Welcome to the two hundred and sixty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with debut novelist Shannon SS Michaels. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Shannon. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Shannon: I am a former accountant and a mom of two who has dabbled in writing all my life. It all started with a job at a local newspaper when I was in high school. I wrote in dribs and drabs throughout college and beyond, but really got serious about it when I attended graduate school and pursued screenwriting. Then, I moved away from Hollywood, started a family, and decided to turn one of my scripts into a book.
Morgen: And the rest is history as they say… or they would if it weren’t a cliché. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Shannon: I generally write something called transgressive fiction. It’s on the quirky side of things, heavy on violence and drugs amongst other things. I have actually considered making a foray into the YA arena, as it seems to be the most financially rewarding these days, but I just don’t think I have it in me.
Morgen: Me neither. I like dark (love quirky) and light (humour) but have no children (unless you count an 11-year-old Jack Russell cross who I clearly should have taught to read by now), although there are two YAs next door so I could test my writing on them. They’d gladly read it actually, they love the fact I write. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Shannon: I’ve had a few shorts published, but my first book, IDOLS & CONS, came out in November.
Morgen: So you’re presumably at the beginning stages of your marketing. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Shannon: My publisher is brand-new and very small, so I play a pretty large role in marketing. I’m always looking for bloggers, reviewers, that type of thing.
Morgen: And you found me. 🙂 Pretty much all the authors I’ve spoken to have said they do heaps of marketing so I think you still would – it seems to be that way these days. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Shannon: I write under my initials S. S. Does it make any difference? I don’t think so.
Morgen: I don’t think so either – it’s still all about branding, isn’t it? Getting people to know who you are. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Shannon: I had two agents, both fired. Vital? No. If you have the right one, it might help get your book on an editor’s desk, but I think, with the way publishing is going right now, having an agent is really not essential.
Morgen: Certainly becoming less so. I tried that route and now I’m not sure if I’d try again, although if one knocked on my door I’d think carefully. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Shannon: My book is available as an eBook. My publisher was in charge of that process, so I don’t have much to say about that. Do I read eBooks? Not if I can help it.
Morgen: I didn’t until I bought a Kindle. I’ll still probably read more paperbacks at home but it’s great to know I always have plenty to read in my bag. Did you have any say in the title of your book? How important do you think titles are?
Shannon: Yes, I had the opportunity to give my book its title. And to change it. I think a title is very important. It needs to be punchy and stick in someone’s mind.
Morgen: It does. I’m a big fan of titles although a bad one won’t necessarily put me off (although it would have to have a great blurb for me to get past it). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Shannon: Right now, I’m editing my book REVIVAL HOUSE, which will be published early next year. It’s a quirky horror novel set in Savannah, Georgia.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Shannon: I write out incredibly detailed outlines and plots. And then I throw them away.
Morgen: <laughs> I plotted my first novel then realised that the characters take over so I didn’t really do any planning for the others. Do you write short stories? If so, apart from the word count, what do you see as the differences between them and novels and why do you think they’re so difficult to get published?
Shannon: I write very few short stories. I just had one accepted for an anthology dealing with attic toys. I’m not entirely sure why it’s so difficult to get published. Maybe because there are thousands of short stories out there, all competing for the same slots. In any case, telling a story in so few words involves an entirely different skill set from writing a novel. I’m not usually that concise.
Morgen: I can talk (waffle) for England but strangely I prefer shorter the better… a time / attention span thing I think. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Shannon: I am, at the moment, co-editing one anthology and editing another.
Morgen: Wow, what fun. 🙂 How much research do you have to do for your writing?
Shannon: I do an incredible amount of research for my writing. It’s the best form of procrastination.
Morgen: Especially online. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Shannon: I used to write on paper, but I can’t do it anymore. My handwriting has become illegible from lack of use.
Morgen: Mine’s not too bad but I realise in our Monday night workshops how slow it is. I think I should suggest we use laptops but then that might feel like cheating. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Shannon: Some days I enjoy silence. Other days I’m bouncing off the walls, listening to Nine Inch Nails or something.
Morgen: 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Shannon: I am a first person writer. I just like it. Second? I haven’t done it, but not out of the question.
Morgen: I love it. As you like dark, you might like my story ‘The Dark Side’ (it’s free, help yourself :)). I’d urge every writer to have a go at second person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_person_narrative is a good place to start. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Shannon: My stories kind of wrap around on themselves, so, in a sense, they have a built-in prologue.
Morgen: I like that idea. 🙂 What do you like to read? Any authors you could recommend?
Shannon: Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Peter Straub, S. G. Browne, Jeremy C. Shipp
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Morgen: Ah… I seem to remember that word… don’t use it often enough myself. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Shannon: My blog is a good place to go http://slushpilehero.wordpress.com.
Morgen: If you could have your life over again, Shannon, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Shannon: I would have gone to medical school.
Morgen: Oh wow. I considered law but was put off by the seven years of study (plus my results weren’t good enough, which didn’t help). Thank you Shannon. All the best for novel number two.
S. S. Michaels is a writer of “transgressive fiction”. Her short stories can be seen in 31 Nights of Halloween (Rainstorm Press) and an up-coming collection of attic toy stories (Evil Jester Press). Her novel, IDOLS & CONS (Omnium Gatherum Media), is now available. She has lived abroad, traveled widely, jumped out of an airplane and driven a race car. She has worked in film and television, reading slush & writing coverage, then working as a production coordinator, and finally serving as a TV network financial analyst. She lives on the Georgia coast. Her blog is http://slushpilehero.wordpress.com.
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