Shanan Winters Interview
SW: (laughs) My mind is always going.
D: Yeah, mine tends to do that too, sometimes.
SW: It’s always …Like I said I’m never alone. I don’t know if you saw my blog post today about my conversation that I had with Ken last night, about why I haven’t been sleeping. And it’s because I left Harmon in a predicament and he didn’t like it.
D: Oh yes, yes, I did see that.
SW: (laughs) You’re scaring the Ken.
SW: Like I can’t help it man, it’s there, it’s always there. You just sit there and you’re like this will not stop. That’s why I call myself the interpreter of inspiration. I don’t write, I interpret.
D: Oh yeah I totally get that.
SW: Yeah, that’s all I do. I’m a radio antenna for whatever the f–k is going on out there.
SW: You’re gonna have to censor this interview. (Laughs).
D: (laughs) Yes. So, I also saw you were considering a mailing list…
SW: OH YES!
D: …with a contest
SW: Yes! So I have…well I do have a mailing list and it’s off of my rising novel dot com (http://www.risingnovel.com/). It’s really hard to miss, there’s a giant form that says “sign up”.
SW: Your name, your email address…I do not send spam. I send my own announcements, it’s probably like once a month, unless I have something really exciting to say.
SW: But the big thing is I want to be able to reach people, who want to read my books and Facebook, I love ‘em, but they’re so unreliable.
D: Yeah and it’s so limited.
SW: It’s so limited, and basically what happens is they, they taunt you, they go ‘we’re going to share this one post you did with 400 people, but then this next one we’re gonna share with 2. Oh you wanted to have better visibility, why don’t you pay us’.
D: Yeah, I noticed that too with my own page.
SW: It’s frustrating. It’s like no, no, no, no and so what I’d rather have is… I want this kind of two way communication, because I like to respond to people on my blog. You know, people come and take the time to read my blog posts and respond I’m gonna say something back. Even if it’s just to say “thanks for responding”.
D: Right, because that could be a crucial moment in that person’s life, because this person noticed me.
SW: Right and not just that, but it’s all about building relationships in a community, and I think authors have a really good chance of doing that before you become Rowling, before you become Stephen King, but even then, that’s the type of relationship I value. So having this type of mailing list means there’s the possibility of two way communication. If someone who writes to me and says ‘hey I really loved this about your book’ or ‘hey I was wondering this’, I can get that. I can receive that you know, it comes directly to me, it doesn’t go into some nebulous bot, it doesn’t go onto some site that may or may not show me.
D: Right, it doesn’t get filtered by somebody else who decides whether you should or shouldn’t see it.
SW: Exactly. It’s a direct communication. So I really like the idea of a mailing list. And to entice people to join the mailing list, because I know email, ‘oh my g-d, it’s going to hit my email box, I already have a million emails’, so that’ why I go ‘my entire email list every month is open to some sort of giveaway contest’. I’m going to give something, be it an amazon gift card, be it a signed copy of my novel, be it somebody elses novel. You know I’m looking to the future, and once I get to maybe a big celebratory point like with next novel, I might give away something like a Kindle. I want to be able to thank my readers, for buying my book, following along, you know, and devoting a tiny little portion of their lives, to me, you know its huge. This is my way of thanking them and the only way I can do it is if I know who they are.
D: Oh definitely.
SW: and I can’t pull it all together from well I have 400 followers of Twitter, and I’ve got 700 followers on Facebook, and I’ve got a 1000 people on Instagram, 2500 people on Pinterest, but I can’t keep track of that.
D: Right. I’m having a hard enough time with Facebook and Twitter right now.
SW: Right and the thing is… the other thing too with those is they only give you so much, they give the person’s account but they don’t… you don’t have an email address, you don’t have a phone number, or an address, or whatever else, to be able to send them something. Where I’m just saying all I need is an email address because if you’re going to win something I need to mail you. I can communicate with you that way, and say ‘Hey I want to send you this Kindle’.
SW: ‘What address would you like it sent to’? So I’m not asking for those addresses to be required, just email addresses is all I need. I think it’s a really positive tool for building a community,
D: It sounds like a good idea.
D: So the inspiration for Rising…
SW: Yes (laughs).
D: I was reading the description of that, and, I’m a very visual person, so as I’m reading it I’m picturing the house based on the way you described it, you know, with the bare wooden floors, the pellet stove, the survivalist stockpile, your aunt’s battle scar, and counting toilet paper squares, like I picture this woman and I felt I knew who she was.
SW: (Laughter) Yes, my aunt Mary.
D: So with all of the description of everything and I mean the rich color of the trees, do you know, is there any significance to red alder trees specifically, or was this something that stuck out for you?
SW: So this was something that stuck out for me, mainly because my cousin was so convinced, so, so convinced, that these trees meant something because where the clearing… where this little dilapidated shack sat that we went to, it was in this kind of oval ring of red alder trees. That, I don’t know if you ever been to Astoria, but it’s mostly conifer forest, and there are red alder trees, they’re native to the northwest, but I’ve never seen quite that perfect a ring around a clearing. And they were, they were just this ring around this clearing, only about half an acre, of clearing in the middle and then it spread out to the conifer forest beyond them, but it was this perfect perimeter, and then there was a little house and right next to it sat this, just broken down old tractor, that was rusted full of holes, and my cousin’s point here, was that the werewolf had taken over the house, and killed the person who was going to tear it down with tractor, and so that’s why the tractor was left abandoned.
