Author Spotlight- Shirl Rickman


Shirl Rickman is kind of new to the writing scene, but she is someone you have to keep your eyes on. Her debut novel, When Destinies Collide, was one of my favorite reads in 2015. Her writing is engaging, creative and amusing. She has this way of bringing the words to life right off the page. Seriously, I was tempted to start using a southern accent when I finished When Destinies Collide.

If you haven’t read that book yet, you need to check it out. It is a romantic, hilarious, bittersweet journey filled with twist and turns. I could go on and on about it, but I already covered that in my review, so be sure to check that out. I’m SO excited for her second novel, Somewhere In Between, will be out this April!

Purchase When Destinies Collide at Amazon. It is also free for kindle unlimited. You can find out more about it on Goodreads. For more on the lovely Shirl Rickman, and all her upcoming projects, check out her Facebook.

Shirl was so kind and agreed to do a Q&A with me. Enjoy! 🙂

Tell us how a typical day of writing goes for you.

SR: I’m a morning person. Seriously, I’m narcoleptic after about 8:30 PM and basically, non-functioning after 4 PM. I wake up around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, go over my chapter outlines so I can get a little prep in about where my mind needs to go once I start writing while I have a cup or three of coffee. I do my mommy duties and get the kid to school by 7:45 or 8. I head to Starcrack. I have a favorite table, and I know the precise time I need to arrive so I get it. lol. It’s sad, but they know me by name, and they know what I like to drink. By the time, I set up my computer, the barista brings me a mug filled with a non-fat latte. No sugar, I’m sweet enough. Haha. It’s the best Starbucks ever. (I’m sure my pal and fellow writer, Sara Ney would argue this point.)I put on my headphones, music blaring, get on FB, open up my word doc, write one word, get on Instagram, then before I know it, it’s 2:30 and time to pick up my daughter. haha. I would like to say I’m kidding, but I’m not.

When I’m writing, I put on the headphones, and it flows. I pause here and there and go over my notes. I love when I’m in the zone. 

Do you outline/plan before you start writing or do you go with the flow?

SR: My process has changed over time. I don’t outline in the way most of us learned to draft essays in school. When a story idea comes to mind, I know the beginning, a few middle details, and the end. I usually write this down. When it comes to the characters, I’ve always written down details about each one because they’re always pretty vivid in my mind. I changed this habit this past September after Boise Book Fest; I listened to Amy Harmon speak about interviewing her characters. I nodded the entire time she was speaking and realized, I was doing this in a way but needed more detail. The little details the reader may not ever know about are essential to bringing the characters alive, such as what type of toothpaste the character prefers.  One of the best thing about Amy’s writing is the strong characters she writes. With Somewhere in Between, I interviewed both Tessa and Lenox. I asked them tons of questions. I feel like knowing them more personally helps the story. 

As for a full outline and plan for each story, I usually call or message a couple of my friends. I plot out the book, tell them what I’m thinking and get a little feedback. I write down each chapter number and the three major points within that one chapter then it’s me just going with the flow. Outlines feel too permanent and often I have no idea where the characters will take me in the story. For me, doing it this way allows me the freedom to change my mind and direction.I have these idea sessions every couple of weeks. It probably drives them mad!

When Destinies Collide is SO good, and filled with so many twists and turns- where did you get the idea for it?

SR: Honestly, I have no idea! Lol. Kidding…sort of. 

WDC is a prime example of the characters and story direction changing as I write. I can remember the initial idea came to me when I was driving and had this new CD blasting. The artist was Emeli Sande and for some reason two of her songs kind of sparked this idea. It usually takes one word or one thing to kick start a story in my mind. 

I love twist. I like to be caught off guard in a story, and honestly, it very rarely happens. I always seem to guess the twist in the story. It’s annoying. haha. With WDC, I’m always curious about what readers thought and if they saw how the story would unfold before it happened. I’ve only had one person tell me that they had it somewhat figured out, but not really. haha. As for where it came from, sometimes the story and characters just take over. Everything that happened to and between Drake and Selene was supposed to be a part of their story. I’m sure that doesn’t make sense to anyone but me.

Are any of the people /places in WDC based off of real people/places?

