How I Became an Author: Sharon Marchisello on the Path to Publication

How I Became an Author: Sharon Marchisello on the Path to Publication

Welcome to the fifth installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with mystery author Sharon Marchisello, author of  The Secrets of Galapagos and Going Home


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"How I Became an Author"

by Sharon Marchisello

As long as I can remember, I knew I was a writer. Even before I learned my alphabet, I entertained myself with stories, long after my parents tucked me into bed. If my mother had read me a story earlier or I'd seen a movie recently, I'd join my favorite characters on their next adventure.

I loved creating a world where I was in control. My heroines were prettier and richer and cleverer than me. They succeeded where I failed, always firing off that zinger at exactly the right moment. Characters created in the likeness of people who had been mean to me ended up getting killed or having bad things happen to them.

I wrote short stories and essays all throughout school, and although teachers and peers praised my work, I got nothing but rejection letters when I submitted them to national publications.

My first completed novel was a plotless, semi-autobiographical mess. When I got accepted into the Master's in Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California, I showed my masterpiece to one of my professors, with the hope of polishing it for possible publication. He suggested I begin a new project.

This professor believed the best way to get published was to focus on a genre. Agents and publishers want to know what shelf your book belongs on in a bookstore. He was a mystery fan, and he encouraged his students to write one. I didn't read many mysteries as a child. I'd heard of Nancy Drew but never read one of the books. I didn't think I could write a mystery, so I decided to try my hand at romance.

My master's thesis started as a romance novel, but I couldn't follow the formula. I set the novel in France, where I spent a year as a Rotary scholar, and it's full of culture clashes and misunderstandings. Oh, and there's also romance. But in the end, the heroine doesn't choose either guy vying for her hand; instead, she rides off into the sunset with a girlfriend for a summer of travel and adventure. The book never got published.

Unable to find fame and fortune as a writer by the time I finished my master's degree, I got a real job working in the airline industry, which allowed me to indulge my passion for travel. I sold some travel articles about destinations I'd visited. Living in Hollywood, of course I wrote screenplays. I found an agent for one of my screenplays, which was terrifically exciting, but then no one bought it. One script I worked on did get produced, but the movie never got released. Probably a good thing, because it was terrible. My contract promised "deferred pay" from the profits; I never saw a dime.

One night, while working at the Los Angeles airport during a major construction phase, I walked through a long, deserted, temporary hallway to meet an incoming plane. The fog was rolling in, shadows loomed, and the ramp area where I waited was almost dark. Someone could get killed out here and no one would know, I thought. The idea for my first mystery, Murder at Gate 58A, was born.

I had a great time writing it, creating a cast of characters who all had motive and opportunity, and then trying to figure out whose motive was strong enough to commit murder. I was thrilled when I found an agent to represent me, but unfortunately, after almost two years of peddling my story around the publishing world, he gave up. Murder at Gate 58A is still on the shelf. Maybe someday…

My fourth completed manuscript, Going Home, also a murder mystery, became my first novel to get published. Going Home was inspired by my mother's battle with Alzheimer's disease, which prompted me to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory. It opens when the heroine visits her childhood home to check on her elderly mother, who has Alzheimer's, and finds her hovering over the bludgeoned body of her caregiver. Alone. And unable to explain what happened. The heroine is forced to remain in her hometown in a caregiving role, while trying to prove her mother's innocence. People from her past she thought she'd left behind pop back into her life and complicate her role as an amateur sleuth. Although I began writing Going Home in 2003, it took ten years and seven drafts before I received a publishing contract from Sunbury Press. In 2014, the book was released.

My latest novel, also a mystery published by Sunbury Press, is called Secrets of the Galapagos. It was soft-launched in December 2019 and hasn't really had a hard launch yet, on account of the coronavirus pandemic. While not a sequel to Going Home, Secrets of the Galapagos features two of the same characters. Grandmother and granddaughter set off on a cruise of the Galapagos only to encounter murder and mayhem. The setting was inspired by a bucket-list cruise of the Galapagos Islands that my husband and I took in 2014.

