Interviewing Shane Wilson

Today we're sitting down for an interview with Shane Wilson, author of A Year Since the Rain, which we recently published and which had a fantastic pre-order period. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if you want to know what you can do to make a publisher's life easier, look at everything that Shane has done. Shane is absolutely fantastic. He's easy to work with, he has a great work ethic, and we're very honored to have him as a Snow Leopard Publishing author and a big part of Allegiant Publishing Group, both as an author and as the Chairman of the Author Advisory Board.

- Christian Lee, Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer of Allegiant Publishing Group

Tell us about yourself!

I feel like I say this in every interview, but the first sentence is always the hardest to write. I almost wish there was a way to bring me in a bit more casually, but that’s neither here nor there.

Hi! I’m Shane Wilson. I’m a full-time college English instructor in North Carolina, which keeps me plenty busy. I’ve been dealing with some serious allergies this week, which is a terrible by-product of some beautiful weather. I think running outside in the pollen last week must have done me in.

In a nutshell, I’m always looking for good (new, alternative rock and hip-hop) music; I sometimes chase the day with a cocktail (when my sore throat isn’t raging like it is tonight); and I’m a big fan of falling asleep to the sound of the TV.

Tell us about your book!

Oh man—A Year Since the Rain is this weird little book about a guy named Alan who is dealing with some love-life and family drama. That sounds more trite than it really is, I promise. Or maybe it’s the appropriate level of trite. Alan is, in many ways, a man who has to learn what it means to grow up and take charge of his life. He has mostly let life happen to him—which isn’t as Zen as it might sound—and it’s time for him to take over.

Beyond that, Alan’s life is filled with interesting characters. For example, there is this neighbor who explores his dreams with him by literally walking around inside of them. There is a physical and existential threat to Alan’s life and town that takes the shape of a giant sinkhole, which is causing the earth to crumble from underneath him. I would consider it a close relative to magical realism/ surrealism.

It’s definitely weird and requires a certain kind of suspension of disbelief. But if you don’t have a willing suspension of disbelief, I don’t know that you’re reading very many books anyway.

How'd you come up with the idea for your book?

The idea for the book comes from many places—as do most ideas for most books, I suspect. The first time I wrote the title on a sheet of paper, I thought it was a poem. It was very different as a poem from what it would become as a novel. I struggled with that poem for a few weeks and finally decided it wasn’t worth it. I closed the journal and moved on.

Then, just about another year later, I wrote the first sentence of the novel—“Last summer, when the rivers dried up, I was living next door to a witch.” And if I can be honest with you for a second—I have absolutely no idea where that came from. But suddenly, I was off to the races. At a few thousand words, I wrote the title again, “A Year Since the Rain,” and I thought, “Cool! It’ll be a short story.” But at the end of the first chapter I realized I had created a world that was bigger than a short story or a novella. I had started a novel.

When did you start writing?

Writing creatively? I can’t honestly remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I was always writing something all through grade-school. I wrote shitty little poems for cute girls and would make them copies. I also kept originals in this flimsy green folder that I still have somewhere.

I tried my hand at long-form writing in high school, I think, with two novella-length pieces. Of course they were terrible and riddled with angst, but they were there. And they were mostly complete.

Now, it would be much later that I took writing more seriously and stopped using it to try to holler at girls.

Why'd you start writing?

Ha! I think I almost just answered this. On some level, I probably started writing for the same reason everyone does—because of an assignment. But beyond that, I started writing to impress girls. Sometimes it even worked.

What do you like about being published with Snow Leopard?

You guys have been incredibly supportive. I’m almost convinced that indie publishing is the future. You guys are willing to take a chance on an unknown author and his weird little book that agents said they liked but couldn’t figure out how to market. You are also incredibly communicative, which is fantastic. Anytime I have a question or a concern, one of you will swoop in with an answer. It’s nice to know other people who live on their emails like I do.

How do you think Snow Leopard can improve?

Aw, now, Christian—I can’t put you on blast like that in front of company. I’ll send you an email. Haha!

Has being a teacher help or hurt you in your writing journey?

This is, in every way, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, teaching is incredibly taxing on my brain, and after a day of teaching academic writing and reading academic writing, it can be tough to find the creative energy to write. And I’m definitely not a morning writer, so it has to be at night or on weekends. So, finding time and energy is tough, but that’s what everyone says.

On the other hand, as an English teacher, I get to meet some really interesting people and hear their amazing stories. I get to be a “swallower of lives” as Saleem Sanai would say in Midnight’s Children. I also get to read the greats (whenever they give me a lit course to teach), and there is always something new to learn from those folks—Hemingway, Woolf, Chopin, Vonnegut, Ginsberg, and on and on.

What doors do you hope your book will open?

Hm. I feel like it’s already opened some doors. I have speaking engagements lined up at universities, and I’m working on planning some other very cool events for this summer. Beyond that, I feel like the people I’ve met through the process—you, Marc, the other writers you’re working with—are very valuable. Snow Leopard is really like a family in a lot of ways.

I just want to be able to share this story with as many people as possible and have as many of them as possible enjoy it.

And a movie—I would not be mad at being approached about film rights.

Do you have future writing plans?

Nope! I’m all done after this.

I’m kidding, Christian. Of course I have future writing plans. I’m about halfway through a second novel. I’m not ready to mention the title yet as it might change, but it is about a rock band and magical tattoos. So that’s pretty exciting.

I’m also working on a collection of short stories that operate as a type of prequel/ companion piece to A Year Since the Rain. I only write those as they come to me, though, so who know when that will be done.

Hey! Thanks for having me here on the Snow Leopard blog!