Interview with author SJ Francis

Here we are on another #guestauthorfriday! We took a break last week to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families but we are back this week with the fabulous S.J. Francis, author of the recently released, Shattered Lies. We’re doing it up big since we missed you all so much last week!

Hey S.J. thanks for joining us!

First off, Thank you, Kara for the opportunity to guest on your blog. I greatly appreciate it.

The Writing Piazza:
But of course! I’m so glad you’re here! Why don’t you start by telling everyone a bit about yourself?

Author Badge (Small)SJ:
Hello everyone! My name is S. J. Francis. I’m a long time freelance writer. I also worked in television production going from an intern to an executive producer. I have over three hundred publication credits. I’m also a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications, and Law, and now, I’m a novelist. I’ve written for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Originally from New York City, I currently live in Mississippi where my novel, Shattered Lies takes place.

The Writing Piazza:
I’m exhausted just reading about all you’ve accomplished! I’ve always thought University Lecturer sounded fun but I never wanted to pursue all the school necessary to do it, haha. And I’m sure moving from NYC to Mississippi was quite a culture shock. I’m sure being in Mississippi was helpful for writing your book’s setting more authentically. I think it’s a turnoff when a setting doesn’t feel authentic.

So we know that your book is set in Mississippi, can you tell us a bit more about it?

Thanks for asking, Kara. My first novel, Shattered Lies Front cover is labeled a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel, but can be read and enjoyed by anyone as attested to the reviews coming in for it, though due to some implied sexual situations and scenes of violence, I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers under age sixteen.

Shattered Lies is about a family torn apart by secrets and lies and the aftermath of those secrets and lies coming to light. Shattered Lies focuses on a family and the aftermath of what happens when long buried secrets and lies surface:

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…

Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.

The Writing Piazza:
Sounds so intriguing! For anyone who would like a more in-depth discussion of the book, we have a review posted of this thrilling book and you can read it HERE.

Let’s switch gears for a bit and discuss the other side of novel writing, the nitty-gritty of publishing a book once you’ve written it.

While in high school, while talking to a friend, I lamented about what I should do with all the story ideas dancing about in my head. I never had any intention of being a writer. My friend suggested I should write them down and send them out for publication. Finally, after some hesitation, I did just that by submitting about a dozen stories to different publications and getting more discouraged by the day with each rejection letter, I finally sold my first short story to a national magazine a year later. Then another.

I also became an intern at a local newspaper. While in college, I interned at FOX TV and therein began my career in television production rising to executive producer. I switched to public TV and then community TV. I directed, and created two original series. I wrote some scripts. I still wrote short stories and articles during all the years, which were published in various magazines under different pen names.

To date, I’ve written over a dozen novels, but Shattered Lies is the first one I actively sought for publication.

When I began shopping Shattered Lies around, I was looking for receptive agents and publishers.  I knew the story was on a controversial subject, but I also knew it was a good one, a unique one. My publisher, Black Opal Books was actually just one of three publishers that wanted to acquire Shattered Lies. I was lucky in being able to have a choice in selection as to which publisher I should go with. After careful research, and communicating with a number of authors from each publishing house, I made my decision to go with Black Opal Books. It seemed to be the perfect fit for me. They took a chance on me and I hope to justify that choice on both sides.

The Writing Piazza:
Finding the right publisher is oh, so important. You definitely want someone who is a right fit for you and your book or else it can make a difficult process so much harder. That’s great that you did your research first. Writers who are new to publishing full manuscripts often get so excited that someone (anyone) finally says yes after all the rejections that they just jump in blindly. I can’t stress important it is to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Now that we’ve discussed the business side of things, let’s talk about the art side of writing a book. Tell us about your writing process, what is that like?

I’ve tried planning. I’ve used notebooks, charts, index cards even writing software. None of them worked for me. I would wind up getting distracted and frustrated trying to plot or plan when all I wanted to do was begin the story. For me, I have to put the story down and let it evolve from there. After the draft is done, I go back and fine tune everything, adding details from research as necessary.

