Monday, March 9, 2015

Interview with Shannon McDermott

Shannon McDermott
Shannon, welcome back to Homeschooled Authors. What have you been up to since the last time you were here?
A lot! Or maybe it’s just been a long time since I was here.

Last year, my fantasy novel The Valley of Decision was released, in hard-copy and e-format. I’ve also had six much shorter works published to Kindle: Beauty of the Lilies and Summer Leaves (Sons of Tryas, I and II); Inspection and Sweet Green Paper, both humorous detective fiction; The Sunrise Windows, a prequel novella to The Valley of Decision; and Cards, published just last month – a sci-fi story.

I’ve also become increasingly active in an online community of readers and writers – joining Goodreads and Facebook, reviewing books and participating in blog tours. Last summer I became a writer on Speculative Faith – a site devoted to Christianity and speculative fiction.

What did you draw inspiration from while writing your newest book The Valley of Decision?
Many things were inspirational to me – old fairy tales, modern novels, parts of the Bible, G.K. Chesterton poetry. But the single most vital inspiration was a tale told by Brian Connors, King of the Fairies, in the old book Darby O’Gill and the Good People. King Brian told a curious priest that the Good People, though not exactly angels, had once been in heaven and were thrown out because they would not fight against the devil when he rebelled. Their life on earth was a kind of exile, and King Brian intimated that, on Judgment Day, they would be sent to hell.
This helped me enormously to define who the immortal Fays of my story really were. I made a couple fundamental alterations to King Brian’s story, and numerous smaller ones, but if you were to compare it against the story Nuadha tells Keiran, the similarity cannot be missed.

But don’t worry! Darby O’Gill and the Good People is not under copyright.

You have written primarily sci-fi before. What drew you to fantasy?
Terrific question. I’ve enjoyed fantasy as long as I have enjoyed sci-fi, but I found it harder to write. Even after I conceived the essential idea of The Valley of Decision, I didn’t know if I would be able to pull it off. What really helped me make the transition was researching folk tales. They provided an imaginative basis for my work and helped me gain a sense of the wondrous, perilous world of Faerie that fascinated and inspired me.
The Valley of Decision
Who inspired the character of Keiran?
No one did. He and Belenus were the first characters I had, because they are the fulcrum of the entire story: The evil Fay master and the mortal Captain who rebelled. From that starting point, I developed Keiran’s character. He had to be a warrior, a strategist, an excellent leader. He had to be bold. And he had to have a deeply entrenched bitterness against the Fays, despite the rank, wealth, and power he possessed as their foremost servant.

In other words, he had to have suffered. Sometimes suffering makes people kinder, but sometimes it just makes them harder. I never made Keiran cruel, but he always had a certain coldness. From the beginning, I conceived him as a hero with a strain of ambiguity; he hated Belenus, but he had been influenced by him in ways he didn’t realize.

On a lighter note, Keiran’s willingness to do and dare impossible things implied an unusually robust confidence. Keiran had a very high – and generally accurate – estimation of his own abilities. Occasionally this justified confidence crossed the border into conceit, and I had fun with that element of his character.

Which character in the story do you think was most like you?
I’d like to say it was Caél – patient and strong and wise. But in reality, I’m probably more like Jarmith – wanting to do the right thing, usually making it eventually, but all too often dragging my feet or complaining on the way.

Did God use the story to teach you any lessons?
I wish I could say yes! It’s hard for me to pick out any lessons, though the writing did focus my thoughts on the choices we all have, for good or for ill.

Is there a review that really blessed you?
Two reviews really stood out to me. The first was the Kirkus review of my novel. Now, Kirkus is an industry magazine, written by professionals and for professionals, and any good review from them means a lot. I waited a couple months for their review, anxiously hoping and praying for a good one, and I was so happy when I got it.

The second review is one recently posted to Goodreads, five stars and, more importantly, enthusiastic. It’s delightful to me, as an author, to find someone enthusiastic about my work, especially because I sometimes feel like I’m talking to no one.

What is next for your writing?
This spring, I should finish a sci-fi novel about a team of explorers marooned on Mars. I’m considering finding an agent for this manuscript, just to see where that may lead.

I plan to begin a new novel in the summer, though I don’t yet know what it will be about. I’m thinking of a return to fantasy – maybe even a sequel to The Valley of Decision.

Where can people connect with you?
My website is the best place; in addition to my blog, I have pages dedicated to my stories, lists of past interviews, and contact information.

I’m also on Facebook and Goodreads – which, frankly, I like more.

Shannon is giving away 1 signed copy of Valley of Decision (USA only because of postage costs). Enter to win below!

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