SR: Montgomery, the town where Selene and Drake live is based on the town I grew up in; every description is of a place I went as a kid. Last May there was major flooding in Texas especially around the town I grew up. My husband, daughter and I had spent the weekend before there on the river with my best girlfriend since childhood and her family. We sat on the shore under the tall cypress trees, played with our kids in the water. It felt so good because I could see Selene and her mom sitting there together. I could see Drake and Lacey. It was such a surreal moment. I’d been done writing WDC for several months at that point, but I felt so good knowing I gave such a beautiful place the acknowledgment it deserved in my book. The hard part is the very next weekend all of those trees which had been there for hundreds of years were gone, washed away by the waters. It was so hard to see. I can remember crying, but being so thankful for that last memory. 

As for the characters, they aren’t based on any one person I know. Although, I knew a Drake Thomas. I knew Selene. I knew Tommy and Emme. I think we take pieces of people we know or meet all the time as writers. Elizabeth and Aunt Vi’s wisdom and words are definitely my own Mama. She always knew just what to say and how. She also had the best sayings that most people don’t get, either at all or unless they’re from the South. Also, my mama rarely said bad words, but she said shit all the time. lol.

The hilarious part about this question is I had five or more people I grew up with private message me and ask if WDC was based on a true story. Of course, I laughed and then I was like apparently you haven’t read it because if half of the things that happened in WDC had happened in our little town, everyone would have known about them. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Everyone also thought they knew everyone’s else’s business if you know what I mean. The beauty of small towns, but also why I could never write a book based on actual events there, everyone would know who I was talking about even if I changed names. I would make a lot of enemies. lol

Is writing your second novel, Somewhere In Between, easier or harder than writing When Destinies Collide?

SR: A little of both. The hard part is I have a deadline, and I’ve had a lot going on over the last six months. I’m also the biggest procrastinator. 

Easier because my mindset is completely different. I love the idea of SIB, which isn’t to say that I don’t love WDC. The flow has come easier. It may be because there isn’t any tragedy. I’m a happy and upbeat person, so this one hasn’t taken quite the toll on me that WDC did. 

I’ve learned a lot since publishing WDC, too. I’ve learned to look at the journey of creating a story and characters through a new pair of glasses. I realize these stories are about me and not about the people who will read them. Saying this may sound unappreciative of me, but many authors I look up to have said it before, write for yourself and no one else. It will only make the story better for everyone else.

What do you do when/if you get writer’s block?

SR: I blame Sara Ney and stomp my feet, maybe throw myself to the ground. 

My more mature answer is I listen to music. I call the gals and discuss the story. 

I message my pal, Christine and beg her to finish the story for me. Opps, there I go again. I’m sorry, I can’t be serious for more than 60 seconds. haha.

Who is your favorite author?

SR: Are you trying to get me in trouble? 

Honestly, it’s hard for me to pick one because I’m incapable of making a decision. 

I’m not picking one, and you can’t make me! So there!

I love historical romance. I love Eloisa James. I was on this web/Skype thing with her once. Eloisa asked a question, and I gave her my answer. She immediately asked if I was a writer. I said no, but I dream of being one. She said dreams can only come true if you live them. I’ll never forget that day. 

My favorite non-historical is Colleen Hoover. She just speaks to me. She’s kind and inspiring. She’s honest and real. I love that about her. I’ll always be thankful to her. I’ll read anything she writes.

Oh! I almost forgot, Jessica Sorensen! She is a freaking cliffhanger queen! I hate cliffhangers. I told her that last year when we were at a signing together. I also may have told her she was lucky she wrote the follow ups so quickly and had happy endings, or I’d hate her. lol

If you could write a book with ANY other author, who would it be?

SR: Tina Reber. I think she’s a bada$$ and so funny, I don’t know her, but I want to know her. Maybe one day. I love her books and writing style, but I just really like how she represents herself as a person and as a writer.

When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?

SR: I love to read or watch movies with my daughter. Spend time with my family or friends. I want to do things that make me feel good, happy, and inspired.

Current Favorite book boyfriend?

SR: Will Cooper FOREVER! I’m constantly in a battle for his affections with several worthy opponents, but I always win in my mind.  (Benton, from November 9 is the first in years almost to knock Will off his pedestal.)

Favorite ice cream?

SR: Great, now I want ice cream. My all time favorite is Amy’s Ice Cream, sweet cream with fresh strawberries. Amy’s is an Austin, Texas icon. It’s soooooo good. Now I want Amy’s! I know a group of gals I’ll be dragging to Amy’s during ABF.


Want to win a SIGNED copy of When Destinies Collide? Head over to my Facebook Page to see how to enter!

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