I really don’t have a writing schedule, per se. I’m always writing in my head, in the shower, or walking the dogs and put everything down later on. Whenever I have a free moment, you can find me writing. Sometimes it may just be a sentence, or a scene and from that comes a story, an article or in this case, a novel.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s what, in the NaNoWriMo world they call “pantser” as opposed to “plotter.” I’m a total pantser myself. I get the ideas for scenes or plot ideas and I write them out and worry about putting them in order later.

And I’m glad I’m not the only one who works stuff out in the shower haha. It’s a great place to figure out dialogue without anyone looking at you funny for talking to yourself.

It’s crazy how many times I’ve gotten ideas at random moments too. I started carrying around a recorder to keep track of my ideas so I won’t forget them before I get the chance to write them down.

Speaking of ideas, where did you get the idea for Shattered Lies?

The idea for Shattered Lies came to me in July 1999 out of the blue. It was just a one sentence idea at that time. I didn’t aspire to write a book back then, but hoped to do so one day. Life just kept getting in the way. There was no inspiration for Shattered Lies. It was just an idea, a one line sentence I came up with. What if a young woman in a seemingly perfect family with a perfect life was to discover her entire life was a lie?

That’s how a lot of my ideas form. I think of a question and before you know it, I have a book idea. Shattered Lies was always going to be set down south. I just never knew where until I moved to Mississippi. When I moved there, Shattered Lies basically wrote itself. The end result of it all could never have been foreseen from what I imagined it would be.

The Writing Piazza:
I love when writing just takes off and leads me in directions I didn’t even see coming! That’s the best. J And I always love seeing the behind the scenes glimpses of the books I read. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. Thank you for sharing those glimpses of how your book came about.

Now that Shattered Lies is finished and out there, what do you hope your readers will get from your book?

I’d like readers to realize that we’re all human and that we all make mistakes due to our ignorance, beliefs, prejudices or other people. I always believed that people are all basically the same. Good and bad. No matter where people are, despite sex, color, religion, what have you, when it is all said and done, we’re really all the same. What if I pushed that question into a “perfect Southern family”? I’d like to have touched someone and hope that something I wrote somehow made someone think, perhaps act on someone else’s behalf, especially a harmless, innocent animal, or kept a writer writing.

Is racism geared toward anyone in particular? No. Bigotry affects everyone in all walks of life. As my heroine Kate Thayer discovers, bigotry isn’t something just experienced around strangers. Sometimes bigotry is very close to home. In Shattered Lies, the reader should expect an awakening of the senses, high-charged emotion, controversial language and thoughts. There are two sides to every story and in this novel, the reader will see two sides to a long standing family argument that reflects society’s beliefs. What happens to Kate Thayer in Shattered Lies can happen to anyone.

We’re all different, unique and we should each appreciate that fact without basing it simply on what we see. Love is the enduring thing that unites us all. In the end, it’s all about family. Most importantly, whether someone purchases Shattered Lies or borrows it from a friend or library, I hope they enjoy the book and can take something they like from it.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s some good stuff right there. I’m partial to books that entertain as well as contribute something substantive to society. The best books make us see things from a different perspective, walk a mile in another’s shoes if you will. It sounds like your book does just that!

Do you have any fun/heart-warming/inspirational stories you can share about your experience as a published author?

Actually, yes I do. I actually took a respite from writing several years ago because I felt drained and unable to deal with mounting rejections. Yes, I was still publishing, but I also received rejections. I wanted to publish a novel, but wasn’t sure where to start or if I could even do it, if I really wanted to take that big step. I happened to mention it to another writer. She had such an enthusiasm about writing and told me to keep writing and not to let other things distract me. No matter what, she said, “Keep your writing passion on the fore.” That writer was Jackie Collins. I never forgot that and never will.

