Today, I’d like to welcome author Shannon Delany to the blog! Shannon’s new book, Secrets and Shadows, comes out today through St. Martin’s Griffin. It’s the second in her 13 to Life YA series (which has an amazing story–read below), and gives us a whole new take on the sexy werewolf. Think Russians, CIA, and maybe a bit of mafia thrown in. And, of course, I’ll be giving away a copy of Secrets and Shadows–details below.
Q. Welcome, Shannon! You had one of the most unusual routes into publishing ever–the first novel in the series 13 to Life, started out as a cellphone novel at textnovel.com and turned into a multi-book deal with St. Martin’s. How did that happen?
Yes, my path to publication story proves there’s no one true way to reach your dream of publication. I decided to start a serialized cellphone novel mainly out of curiosity. I’d heard a little about the cellphone novel phenomenon rolling across Asia and I wanted to see if playing in a different format would be fun. When I won the contest [the first cellphone novel contest at textnovel.com], a press release went out even before query letters and it was that press release that attracted the attention of publishers and a movie producer. I finally signed with St. Martin’s Press based on their contract (of course) but equally because of the personality of editor Michael Homler and his ability to communicate effectively, politely and quickly.
Q: I’ve heard “13 to Life” referred to as “werewolves on steroids”—what is it about werewolves that drew you to write about them, and how are your wolves different?
I love that quote. I’ve always admired wolves and been amazed by the tenuous relationship man historically has with wolves. We traditionally vilified wolves because we didn’t understand them. It’s a common issue our species has–fearing and vilifying what we don’t immediately understand. That concept, as well as the fact wolves’ domesticated relatives are considered “man’s best friend” and tremendously loyal, made me give werewolves and their lore another look. I, however, looked at the werewolf mythos that was most attractive to me: that of Eastern Europe. My wolves are unique in many ways but most noticeably they differ from the norm because they live according to a more canine chronology. Their lives are amazing, but short.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge to you in writing YA and standing out in a crowded and still-growing genre?
I think you named the biggest challenge right there: “..standing out in a crowded and still-growing genre.” I write for an audience that has a reputation for having a short attention span. The marketplace is flooded, and everyone still wants in because they see YA as a ticket to growing an audience or breaking into something with greater potential. Being memorable enough for readers to grab the next book in your series–that’s a challenge. So I write first for myself. I focus on my characters and trust my beta readers and editor will tell me their honest opinions. I can’t guarantee what the public will say about my work so I write what I feel strongly about–what hits me–and hope it resonates with readers.
Q: In Secrets and Shadows, your lead character Jessie gets pulled into some high-stakes international negotiations, which sets it apart from so many high school-based
stories. How do you walk the line between the “Big Story” and still keeping it real as a YA?
I keep it real by maintaining an authentic voice for Jessie. Jessie’s very much a normal girl thrown into paranormal circumstances. She’s coping with things as well as anyone would by trying to find a sense of normalcy amid the madness. Oddly, her anchor in the insanity is Pietr, a werewolf. But hey, you grab onto the best thing life offers at any particular moment. That’s real.
I guess I don’t see much of a line to walk between “Big Story” and YA in part because I was a history teacher. There were (and still unfortunately are) significant parts of the human population that are underrepresented or limited by the expectations of others. Children and teens have always played important roles in international events (even if in the quietest ways)–who do we fight our wars for or broker peace on the behalf of if not the next generation? Besides, I’ve always felt teens are overlooked because of their age and supposedly “limited life experience” and yet they are undeniably resilient and remarkably capable.
Is it likely a teen girl will get mixed up in things with the CIA and Russian mafia? More likely than us discovering manufactured werewolves lurking in small-town America… I hope.
Q: What is your worldbuilding method? How did you develop your werewolf mythos?
My worldbuilding method comes down to a lot of visualization and an understanding that, just like in real life, the entire world doesn’t present all of its subtleties and complexities to you immediately. It emerges. We only start to understand our world when we bother to examine it. Pietr, Jess and their audience are only now beginning to discover Junction.
My werewolf mythos developed as the result of researching traditional (and often overlooked) werewolf tales. Then I took what I’d learned of paranormal and biological research done during the Cold War (and earlier) and mixed thoroughly.
Q: What’s next for Jessie and Pietr?
Something teenagers hate a lot: tests. Tests of faith, of love and courage (and probably some midterms). Jessie and Pietr are tested by each other, their friends and certainly their enemies. But most importantly the 13 to Life novels are about young people, including Jessie and Pietr, testing themselves and discovering just what they’re made of.
Thanks for joining us, Shannon! Here’s a little more info on Secrets and Shadows, and the giveaway details:
ABOUT THE BOOK: Nothing’s simple when you run with werewolves. Jess Gillmansen thinks she’s seen it all but her eyes are about to be opened to even more danger and a reality far more paranormal than she’s suspected. With Jess’s realization that the Rusakovas’ mother is still alive and imprisoned, the group’s choices become harder and trust more important. Lines are drawn and relationships change as the broken Rusakova family struggles to reunite long enough to free their mother and people who Jess always just took to be normal people show themselves to be much, much more.
THE GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Secrets and Shadows. Same as usual: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT.