Continuing on from where we left off last night, this is Part 2 of my interview with author of Method 15/33, Shannon Kirk.
In this part, Shannon continues to talk about her debut novel which is released this week. She will also be telling us about some of her influences, her hopes and dreams and also confronting The Ten Confessions.
Grab yourself another cold one, get some chocolate, most of all…..enjoy.
COAF - This is your debut novel. Can you possibly describe how you are feeling right now on the verge of publication?
SK - It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s incredibly exciting, but at the same time nauseating. Getting the book published was obviously a huge hurdle, but nowadays, the author must also be working the business side a great deal. Self-promoting, promoting, promoting, promoting, and I’ve never had to do that before, so this is a great challenge for me. The very public nature of reviews, I had not prepared myself for how daunting that whole process is and how getting rejections from agents and publishers before may have been painful, but nowhere near the agony of reader rejection.
But you fall, you get up, you learn where to focus your attention and your energy or you get snagged down in the negative side, which is far smaller than the positive side.
The incredibly positive side and the side I’m trying hard to focus on is this wash of amazement and happiness I get knowing that I opened myself up to this adventure and because of that, my world is blossoming and unfolding. For example, I’ve met you, Nev. Granted, through the interwebs. But your reaction to Method 15/33 is a constant source of joy, lifts me up through this process, and makes it all worth it. Another example is a lady who called me the other day. Her sister had been kidnapped (and is fine now), but she made herself read my book (not the kidnapped, the sister). Anyway, this woman made me cry because she said that not only was the book inspirational to her, because the main character is so strong, but also that she now wants to start reading again; before reading Method 15/33, she explained, she had not read in many years. Imagine how that made me feel? My heart felt like a hot loaf of bread in my chest and my face grew flush and then water came to my eyes.
COAF - Who are some of your favourite authors or authors you would consider to be influential in your writing?
SK - My number one, all-time, favourite author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don’t re-read books (there are so many I need to get through in this lifetime), but I’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera four times. I get jealous when I see people out in the wild reading it for the first time. Marquez is known for magical realism, which I very much enjoy, and this has absolutely influenced my writing in that, to me, with magical realism, the writer is given latitude, a freedom to go beyond the physical laws as we know them and create whole new worlds in this world. Method 15/33 does not have much magical realism, it is a psychological thriller, but I did sneak in a couple of items. My non-thriller works in progress do have elements of magical realism.
Karen Russell is another author I worship, along with Jonathan Safran Foer. I admire the humor and unbridled creativity Marquez, Russell, and Safran Foer bring to their stories. Like they said, rules? What rules? I love that.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Cask of Amontillado still chills me, as does The Telltale Heart. I want to be able to pull that off, tell a chilling tale that truly sticks to someone.
COAF - Law – writing – put them in order of preference at this stage of your life?
SK - Writing trumps literally everything, so writing first. But this doesn’t mean I don’t give my all to the law.
COAF - What would your ultimate wish be with your writing?
SK - My ultimate wish would be to write full-time. But I have a family to help support, a child not far from college years, a house, a couple of cars, a baby niece and baby nephew I intend to spoil rotten, and I love to travel, so realistically, I have to keep working my day, and often nights and weekends, job. The good thing is, I work in an incredibly supportive and inspirational firm. I work with lots of multi-dimensional lawyers and clients, many of whom have interesting things going on in their lives besides law, and they’re all pretty motivational to be around. A lot are into great charities, there’s a comedian, folks in renowned choruses, philanthropists, writers of multiple books, and so on.
COAF - What’s coming in the future from Shannon Kirk?
SK - My second book, not a thriller, Heavens, is coming out in 2016. Heavens is about a mid-thirties woman who is dying in the ICU (hit by a truck). She spends the final days of her life visiting different Heavens as though on a shopping trip. Of course there’s a love triangle in the mix.
I mentioned the next two books in the Method 15/33 series, and I’m actively working on the second one. I’m also working on another psychological thriller called The Goatman Cometh.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
Pretty much anyone who has published a book or will publish a book. Let’s face it, we humans have very little time to read, so capturing a reader’s attention in the wide wide field of literary choices folks have—hundreds of thousands of really good choices, if you consider all past, current, and future books—well that’s almost like casting and catching one specific catfish in all the bodies of water of the American South.
And if you’re making me pick one specific author, argh, that’s so unfair, Nev! Whoever I pick is going to make me sound like I think I could compete with them, when I don’t think that. I’d like to say I could compete Jo Nesbo, but we both know he’s the boss when it comes to Thriller, Inc. And maybe I’m just saying that because I want to meet him. He’s the big boss, and I’m just the girl in the parking lot trying to get a job on the inside.
I’d like to think that my style is totally different and that really, my greatest competitors are time and space. But actually, I’d love to be at a place in my writing career where it would be legit to say I have a real-life competitor. I’m not there.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
I can’t remember the exact name, but it was this awful English textbook in college—the required English course, not an elective. The stories and books they crammed in this textbook were all the confusing, mind-bending old English literature ones and other “classics”, and the pages were Bible-thin. Really made literature and reading inaccessible and a total drag. Ruined reading for me for quite a while. And reading to me is like a Heaven, a drug of escape. I feel really strongly that any required English course, whether in grade school or high school or college, should be organic and great latitude should be given to individual choice. I’m sure good teachers and professors out there could design courses (and probably a lot do) that allow for individualism in reading, while also teaching some fundamentals and collective objective facts to weave the class together. What one person might consider a classic, another person might deem a reason not to read anything ever again. The old world confusing stuff, some of the classics, should be left for the electives and for people who want to study such things.
