It’s nice to meet you! Tell us a bit about you where are you from and other than writing what else do you enjoy?
Hi there! My name is Sandy Kegel, mom of five bright children, dispersed across America. I live in New Berlin, Wisconsin—born and raised here in Southeast WI. I am a person of varied hobbies. I enjoy the outdoors, so I try to do as much in this beautiful state as I can. If I can’t find what I’m looking for in Wisconsin, there’s a whole world to explore. So I’ve hiked some Fourteeners in Colorado, (and smaller hills elsewhere). I’ve been kayaking for the last several years, and took my first three—day overnight adventure on the flooded and rapidly-flowing Wisconsin River last summer. Paddle-Boarding is a new sport I recently tried, and love it. I enjoy traveling to see breathtaking scenery and the amazing beauty of God’s creation. I’m thankful for color…I enjoy gardening and creating a panorama of color in my yard, and I’m also a starving artist. So I get my hands in paint and other mediums to make beautiful things, whether on canvas or out of cement, or bits and pieces of leftovers.
How did you start writing? What was your inspiration to create?
I was writing stories since a young girl in elementary school. A Highschool teacher encouraged me to keep writing. I’ve felt a book inside of me since I was very young. But it lay dormant for many years while I raised my kids and other experiences invaded that space. When my kids were grown, several of them suggested that I write my story down, and then a group of friends mentioned the same thing. I decided that was confirmation, so I started by taking a class, “Creative Writing for Publication.” That got me moving in the right direction!
Who is your favorite author, is there anyone out there that inspires you?
So many authors inspire me. I don’t have a favorite. I do enjoy reading memoirs that are full of conflict and hardship and victory. This is why I’m writing mine. I appreciate Erik Larson’s books, because he weaves a piece of history in by creating a moving narrative about an event or people, written as a novel.
I like the way Laura Hillenbrand writes, the author of Seabisquit and Unbroken. I’ve read Jeanette Walls books. Her book, The Glass Castle inspired me to begin mine. I enjoy many children’s book authors, and some of the YL series that have become movies. I’ve read Sue Monk Kidd’s works, and my husband has hooked me on several books (he reads historical fiction), a favorite being, “A Gentleman in Moscow.”
What genre do you enjoy reading? What’s your favorite book and why?
I do love true stories. They usually inspire me. I enjoy stories about incredible odds and people overcoming the hardships of life or the depravity of mankind on mankind, and surviving those terrible acts of man. I love the strength of the human spirit. So I also enjoy survival stories and war-themed stories. I delight in a touch of romance thrown into a good survival story too. I like character development stories, and twists in character, which is why I enjoyed reading Jane Austin’s books. The bad guy becomes good, the charming man is really the evil one! She is a very talented author.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think publishing my children’s book changed my process of writing. But writing a memoir is very different than writing a children’s book.
Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre? If you could, what genre would you like to dabble in?
I’d like to try a fictional story. At this point I don’t have a plot, but as an author, I’m always devising pieces of story in my head, or characters from people I observe in real life.
What has been your most proud moment as an author?
I truly value the discussion and feedback from kids after I do a reading in a school or classroom. It shows me that the students are engaged, and they are attentive, and bright. My children’s book, Sammy and Goliath, is a story about bullying, so the children really listen and come up with solutions and different scenarios to my story. Getting my first books in the mail was a highlight, and selling a bunch at a school was a reward.
Was there ever a time you wanted to pick up your laptop, and then launch it out the window with frustration?
Many times. I lost 12,000 words once, and tried in vain to dig them out of my hard drive—no luck. I even went to the Apple store. The Geniuses couldn’t help me! I was very depressed for a week or two.
Are you a “plotter” or a fly by the seat of your pants “pantster” as a writer?
Am I the only one who gets hung up on commas? Do they make you go blah! when you’re writing?
I use, commas, too, much!
What three tips would you give any aspiring writer?
- Don’t compare. The more you write, the better you get.
- Join a writing group and take critiques with grace.
- Read a lot.
What are you working on now? What will you release next?
I’ve been working on my memoir, a slow process. I hope to get it in the hands of Beta readers this early fall, and some editor friends after that. Then send out query letters.
So… where can we get your books?
Sammy and Goliath can be found on Amazon on this link: https://www.amazon.com/s?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Sammy+and+Goliath
Or on my webpage at: www.sandykegel.com
It’s also at a few local bookstores, “The Little Read Bookstore” in Wauwatosa, WI, Martha Merrell’s Bookstore at 231 W. Main Str., Waukesha WI.
It is in Elmbrook Church’s bookstore located in Brookfield, WI and some are on the shelf at Barns and Noble, Mayfair Mall.
How would you define what being a successful writer means?
