Thursday, 31 May 2018

Interview With Author Shane Wilson

Today I have another interview, this time with fantasy author Shane Wilson. He stops by to chat about his writing and his latest novel, The Smoke in His Eyes. Enjoy.

An Interview With Shane Wilson

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself?

Sure! I never really know where to start with this and say something interesting, but we will give it a shot. My brain has always had me in interesting situations. I put myself through college as a mobile disc jockey—DJ Biscuit. I directed a play for a local theater in college—Neil Simon’ Fools. I started publishing short stories and poetry in graduate school (shout out to Valdosta State University), and my first low-fantasy/ magical realism novel, A Year Since the Rain, was published by a small press in 2016.

Why did you decide to write in the low-fantasy/ magical realism genre?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because of my coursework in my MFA program. Low-fantasy and magical realism are not genres that get a ton of buzz right now. All of the low-fantasy genres are getting beat up by our big brother, Fantasy (with a capital F). Hard fantasy is having a big moment right now—Lord of the Rings is getting another adaptation and Game of Thrones is one of the most successful shows on television right now. The one low-fantasy genre that is doing well in publishing right now seems to be urban fantasy. There is clearly a cultural desire for fantastical stories.
That being said, I suppose I started writing the particular brand of fantasy that I write because of what I read in graduate school. I had a professor who was really into reading and teaching Salman Rushdie novels. I ended writing about his novels Midnight’s Children and Fury for my Master’s thesis. I was just exposed to a lot of magical realism, and I studied that aesthetic and the kinds of stories that genre can tell, and I fell in love.

What do you enjoy most about writing in the low-fantasy/ magical realism genre?

The thing that drew me to the genre to begin with was the hybridity of the genre. I have always loved gritty realism, and I have also always enjoyed more speculative works. I grew up on Star Wars and Goosebumps. Finding a genre, like magical realism, where gritty realism intersects with the magical and mystical was a revelation.
I love the idea that I can tell stories about people and places that feel very real, and then I can plunge those people and places into something other-worldly. I think it allows me to get at some interesting things about human nature that I couldn’t get to in a story that was all the way in one genre or the other.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Certainly! The Smoke in His Eyes is about this young guy—a musical prodigy who is technically proficient at guitar and who also has some intense visions that seem to strike at random. He starts making music with this girl in one of his classes at the university. She pushes him to write something original, which ultimately highlights his insecurities. The two musicians go their separate ways and he meets this mysterious visual artist who teaches him how to take his wild and unruly visions and translate them into art.

Why did you write this book? What was your inspiration?

The inspiration for the novel was publishing my first novel. My first novel was largely an accident, but when it was done, I thought I should probably see if someone might like it, so I started to pitch it and I found a publisher for it. I will forever be indebted to the guys at Snow Leopard Publishing for giving my little story a chance. It gave me confidence and assurance.
But the longer it was out, the more I started to wonder: who am I? I’m just some guy who sat at a computer long enough to write a novel. Anybody could do that if they wanted to, right? So what makes me special? And what makes my book special enough to assume that anyone would actually want to read it? From that line of questioning, I arrived at the inspiration for The Smoke in His Eyes. The inspiration, then, was wondering about art and artists and why we feel the compulsion to create and ultimately share that creation with the world. The book explores the different reasons people make art and the different places we derive our inspirations.

What did you enjoy most about writing your book?

I love the journey of the writing, ya know? I love to sit down and see the blank page. It’s terrifying, for sure, but it’s also a really exciting time. I like the experience of the story. I am a pantser for sure—I do very minimal plotting before things get started. I know who my protagonist is, and I have some idea about central plot and the decisions he or she will have to make, and I have some idea about where I want to end up. The stuff in the middle is usually a surprise, and it’s a journey that I thoroughly enjoy taking.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

One of the most common reactions to someone finding out that I’m a writer is: “Oh, yeah! I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I’m sure you get that, too. I think we all do. What I tell those people is the same thing that I tell anybody else who I think might actually be serious about wanting to write a book: write it. If you want to write, write. That is the only advice I can give, and it is advice that has been given a million other times in more interesting ways by people more qualified than me. But you either have a story you believe in or you don’t. Park your ass in the chair and write. None of us really know what we are doing our first time at bat. The only way to figure it out is to try.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?

When I first started writing this book, I decided to try my hand at the guitar. I had never played before. I mean, I played piano when I was a kid, but I didn’t stick with it the way I should have. But I had this idea for a guitarist. I decided I needed to know at least something about what playing guitar felt like before I wrote about it and came off like some jackass who didn’t know what he was talking about. So, I started teaching myself guitar. I’m still not an expert, to be sure, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I play some shows around town these days, and I write songs when the inspiration strikes. Guitar has really given me a nice emotional outlet.
Beyond guitar, I enjoy some pretty basic stuff—video games and movies and the like. A lot of my free time is spent working on my MFA these days. That has also been a huge boon to my thinking and creativity.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I have a third novel drafted and awaiting revision. This third novel is set in the same world and on the same timeline as the first two novels. I am currently working on branding these stories together, so folks can look for more information on that mythology and that world in the near future.

You can find Shane's latest book, The Smoke in His Eyesat Amazon

About the Author

Shane Wilson is an author of magical realism stories. His debut novel, A Year Since the Rain, was long-listed for the 2017 Southern Book Prize. His follow-up novel The Smoke in His Eyes is available now from GenZ Publishing.
Shane is the winner of the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize. His short story "The Boy Who Kissed the Rain," is nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. He has been published in Conclave, Tethered by Letters, and the Stonepile Writers' Anthology, Volume III, and he is a contributor for New York Journal of Books. He is currently at work on a new novel.

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