my books is a strong female who grows and matures.

3. A different view on what should be boring parts of life - as one of my readers put it, I made a visit to the humane society where my character adopts a dog attractive. It was actually a significant component of the plot, but the reader didn’t know that until later in the book.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
I love my Banter character. She is strong, feisty, and a no-nonsense girl. I’d love to be like her. I have readers who love her for the same reason.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
Matt Bernhardt is an artist that I work with. All my covers are original art. Some of them are actual paintings that Matt did. What I basically do is tell him a little about the book and what the character looks like. I leave the rest to his imagination. 

He’ll create the art and send me a copy to look over and make any corrections. For the book, Crossing In A Heartbeat, I used a cover he had made for another one of my books with dragons, but I didn’t think it fit that book. However, it fits this one. A dragon in flight over a surreal environment.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
If I have a character with extraordinary ability, then I find a simple, common name. If I have a character with a specific background, I’ll look for names from that culture. Sometimes, I use puns to select the name. Sometimes, I pull up a baby naming book on the internet and flip a coin.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I love to read reviews, both bad and good. I’m pleased to say I’ve had more good than bad. I will read and think about the bad ones to see if there is something I would change. I have reordered chapters based on feedback. Sometimes, I realize the reader has missed the point, and I need to be more point-blank about what I want the readers to feel. 

I know some readers are bothered by typos, word omissions, or wrong word usage, but even a professionally edited book will have errors. I love people who think they are slamming me for an error. Those comments allow me to make the correction. That’s a win-win if a reader wants to proofread my book.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. JK Rowling - to talk about her imagination and how the Harry Potter books came about. I’d love to ask her the same questions you are asking me.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) you are excited about? What are you reading right now?
This is the question that gets asked a lot, but for which I have a terrible answer. I only read my own books because I’m so busy writing my own books. I don’t read many books by others… since I’ve been so focused on my own writing. 

I love both sci-fi and fantasy. But being autistic, I can get easily influenced by what I am reading. Therefore, to make sure my writing is my own style, I stay away from reading other authors. I used to read and help young writers like myself, but it became so one-sided, and I read so much bad stuff that I had to stop.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
My first book took so long to write. A few years. Then I used fan-based pressure by posting a chapter a day to finish a book in a month. I found I had it in me to write more books faster. I love turning my imagination into a book that people actually enjoy reading. Feedback is everything. I love it when someone reluctantly reads one of my books, then comes back surprised that they enjoyed it.

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