I.V. Interview: Sharisse Coulter

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sharisseSharisse Coulter is one-half of a bad ass husband/wife indie creative team.

Originally from Lake Tahoe, Sharisse started with a smidge of college in Paris (not Texas), a dash in Australia and, voilà! A master’s degree in Anthropology framed and placed lovingly on a shelf, never to be dusted off again. Instead, she took the clear path to success, marrying a musician, becoming his manager and touring the country playing gigs, taking photos, and making music videos. Finally, she had a son (and subsequent identity crisis), which fueled the completion of her first novel, ROCK MY WORLD. Now at work on her second and third novels, she’s concurrently embarking on A Novel Music Tour: a 5 month, 55 city national music/book tour while perfecting the art of Lego and enjoying her addiction to reading novels on her iPhone. It’s a wonderful life for an insatiable wanderluster.

The crew of Indie-Visible had lots of questions for Sharisse:

RMW200x300JR: Where does a story start for you? An image, a snippet of dialogue? And in specific, where did Rock My World generate?

SC: Every story seems to come to me differently. In the case of ROCK MY WORLD, it was my protagonist, Jenna, and her relationship to her daughter and mother that I initially envisioned and wanted to explore. Her husband, Alex, didn’t follow far behind. My second novel’s premise came to me during a massage. I’d like to explore writing off massages as a vital part of my creative process, but I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for me.

JR: You’re an indie writer and your husband is an indie musician: do your mutual creative minds collaborate in any way, do your two forms of art inform one another?

SC: Hmm. That’s tough to answer. I have helped my husband write a couple songs (“Mr. Positivity” off the album of the same name) and inspired others (“Booty Voodoo”), but he’s pretty set on what he does—a loveable control freak—and doesn’t require my input to write great songs. Although we do collaborate on the business side as well as photography and music videos. He was my frequent sounding board while writing my first draft, and my first reader when I finished. He doesn’t really read novels but he’s great with story and helped me close up holes in the narrative and keep my male characters accurate. So yes, I suppose there is a lot of creative back-and-forth, but we still try to maintain our separate identities.

SN: You’re going on a cross-country tour with a toddler. Are you some kind of masochist or something?

SC: You’re not the first to suggest that and yes, there is every possibility that we should be put in an asylum. But when presented with a great opportunity, we tend to hurl ourselves off the cliff. It sounds great now, but I may have to get back to you in six months.

SN: You know how when you play Dark Side of Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz with the sound turned down, the music makes a weirdly perfect soundtrack for the movie? If I were to listen to your husband’s album while reading your book would that change the experience of both? Do they work together like that?

SC: Oooh, I’ve never tried that but it sounds intriguing. I’m sure some people will assume parts of Rock My World are autobiographical and in that case, it probably would give a really interesting perspective on both the album and book. The truth of it, however, is that I take things from my real life and then bastardize them in order to suit my plot and character needs. So no, any combined enhancement is completely accidental.

CS: But what if you play the album backward while reading the novel forward? Will you achieve enlightenment, or just find yourself in some sort of new yoga pose? Or perhaps become a Yoga Master….(one of my favorite laugh out loud songs!)

SC: Ha! Yoga Master, definitely.

CS: I met you and Lee nearly six years ago. Your book was barely an idea and Lee was playing his guitar in some dude’s living room in Clairmont. Now you have a four year old, a completed novel, and Lee has played in some impressive venues and was Sirius XM’s The Coffee House Discovery of 2011. You’ve achieved all of this with such a passionate indie spirit, which I happen to know you resisted for a long time when it came to your novel. What changed your mind? What made you give up the dream to be pubbed by a big house and go indie?

SC: Wow, has it already been six years? Yes, a lot has happened in that time. I initially thought there was no way one couple could handle two indie careers in two different creative pursuits; but ultimately, we signed on for this massive cross-country tour and I realized that I had an incredible opportunity to travel the country with my family while promoting my book and my husband’s music. I didn’t think any publisher (big or small) was likely to match that offer. So, like everything else, I just decided to go for it.

CS: Your novel tells the story of a woman whose identity has much to do with being the wife of someone famous, the mother of a bright daughter, the daughter of a rock star, and the best friend of someone who doesn’t necessarily reciprocate the friendship the way she ought to. When Jenna’s life takes an unexpected turn and she finds herself alone, searching for her true identity, she begins to see things through a new lens, both literally and figuratively. You have a way of zeroing in on scenes that creates a snapshot of life with all the right parts in focus, leaving lasting memories in the reader’s mind. How did/does your experience as a photographer shape the way you write?

