Sometimes we are attracted to books for unusual reasons. I recently read Miss Benson’s Beetle, which is a delightfully eccentric account of a woman who leaves everything in search of a gold beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia. I have read this author’s work before and enjoy her style and character development. However, there was another draw to the book due to the title. My daughter, from a very early age has been fascinated with all animals including insects. So a story centered around a beetle was too good to lose in my mind. Through my daughter’s eyes I came to know a whole new world of creepy crawlies beneath our feet.
The book ends with another character and I am hoping the author continues with a sequel.
What unusual subject , interest or hobby has drawn you to a book? Do let me know in the comments.
I am continuing to read a fictional memoir, which centers around the life of a child living in a military family. As the author calls it, life as a military brat.
I had the opportunity to ‘swap’ author interviews with a New Zealand author and this was my interview with her. You will be able to read Elise Brooke ‘s interview on 6th May here on my blog.
1. How old were you when you wrote your first writing project? What genre was it?
That’s hard to say. I was writing short stories and designing cover art when I was in second grade. I was writing screenplays and making movies in middle school. I published poetry in college. I started writing my first novel, A Year Since the Rain, when I was in my late twenties, I guess. It was a magical realism novel, and it took a few years for me to finish it.
2. Do you have a favorite genre? What draws you to it?
I like contemporary fantasy/ magical realism because I think these genres allow for an interesting exploration of human experience. I appreciate the ways that realistic characters and settings are allowed to bump up against elements of magic.
3. How does your expression differ from your poetry to short stories to novels?
I look for poetic language in everything, so I try to find something poetic in narrative work as well. Obviously, it’s harder to keep this up for 70,000 words than it is in a page of poetry, but I still look for ways to elevate the diction of my prose with poetic language. With poetry, we’re talking about a stricter economy of language—more limitations based on form and so forth. As a rule, though, my poetry plays with narrative and my prose plays with poetry. I like to explore the marriage of different forms.
4. Magic plays a vital part in your stories – is it a fascination for you?
Like I said before, I think the incorporation of magic in otherwise real settings allows for an interesting exploration of human nature and human experience. If most of the setting and characters feel somewhat familiar, I think readers can buy in a little more. Also, I think the world is full of magic, right? We all experience wonderful and terrible things that we can’t explain. These inexplicable moments are a very human kind of magical experience. That’s how I see it, at any rate.
5.How did you create the characters in your World of Muses Universe?
A lot of my characters are just conflations of real-life people. There are no direct translations of real people, but I definitely mine real life experience for characters.
6. Are there messages in your stories for your readers? What are they?
Absolutely. These messages vary, but I think that mostly I want readers to consider their relationship with the world, with other people, with creativity, and with their own experience. I’m not prescriptive in my messaging. I just want a reader to think.
7.You combine music with poetry/stories – how did this idea/collaboration begin?
I wanted to write a story that would explore creativity and the different goals artists might strive toward. I settled on musicians and visual artists (because, again, I don’t want to write things that are too close to home). When I decided to write about musicians, I started teaching myself to play guitar. I wanted to understand what I was writing, and I wanted to be able to describe it in an organic way that would provide the narrative with a realistic texture. In the long run, I fell in love with the guitar and started writing songs. I even wrote some of the songs from that novel. It’s a cool experience to play these songs at live readings. I think it lends an air of legitimacy to the story.
8.Has your teaching influenced your writing?
I’m not sure that teaching has had a direct influence on my writing. I’ve never written about a teacher or even students. I actively try to avoid writing stories that would hit too close to home in that way. So, I guess in my attempts to write stories from outside of my experience as a teacher, teaching has indirectly influenced my writing.
On another level, though, I do teach literature courses. Reading these classics with my students offers me a great refresher in these stories. I think reading and analysis of stories is incredibly important to a writer, so the fact that this is my job gives me ample opportunity to dive back into those stories from time to time.
I think that my writing has probably influenced my teaching, but that feels like a whole other conversation.
9.Has your MFA course in Creative Writing changed how you write?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned from the MFA is how to better discipline my writing. I have a better sense of how planning and outlining can help streamline a project. The MFA program also forced me to read and work in genres I was less comfortable with, and I think all of that experimentation is good for the process. We could all do with a little more of that experience with discomfort.
10.Do you have a message for your readers?
This is an interesting question. I’m not sure that I’ve ever considered the prospect of speaking directly to the people who read my books. I’ve long considered the writing to be the final word in my part of the conversation. Once a reader has read my book, I’m interested in what that reader has taken from that experience. So, I suppose if I could say anything to the people who read my books it’s this: Thanks! I hope you found something to enjoy.
