Twilight Times Special Feature
Interview with Sherri Jilek
Sherri: "If anything will hold still long enough I will make a hanging mobile out of it. I'm convinced I could create beautiful art forms from discarded tires. I'm sure this goes deeper than creativity and into the realm of personal therapy. Once, I made a tiny complex beaded mobile and brought up boxes and boxes from storage to find the right materials to use. Boxes were everywhere;but I think what I really needed was a break from housework, so I had blocked my way with boxes.
Then, a few years ago, when we built our home, I went into a tiling frenzy. We bought a wet-saw and I taught myself how to tile. It took a year, inside and out; floors, countertops, windowsills, a pillar, hearth, wall designs, and I used the leftover pieces as mulch for the houseplants. Fortunately, I ran out of tile."
2. Lida: "Do you feel you were creative, even as a child?"
Sherri: "I never could draw a horse, try as I might; but I did draw Santa Claus. As a youngster, I won first place in a coloring contest with my picture of Santa Claus. Sadly, I never liked dolls and tea sets and those kinds of girl things, so I wasn't pleased when my prize arrived. It was a full-scale dollhouse. Otherwise, I wrote a lot of bad poetry as a child."
3. Lida: "Could you share with us the story behind the story? In other words, how did your writing life lead up to your first novel?"
Sherri: "When I was nine years old, I was poking in my next-door friend's bookcase and opened a book belonging to her father. It read, "John Brownell, writer." In that instant, I thought to myself, "If John Brownell can do it, so can I!" Decades later, after college, after a teacher credential, after a diploma from the Institute of Writing for Children and Teenagers, after a whirl with the comedy and tragedy of living, after a marriage, after a child; I began to write.
I was also reading everything I could find on the art and craft of writing. I started submitting my work, and the rejections flooded in; dozens, hundreds, and thousands. Conviction that I was a born writer never wavered, but the rejections were beating me blue. It's a miracle I didn't give up. My husband, Tom, is unquestionably the key reason I was able to keep going. He'd pick me up, dust me off, help me sharpen my pencils, then point to my writing chair. When a few submissions had at last reached publication, was about the time I attended a Writer's Conference in Santa Barbara. There, an important person entered my life; Niels Mortensen."
4. Lida: "How did you prepare for the creation of your first novel? How much research was necessary?"
Sherri: "The whip stung. Some fifteen or twenty years ago, my writing mentor and merciless taskmaster, the late Niels Mortensen, demanded I write a full-length work. At that time, I felt like he was asking me to drink the ocean. Niels cheered and jeered as I wrote, sharing his gifts of writing, editing and exultation of life. He told me what counted now was not so much the story as the act of completing a full-length work. It ended up as an adequate piece of writing, but it was two different stories stuck together like a Sagittarian creature. Years later, I took them apart and made a novel of each. I didn't need research for this first book, I was about thirty-five years old and had enough life in my head and heart to write a story.
My first published novel was a different cloth. That effort stretched my awareness to a tautness beyond the pitch of hearing; very sublime, indeed. When God Cries (Portrait of a Child Slayer), ended up being a fifteen-year journey.
This story tells of a true crime; the rape and murder of seven year old Marcy Davis in Sacramento, California; back in 1984. The crime struck me like a thunderbolt when it first hit the news and I knew I had to write about it. For months I drove three hours each way to the courtroom then researched over the course of years into child abuse, prisons, capital punishment, and other crime stories.
The writing itself took five years. From the beginning, this book took on a life of its own, and it has kept that independence. It continues to guide me more than I guide it. The only other writing I've heard taking so long to write, and it's a tome, is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer. When God Cries (Portrait of a Child Slayer) is a thin book and a quick read. Go figure."
5. Lida: "What kind of reactions do people have to your writing?"
Sherri: "So far, I've heard: "cool", "your characters are your strength", "becoming", "I'm impressed", "full of wisdom", "I'm speechless", "young people should read this book" (referring to: Maggie), "I was taken in", "the first six chapters were so interesting I ordered the book." This all sounds unanimous, but the jury is still out."
6. Lida: "Do you find anything difficult in the writing process, and if so what?"
Sherri: "To write means first selecting what to write. When I think of the endless possibilities, from microscopic life within a drop of water to the teeming uncountable galaxies, and then realize I must pick and choose from all of that, well, it's daunting. To grab the right star, to bring it to a people level, to give it meaning, to make it shine in the lives of others, that is the challenge, and to me what is hardest about writing."
7. Lida: "Do you currently have any writing projects?"
Sherri: "A large portion of a fourth novel, Every Sparrow That Falls, which is actually my first novel remodeled, just won first place in a national Romance Writers contest. I'm doing a final edit on it before sending the whole manuscript to the publisher. Another work, To Meet a King, ostensibly fiction, addresses the great moral issue of abortion, and is ready to market.
About one third of another book is drafted, but I don't know where that one is heading at this point. Short stories dance like sugarplums in my head wanting out, so there's never a lack of ideas and writing to be done."
8. Lida: "Is there anything else you would like to add?"
Sherri: "If I were already in Heaven and on a panel deciding the best time to create Sherri Jilek's soul to give her a moment on Earth to express herself, I would declare NOW is the time. The Stone Age would need chiseling to write. The Papyrus Age would need quills. The Print Age would need an "in" with the New York publishing clique. The Internet Age needs only a computer and talent, and that makes this a Judicial Age for writers."
Web sites of interest:
Sherri Jileks's work has appeared in such print magazines as "Chiefs of Police Magazine", "The Canadian Author's Journal", and "Cornerstone". On the Internet, her work has appeared at: "Moondance," "News of the Brave New World," "Sparks," "Brain Candy," "A Writer's Choice," "Animal Song." and "The Web of Time." She is also one of thirty-two international women authors published in SHARDS, an anthology with proceeds going to The Breast Cancer Foundation. SHARDS is offered through DLSIJ PRESS
In novel length, When God Cries (Portrait of a Child Slayer) is in paperback from Nova Science/Kroshka Publishing, in New York. Their website is : http://www.nexusworld.com/bookstore. Go to category: murder. This work is also available through the Barnes & Noble website: http://www.barnesandnoble.com. Under Books, go to Advanced Search, then type in Sherri Jilek as author. The Bequeathing is an e-book published at Electric Works Publishing. Their address is http://electricpublishing.com. Maggie is an e-book, available at http://dlsijpress.com (also available at Barnes & Nobles in Rocket eBook.)
Visit Sherri Jilek's web site