Sherri Leimkuhler calls herself “a multitasker extraordinaire,” which means if we met in person, we’d have a lot to chat about. Maybe we’d even exchange tips on how to juggle as much as we do! Sherri comes to novel writing organically, as she’s written professionally for over twenty years, but What’s Left Untold is her first novel, debuting last year. The story was a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association—quite an honor—and she’s happy to announce that What’s Left Untold is part of a BookBub deal running until February 24 (see below for more information). With family, pets, writing, jobs, and a pandemic still in effect, it’s hard for authors to find time to promote their work, so I’m grateful Sherri had the time to answer a few questions for me.
Christina: You were a pilot and a corporate-sponsored triathlete. How do these experiences inform your writing? Do you draw from them at all? Did some of the lessons you learned in those arenas translate to the writing world?
Sherri: I actually view my experiences as a pilot and a triathlete as pursuits that delayed me on my path to becoming a writer, though I have no regrets about either. Becoming a pilot was my initial career goal so, basically, when I was flying I wasn’t writing. However, I do have some ideas for story arcs and plotlines that may come from my experiences as a pilot, especially as a woman in aviation, which is still a male-dominated field.
I began dabbling in triathlons and freelance writing around the same time and the two were inversely proportional: the more time I spent training and racing, the less time I spent writing. After a decade as a competitive triathlete, I was physically and mentally burned out and ready to turn my full attention to writing. Though I don’t currently envision the sport of triathlon playing a primary role in one of my novels (never say never!), my passion for the sport, and for fitness in general, serves as a perfect counterpoint to the hours I spend writing and sitting in a chair. When I need a break from my desk, I swim, cycle or head into the woods for a trial run or hike. But I would say that my time as both a pilot and a triathlete honed certain skills that definitely translate to the writing world: attention to detail, precision, multi-tasking, concentration, perseverance, goal-setting, and determination.
Christina: In May 2020, you contributed to a Writer Unboxed article and wrote about hope. Here we are, nine months later, still paralyzed by the pandemic. Has the idea of hope changed for you? What do you find hopeful today that you might not have a year ago?
Sherri: I have two Labrador Retrievers and one of the many things I adore about them is that they are “ever hopeful.” In this way, I try to emulate their positive spirit because, really, what is the alternative? A life without hope is not a life I’d want to live, and so I try to always look on the bright side and search for the silver lining. A year ago, I don’t think anyone could have imagined how bad the pandemic would get or how long it would last. Today I find hope in the fact that vaccines are becoming available, that spring is almost here, and that there will be better days ahead.
Christina: Your debut, What’s Left Untold, released last year. As a debut author releasing during a pandemic, what was the single greatest lesson you learned?
Sherri: I learned how important it is to have access to technology and to build strong connections with fellow writers; both were crucial to me as a debut author. I was fortunate to be part of the 2020 Debuts, a group of traditionally published authors who were all debuting our first books last year. Debuting in the midst of a global pandemic was far from ideal, and the 2020 Debuts served as a network of support to help each other through it every step of the way. Having access to the internet was also an integral part of debuting during a pandemic. Instead of in-person launch parties, we celebrated with live online events. When we couldn’t meet with book clubs or fellow authors in person, we set up Zoom calls. We relied on each other and we learned how to be creative and resourceful.
Christina: Your mother began reading to you from an early age, but you say that you didn’t become a reader until middle school. What would you say to people who still don’t consider themselves readers? What have you learned from reading that you might not have learned elsewhere?
Sherri: My mother reading to me as a young child established an important foundation for my love of language and books, but it’s never too late to become a reader. I think the key is finding the right book, one that captures the imagination and has the ability to draw the reader completely into the story. Reading has given me the gift of being able to put real life on hold and become lost in an imaginary world. To me, reading is pure relaxation and one of my favorite ways to spend time by myself.
The key thing I’ve learned from reading is that the same book is a different book to every person who reads it. This concept can be applied to many aspects of life, shedding light on how people can view or interpret a singular event or experience in vastly different ways. We all bring our own stories into the story.
Christina: What do you like about writing women’s fiction? Is your next book also women’s fiction?
Sherri: Women’s fiction—along with psychological thrillers and historical fiction—is my favorite genre to read, so it seems natural that it is also my preferred genre to write. I really enjoy reading and writing about a woman’s emotional journey as she tackles many of the challenges contemporary women face, such as navigating motherhood, careers, marriage, friendships, aging, and personal fulfillment while also striving to balance them all.
My next book, currently titled The Executive Club, is also women’s fiction. It’s a story about a woman who quits her job to start her own event planning company and finds herself in dire financial straits. When a former client dangles the prospect of discreet, lucrative work, the temptation is hard to resist, though venturing into this underground business threatens to destroy the relationships that are most important to her.
Christina: What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sherri: My writing world is littered with Kryptonite! Motherhood, the daily “to-do” list, the need to move and exercise, and a beautiful, sunny day all have the ability to derail my writing goals. It may sound counterproductive, but I try to avoid these productivity pitfalls by making time for each of them and organizing my day around them. For example, if the forecast calls for gorgeous morning weather but afternoon rain, I will structure my day so that I hit the trails early for a run or hike and reserve the afternoon for writing. It is a work in progress—especially since each day is different—but I am getting better at guarding and prioritizing my writing time.
Thanks to Sherri for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.
And let’s not forget . . .
Congratulations to Sherri on her BookBub deal:
*EBOOK SALE – $0.99*
This suspenseful psychological drama centers on Anna and Lia, best friends in high school, who lost touch after a wild party one summer night. Lia disappeared off to college, and Anna never heard from her again. Hurt and angry, Anna has held a grudge all these years. Now it’s time for their 20th reunion, and the two meet again. Their mutual attraction is still strong, but when Anna learns the real reason Lia deserted her, she struggles to forgive and forget. Keeping the secret for so long has created a cascade of problems for both women and their families. In the end, some secrets may really be best “left untold.”
“…authentic prose puts you inside Ana’s head and heart as she unravels the secrets of a childhood friendship that threatens not only her own mental health, but also her marriage and her daughter’s happiness.” -Cara Sue Achterberg, national bestselling author
“I stayed up half the night reading this book, nearly one-more-chaptering myself to death!” -Suanne Schafer, author of Hunting the Devil
#domesticnoir #womensfiction #familydrama #suspense