...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One Writer's Work & Working Process

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Whenever I speak to readers and other writers, certain questions about my work and my work habits tend to come up frequently. I thought I would ask and answer a few of the common ones today.

What am I working on?

As usual, I'm working on several projects. One is novel set in the high desert of Nevada. It's about half finished, and I have worked on it in fits and starts between other books already under contract. I just delivered Shepherd's Crook, the fourth book in my Animals in Focus mystery series, to the publisher -- look for it fall 2015 -- and I'm playing with ideas for possible new series. I also write "creative nonfiction," including a number of essays published in the past year, and I have a memoir about dogs, family, and other things underway, as well as several new essays, short stories, and poems in various states of completion. Writer's block has never been a problem for me!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Good question, and the answer depends on which of my works we mean. For now, I'll stick to my mysteries. The Animals in Focus series has (surprise!) animals who are vital characters in the stories. They are not, however, "humanized." They don't solve crimes or answer phones, and I don't presume to speak for them other than through their own behavions. In other words, in contrast to a lot of fictional animals, I strive to make mine as realistic as possible. 

The main human characters in my books are in their fifties and sixties and very active, and that's a little strange in genre fiction, it seems.

Before I turned to fiction and literary nonfiction, I wrote seventeen books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue. Breed Rescue (Alpine Publications, 1998), winner of the 1998 Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, was the first comprehensive book about starting and running a canine rescue program, and Rescue Matters! (Alpine Publications, 2009) expanded the scope to include cats and other household pets. 


Why do I write what I do?

That is an interesting and, I think, unanswerable question. In creative work, I'm not sure that we entirely choose our subjects or our genres. A psychologist might get to the bottom of some of my reasons for writing what I do, and occasionally I have some deep and startling insight as I'm writing or walking (or dreaming). But all in all, it's all a bit mysterious.

How does your writing process work?

I'm never entirely sure what people mean when they ask this. What I think of as my process, though, is this: I write every morning, and I have done so for years. Now, when I say "every morning," I mean almost, because there are days in which something else intervenes. But for the most part, I do begin my days by writing. I tend to fiddle for the first half hour or so, figuring out what I want or need to work on. Then I get down to it, and if I'm really lucky, I enter the deep, enveloping "flow," a creative place not unlike runner's high. Then I'm no longer in control, and all I can do is set the words down on the screen or, more rarely these days, on paper. 


Sheila Webster Boneham is an award-winning writer who writes across genres and interacts across species. She is the author of the best-selling Animals in Focus mystery series from Midnight Ink and of seventeen nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine Publications, 2009, updated 2013). Sheila also writes creative nonfiction, literary fiction, and poems, and she teaches writing classes and offers individual mentoring for aspiring writers. Find her online at www.sheilaboneham.com, on Facebook, or by e-mailSheila runs the Writers & Other Animals blog and the companion Facebook group. Sheila holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University and MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Program, University of Southern Maine. 


  1. Hi Sheila! I can't wait for Shepherd's Crook! I envy your ability to work on so many projects simultaneously!