The Writing Piazza:
Wow! That is cool! I don’t think I’d ever forget something like that either. I’m glad you found someone that encouraged you to keep writing. It can be a pretty bleak path at times. We all need those people in our lives that can reverse the downward spiral that we sometimes find ourselves in.

Publishing has a rather large learning curve so I always love to pick author’s brains for helpful advice that I can pass on to those who read TWP blog. What is one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known before you published your very first book?

I would have liked to have known just how much work was involved in promoting and marketing my book, how much I was responsible to get my book out to the public, and what I was expected to do. I knew I was going to have do some promoting and marketing, but I had no idea how much it would entail. I’m totally exhausted from a simple blog tour. I can’t imagine running around from city to city around this country and the world like Jackie Collins did while she battled breast cancer and was promoting her books.

The Writing Piazza:
I have heard that it is a rather daunting undertaking. But I’m glad that you’ve made it this far and that you’re here with us today. Thanks for making TWP part of your promo tour for your book.

Any last advice for authors hoping to get their own work published?

Though, I’ve been writing for many years, I’m still learning, so my first piece of advice is to never stop learning, and I don’t mean just a college education. You can’t learn everything from being in a classroom. You have to experience life. Study your craft. Learn it well. Never stop reading. Reading helps you become a better writer. Read outside your genre. Never stop writing. Practice makes perfect.

If you want to write, just write. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. As long as you believe you can write, you can. Discouragement lurks behind every corner. Some days you are going to want to quit. Don’t. Never give up. Never let fear win. Never. For the day you do, you will give up.

There are so many ways to get your work published now. There’s no better time to write than now, and despite what some may tell you, you don’t need an agent. As the late, great Jackie Collins once told me when I needed encouragement the most, “Keep your writing passion on fore.” Don’t let anything get in the way of your writing.

A writer needs to write. Period. Any time and any chance one gets, even if it is just a sentence or a paragraph. These things eventually lead to something bigger. Never ignore an opportunity to write.

The Writing Piazza:
I know you just got Shattered Lies published and are working on marketing it, but I still gotta ask cause I’m insatiably curious, are you currently working on a new book?

Yes, Kara, I am. My current work in progress is a story about friendships and family in Hollywood. A faded movie star tries to rebuild her life after another failed marriage while battling demons from the past. It’s another tale involving secrets and lies entitled Body and Soul. I also already have a first draft for a stand-alone sequel to both Shattered Lies, and Body and Soul.

The Writing Piazza:
Fantastic! Sounds like you’ve got a lot planned for the future. I always love to hear what authors have planned.

What about any upcoming events, do you have any of those coming up?

Thanks, Kara, for asking, but right now due to prior commitments, my appearances are limited to a blog tour that began on Oct. 24th and runs into mid-December. For those in Mississippi, I’ll be visiting the Writers Literary Festival at the Jackson Hinds Library on Sunday, December 13, 2015 from 1:30 to 4:45pm CST. To find out more on where to find me on my blog tour, please check out my website for updates at

Along that vein, I’m offering a giveaway for someone to win a personally autographed paperback copy of Shattered Lies to anyone leaving a comment here on your blog, or contacting me through my website and mentioning “Giveaway.” Two copies are available.

The Writing Piazza:
Thank you so much for your time and for being a guest here on The Writing Piazza!

Thank you Kara for hosting me on your blog. In case anyone wishes to follow me, I’m all over the internet. Here are a few of my social media links:

My website:

My Writing Blog:

My Blog for the Animals:

My Book Review Blog:

A Consumers Blog:

Facebook fan page:

My twitter page:

My Google Plus page is:

My Pinterest page is:

Good Reads:

The Writing Piazza:
And I thought I was a social butterfly. 😉 Thanks for letting everyone know how they can connect with you. And again, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! For those interested in purchasing Shattered Lies you can do so here:

And SJ and I would like to thank all you phenomenal visitors for stopping by TWP and reading this interview. We love that you’re here and you make all the hard work that goes into author interviews and blog tours totally worth it!

Until we meet again.