Interview With Shelton Keys Dunning

Shelton Keys Dunning was created to coax a shy, aspiring author into the public arena. Her first introduction to the world was during 2010 Nanowrimo, taking small, timid steps towards a public platform. Since those awkward first 50k words, Shelton has moved forward with other projects, including a polished third draft of a WIP entitled “The Trouble With Henry” and the start of its sequel “His Girl Freitag”. Her editor and good friend has dragged her kicking and screaming into the 21st century, introducing her to the bright and shiny new world of blogging and tweeting and the giant black hole fondly referred to as Google. Now the shy author has name envy as her child Shelton moves through the World Wide Web, making friends and collecting followers with shameless excitement. The ultimate goal of both is to be successfully published, but the journey to get there has proved to be a thrilling adventure so far.

1)  Why did you decide to use a pseudonym, and why did you choose Shelton Keys Dunning?

My real name is fairly common, at least for children born in the early seventies according to the United States Social Security records. Don’t get me wrong, I love my name, but it doesn’t sound as “writerly” as my pseudonym.

I chose Shelton Keys Dunning as homage to the three most important influences that have shaped my life. And before you ask, yes, they know who they are, and they give me great advice when I ask and, even better, chocolate when I need it.

2)  How much writing did you do before NaNoWriMo 2010?

I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. In my preteen years, I wrote corny poetry and pop lyrics. In high school and college, I wrote stage plays. Now, stories mostly, both long and short occupy my computer memory.

3)  Why are you choosing to self-publish instead of looking at traditional publishing?

This is a very complicated question to answer, because it was a very difficult decision to make. I want to start off by saying self-publishing isn’t for everyone. There are pros and cons to either path. I won’t get involved in the current debate; that’s a discussion best had among professionals. What most appeals to me about self-publishing is the idea of control: control over my image, my brand, my product…or at least the brand and product I want to have. Is it risky? Sure, but that’s half the fun.

4)  What kinds of promotion do you plan to do?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I haven’t worked that part out yet. Baby steps.

5)  How do you and your editor work together?

Extremely well! She volunteered to read my book before she really knew me, and after she read it she still wanted to be my friend. She points out of my rookie mistakes, tells me when I can do better, and marks every page with a thousand little red notations. I occasionally get to correct her spelling. And then we play video games or search for the perfect dessert. I literally would not be here, speaking to you and your readers, if it hadn’t been for her faith in me.

6)  How long have you been involved with Write On Edge?

Since Thursday, October 6, 2011. I was lurking over a Twitter feed when I saw a challenge from Angela to write a setting in 200 words. I’ve been addicted to WOE writing prompts ever since.

7)  When Write On Edge first announced they were seeking submissions for Precipice, the anthology, did you immediately have a story idea in mind?

I immediately had a million stories in mind. I only had two ready to go by the deadline, however. You’ll see both in the publication. I’m still in shock.

8)  What did it mean to you to find out you were one of only seventeen writers to be included in this year’s edition of Precipice?


Professional reaction? Composed reaction? Honestly, I will always see it as a crowning achievement. I respect the community and the editors of WOE and value their opinion, so being selected from a blind? It’s something I will treasure, no matter how far I get in this industry. And that’s the truth.

9)  How did you come up with the title Expressions of Talking Leaves for your blog?

The short answer? My parents and I were throwing ideas back and forth one night after dinner. I suppose it may be a bit abstract in comparison with other blogs of the same nature, I don’t know. I wanted something that spoke to my Cherokee heritage: “Talking Leaves”. My dad came up with “Expressions”.

The in-depth answer is on my blog under “Leaves Talk?” tab.

10)  What kind of bird do you use for your Twitter avatar?

A tiercel peregrine. His name is Bandit. I’m a sucker for birds of prey.

11)  How important was it to you, personally, to establish a web presence as a pre-published writer?

My previously mentioned editor claimed I needed a platform. I told her I didn’t know Twitter from texting. So it wasn’t my idea a year ago. I’m still not sure I’m doing it right, but I’m having fun. Despite all my kicking and screaming, she was right. I have learned and I have grown as a writer. I don’t think I would have progressed like that without the web-presence.

Besides, if my web-presence is already in place, then readers can find me, and I won’t be scrambling to catch up. Ever the Girl Scout, I’d rather be prepared than not.

12)  What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate?