For the past three years, I've "sold" copies of Going Home at fundraisers for the Alzheimer's Walk, and many readers have bought the book due in part to the fact that all the proceeds go to the charity. It's not a great way for me to earn a living, but people are paying attention to my stories and causes. And really, that’s still great to me.


About the Author

This is the author photo for Sharon Marchisello, Going Home and Secrets of the Galapagos

Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press: Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). Her other publications include travel articles, corporate training manuals, short stories, book reviews, a blog, and a nonfiction book about personal finance, Live Well, Grow Wealth. Sharon grew up in Tyler, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English. Learn more on her website.


Praise for Sharon Marchisello

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It Started with a Dream: How Oxana Lapchuk Wrote The Journalist, a Holocaust Story

It Started with a Dream: How Oxana Lapchuk Wrote The Journalist, a Holocaust Story

Welcome to the second installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the inspirational Oxana Lapchuk, author of The Journalist: A Holocaust Story.


"It Started with a Dream"

by Oxana Lapchuk

Oxana Lapchuk author journey

My book journey started ten years ago on May 5, 2010 when I dreamed that I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. The baby was chunky and laughed profusely. While I knew I wouldn’t be having a baby, I did know that God was speaking to me in a different way; instead, he was telling me that I'd bring something new into the world. To me, that meant it was finally time to write a book about the story that meant the most to me: my father’s holocaust experiences.

Now, this happened right around the time that I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Thanks to the dream, I had newfound confidence that I would beat it and that my book-baby would become a reality. I needed to focus on it, not the cancer. I had surgery shortly after the dream, cutting out the need for chemo or radiation and giving me inspiration to get to work.

But when I focused my attention toward the book, I found that there were many challenges to getting it written.

First and foremost, my father had died 20 years earlier. I had to recall my conversations with him about his experiences and dig through his records and documents (he was a journalist) to try to piece it all together. I found some old photos that shed some light on his timeline and was able to get a clearer picture. However, I knew it wasn’t enough; I needed to go to the actual concentration camps to get further clarification.

In 2018, a friend of mine connected me to a German teacher who focused on the Holocaust. I spoke to her about my father’s history in Buchenwald and working in the underground tunnels of the Dora-Mittlebau complex. She helped me locate someone at the Buchenwald Memorial who was able to gather even more documents about his personal information while he was at the camps.

I made arrangements with her to pick us up at the train station in Nordhausen, Germany and to take us to the underground tunnels in Dora-Mittlebau. They only opened the tunnels in 2006 so we were able to take a tour and see for ourselves the horrible working conditions that the prisoners had to endure.

Then she drove us to Buchenwald—about an hour away. We met with the head of the Memorial Archives and she had all the documents ready for me. We spent an hour going over everything, and I realized that some of my information was not accurate.

So I had to make some revisions as to my father’s timeline while in the different camps. The most amazing experience for me was when they took me to the actual spot where my father slept in the barracks in the “Little Camp.” It was block 63. I stood on that grassy spot where there was once a building. It was as if I was walking in his footsteps and reliving some of his experiences.  I couldn’t believe it.

When I went back to the states, I immediately started rewriting to make it as accurate as possible. At the time I was thinking I might self-publish it, but I wasn’t young anymore and didn’t have the time or the finances to go through that whole process. I had been a member of the Florida Writers Association and found out they were having a conference in October 2018 near my city.  So, I went.

At the conference, I made an appointment to meet with Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press, Inc. To my surprise, he was actually interested in publishing it! And one year later, my book (and my father's story) was published.

Some amazing things have happened since it got published. I was able to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t been in touch with for 45 years. I was able to reconnect with an old roommate. But the most amazing connection was with a woman whose father is in several chapters of the book. His name was Stefan, and he was arrested along with my father and spent some time with him in two of the camps. They were in Buchenwald together and my father’s prisoner number was 25362 (adds up to 18) which in the Hebrew means “life” and her father’s number was 25363.

