I've never met Shannon, but after a year and a half of reading her blog I feel as if I have. She writes with a balance of wry practicality and wicked humor that keep me coming back to see what's up with her. Somehow she's able to make candid observations about the biz without being malicious -- something we could all work on -- but she's not into bragging, name-dropping or working her titles into every other sentence.
All of the above is why I bullied Shannon into an interview (note how I corner her about her latest release and make her talk about it):
Q: Shannon, I'm bored and I have nothing fun to read, but I really liked the excerpt from your new novel, 72 Hours. Make me spend money by telling me more about it.
Shan: It's fast-paced and action-packed—without a word count requirement, I was able to focus on the high points of emotion and adrenaline without padding. Usually, after all the drafts and edits are over, I don't reread my own books, but I reread this one. And my son was five minutes late to his last day of school.
Q: If DisneyWorld was going to make your new novel into a theme attraction, what kind of ride would it be?
Shan: A cross between a roller-coaster and Duck Hunt (remember that damn snickering dog?). As you scream your way through the coaster ride, you have to shoot the targets that pop out at you. The original prototype called for riders to check their children in at the gate, and you could only get them back by hitting enough targets. Park officials quickly began to suspect parents were purposely aiming high, however, leaving an excess of children in the lost and found. So in order to achieve the right amount of desperation, losers will be duct-taped to the "It's a Small World" boat ride and forced to gnaw their way free in a race against insanity.
Q: On a daily basis you juggle a busy home life, marriage, kids and a writing career. How do you manage all that without a maid, a governess, a personal assistant and lots of valium?
Shan: Several large iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts per day and VIP status at the video store helps. But the real answer is "not as well as I'd like". My house isn't as clean as it should be. I'm not as page-productive as I'd like to be. I'm also "office manager" for my husband's business, and the filing isn't as caught up as I'd like it to be. Fortunately, my kids are pretty self-sufficient and would both rather read or play than spend time with their mother. For me, the key to being able to write at all is that I don't have to have a block of time set aside. I can get up in the middle of a sentence, make lunch and read a story, then come back and finish a paragraph. Then I'll get up, settle an argument and find the DVD remote, then get another sentence and then make more lemonade before finishing a page. If I had to have quiet to keep my train of thought, I'd be toast.
Q: Let's say "72 Hours" will be made into a movie, and you're hired as a casting director. Which stars do you hire to play your hero and heroine, and why?
Shan: I actually have a behind-the-scenes page for each of my books, and in my head, Jennifer Esposito plays Grace Nolan. The photos from the set of "Don't Say a Word" really captured the character for me. I have a picture of Oded Fehr as Alex Rossi, but it's more about the mood/personality of the character. For some reason I can picture real actresses as my heroines, but find it much more difficult with my heroes.
Q: Your weblog is very down-to-earth, in that I never feel as if you're shaking promotional pom poms in my face whenever I read it. Do you deliberately write your blog that way, to get in touch with your readers, or is Shannon the Blogger the same as Shannon the Real Life Person? How has blogging helped you as a writer, and as an author?
ShanShan: Shannon the Blogger is the real Shannon, but only if I know you well. I'm very, very shy in a social situations, so if you saw me at a conference I'd be the hyperventilating person hiding in the corner wishing somebody would talk to me, but hoping they wouldn't because then I'd have to be interesting. But if you're a friend of mine, sitting on my front porch nursing iced coffees—that's Shannon the Blogger. Comfortable Shannon.
I wouldn't say the tone is deliberate. The only deliberate thing about my blog is my avoidance of most things political and religious. As a reader of blogs, it's a huge turn-off, so I don't do it. I also very rarely plan or draft my entries ahead of time—what you get is pretty much whatever's running through my head at the time. Plus, promo is very difficult for me. It goes against my nature to promote myself, and that extends to my books. But my blog allows me to have the information there without pushing it on people, and I can discuss my releases as casually as I would with a friend on my front porch.
Obviously, blogging allows me an avenue for networking and promotion, but the biggest benefit for me is touching base with Shannon the Writer every morning. No matter what else I run around doing during the day, the muse and I have said good morning, and that stays with me, helping to keep the subconscious working even while I'm handling business calls and cutting crusts off of sandwiches.
Q: You've just won a week-long, all-expense-paid writing retreat trip. Where would you go, and which writers would you invite to come with you?
Shan: Besides my dear writer friends who suffer my neuroses and the worst drafts of blurbs ever written, I would invite Stephen King (he inspires me) and JR Ward (to lock her in a room until she put me on her ARC list) and Dave Barry (I'd love to pick his brilliant comedic brain). And we'd go to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado (the inspiration for "The Shining"). What would be more fun than being in a haunted hotel with Stephen King and Dave Barry? (Plus JR would cough up the ARCs more quickly if her furniture keeps rearranging itself.) I'm sure at some point we'd write.
Q: We're going to open a time portal to June 2016, and look at what Future Shannon is up to. Tell us what you'll think we'll see.
Shan: Genetics says my butt will be bigger, but since I'll be standing in a dark corner at any conferences, maybe nobody will notice. My sons will be finishing up high school freshman and college junior years, so they might be cutting the crusts off their own sandwiches. Hopefully, you'll see the same Shannon—writing, putzing around the house, camping with the family. But I'd be lying if said I wasn't hoping you'll see my name on a bestsellers list or two.