I’m not saying no one should read classics, that is definitely not what I’m saying. There are many classics I love. What I am saying is, and in answer to your question, that one English textbook, and all of them like it, that often kill the joy from reading, should not have been published for the purpose of required reading. That awful semester with that demonic, thin-paged, confusing, blinding book. Ugh.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
Sure. When I write, I pull on random memories, things I’ve seen or experienced, and warp and fictionalize them. Could be a minor thing, could be a whole scene. It’s hard to list all of the items in Method 15/33 that derive from something real I’ve experienced. I’ll try. But first, please know, the actual storyline and plot and characters are wholly and totally fabricated, visions that are real only in my head.
But let’s see. Ok, the quarry. The quarry is a fictionalized place based on a real quarry, although much smaller, on our property in Raymond, New Hampshire. My dad scared the shit out of us—as a way to prevent us from playing there as children—by saying we could easily drown in the quarry by having our legs snagged on all the jagged metal at the bottom. Plus he put a mannequin’s head in a tree, which looked like a real severed head, as another scare tactic. He claims he didn’t do this, but had to be him.
The whole scene where the nanny rolls an egg on the main character to ward off the evil eye. A housekeeper did that to my son after, she claims, some lady at the playground gave him the evil eye.
The scene where Agent Lui describes the fire his father accidentally set when he was a child, in upstate New York, that happened to me. My father accidentally set fire to our chicken barn one day when he was building a bonfire in Oswego, New York. The scene in the book used to describe what actually happened, how some chickens we had inside were scurrying out, sadly how many didn’t escape, but that part got cut down to the length it is now.
Agent Lui went to St. John’s University; I went to St. John’s University.
There are several examples.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
Never. My soul would shrivel and die and I would cease to exist if I ever committed such a heinous crime. Plagiarism is worse than murder in my book.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
Nope. I’ve only done a couple of negative reviews in my life, in my name. And now, having gone through this process and seeing how incredibly murderous a negative review can be to an author, I won’t be doing anything other than positive reviews from here on out. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it anyway anymore, life’s too short, and so it’s not fair of me to leave a negative review. But I’m not weighing in on the whole controversy over whether negative reviews are of value, as written by reviewers and critics, I’m just saying how it is for me—as part of my “confessions”, and I’m coming at this from a very personal standpoint.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
When I cheated on a spelling test in first grade. Hid the words in my desk. I remember the minutia of this whole episode and how I struggled with the spelling of “friend”—creaking open my hinged, wooden desk, and the teacher yelling at me, in front of everyone. I still remember the shame I felt when she made me stand in front of the whole class, pointed at me, and made me tell everyone how I’d cheated. Beyond this, of course I was no saint in High School and College—I did a lot of stupid things. Drank more than I should have, dated people I shouldn’t have, longer than I should have, drove when I shouldn’t have, was uncaring to people in distress, did a lot of really dumb things. I still do a lot of stupid things and I’m still no saint. But that one cheating episode, that sticks with me most. So, cheating is my answer.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
My son. He is a wonderful human, he makes me completely irrelevant. He is polite, he is wise, he is calm, he is patient, he says thank you to waiters and waitresses, and he has more compassion for animals in his one pinky than I have compassion in my whole self. He is competitive. He is driven. He is the greatest person on the planet. I am so proud of him.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
I sometimes have an irrational and sudden temper. Not all the time, sometimes, but usually over two specific things: air conditioning and flying. Why is it that we wait all year for a couple of great summer months only to crank the AC so you have to wear a sweater on a ninety degree day just to have lunch? Also, the inefficiency of flying just absolutely challenges my patience. Like, the entire TSA process. Also, how some airlines board by when you print your boarding pass so that everyone who boards first leaves only the middle seats and then everyone else has to board super-slow because the aisle person has to get up and move aside and let the middle person in, and then families have to horse trade to sit together. And how the airlines charge for bags now, which means everyone carries everything they own on, leaving no room for all the bags, and…so on, you get it. This sort of stuff should not rile me, and this is my flaw, because it absolutely does. I can go from happy to angry at the blast of AC in my face or in slamming to a halt in the airport. I should let the things I can’t control roll off my back.
9 What is your biggest fear?
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
All of my crimes are in the name of love, so I don’t have a thing to confess to any higher power. I have no regrets, in that regard. And beyond that, crimes of man-created laws, I plead the Fifth. :)
Sadly that is the end of this interview with Shannon Kirk. I will make a confident prediction though: I don’t think this will be the last time I will be chatting with Shannon. I think this lady has a very bright writing career ahead of her. Keep your eye open for her. I reckon you will see her everywhere in years to come.
Thanks for checking the interview out and please come back tomorrow night when I will be posting my review of Method 15/33.