A successful writer is one who has a story inside that has to be told, its got to come outside of oneself and onto a page. A successful writer begins with the first word and then keeps adding. A sentence at a time. Maybe some paragraphs, and then a few pages, and keeps going. But in the writing there is also a lot of re-working, like a good piece of art, and cutting away, which can be hard. And letting others in. That can be hard because we expose a great deal of who we are in our words, no matter if its a work of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. Some people value my art, and others don’t like the style—the same with writing. I think success is about who we become in the writing.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A big ego hurts in any profession. Humility is the way to go.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Even in my memoir, I do a lot of research. I had to remember parts of a sailboat to describe two traumatic trips I took (One on a six-month adventure down the Mississippi River, another on the North Sea in my father’s vessel, in hurricane gale-force winds!) I had other research on this book as well.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. I delight in good reviews; thankfully on Sammy and Goliath, I haven’t read any bad ones!
What was your hardest scene to write?
In my memoir, I have very hard psychologically and verbally abusive scenes I had to capture, and it was like reliving them. I also wrote about my failure(s), and one, in particular, was hard to read in my writing class.
What’s your writing schedule like?
Not enough time! I have a sporadic work schedule, so write whenever. Often other things take over, even when I have determined to sit for a large chunk of time and only write. Typically, I write in the afternoons up until dinner time.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Everyone in my writing class is a close friend. They have all helped me write better dialogue, find grammar errors, I’ve discovered what danglers are, and recognize when I’ve written one now! Taking a writing class with the same group of people for several years now has been the most beneficial. I’m so glad to call these people my friends. There is a lot of talented writers out there who aren’t published, and should be!
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
The process is not the same for me, and I suspect my next book will be entirely different from my first children’s book, and this current memoir. I don’t write in the same genre. But my process starts in the thoughts, as everyone’s I presume. I make a mental outline. For children’s stories, I write out the basic idea first, in a very rough draft. I keep a zillion notes, writing them down on anything, a piece of paper, a receipt (if I’m driving and that’s what I find in my purse at the stop light), a tablet, notes on my phone—I have piles. For my memoir, I have a sort of timeline, but I have some flashbacks or some pieces out of sequence as I go through a memory. I think every book will have differences in my approach.
How have your family and friends accepted your career as a writer? Are they supportive?
Yes, they are the very people who encouraged me to write.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Real. My children’s book has some realness, based on things I’d heard, and another children’s story (in the works) is an authentic story with a fictional twist at the end.
What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?
The bullying story started with a discussion with a friend, and I researched news stories. Another children’s story which is not written yet (except in rough draft), is the inspiration from a friend as well.
Where would you like to travel to and why?
I enjoy traveling all over. In the next month, I’m traveling to a refugee camp on a Greek Island to help restore some dignity and worth to refugee women and children. They’ve had trauma not only during fleeing Isis from Syria, but abuse in the camps as well. I’m going with a team. This will have its rewards of a different nature than my traveling for leisure.
This past month, my husband and I spent time in Colorado partly visiting family, and for the adventure that Colorado offers. We both enjoy mountain hiking, and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible. We’ve visited Florida in the blaaaah long winter months, and both have been to Mexico several times, as well as on Mission trips to exotic places. My last mission trip was on a boat in the Amazon, visiting a jungle tribe, and in parts of Brazil and Peru along the river. I love traveling, and like discovering new places. There are so many unbelievable and beautiful places on this planet. There are so many experiences waiting at each new place!
Tell us about how you develop your characters?
I don’t have a lot to contribute to this answer. I’ve written one children’s book, and the characters in my memoir are all real people. Their characters are developed, or developing as life happens!
What would you like readers to know?
I’d like my readers to know that my motivation for writing is to add something to a person. I want my children ’s stories to be entertaining and/or a lesson in life that adds character to my readers.
I’m writing my memoir because I believe its a story that has to be told on a number of levels;
One is strictly entertainment—it’s a story with exciting, but often harrowing adventure, it has elements of a love story, yet one with complicated elements and many twists and twisted beliefs. The spiritual aspect is one I think many people will relate to…one of trust, betrayal, abuse, shame—from the spouse as well as the church.
It is a story that shows how one can come up from the ashes and find redemption personally, spiritually and psychologically. I want other people to know that not all churches are alike, and that if they struggle with Christianity, its ok, but don’t give up. The REAL Jesus is alive in many churches and many people. He’s good, and He’s loving.
I believe many people get their view and understanding of spiritual things, particularly Christianity through ignorant and damaging counsel from church leaders, and from their terrible experiences with people who represent the Christian faith falsely. There is Hope. And there IS a happy ending!
***Watch for my memoir—coming soon!
And read my bio at Wisconsin Writer’s Association: