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?
Tom slumped into the metal picnic chair. He hadn’t wanted to come on this stupid trip with his parents. He could have stayed at home, hung out with his friends – had fun. But no, his parent insisted he come on this ‘last’ camping trip before he went to college. He gazed down at his new runners, pristine white and blue. It had been a mistake to wear them here; they would get ruined with the obligatory hike tomorrow morning. The camp fire crackled and spat its warmth welcome as the night air cooled. With a full stomach of baked potatoes cooked in said fire filled with spicy chili, followed with s’mores, he was getting sleepy.
“I think I’ll turn in, Pops, Mom. We’re up early for the hike right?”
“Yes we will be, but before you go, we have something for you.”
Tom frowned but sat back down.
His Mom went into their tent, pitched on the other side of the fire. He could hear her rummaging around. When she reappeared she had a drawstring bag in one hand. His father stood up and both parents looked at their son. A strange look covered their faces, an intent gaze that made Tom uncomfortable.
“Okay what is this? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“We have something for you.”
His mother handed him the bag, Tom pulled the drawstring and cautiously peered inside. He let out a laugh. “An old teddy bear? Come on guys, I way past cuddly toys, you know.”
“It may look like an old teddy bear, Tom but this one is special. It has been handed down through the generations, father to son and so on. It is my honour to pass it on to you, now you are eighteen.”
Tom pulled out the frayed, threadbare teddy bear; it had obviously seen better days.
“Well, okay but what’s so special about an old toy, like really?”
“Tonight you will find out. It is best you experience it rather than me explain, Tom. Have a great night.”
His parents smiled and turned away, entering their tent and zipping it shut. What the heck is up with them? Old toy! Special night! It must be some kind of gag; they cooked up between them to make this last trip memorable. What losers. Well, goodnight teddy. Tom left the toy and bag beside the fire and entered his own tent, zipping the opening up tight and sliding into his sleeping bag.
The clear sky was filled with stars, a haze of purple grew larger and a bright light hovered over the campsite. Tom woke some time later to a rustling outside, he turned over. Pops can’t hold is bladder, poor oh man.
“Tom, it’s time to go.” The voice was high pitched and sort of squeaky. That’s certainly not Pops or Mom voice. He sat up, seeing the tent open and the old teddy bear standing in the entrance. “What the f…” Tom could feel his head spin, bile rising up his throat. This is one hell of a dream.
“No dream, Tom. Tonight we travel to your true home.”
Tom’s body froze as the toy spoke and took a step towards him. I’m hallucinating or dreaming. Too much spice in the chili or something. Maybe it’s the beer Pop’s gave me?
“There’s no need to be frightened Tom, your father and his father and his father have all been through this. Now, it is your turn. Up you get, we have to go.”
The teddy bear raised an arm. Tom could feel his body moving involuntarily. He tried to call out but no sound uttered from his mouth.
“Best we keep quiet, Tom. Follow me.”
Tom’s legs moved, his feet trod and he followed the strange talking toy. He was not in control of his body but his mind was a reeling. He watched the bear raised both arms. A sudden bright light flooded the campsite. Tom looked up to see what looked like a star fall towards them. He tried to turn, his body refused to comply. The light descended and he felt his feet lift off the ground. A whirling purple portal emerged from the light and the toy and boy entered it. A tunnel of swirling mauve light transported them. Tom gripped his hands into fists. This better be some kind of nightmare, I’ll wake up in a minute.
“No nightmare, Tom. It’s your destiny.”
“Can you hear my thoughts, bear?”
“Of course, I can and soon you will be able to do it too.”
The swirling slowed and stopped. Tom looked round him, the campsite was gone, the mountains, the trees, the lake. Before him was an enormous golden tree growing out of a huge crater with gold waterfalls tumbling out of it. An amber mist floated above the water and a long bridge spanned the space between the tree and the boy and bear.
“Where are we?”
“Home, Tom, we are home.”
“I’m not home, you dumb toy. Take me back.”
“You must go to the tree, Tom. She will explain everything.”
“She? What are you on? It’s a tree, it can’t talk.”
“Oh but she can and will, Tom. You are the next in line. You must go.”
Tom tore his eyes away from the tree to glimpse the toy disappear. He yelled for it to come back but to no avail. After some time, he decided to play along in this trippy dream and walked across the bridge. As he stood in front of the tree, bending backwards to see its top most branches a voice entered his mind.
“Welcome, Tom. It is so good to see you. I will teach you all you need to know as the next wizard in line.”
Let me know what you thing of my story incorporating magic into the theme. Did the narrative the way you thought?
I am excited to be presenting at a local virtual writing conference – The Art of Writing on 27th March. I am hosting a session on creating a great blog post.
I managed to grab a ticket for The Winter Book Club with Ethan Hawke on Sunday, March 14 and I get a copy of his book A Bright Ray of Darkness too.
Also there will be an Easter road trip with my dear friend, Linda. We just need to book an isolated cabin for a few days of writing, reading and exploring.
It’s what I fell in love with. Ever since I read Lord of the Rings, almost all I have read is fantasy. It’s so imaginative. You can have almost anything happen in them. You can create outlandish worlds that could never exist. It’s creative.
Who are your fantasy author heroes?
Robert Jordan, R. Scott Bakker, and Brandon Sanderson.
How do you plan a series like the Jewels of Illumination or The Storm Below?
They are very different origins. The Storm Below was my first. I intended it to be a light-hearted adventure with flying ships and sky pirates and then, in my world building, I discovered a secret of the world that changed it into epic fantasy. I only have a book ahead planned writing that series. I knew what I was writing and the next book was shaping up in my head. I felt 5 books was what I needed even if I wasn’t sure how I would get there.
Jewels of Illumination, I had a much more concrete ending and what would happen. I knew the major events of the books. And even though it deviated a lot from my outline, the general gist didn’t change.
What do you feel are the key points in fantasy stories?
Great characters. That’s the key point of any book. But great characters who are exploring and unveiling and discovering a world that is fantastical.
Can you tell us a little about the new series Masks of Illumination?
It’s a companion series to Jewels of Illumination. They are separate series that can each stand-alone, but they compliment each other. It follows Foonauri, a noblewoman exiled from her home and tired of being just a pretty bauble on a man’s arm. When she is invited to join a thief group and steal an artifact, she might just find what she’s searching for.
How does constructing a standalone novel differ in the writing process?
It doesn’t. Its just a shorter story. You don’t have to worry about setting up future events, I suppose, but it’s merely the scale that’s different.
Is poetry a new venture for you?
I dabble from time to time.
What characteristics have changed in your main protagonists from the first to last book?
It depends on the characters, but it’s usually about going from weakness to strength. Not necessarily physically, but in understanding who they are, in overcoming flaws, in accepting their place.
Do you have plans for other books in the two series?
Not for the Storm Below, but Assassins of Illumination is a sequel to Jewels of Illumination.
How long have you been writing?
Seriously since 2013 but I started back in 1993 or so in Junior High.
How do you juggle your own writing with client’s projects?
I have a schedule. I spend X time on their stuff and X time on mine. I use timers and have my work day scheduled.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? Can you describe it?
Since I moved back in August, I do. No more writing in the living room! I have an office. It has my desk, some book shelves, and my recliner that I write on with a laptop. I have some posters for decoration.
JMD Reid has been a long-time fan of Fantasy ever since he read The Hobbit way back in the fourth grade. His head has always been filled with fantastical tales, and he is eager to share the worlds dwelling in his dreams with you. Reid is long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest in and around the City of Tacoma. The rainy, gloomy atmosphere of Western Washington, combined with the natural beauty of the evergreen forests and the looming Mount Rainier, provides the perfect climate to brew creative worlds and exciting stories! When he’s not writing, Reid enjoys playing video games, playing D&D and listening to amazing music.
JMD Reid is also a ghostwriter, which gives him a great deal of freedom to work on his own fantasy. It is his passion, that shines through his stories. JMD Reid has a lot of stories in his head and is looking forward to sharing them with his readers.