SC: First, thank you for such an amazing compliment! One thing that may come from photography is seeing life in snippets, like scenes in a film, cutting out everything that doesn’t work to move the characters or the plot forward. It’s true that in photography it’s necessary to isolate a point of focus in order to bring the viewer’s eye where desired, but I’m not sure it’s as simple with writing. Mostly I try to think about how I would feel (thinking as my character) in that moment, and try to write the scene honestly.

CS: What are you most looking forward to about this five month journey you’re about to embark upon? What do you most dread?

SC: I’m really looking forward to it. It is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of work. We’ve had some pretty low lows in that time and it’s been a slow and steady climb to get to the top of this particular hill. I’m ecstatic and terrified about the roller coaster ride and mostly, I just don’t want to let anyone down. It’s one of those moments in life where there are no excuses to be made—it’s time to bring what we’ve got to the table and hope it does what we’ve always believed it could.

CS: When I first roped you into joining indie-visible, what made you say yes? How has being part of this group changed how you feel about owning the title of Indie Author?

SC: One of my biggest issues in the music world has been a lack of community. People have a hard time placing me, apart from being “Lee’s wife,” and I’ve often been treated as a silly groupie, even when trying to dial in sound or work out details of a performance in a professional capacity. When I first saw that you were writing a novel, I think I wrote you a message along the lines of “Cool! Me too!” Very eloquent, I know. And then when you asked me to join indie-visible, it just felt like the answer to what I’d been craving for so long—a community of like-minded individuals, willing and happy to help one another in this journey to publication. I was and am, grateful for being included in such an amazing group of women.

AM: Describe and explain a major influence on your development as a writer.

SC: Reading Pride and Prejudice as an adult changed the way I thought about writing. I’d read it in high school because I had to and it didn’t make much of an impact. I was far more interested in sports, friends and boys to give it much thought. But when I reread it on my own time I was amazed at how Jane Austen paved the way for romantic comedies and comedic female writing, aimed at a female audience. I appreciated the humor and absurdity and saw how subversive it must have seemed at the time. It’s not a work we typically think of as counterculture, but her independence and even her desire to write, went against everything she was brought up to become. It was probably the first time I realized the writer existed in time and space next to the work, subject to their environment, rather than as some abstract entity, operating outside of it. And by humanizing the author, writing became more tangible to me.

AM: How has motherhood changed you as a writer?

SC: It has definitely forced me to be better at scheduling my time. From an emotional standpoint, it’s shifted my worldview in surprising ways. I find a lot of things more intense and I completely lose it when I see a movie or read a book where something tragic happens to a kid. But I also see myself as an example, which I never did before. It’s important to me that my son see his mom as a strong independent woman with something to offer the world. I think it has heightened my sense of purpose, bringing the important things into sharper focus.

AM: What’s the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

SC: Time—I never seem to have enough of it. It’s redundant, I know, but making time to focus on writing or pull out revisions is always a challenge for me. It’s easier to put everything else first, and push my self-imposed deadlines to the bottom of the list. Especially if I’ve reached a point in my writing where I’m not sure where the story should go, I have a tendency to want to procrastinate, making it even easier to prioritize everything else first. It’s a constant struggle.

TW: What’s your favorite vegetable?

SC: I’d have to say baby bok choy. I love spicy Asian food and it’s got a nice flavor and crunch.

TW: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to, and if not – WHY NOT??

SC: It depends on what I’m writing. I like to create playlists for my characters and play them when I’m writing scene from that character’s perspective. If I’m writing in a public space, it also tends to deter random people from engaging in conversation. But if it’s a complicated scene, sometimes I need the quiet to hear all the different points of view.

TW: Do you have any touristy places you want to visit while on your tour with Lee?

SC: Heaps! We have a few different tourist lists going: one for Kai (Grand Canyon, Smithsonian T-rex exhibit, Blue Angels—somewhere), one for photo ops for me (landscapes, national parks, New Orleans, DC, a bunch of places I haven’t even thought about yet), and Lee is on the hunt for the best burger in the US. That’s a constant. We’ve been building tourist days into a lot of our stops in cities we’ve never been before. That’s the beauty of planning our own tour—we get to meander.

TW: Do you have any celebratory meals/traditions for once you’ve finished writing?

SC: Date night. It sounds simple, but anyone with kids will understand how wonderful it is to get to go out, dress up, and dance with your husband. Definitely my favorite way to celebrate.

TW: How do you spend your “down time?”

SC: I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean by “down time”. I’m never really off the clock, but I enjoy playing sports, reading, and watching good tv or movies, when I have time to myself.

CS: Where can we get  a copy of your book? 

SC: You can grab a paperback or kindle copy of Rock My World at Amazon or ebook at Kobo. It will  also be available soon for nook at Barnes & Noble!

Thank you, Sharisse We wish you the best of luck on your tour, and can’t wait to visit with you when you’re out on the road!

Featured image photos courtesy of Andrea Rice.

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