I keep my personal separate from my professional. I don’t use social networking sites in my personal life. I’m too shy and not very technically savvy. That having been said, my lives do bleed together with GoodReads, a site I’m still exploring, but I don’t have the energy to keep two accounts going. Shelton likes tweeting and is rapidly becoming addicted to Pinterest. She doesn’t find Facebook to be too user friendly or the point behind Farmville. Google Plus is equally as confusing, but we’ll get there, probably when everyone else has already moved on to bigger, better things.

13)  What is the current state of The Trouble With Henry and its sequel His Girl Freitag?

Groans, I don’t Trouble is mostly done, just waiting for final review from my very busy editor. His Girl Freitag is plotted out and four chapters of the first draft are complete on it. I’d be further along, but I’ve got two other projects I’m working on simultaneously, both untitled epic fantasy adventures. Oh, and there’s another paranormal mystery brewing, and two historical fictions that are about two-thirds done. Did I mention that I’m ADD?

14)  Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing.  Do you ever feel this way?

I have too many irons in the fire for that statement to be true for me. If I get frustrated with something, I move on to a different idea or I walk away from it and do the dishes that pile up in the sink. Life’s too short to hate what I love doing.

15)  What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?

My laptop.

16)  What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?

Any black or blue gel-ink pen.

17)  What is the most persistent distraction from writing?

It’s the husband, hands down. He can’t watch T.V. without me. I can take it or leave it, but mostly I’d leave it if it weren’t for him.

18)  What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?

Ooh, really good question. Once I was sans-husband: I had the stereo going and a large bottle of port. There was rain that night. I wrote near 20k words that time. I’d have to say that must be the ideal for me.

19)  What manner of Ren Geek are you?

Hmm, on a Renaissance Fair scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is novice and 10 is hard core, I’d say I’m probably Ren Geek level 6. I’m really fascinated by the history, but I don’t obsess over the accuracy of the costumes or the correct pronunciation for head and bread in Elizabethan English. Basically I run amok and pester people. I never outgrew the “dress-up” stage of my childhood I guess. After 15 years of participation, I still have fun, and I think that’s the important thing. And, sometimes, inspiration strikes, and I pull out my 200 year old retracting quill and inkwell and turn a current WIP into a historical reenactment.

Okay so maybe I’m geek level 7.

By the way, I’ve also been known to show up at Cowboy shoots just so I have an excuse to wear a corset and carry a parasol. And I was once recruited to play campfollower for a British Redcoat Regiment at a Revolutionary War reenactment.

Okay maybe I’m geek level 8.

20) Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Han Solo. I don’t mind revision, but flat-out character betrayal? Han, an infamous smuggler with a bounty on his head, shot first. It makes his decision to show up again at the Death Star destruction more of an obvious sacrifice. The tide change for the rebellion is visible, symbolic in the character growth of Han Solo. The revision I think weakens the both the character and the overall plot. And it weakens Greedo as well. Greedo up ‘til that point was a successful bounty hunter. He misses his first shot? Really George?  I never watched Chapters 1-3 because of this revision. 

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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9 Responses to Interview With Shelton Keys Dunning

  1. Thanks for interview opportunity! I had so much fun!

  2. The pleasure was all mine!

  3. Cameron says:

    Shel makes me all swoony, and I’m proud to have edited a collection that includes the both of you. PS? I have the galley right now.

  4. 2old2tap says:

    I really enjoyed this! So nice to know a little more about the writerly people that I’ve grown to love. .

  5. Pingback: Hiatus | AmyBeth Inverness

  6. Okay, so I know this is almost a year old post now, but my husband came across it finally and felt rather hurt that I labeled him as my most persistent distraction. I need to correct something here, do some back-peddling.

    I need to say that yes, I devote a ton of time to my husband. I’m his wife. This is my job. I love LOVE this job, and this man. He’s more TV oriented than I am. Given the choice, I wouldn’t watch TV hardly, not even the shows I really look forward to. I’m content to wait for the season to come out on video and watch all the episodes in one sitting. That way, I’m not waiting for the “next chapter”.

    But watching TV with my husband is a great joy in my life. It’s something we can do together that costs us nothing to do. If it bothered me to spend time with him, I would not have married him to begin with.

    Please, I need everyone to know that he is not a slug. (He seems to believe I’ve painted him in that light, which was not my intent). He’s a brilliant man who is hard working, ambitious, and supportive. I would not have come this far without him. Period.

  7. It’s never too late! Just ask George Lucas…

    You should see what Roni Loren said about HER husband lol! Er… you may or may not want to share her answer with your hubby….

    He had his chance to respond, though. I interviewed him too!

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