Florence Writers Interview with author Shannon Kirk

Shannon Kirk is the awarding-winning, international bestselling author of Method 15/33(psychological thriller) and The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall (Literary Fiction). Shannon was named by Amazon UK as a 2016 Rising Star and Method 15/33, her debut, has received multiple accolades: 2015 Foreword Review Book of the Year (Suspense); IBPA GOLD Winner; Winner of 2015 National Indie Excellence Award, Best Suspense; School Library Journal’s Best Adult Books for Teens (2015); and Finalist in 2013 William Faulkner William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition (when a Novella). Method 15/33 is optioned for a major motion film and has sold to over twenty foreign rights.

How do you make time to write while also practicing law?

I’m not exactly sure, really. Sometimes I look back over the last eight years (started being serious about my lifelong love of writing eight years ago), and I wonder, what just happened? I think I’ve made it work because I’ve been pretty disciplined about where I keep my writing: all in one spot, on my personal computer. If I write notes in a journal or on my phone, I try hard to transfer that to the computer. Before long, manuscripts build. A brick at a time. Also, I travel a lot for work, and when not traveling, my commute is relatively long. I use all travel and commuter time to write or read or edit. Before I got serious about writing, all that “dead” time I wasted on, what, I don’t know. Staring into space? By traveling a lot, I mean, I’m on a plane or train at least once, if not four times, a week, and sometimes internationally. Further, I technically work as a lawyer only four days a week, so Friday is my writing day. Basically, I patch and cobble and steal every possible free moment the universe gives me to write. And, I do not give up my free time in any casual or easy sense: I’m a Time Scrooge.

What is it that makes a book great for you?

Vivid scenes and poetic prose. I do not like a lot of dialog. I’ve put down many, many books when I see there are pages and pages of dialog. I also want to feel either great suspense or great love, and if I can get both, well then that’s a gold star in my opinion. My favorite book of all time has all these qualities: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

How do you come up with an idea for a novel?

Many ways. Sometimes a vivid dream. Sometimes a line pops in my head, and I stick on it, and then a whole world and plot build around it. Sometimes a place I’m in sparks an idea. For example, I’ve started on a new thriller with a working title, Josephine. This started because I was in a diner in San Francisco and I was awestruck by how mind-blowingly colorful this diner was. It seemed like a rainbow had melted inside: red and purple and orange on the menu board; green watermelons and apples on the counter; blue floor; yellow trim, flowers in the window, patterned curtains, and so on. I was then trying to edit a different psychological thriller that is currently set to release next summer (working title: Aunty), but I couldn’t get out of this rainbow diner in reality or in thought. Next, I considered a story about a girl in this Technicolor diner, which would otherwise seem happy and joyful, but she was really tracking a man who she was convinced chopped up her sister and left her body parts in sewer grates around the city. I like to try to build worlds that conflict with the plot, an unsettling disconnect: beautiful scene vs. horrible murder, that sort of thing. And so……the story….went from there.

How do you approach writing a novel versus writing short fiction?

In writing a novel, I do not do outlines or think about any organization or pacing when I start. I like to dive in, write various scenes, and just feel my way around in an organic sense until things start to solidify. Then I spend time on organization and fixing pacing. Lots of cutting and pasting and editing and adding in this stage. As for short fiction, I can’t really be that organic. I need to think about the “beginning, middle, and end” from the start, because there’s not much space for side rants or backstory or scene setting or all the other luxuries that you might have with a novel.

Was the publishing process difficult for you at any point? 

It was and is. The publishing process is still incredibly intimidating to me, but has certainly improved. I have a great and wonderful agent, who has put together a fabulous team of supporting agents (foreign rights and film). My publishers have been fantastical wonder-beings. My editors too, from the various houses, all kind and supportive and wonderful. I think the difficulty that will never leave me is the paralyzing fear and anticipation of rejection and the immobilization I suffer when I do get rejections. At first, rejections came when I tried to get an agent. Then I got an agent: HALLELUJAH. Next, rejections came when we went on submission. Then I got a publisher. THANK YOU, WORLD. And still, when we go on submission for new work, I can barely breath waiting on responses. Can’t get any other work done. It’s all me, but the wait is grueling and personal, goes straight to my core.

Find out more about Florence Writers’ Publishing Day.

Interview with thanks to Shelley T Martin. 

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