She lives in Idaho and had done a lot of research about her father and had also been trying to locate my father as well.  When she found my book on the internet, she was amazed and told me the book filled in a lot of gaps for her. Her father had died in 1998, and before the war was studying to be a priest in Lviv, Ukraine. Our fathers never reconnected after the war once they moved to the states.

Writing and researching this book has been an amazing journey and has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’ll even be doing an event at the local holocaust center here in my town in the fall, and the local paper has written an article about me and the book. My old alma mater even has two of my books in their libraries!

I’m excited about where else the wind will take this book, especially if it can get out to those who need it. One of the reasons for writing it was to give hope to many people out there who are facing challenging situations. I believe they’ll find help in the principles my father practiced that enabled him to overcome and triumph in the midst of his adverse circumstances.


About the Author

This is an author photo of Oxana Lapchuk, author of the journalist a holocaust story

Oxana Lapchuk was born in New York, New York the same year her father emigrated to the United States. A lifelong student of Ukrainian history and culture, she has worked as an interpreter in Ukraine and Israel and now lives in Florida. This is her first book.


Praise for The Journalist: A Holocaust Story

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Interview with Keith Rommel

Interview with Keith Rommel

Meet author Keith Rommel:

This is the author photo of keith rommel, author of The Thanatology Series

Keith Rommel is a multi-award-winning author and screenwriter best known for his Thanatology dark suspense series. In addition to writing thirteen books, he also had the honor of co-writing The Cursed Man and The Lurking Man movies which have garnished over 160 awards combined, including best screenplay and best feature film.

The Thanatology Series


Interview with Keith Rommel

Q: Keith Rommel, author of the Thanatology series, thanks for chatting with me!

A: Thank you for having me.

Q: Let’s hear that elevator pitch. How would you describe the series to someone who knew nothing about it?

A: The Thanatology series is a collection of realistic and supernatural novels that explore humanity and its inherently corrupt nature. Some people don't seem to care until they're forced to face the unthinkable, so what does it look like when the unthinkable happens? What sacrifices would you be willing to make to undo your wrongs?

Q: At this point, we’re six books deep into the series. It might feel like a while since it’s all started, but put yourself in that early writer’s shoes. What made you first begin this project?

A: The project started with my desire to tell a story that hasn't been told before. As an avid reader, I've felt the market has been saturated with stories that have been told many different times. I always strive for unique storytelling, and six books later, I'm pleased to say that people are still interested in what I have to say.

Q: We’ve heard quite a few reviewers telling us how much they enjoyed The Sinful Man (among others of course). But I’m curious: what is it about that book that resonates best with you?

A: Like most books in the Thanatology series, there are universal truths in which the story of The Sinful Man is based off of. I'm particularly attached to that one because the stories of sin and hopeful redemption have affected people I know, meaning this book is a sort of outlet for me to share these important truths. 

Q: Two of the novels in the series (The Lurking Man and The Cursed Man) were turned into award-winning films. How exciting is that! What was it like seeing your characters and story come to life on screen like that?

A: It is truly an honor to have had my works brought to life. At times the feeling is surreal. I remember being nervous, excited, suspended by disbelief, and ultimately satisfied. The price is long, and it teaches you patience. Above all things I mention, I remain humble and remain focused on telling great stories. I have many more to tell and hopefully one of them will be worthy enough for film adaptation.

Q: Where can we watch those movies?

A: The Lurking Man is the first released title and is available on Amazon Prime TV.VUDU and many other platforms are forthcoming. That is a great intro to the film series.

Q: Sure, these novels are suspenseful, but there always seem to be something innately human about them. What feelings do you aim to evoke in readers as they finish your book(s)?

A: Realism is important to me, and that is why I always incorporate truth within my fiction. I feel when you blend truth, it allows the reader in to connect to each emotion running through the characters, so in my series, you can expect to feel desperation, fear, motivation, and eventually, elation.

