Debbie Schrack has spent her professional life working with children and young adults. She has a B.S in Special Education from the University of Virginia, and an M.Ed. from George Mason University. Although the character Sophie in her debut novel SAVING SOPHIE is fictional, she is a composite of many of the struggling learners Debbie has taught over the years.
Debbie lives with her family in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Debbie finds personal fulfillment in creating new things, whether it be a novel, a painting, or a batch of croissants. She loves animals, and horses are her special passion. When she’s not writing or horseback riding, Debbie is a sucker for musicals, enjoys visiting art galleries, and desperately wants to travel more. She also loves hanging out with her three children, who she will always consider her most amazing creations.
You can follow Debbie at her website https://www.debbieschrackbooks.com on Facebook or on Twitter @debbie_schrack.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I do view writing as a kind of spiritual practice. When I write, I forget about the world around me and time seems to stop. When I’m finished writing a book and start to re-read it, I sometimes wonder how all those words got onto the page. I think all art is like that. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, art just flows through you. It comes from somewhere beyond ourselves.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have written a few books from the teenage male perspective. As an adult woman, it is sometimes difficult to get the voice right. Fortunately, I have two sons who constantly correct me!
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I wrote part-time for fifteen years before my novel SAVING SOPHIE was published. Because of the pandemic, I retired from my job teaching kindergarten two years ago. If you’ve ever Zoomed with a five-year old, you will understand! I thought it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time writer.
How many hours a day do you write?
It varies depending on what I have planned for the day. Besides writing, I also Jazzercise, ride my horse, and do volunteer work. I try to write a little every day. Writing the first draft is the toughest thing for me. It’s hard putting words on a blank page. I will write for a while and then stop for a while. Annoyingly, I often get my best ideas when I’m driving or in the shower. I try to remember them and write them down later. When I’m writing a book, I carry it around in my head so it’s always a big relief when I type “The End.” Once I’m editing a book, I’m good. I can spend hours editing.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I spent sixteen years teaching special education in a high school setting. I loved my students and I love writing about the teenage years. They are so angsty and full of heart. I mean, who doesn’t remember their first kiss? Their first love? I also enjoy writing for middle grade. My MG horror story “Alex Crown and the Bunny Man” just won the Haunted States of America contest sponsored by SCBWI and Godwin Books.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
I have a very supportive family. We are all what you would call “artsy-fartsy.” My husband does photography, my oldest son is a film director, and my youngest son writes poetry and music. He wrote a song for my latest YA book which is out on submission. My daughter went the science route and is a marine biologist, but she likes to read and has a good eye for what makes a manuscript work. My husband and oldest son read all my first drafts. My husband is in the medical field and helps me with all my medical questions.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I was very shy and self-conscious when I was younger. I didn’t try a lot of things because I was afraid. If I could go back and do something differently it would be to have the courage to try something new even if I fail. I have learned more from my failures over the years than I have from my successes.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I am a slow writer so it takes me up to two years to finish a book. Part of that is sending it out to editors or having beta readers take a look at it, and then going back and revising and editing.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I have never had writer’s block where I can’t write anything at all. I have had periods where I have taken time off from writing to think about what I am going to write next. It’s usually in the “murky middle” of the book where I’m not sure how to proceed. I do write an outline before I start a book and I will usually go back and look at that to help me get started again. For anyone struggling with writer’s block, I would say to go do something else for a while. Exercise, read a book, go for a drive. Let your mind drift and an idea might pop out of nowhere.
Have you written any other books or do you have any books planned for the future?
Since I started writing fifteen years ago, I have written six novels. Some of them are destined to be only “shelf books.” Only one of my novels, SAVING SOPHIE, has been published so far. I have a new young adult book out on submission and I am working on my seventh novel which is also for young adults. I am also interested in writing a novel for middle graders.