Author Spotlight with Shameka Erby
In this series, we interview published Novlr authors to learn about their work, routines, and how they use Novlr. Shameka Erby is a writer from Philadelphia currently living in Baltimore. Her work has been featured in Brown Sugar Literary Magazine, Stuck in Notes Magazine, and on websites such as Permission to Write, Oyster River Pages, and Raising Mothers. Besides her fiction works, she also publishes nonfiction essays on Medium and has a newsletter, Just A Girl and Her Laptop.
Can you tell us a little about yourself as a writer?
I write fiction, mostly with women as the central characters. I have three short story collections and have completed three romantic novellas in a four-part series.
What publishing route did you choose, and why?
I am self-published, and I think I picked that route to have a little more control. I just wanted my work in the world and I didn’t want to wait anymore. I’d love to be traditionally published one day as well though.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since middle school, but it wasn’t until I joined the newspaper in undergrad that writing seemed like a realistic option for life, as opposed to just an enjoyable hobby.
What is your writing routine?
My writing depends so much on emotion, on the way I’m feeling, that having a strict routine is really hard. I write what I feel, when I feel it. If writing is not possible at that moment, I make voice notes on my phone to transcribe later. I will say that I’m a night owl, and I do a lot of writing at night. I usually use my hard-line “routines” for the post writing process–deadlines for editing, and for when I stop editing, deadlines and schedules for marketing and release, and promotion after release.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I cannot use placeholder names. It just doesn’t work for me. The name has to fit the character in my mind or I can’t move on. I have held up stories for days because I’m introducing someone and I don’t know what their name is. I don’t use random generators either. I pick every main character’s name myself. And I don’t like to repeat them.
How do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the stories people share around me, and from other authors. When I find that the words aren’t coming, reading definitely helps me jumpstart writing. Immersing myself in a good book allows me to free my imagination again, and it usually loosens up blocks for me. Also, reading not-so-good books helps me avoid some pitfalls. Cooking sometimes also inspires me. I think it’s the art and patience of it.
How long have you used Novlr, and how does it fit into your writing routine?
I have been with Novlr since the beta test! So October 2014, I think. I’m an OG. Novlr is where I put all of my fiction work, where I do my beta reads and almost all of my editing. It’s where I keep track of my word counts, and where I see when I’m most inspired.
What is your favourite Novlr feature?
My favorite Novlr feature is definitely the analytics. I love seeing the goals, streaks, and stats. I also love the dashboard, which allows me to move between projects. It’s helpful because I’m writing in a series right now and sometimes I have to double-check information.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in the process of writing?
Writing has taught me so much. But one of the most surprising things I’ve been learning is how many of the “rules” don’t have to apply to you. I’ve been beaten over the head with so many edicts about being a good writer—you have to have an outline, you have to write every day, you need a designated writing time, etc. And the truth is, all you need to be a writer is the will to be creative, and the courage to express yourself. The rules are mostly just suggestions, and you don’t have to twist yourself or your process to fit into them. If you care enough about what you’re doing, you’ll be good.
What do you think makes a good story?
Nuance makes a good story. Knowing when to lead your characters and when to let them lead you. Good editing makes a good story. And depending on the genre, a solid hook at the beginning makes a good story. When you write a story, you’re inviting someone into a world. You have to make them want to come in.
Where can people find your books?
All of my books are available on Amazon. You can also learn more about me through my social channels. I am @ShamekaWrites on Twitter and Instagram, and @ShamekaTheWriter on TikTok. You can also find me by my name (Shameka Erby) on Goodreads.
If you’re a Novlr writer who has published a book, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to tell us about your work and share your writing journey with us, please email [email protected].