is represented by Creative Edge of Saskatchewan and joining us this week as
part of the Creative Edge series of artists/authors.
visit Shane’s website, you are greeted by the following: Shane Wilson: Realistic Fantasy with a
Sharp Edge and a Big Heart.
certainly makes me curious.
note tells us, …as he writes stories – with an emphasis on the magic of
kindly agreed to a Branching Out Interview and is sharing an excerpt from The
Smoke in His Eyes.
Let’s have a
chat with Shane.
Allan: Thanks for joining us this week,
Shane. Before we chat about writing stuff, please tell our readers a bit about
yourself, especially what we might not find in your bio. Born in Alabama and
raised in Georgia, you now reside in North Carolina. Sounds like a story right
Shane: I don’t know how much of a story there is to the moving around.
My folks were born and raised in Alabama. They got together and after a lot of
trying, they popped out a little Shane Wilson. Sometime around my second or
third birthday, my dad got a job at a papermill in Georgia, and we set sail for
those greener pastures. I bounced around the state a bit for college and work
before falling in love with a woman and moving to North Carolina. That particular
relationship didn’t quite pan out, but I’m still thankful for all of it. North
Carolina really feels like home now.
To quote a line from
your website, which I mentioned above - with an emphasis on the magic of
human experience. Perhaps you could expound on this.
Shane: I believe that the act of being human is a truly magical act.
I mean, none of it makes any sense, and people have been trying to MAKE it make
sense as long as they had the cognitive ability for reason. They invented
stories and myths and gods forever all in the name of making sense of the chaos
of life—love, loss, death, birth. It all feels like magic because at the root
of it all, there is no explicit rhyme or reason to any of it. Artists are the
people who make it their lives’ work to find the rhyme or the reason. Artists
attempt to demystify in their explorations of the human condition. This
curiosity that arises out of the magic—or chaos—of human experience is, at
least, what drives my work.
Your debut novel – A
Year Since the Rain – has garnished lots of great reviews. Tell our readers
what to expect when they pick up their copy.
Shane: A Year Since the Rain is a story about dealing with
unexpected loss. The protagonist, Alan, unexpectedly loses his father. He
projects this grief onto the people around him and he isolates himself from the
people who care for him. He’s stubborn, though, and refuses to deal with his
grief. Meanwhile, a sinkhole has opened up and threatens to swallow his entire
town. This narrative device forces Alan’s hand, right? He either has to move
forward or be swallowed up—by his grief, in a figurative sense, or by the
Allan: Please share a childhood memory or
Shane: Because I’m starting to work on my first horror project, I’ve been thinking a lot about times when I experienced genuine fear. I keep coming back to this moment when I was a very young kid—maybe in first or second grade. I was pushing my bike up the big hill near my parents’ place and this big dog started barking. The people who owned this dog had an unkempt yard, and it was hard to even see the dog most of the time, but on this day, the dog came out of the brush and stood between me and home. He just snarled and barked.
I threw my bike in the ditch and cut through the
neighbors’ yard to get home. I was terrified. I even wrote a story about it for
school. I’ve also been wondering if Stephen King went through something
similar. Maybe that’s where Cujo came from?
Allan: Again, back to your website, where
we discover your second novel – The Smoke in his Eyes. Tell us about the
story, but first, is this part of a series?
Shane: The Smoke in His Eyes is not a part of a traditional
series. Instead, I’ve set these novels in the same shared universe governed by
a shared mythology. This series is called the World of Muses, and so
far, it is home to the two novels, A Year Since the Rain and The
Smoke in His Eyes as well as a stage play called The Boy Who Kissed the
As for The
Smoke in His Eyes—this is a story about art and creativity. The main
character here, TJ, is a guitarist who is plagued by overwhelming visions as a
result of trauma from his childhood. He meets a woman, a visual artist named
Muna, who helps him find the song in those visions—essentially teaching him how
to create art from trauma. The novel explores the different reasons why people
choose to create and share their art.
Your short story – The
Boy Who Kissed the Rain – won the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize.
Congratulations Shane. It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for your
writing. Tell us a bit about the story and how it feels to be an award-winning
Shane: Awards are kind of cool, I guess. It’s always nice to think
that someone believes that your work is worth celebrating. “The Boy Who Kissed
the Rain” is a short story that operates as a sort of spiritual prequel to A
Year Since the Rain. It’s set in the same town, but several generations
earlier. It’s a sentimental and romantic story. It’s easily the most saccharine
thing I’ve ever written, but I think it’s a beautiful take on a classic Romeo
and Juliet/ forbidden love kind of story. I also adapted this story into a
full-length/ two-act stage play.
Allan: Favorite authors? Novels?
Shane: I always point to Salman Rushdie as a big influence. I read a
ton of his work in college and wrote my Master’s thesis about his novels, Fury
and Midnight’s Children. I think reading Rushdie is a major reason
why I write in contemporary fantasy, which is a cousin to magical realism. My
favorite novel of the last little bit has been Station Eleven by Emily
St. John Mandel.
Allan: Do you still teach or write
Shane: I do still teach. I teach
composition, literature, and creative writing full-time at a community college
here in North Carolina. I love teaching. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not
in the classroom at least some of the time.
You are also a musician
and songwriter with a two-person band called Sequoia Rising. What can you tell
us about this?