12. Do you have a blog? Where are you on social media?
I don’t really have a blog that I keep up with consistently at the moment, but people can always catch up with me on social media. I’m @ThatShaneWilson just about anywhere you might care to look.
Shane Wilson is an award-winning author of magical realism and low fantasy. His two novels, A Year Since the Rain and The Smoke in His Eyes are available through all major retailers. He has also published short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. He maintains a blog that focuses on a variety of topics including topics in publication.
Shane has a Master’s degree in English from Valdosta State University and has taught English at community colleges in Georgia and North Carolina. He has been te
Shane Wilson is a storyteller. No matter the medium, the emphasis of his work is on the magical act of the story, and how the stories we tell immortalize us and give voice to the abstractions of human experience. His first two contemporary fantasy novels as well as a stage play, set in his World of Muses universe, are currently available.
Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, Shane is a child of the southeastern United States where he feels simultaneously at-home and out-of-place. He graduated from Valdosta State University in South Georgia with a Masters in English. He taught college English in Georgia for four years before moving to North Carolina in 2013.
Shane plays guitar and writes songs with his two-man-band, Sequoia Rising. He writes songs as he writes stories–with an emphasis on the magic of human experience. He tends to chase the day with a whiskey (Wild Turkey 101) and a re-run of The Office.
Shane’s novels are A Year Since the Rain (Snow Leopard Publishing, 2016) and The Smoke in His Eyes (GenZ Publishing, 2018). Shane’s short story, “The Boy Who Kissed the Rain” was the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize winner and was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. An adaptation of that story for the stage was selected for the Independence Theater Reading Series in Fayetteville, NC. More information about Shane can be found at: Shane Wilson Author
This is an excerpt from Chapter Forty-OneA Secret Place – 2002
As the evening grew darker Gina took Caroline’s hand and led her further down the valley towards a grove of olive trees. Gina told Caroline she had a secret place where she spent many peaceful hours. It was there she found a deep pit covered with wooden planks hidden in the undergrowth. Caroline was intrigued so came prepared with a rope.
“See here, Caroline, here is the pit as I told you. The wooden lid is held down with a large boulder. Why would someone do such a thing? It could only be a water well, don’t you think?”
“I’m not really sure but whatever the reason, I am curious to see.”
“It may not be safe shouldn’t we ask the archeological dig people to look?”
“If I find some precious artifact or relic I will certainly get James over here. Now don’t worry I will be careful.”
With one end of the rope tied to a sturdy olive tree Caroline’s excitement grows. She holds a lantern over the void, before lowering herself down slowly. Gina watches as Caroline gradually disappears into the inky blackness.
The lantern hanging off her belt Caroline’s descent was slow but gradual and her eyes could pick out roots and rocks jutting out of the pit walls. Eventually she felt her feet touch ground and called up to Gina.
“I’m at the bottom now.”
“Be careful, is there no water? You don’t know what’s down there.”
Peering through the gloom Caroline suddenly gave out a cry making Gina jump and call down to her.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine but I’ve found a skeleton!”
Both girls exclaimed at once “Who could it be?”
“I have no idea but I’m guessing this well has been dry for quite some time.”
Caroline knew she would have to get the Professor down the well with proper equipment; it could be a wonderful discovery. For now she needed to make sure she didn’t disturb anything and made her way back up.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce Absolutely loved this book! Great characters, story, tension, discovery and the power of finding your true self. The descriptions transported you to the locations. I thoroughly recommend it.
My next read is Saying Goodbye is Easy – A Life in Short Stories by Kathie Sutherland.
What are you currently reading? What was your last review?
1. What inspired you to write books for children to aid with reading and writing?
For about 15 years, I worked as a library programmer, so every week I had two or three programs for preschoolers. My favourite group was the 5-6-year-olds, who were just learning to read. They have such active imaginations and often like to see themselves as players in the story. I loved working with them, finding great children’s books, and then reading the stories aloud to them. After a few years, it felt very natural to start writing for this age group. Also, a writer-friend Alison Lohans had an opportunity to give a workshop in writing for children. I took that, and it put me on the path. Eventually, I got my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with a major in writing for children and young adults.
2. Do you think reading is the gateway to learning and life skills?
Yes, absolutely. It’s also a lot of fun!
