Born in Atlanta, Georgia, independent writer, speaker, and success coach Sheila Callaham lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband, Thomas Bishop, and two of their seven children. She has a BS in political science from the University of Maryland, Europe and a MA in International Studies from Old Dominion University.
Sheila’s books include: Truth Runs Deep, a fictional exploration of sexual and religious intolerance set against the background of the Catholic Church, and spiritual non-fiction, Stories from Spirit. Her self-help series The Power of Living Joyfully and young adult fiction The Wells Worthy Trilogy are schedule for release in 2014.
An Interview with Sheila Callaham
Q: When did you first start writing.
A: When I was a little girl, I wrote poems for my grandmother. I would sit under one of my favorite trees and write my heart out. When I gave her my scribbles on crumpled pieces of paper, she always made the biggest fuss over whatever I wrote. Of course, that only inspired me to write more. My grandmother is long gone, but here I am, still writing my heart out and thinking of her.
Q: What made you want to write books?
A: I remember exactly where I was when I first got the notion of writing a book. And, I remember exactly what I told myself, ‘You don’t have enough life experience to write a book.’ Looking back, that’s phooey. I realize that I just didn’t have the confidence to sit down and try. Over time, that feeling of wanting to write a book kept coming back and nagging at me. Finally, I realized this was an important aspect of who I was meant to be and that the nagging would never subside until I addressed it with action. I’m so glad I did!
Q: What are your goals as an author?
A: My goal as a fiction writer is to weave an absorbing story that intrigues the reader and leaves them not only entertained but with a new learning or reflection. I’m a big believer that fiction can have a message and I like to weave subtle considerations into my work. For example, in my Wells Worthy trilogy, I use a lot of scientific physics theory as the backdrop to create a world very different from our own. I hope to leave the reader speculating about what the future might hold based on the continued evolution of science and what we know of it. In terms of non-fiction, I simply want to inspire readers to believe in themselves and be the most they can be. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I love knowing I can entertain, elicit deep emotions, provoke transformational life shifts, and leave a reader in a different place than they were before.
Q: What are your favorite books to read?
A: I read all kinds of stuff. I’m on Goodreads and I post most of the books I read, although sometimes I read several books at a time and don’t get them all on my read list. Right now, for example, I’m reading a book on anthropology, another on search engine optimization, and a sci-fi.
Q: What does it mean to be an independent author?
A: Honestly, I’ve never been mainstream anything, so being indie is par for me. It just didn’t make sense to me to sit on a book I’d written, sending out one inquiry at a time, and waiting for weeks on end to hear back. Then, if I were lucky enough to get a agent/publisher, waiting another year to get it published after having to delete characters the editor didn’t like and rewrite until the cows came home. What a waste of time and energy when there is Amazon and the ability to self-publish! I follow all the self-publish must-dos like have my work professionally edited, etc., so I’m pleased to be indie. In the last several years, the entire publishing paradigm has shifted because the influence of indie authors on readers has become impossible to ignore. I’m delighted to be on the front-end of this shift.
Q: What is one thing about you that would surprise your readers?
A: I have so many interests it’s insane. For example, I think it would be cool to weld big things together, frame and wire a house, or fix car engines. I once took a college welding course but my final project was such an embarrassment, I hid it in the trunk of my car until I could properly dispose of it. Having so many interests is beneficial in my writing because I easily can spend hours researching facts and how-tos for just one reference, especially in my fiction. It’s important to me that my writing be credible and that means if I’m not an expert on a particular subject, I need to consult those who are.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?
A: Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. And, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I became who I am because I was willing to follow my heart. Growing up, my heart always told me not to worry about doing what everyone else was doing. I thought that little voice was trying to make an outcast of me. I’m grateful to realize now that the little voice in my heart is really the voice of my greatest wisdom; which knows, always better than my head, what path to take.
Q: In addition to writing, you also coach people. What’s that about?
A: My writing is purely selfish. I write for me and when I write, I’m in my head ignoring everything and everyone else. Because I could live in my head all the time, I’m mindful about creating opportunities to engage with others and coaching allows me to do that. I limit the amount of time I allocate to coaching because my family and my writing comes first (and second). But, honestly, I love inspiring others. When people feel stuck in life, I’m all about facilitating them to discover their true happiness. One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison who says, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Because we’ve all been shaped by a culture of constant judgment and comparison, people are often terrified to step outside the box. I’ve been walking on the lines of the box for so long, always able to step back in when I felt the need. Now, I walk all over the place and I’ve never been happier. When I work with others, I help them define exactly what would make the happy and the steps they need to take to get there. I want everyone to literally astound themselves! Coaching someone to a personal breakthrough is very rewarding and I’m humbled to have the chance to be a part of something so transformational in the life of someone else.