Lodi author’s newest book shares story of boy growing up in 1950s Arkansas

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Sharon K. Souza’s newest novel is a departure from her previous work — but not entirely.

“Annie Walker,” the Lodi author’s new offering, centers around young Charlie Walker as he grows from 9 to 13. His father’s return from the Korean War brings a new baby sister, Annie. But Charlie’s friend Marvin Huckley doesn’t have the same luck. His father never came home from the war.

Soon, Charlie finds himself in a situation where he must defend Marvin, and he has to make a choice.

Souza’s previous books all centered around female protagonists, and were set in today’s world, not the past.

“I write contemporary women’s fiction, typically,” she said.

This new novel does still fit into the women’s fiction genre, she said, though it’s set in the 1950s.

“What I wanted from this story, especially since it is a young boy who is the protagonist telling the story about his little sister, is I wanted it to be in a time that was a little simpler,” Souza said.

But “Annie Walker” should still appeal to her fans, Souza said.

Like her six previous novels and her Christmas novella, her newest title deals with relationships between people — Charlie’s relationships with his brother and sister, best friend and parents.

“I typically write about serious topics and this is no different, but I always try to infuse a good bit of humor,” Souza added.

There’s also a dose of faith. Souza doesn’t like to be preachy — she wants everyone to be able to connect with her books, even if they aren’t believers.

But faith is a huge part of many people’s lives. It’s natural for her to include it.

“Faith can be very different for everybody,” Souza said. “But for the most part, people believe in something.”

Souza herself is a believer. She and her husband Rick have brought messages of faith all over the world — though Sharon prefers to leave most of the adventuring to Rick.

Instead, she likes to create adventures for herself and her readers through fiction.

“I write inspirational fiction. For me, it’s just part of my DNA. It just wouldn’t be possible for me to write a story and leave that out of the story,” she said.

Writing Charlie was definitely a new adventure, though in the end writing a young boy instead of a woman wasn’t difficult. She has a husband, a son and two brothers, after all.

Besides, the story came to her in Charlie’s voice, she said.

“It was a ton of fun,” she said.

Now she’s turning toward another new adventure: her first series.

“I have never done a series before,” Souza said.

She’s partway through the first book, set in a fictional town called St. Anton — that may seem familiar to Lodi readers. She has five books planned, each centering on a different main character. They’ll all appear in one another’s books.

Souza, who calls herself a “seat of her pants” writer rather than a planner, is having to focus a bit more on structure and outlining than just letting each book take her wherever it leads.

Normally, she figures out the beginning and the end, and then just trusts her instincts.

“Sometimes even I’m surprised by things that happen in the story,” she said.

This time, she can’t do that, or the series won’t fit together correctly.

Still, she’s having a lot of fun with the new project.

“It’s more light-hearted than my last three have been,” she said.

In the meantime, she hopes readers enjoy “Annie Walker” — and she’s always happy to connect with book clubs, both locally or via Skype.

“I love doing that. That’s one of my favorite things,” she said.

“Annie Walker” is available on Amazon. For more information, visit www.sharonksouza.com.

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