3. How does the construction of the content aid understanding in children?
I’ve been lucky to work with several top-notch traditional publishers on the books I’ve written for children and middle-grade readers. I don’t self-publish so I am not usually involved in the construction of the book, but a writer can always help by inspiring the editors with punchy writing and ideas. As a journalist, I had always suggested backgrounders and sidebars, or short related articles, so I was on the watch for that. And I’ve noticed that surrounding a non-fiction narrative with fact-boxes and short in-set articles can really grab the attention of readers. When I was writing Dragonflies are Amazing, for instance, the editor asked me for some “fun facts” to create a fact-box. I put together about 20 facts, and worked on them so they had an engaging style to activate a kids’ imagination. The editor ended up putting the facts in a graphic format that looks like dragonflies flying around the page. You actually have to turn the book around to read them. Very cool! She also put the images in puzzle pieces. The overall effect of that book is as amazing as the dragonflies, and it really works to attract reluctant readers.
4. Where can schools access your books?
Schools order the children’s books directly from the publishers, but I also distribute some of them locally to schools and libraries in my home town and area during readings and workshops. My young adult series Last of the Gifted is available everywhere, from Amazon to local independent bookstores, through publisher Wood Dragon Books.
5. Did your Welsh heritage influence your stories?
My Welsh heritage influences my young adult series, Last of the Gifted. My grandfather was had been born in Wales and I knew he was a Welsh speaker. All of my grandparents had died before I was born. When I was a kid, my friends had grandparents but not me, so I guess I became a little obsessed by them. But my dad died young, and it was hard finding out much about my dad’s parents. Since I was a journalist, I wanted to get into travel writing, so I planned a trip to Wales to do double duty and find out more about my own heritage at the same time. I had rented a cottage on a sheep farm in north Wales, so one day I went to see Dolwyddelan, a castle built by the last true Welsh princes. Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language and their way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that, and that led to writing about it. It’s been my “heart” project ever since.
6. How did your magical characters evolve from idea to story?
I actually started out by free writing the scenes in Spirit Sight. I had covered an article on a falconer and I was very intrigued by his falcon demonstrations. One day, while I was doing research on North Wales, I started wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of a bird. I started free writing and the opening scene came together. I’ve revised and refined it since, but that’s still the opening of the book. From there, I started reading about Welsh legends and myths, and my magical world evolved from that.
7. Is imagination important for children?
It’s important for everyone. There are a lot of ways to use and grow our imaginations, but reading is definitely one of the best ways. And writing helps, too!
8. Are there other subjects/topics you want to write about?
Yes, lots. I have a couple of contemporary fantasy novels on the go as well, as well as short stories. My writing is speculative fiction with some connection to ghosts or the past influencing the present. I still write articles for magazines as well, and that inspires me in different ways.
9. Where is your favorite place to write and why?
I write at my kitchen table, actually. I have a perfectly good office and I fully intend to use it, but the kitchen has better light and a lovely window looking out at the park across the street. I always wrote in the kitchen when my kids were young, and that tends to be where I end up.
10. Do you have upcoming projects? Can you talk about them?
I have a lot of projects on the go. I’m working on one more book now in the Last of the Gifted series, and I have started another related series. Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel from the same time but unrelated to the series, more medieval romance, just for fun. I’d like to do something more with that, too. And there are the contemporary novels as well.
11. How can readers find you?
My website is the best place, and I’m on social media too. Here are some links:
Marie Powell Bio:Marie Powell’s castle-hopping adventures across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series Last of the Gifted. The series includes two books to date, Spirit Sight and Water Sight (participation made possible through Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Production Grant Program). Marie is the author of more than 40 children’s books with such publishers as Scholastic Education and Amicus, along with award-winning short stories and poetry appearing in such literary magazines as Room, subTerrain, and Sunlight Press. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from UBC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find her at mariepowell.ca
I’m putting out a call to all book clubs. Would you like me to join you virtually? I have a wide range of novels that I would be happy to discuss – romance, speculative fiction, steampunk, mystery, fantasy. Ask me how I came up with the concept, where my characters came from, what I am working on now.
I am also happy to attend a virtual school book clubs as I have children’s and YA fiction as well, so let me know if you are interested. I can talk about how to expand on an idea, create a plot arc and make up a character.
You can find all my books on this blog under children’s, YA or adult books. Take your pick(s). I can also offer a gift package for a draw. Let me know if you are interested by commenting below or contacting me via the contact form.
Let’s immerse ourselves in stories. Our imaginations let us escape reality.