Shane: Sequoia Rising really only exists because of The Smoke in
His Eyes. I taught myself guitar while I was writing that novel because I
wanted the story to feel legitimate, and I thought that having experience with
the instrument that the protagonist played would help me add that extra texture
to the narrative. I learned a few songs off the radio, and I was hooked on the
act of making music. I got together with a friend who plays percussion, and we
started playing shows and writing music. Think: story songs in the vein of
Springsteen and Jason Isbell. We just released our first record of acoustic
narrative-driven songs. The album is called Of All the Things I’ve Ever
Said, I Mean This the Most, and it’s streaming anywhere music streams.
Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us
Honestly, I just hope
people check out the stories and the music and find something they can enjoy.
I’m all over the social medias at @ThatShaneWilson. Follow me and stay tuned
for my next novel, which is due out in Spring 2022.
from The Smoke in His Eyes.
is held by the author. Used with permission.)
Munira was removing
her winter clothes and hanging them up in a closet by the front door. “I did.”
He looked toward her. She was in a tank and jeans, and he noticed how far the
tattoos ran up her arms for the first time. She always had on long sleeves when
he saw her, but here, with the skin of her arms exposed, he could see the
intricate lines and images that populated her flesh. He turned back to the
painting. There were figures there, but they were hard to make out. It was
abstract, but the colors were bright.
“Do you like it?”
“I think so,” he
“I'm not very good
at art,” he said. “I don't get abstract stuff.”
“That's no big
deal. Here,” she took his hand and lead him to the sofa. “Let me show you
something.” She pulled out a sketchpad and handed it to him. “Flip through
Inside, the sketch
pad was filled with pages and pages of drawings that were of clear and specific
things—not abstractions. There were dragons and other fantastic characters.
There were portraits. There were landscapes. “Some people hate abstract art,”
she said, “because they think that people make abstract art when they can't
make other more traditional types of art. They are wrong, usually, but
“These are really
good,” he said, still flipping through the book.
interesting,” she said, “that you look at these drawings and you know they are
good, but when you look at the abstract pieces, you don't 'get' art? What makes
these good?“ she indicated the book of drawings. “The fact that they look like
something that you've seen before?” She paused and took his face in her hands,
moving his gaze to the large painting against the wall. “What makes that bad?
Because it doesn't look like anything?”
“I didn't say—”
“Shhh. I know. But
maybe abstract art is about something else—maybe it's not about looking like
it's supposed to look. Maybe it's about looking like it's supposed to feel. You
make music. You should be able to appreciate that there are other ways to
experience the world—other than with your sight. But if we could see some of
the things that we can just feel. What would that be like? What if you could
see your music instead of just feel it or hear it. That's abstract. And it's
beautiful.” Her face was very close to his, and her hands had dropped from his
face and fallen onto his leg. “And your music is beautiful,” she said.
He didn't know
what to say.
She started again.
“Earlier tonight, when Gill came up, you were saying something about your
music. You seem to be frustrated or angry or hurting—your vibe is all messed
up.” She moved to the kitchen and poured him a whiskey over ice. “You do drink
this straight when you’re not hiding it at the bar, right?” He nodded. She
poured herself a double shot of vodka and a gin and tonic. She was playing some
version of catch-up, but she couldn’t catch up with TJ—not on that night. “Talk
to me about your art.”
“I don’t know, Munira—”
him again, “Please, TJ—call me Muna. Everyone in my life that I’m closest to
calls me Muna. I want you to be one of them.” She looked long into his eyes,
and he could feel his heart pounding in his ears. She made him nervous, but a
lot of women did. Now—you were telling me about how you didn’t know about your
art.” She smiled and leaned back into the corner of the sofa against the arm
and drank her gin and tonic.
“I can’t write.”
This confession snuck out of his mouth. He was used to hearing the words bounce
around in his head whenever he was trying to write, but he wasn’t accustomed to
hearing them out loud.
“What do you mean?”
“I sit down with
paper and pen and guitar, and I try to write every day, but everything that
comes out is shit. It’s worse than what I played tonight.” And he explained the
way he used to write, and he told her about Lila’s directions and how she
pushed him in a positive way, but it ended up making him doubt his abilities. “I
know I have enough talent, and I know that I know enough to write good music,
but I don’t know how to unlock it—I don’t know how to put it together in a way
that sounds natural. I don’t want people to feel like they are listening to a
song. I want them to experience the song.” He could have thanked Lila for this
evolution in his craft, but he wasn’t thinking about it in those terms quite
said. He had clearly said something by accident, and she must have read the
expression on his face. “You need to get out of your head,” she started. “Think
about what you said—‘I know, know, know.’ When you sit down and try to write, you’re thinking about what makes a good
song—just like you did with the sketches in that book. A song is only good if
it sounds like something you’ve heard before. But you know better than that.
You want your audience to experience
the song—you have to get out of your own way. You need to find something to
write about instead of finding
something to write.”
What she was saying made sense to him. She was so passionate when she discussed
art, and he was drawn to her. Her brown eyes got big, her voice got louder, and
she leaned forward, gesturing with her hands, and touching his leg. She
finished her drink and put the glass on the floor. She looked at him. He wanted
to kiss her, but he remembered being rejected by Lila all those weeks earlier.
“Of course, I’m right,”
“I think I want to
kiss you,” he said.
“Then you should,”
she said, moving her face even closer to his. His hand moved to cover hers, and
as he tightened his fingers around the flesh of her hand, he leaned in toward
her face to feel the skin of her lips brush against the skin of his—just for a
moment—before he fell into the kiss—his eyes closed and mouth open. He moved
his hands over her little body and found all the creases of her that he could
find through the fabric of her clothes. And she kissed him back and pushed her
body against his and worked to find his creases as well.
Thank you for being our guest, Shane. Wishing
you continued success with your writing.
And thanks to all you fantastic visitors and if you want to discover more about Shane and his writing, please
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