Q&A with Deborah Schaumberg, Author of “The Tombs”

By Jenna Greenzaid, Editor-in-Chief

At WCHS, the media center periodically hosts authors to talk to students about their novels as well as the writing process. Deborah Schaumberg, author of ‘The Tombs’ and mother of WCHS alumnae, spoke to students Nov. 13 throughout different classes during the school day.

Her novel follows the life of a young girl in 1802 who can see the auras of other people. Schaumberg took students through her process of writing, editing and publishing her new novel, so The Observer sat down with her after her discussion to get inside information.

“I really want to give an overview of my journey and hopefully inspire someone who might want to write because it is amazing,” Schaumberg said. “You do feel like you are putting your heart and soul out into the world, so it is a little scary to put it out there for anyone to read or judge, but I would love to have some students come away thinking ‘wow that sounds fun, I would love to do that’ and to be inspired.”

Observer (O): First things first, was there one specific thing that inspired you to write?

Schaumberg (S): There was a book I had read that had really made me want to write. It was “The Witching Hour” by Anne Rice. I love Anne Rice and I read all of her books and by reading that one, I was so engrossed in it that I wanted to write a fantasy-type story like it.

O: We know that you have already written some children’s books, but is this your first novel?

S: I wrote another entire middle grade novel before this one and got a ton of rejections on it, so I looked at it as practice. From that one to this one, I have learned so much and was finally able to get an agent and he sold it. My goal is that I can expedite the process so it is not as many years in writing.

O: In one of your discussions, you said that it took four years to write, edit and publish The Tombs. Did you ever think that the process was taking too long?

S: I thought about it all the time, but at the same time I was really involved with raising my kids and doing some architecture projects on the side, so I gave it as much as I could. Now I am writing full time so I have more time to devote.

O: Nowadays, there are many options for aspiring writers to publish their novels, including through Amazon or Nook. Why did you choose to publish with Harper Collins rather than on your own?

S: I do not think there is a right or wrong way to this, as everyone decides their own path, but for me, personally, I felt like I really wanted some validation. I wanted a professional in the publishing industry to stand behind it and work with me on the editing since it was my first published novel. I also know that if I were to self-publish it, distribution and marketing would all be on my shoulders, and I just wanted to focus on writing as much as possible.

O: ‘The Tombs’ is a very alluring and mysterious title—did you choose it yourself?

S: When I was doing research and came across the real tombs, I immediately started calling it that and wrote it on my manuscript. I had always assumed the publisher, once it sold, would consider changing it, but they never did.

O: Before writing, you were an architect. Do you think that your experience with architecture has impacted your writing at all?

S: One of my strengths is describing setting in such a way that people have told me that they are really there. I try to use all of the senses when describing setting like ‘what are you smelling, what are you hearing and what are you feeling.’

O: Now that you write full time, what is your daily schedule like?

S: One of the greatest things about being a writer is that you can create your own schedule, so that is a good and a bad thing. You have to create a schedule for yourself, otherwise the day slips away and you are like ‘uh oh.’ I try to write first thing in the morning so I know I got a chunk of writing time in and if something comes up, I do not feel like I missed an opportunity.

O: After finishing the first chapter, readers are immediately drawn in through the factory explosion that feels as though readers are experiencing it themselves. Did you always know you wanted the first chapter to end that way?

S: I wanted to try to end as many chapters as I could on a note where you want to continue to read. That being said, I had some other stuff going on with the main character earlier that my agent was like ‘let us just get to the action and get people invested before this.’ At the end of the first chapter, I wanted it to be the explosion and try to hook a reader to want to continue.

O: Ok, so let us talk characters. All the names of the characters are individually unique. How did you come up with their names?

S: I love picking character names and I think a lot about it; it is not just ‘oh this sounds good.’ I wanted a name for the main character that could be either a boy or girl’s name because she is very unconventional and I thought that would represent her well. With Indigo, one of the other main characters, I purposefully wanted it to be a color because I read something about aura seers being called indigo seers, so I thought that could be a cool name.

O: This may be a silly question, but we have to know. Do you read reviews about your book?

S: I do because I love when somebody posts a review and they are really excited about the book. That being said, I have read some not so exciting reviews and it is hard but I get it; books are totally subjective and some people are going to like it and some people are not, so I try not to let it get to me or to upset me.

WCHS students, parents or teachers can purchase Schaumberg’s book from most to all book stores including Barnes and Nobles and Amazon for a minimum of $16. The book is also available in the media center and students can contact Schaumberg at [email protected] if they would like a signed copy of her book.