Q: Are you working on anything right now? Can we expect more out of the Thanatology series?

A: I'm currently in the middle of what I believe to be my best book yet. I'm hoping to see it completed and renewed by year end 2020. This book is raw, emotional and very VERY personal. For now, the title will remain a secret. Visit keithrommel.com to stay informed.


Thanks for checking out my interview with Keith Rommel! If you dare, take a chance on the first book in the series (The Sinful Man). When you close the last page, I'm confident you'll be crawling back for more.

View The Sinful Man in the Sunbury Store

6 MORE Terrific Fiction Authors from Pennsylvania (Part 2)

6 MORE Terrific Fiction Authors from Pennsylvania (Part 2)

Sunbury Press is a proud champion of PA voices. Here's 6 fiction authors from Pennsylvania that you're going to want to check out

The Pennsylvania literary scene has to stick together. As a PA independent publisher, we're thrilled to give voice to local authors churning out some of the best fiction we can find.

In this blog post, venture through the biographies, websites, and social media links of some of Sunbury's fiction authors from Pennsylvania. We think you're going to like what you'll find.

This is the author photo for Thomas M. Malafarina

Thomas M. Malafarina (Harrisburg, PA) is a horror author from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He has been featured in multiple anthologies, published seven novels, and even wrote one book of often-strange single panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too. Learn more on his website.

Horror Books from Thomas M. Malafarina

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Nancy Williams is a graduate of Allegheny College and is a life-long resident of the very real town of Meadville, Pennsylvania. She is the author of four other books: Hawkmoon, Grace, Blood Truth, and Rabid Philanderers. Learn more at nlwbooks.com.

Horror & Suspense Books from Nancy Williams

Learn more on her website

R. Kane Maurer is the author of The Forbidden Powers book series; the first of which (The Cup in the Shadows) is his debut. Maurer lives in Hershey, PA with his family. When he is not working on the sequel, you can find him reading and traveling. Learn more about him at RKaneMaurer.com.

Middle Grade Fantasy from R. Kane Maurer

As summer ends, young Jonny reluctantly agrees to explore a local cave, expecting to find nothing more than bugs and dirt. But his quiet life is changed forever when he is inexplicably transported to a strange world filled with trolls, dragons, and powerful magic.

Alongside a group of legendary heroes, Jonny must race to save the realm from a growing horde of enemies as he uncovers more about an ancient villain who will stop at nothing for the power of a god.

[Read more]

Learn more at his website

this is the author photo for John L. Micek, author of Ordinary Angels

John Micek is an award-winning political journalist and the editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In addition to his journalistic work and broadcast work, he writes fiction and lives in suburban Harrisburg with his wife and daughter.

Mystery/Thriller from John L. Micek

Veteran newspaper reporter Sean Flynn never imagined that a routine story about a fatal car crash would expose a dark secret about the highest reaches of Pennsylvania state government.

But when an anonymous tip and a thick sheaf of documents reveal that elected leaders are prone to put their own interests above those of the public, it’s up to Flynn to use all the skills of his profession to shake the truth loose.

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this is an author photo of Larry Loebell author of Tough Girl in the Jam

Larry Loebell (Philadelphia, PA) is best known for his plays La Tempestad and House Divided and for his role as a writer on Rugrats season one. He has published two previous books of fiction, The Abundance League and Seven Steps Ahead. This is his first novel.

Literary Fiction from Larry Loebell

Set in the fast and furious world of women's professional roller derby, Tough Girl in the Jam is a novel about sports, strength, and sacrifice. As the lead Jammer on the Philly Freedoms, Nina must prepare for the biggest season of her life alongside her biggest fan and girlfriend Rachel.

As Nina and Rachel move toward a deeper commitment and contemplate their lives together, Nina's estranged father falls ill, propelling her mother to pressure her to donate a kidney to save him.