SW: My cousin had a great imagination.
D: Most kids do.
SW: I love him, you know and to this day I… you know I’m sure they were playing a prank on me, but I’ve always thought back to that, ‘what if, what if’, you know what if there really was this creature that was living in the woods in Astoria and it found this perfect location, where it could stay because it had this ring of trees that it could somehow magically imbue this essence, or whatever and it creates some sort of barrier or force field, that kept the elements out, but it kept him inside. That became the basis of Rising, is that this creature does exist and that Kessa St James, in the story, is basically me, the 15 yr old girl in the story. Of course I was 13 but in the story she’s 15.
SW: Danny Harmon is my cousin’s friend who, if you know from the website he wasn’t around that weekend, but I’d met him before, and his name was not Danny Harmon, I don’t even remember what his name was, uhm but he takes the place of that person. So when Kessa goes back to the scene of this crime, and now I swapped locations to an existent place in Astoria, Oregon, that’s where my cousin lives, that’s where we used to go visit. I’m from Gig Harbor, Washington, so in the story these events take place in Gig Harbor, Washington and my main character’s from Astoria. Now the reason why I did this, I don’t know Astoria well enough to write it convincingly.
SW: There are enough ‘Goonies’ fans out there though that would call me out.
D: Yeah because you got the name of the street wrong or it runs the wrong direction.
SW: Exactly. And I should know because my uncle was the city planner, but whatever, you know I didn’t pay attention to that when I was in high school. So I spent a good amount of time deliberating where this story was going to take place, and I went ‘you know what, its’ easier for me if I just set it on the key peninsula because I can blindfold myself and drive the length of the g-d d—-d thing’.
SW: I walked the woods more times than I can count, in multiple different locations. I’ve ridden horses for 20 miles through those woods you know. I know them like the back of my hand. So if I’m going to be writing a story where they’re running through the woods and they’re fighting creatures and they’re you know…
D: You need to actually know the territory unlike the people who did the Blair Witch Project.
SW: Right. It’s like in one scene they blow up a very prominent landmark, the civic center. I used to have high school lock ins there. I know that place. I used to run around the whole thing. I can draw you a map of it. So that’s why it’s set there, but the story is based off of that crazy little episode with my cousin long ago.
SW: And what happens is Kessa comes back to the scene of this childhood nightmare that she just wants to forget. She doesn’t want to remember this, she’s pragmatic, she’s an FBI agent she’s got a degree in psychology, you know she’s smart, she’s cunning, she’s trained in martial arts, you know she’s, she’s a kick ass kind of girl and what happens, she ends up just down the street from her uncle’s property, investigating the murder of a US Senator who has slash marks like claws all over his body and who shows up but Danny Harmon as another FBI agent.
D: Oooh, nice.
SW: Yeah (laughs) and of course he’s convinced that it’s the werewolf. He’s been tracking this creature his entire life. She thinks he’s full of s–t.
SW: She wants to have him committed right off the bat.
SW: and a lot of people are like ‘oh so it’s like Mulder and Scully’, no, no their personalities are completely different, the stories are very different and really it was funny because yesterday there was the big Scientific American article that came out about the proof of extra dimensional planes of existence…
D: Oh wow!
SW: …that they’re coming close to proving that there are multiple planes of existence.
SW: yeah yeah, and that they overlay our own but they’re on different frequencies so we can’t directly interact with them. So they’re kind of close to actually like…
SW: …scientifically proving this.
SW: I like to think they read my novel.
SW: So the idea here is that you have these creatures that are from these extra planar dimensions, they want to be here.
SW: Because ‘here’ offers a lot of benefits, mainly in terms of them being able to control what’s going on, but also you find out that things taken from one plane to the other end up having different properties then they’d have here, or vice versa.
SW: So they’re able to manipulate the world the way they want to by carrying items from one plane to the next.
D: Oh cool!
SW: Right. So you got, basically what they’re walking into is a demon turf war. They’ve got two different factions of demons fighting over a piece of land and that is the circle of red alder, because that is a gate between the realms.
D: So there really is a significance to the trees in the context of the book.
SW: In the context of the book the trees are very significant because that is a… and I’m not going to give away why…
D: Of course not they have to buy the book.
SW: They have to buy the book. That piece of land is what the demons are fighting over.
SW: They [the characters] find out that, and then Kessa, as it says on the back of the book, she finds out… she has to come to terms with the fact that she is what is called an Adept of the Ancients, so she’s adept at wielding magic across the planes…
D: Oh wow!
SW: …and she doesn’t want that, man does she not want that.
SW: Danny thinks it’s awesome.
D: She’s like “aw man…why me”?
SW: Why not him?
D: He wants it. I don’t.
SW: Give it to him.
SW: So, yeah, so that’s the whole trees, and the back story behind how this all came to be, so Kessa’s back story is my life with my cousin.
author’s edit: for more about Shanan and her novel Rising, while you wait for part 2 of our interview, look for her online at the following:
Look for Part 2 of the interview with Shanan Winters on Rising coming soon!