Read a book review

Read an author interview

H.A. Callum is a poet and writer hailing from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The rolling hills, weathered stone walls, and meandering woodland streams serve as the inspiration to his writing and to his eye as a naturalist. Stop by and strike up a conversation at his blog www.HACallum.com.

Literary Fiction from H.A.  Callum

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past. In the shadows of the alders, a boy named Tommy seeks escape and finds refuge.

Then Aubrey appeared. An unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand of enjoy--proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

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Stay tuned for more from Sunbury Press!

Thanks for checking out these six fiction authors from Pennsylvania! Sunbury Press has over 600 titles to choose from--the best in fiction and nonfiction through various imprints--and we love helping readers find their next favorite book.

If you liked what you read, check out these "5 Genre Fiction Novelists from Pennsylvania - Part 1" or browse our virtual bookstore.

5 Terrific Novelists from Pennsylvania – Part 1

5 Terrific Novelists from Pennsylvania – Part 1

Sunbury Press celebrates our local literary community with this look of 5 brilliant genre fiction novelists from Pennsylvania

As a Pennsylvania publisher, you better believe we're chomping at the bit to find our next favorite local writer to showcase through our various imprints.

Here's an in-depth look at the novelists roaming across multiple Pennsylvania counties, sure to be hosting an event somewhere near you. From mystery thrillers to epic fantasy to literary fiction, each one of these novelists from Pennsylvania has something thrilling to share with you.

this is a photo of pennsylvania author tory gates

Tory Gates (Harrisburg, PA) is an award-winning novelist of four books and a program host for authors on the BookSpeak Network.  His works are of young adult/crossover fiction with exotic settings that deal with real-life issues and problems. Learn more on his author website.

Books by Tory Gates

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author photo of JM West on Good day Pa

J.M. West (Carlisle, PA) is a professor of English Studies and the author of the Carlisle Crime Cases series and a debut novel called Glory in the Flower, in which four coeds bond during the turbulent sixties. Check out more about her at carlislecrimecases.com.

Three Books by J.M West

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Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz author headshot for novel The Weathermaker

In 1985-86, Glenn Schwartz became the first "storm chaser" at The Weather Channel and was one of their designated "Hurricane Specialists." He got his nickname in New York City after an anchor saw video of him being blown around during one of his hurricane chases. Now, he lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife, Sherry, and is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fanatic. Learn more at TheWeathermakerBook.com.

About the Book

Baltimore TV meteorologist Neil Stephenson can control the weather. But should he?

During a light snowstorm, TV meteorologist Neil Stephenson discovers that he can predict more snow on TV to match his prediction. With a power like this, he could be soaring in his profession in no time.

This cli-fi genre-bending thriller has the action aspects of Twister--with accurate science, organized crime, and death threats making their way to his doorstop.

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Chris Fenwick is a writer, editor, marketer, and part-time farmer. She is a maker of books: some are the works of others, and some she writes herself (like The 100th Human and Wolf). She lives on a farm in rural Pennsylvania with her family. Learn more at chris-fenwick.com.

Books by Chris Fenwick

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Oliver C. Seneca was born and raised in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After attending the Capital Area School for the Arts for filmmaking, he became passionate about writing and storytelling. This is his first novel. Learn more at OliverCSeneca.com.

About the Book

After a sudden, bloodied brawl leaves over half of White Haven College dead, Jonathan Barnes finds himself thrust into a near-apocalyptic world turned completely upside down in violence. With no explanation as to the cause, Jon must venture into the horror to find his family and loved ones.

Nothing is certain except for one thing: Jon wants to be inside when the sky goes dark.

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Stay tuned for more from Sunbury Press!

Thanks for checking out these five genre fiction novelists from Pennsylvania! Sunbury Press has over 600 titles to choose from--the best in fiction and nonfiction through various imprints--and we love helping readers find their next favorite book.

If you liked what you read, check out these "4 Engrossing Literary Books to Add to Your TBR List" or browse our virtual bookstore.