Book Nerd Interview
I’ve spent most of my journalism career at three trade and association magazines—The Professional Photographer (which, as you might guess, went to studio and industrial photographers), DECOR (which went to frame shop and art gallery owners), and BizEd (which is directed at deans and professors at business schools). My longest stint, seventeen years, was at DECOR. Many people don’t know this, but I’m a CPF (Certified Picture Framer), having passed a very long, technical test to prove I understood the tenets of conservation framing. Now I write about management education and interview some really cool, really smart people from all over the world.
I mostly write my fiction in the evenings and on weekends. It requires a pretty obsessive-compulsive personality to be as prolific as I’ve been in the past ten years and hold down a full-time job. But I do manage to tear myself away from the computer now and then to do something fun. I read as often as I can, across all genres, though I’m most often holding a book that’s fantasy or romance, with the occasional western thrown in. I’m a fan of Cardinals baseball and try to be at the ballpark on opening day. If I had the time, I’d see a movie every day of my life. I love certain TV shows so much that knowing a new episode is going to air that night will make me happy all day. (I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, but in the past I’ve given my heart to shows all over the map in terms of quality: "Knight Rider," "Remington Steele," "Blake’s 7," "Moonlighting," "The Young Riders," "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," "X-Files," "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica"...you can probably fill in the gaps. And let’s not forget my very first loves, "The Partridge Family," "Here Come the Brides" and "Alias Smith & Jones.")
I don’t have kids, I don’t want pets, and all my plants die, so I’m really only forced to provide ongoing care for my menagerie of stuffed animals. All my friends are animal lovers, though, and someone once theorized that I keep friends as pets. I’m still trying to decide if that’s true.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think it serves many different purposes. When we write stories, we learn to express our thoughts and feelings and come to a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we read stories, we learn about people who are different from us, so we develop empathy—or we encounter people who have dealt with challenges similar to ours, so we learn that we too can endure and triumph.
We also can read stories simply as a distraction from the difficulties of our current lives. And we can read stories that are so beautifully written that they make us marvel at them as works of art. These are only some of the reasons storytelling is so important to us as humans.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I have never been able to develop an appreciation of classical music. Because some of my earliest books (the Samaria series) feature people who are brought together and saved by classical music, people often assume I’m an aficionado, and I’m not. A character flaw, I know!
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My all-time-favorite book IS out of genre—that’s Jane Eyre. But in genre, it’s really hard to narrow down. Probably Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
How to use a semicolon.
Also, in a women’s history course, I was fascinated to learn about the cyclical nature of social history—how the experiences and expectations of the people in one generation shape the way they raise the next generation, and how these expectations slowly lead to change.
Can you tell us when you started Unquiet Land, how that came about?
I started thinking about Unquiet Land as I was writing the book that came before it in the Elemental Blessings series (Jeweled Fire). Leah was a secondary character in Jeweled Fire, but every time she came onstage, she revealed a little bit more of her backstory. She was clearly someone who came from a place of great pain, and I wanted to tell the story of her redemption.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Leah?
How hard it can be to forgive yourself sometimes, even when other people have forgiven you already.
If you could introduce Darien to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think I’d introduce him to Gabriel in Archangel. They’re both natural leaders who don’t have much patience with stupid or obstructive people. They’re both highly principled, but I think Darien is prepared to be more ruthless than Gabriel is. But I think they’d size each other up as equals—and neither of them has encountered too many equals before!
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Don’t assume that people are bad just because they’re different. I think most of my readers know that already, though, since the people who read science fiction and fantasy tend to be open to the weird.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“You don’t mind, do you?”
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Bath, England. Closely followed by Haworth, England.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I never had particularly unusual summer jobs. But one summer I was temping at an office and the woman who hired me quit the same day. That made for a fun time at the workplace.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I tend not to say it out loud as often as I should, but I try to do things that show people I care about them, and that would be almost every day.
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heartbreak, or having never loved at all?
Oh, geez, doesn’t everyone say true love and heartbreak? To some extent, heartbreak is always built in, because there will be an end to even the most loving relationship. Love and loss are inextricable. But the other option is unthinkable.
When was the last time you cried?
I cry easily when books or movies make me sad, or even when they just push my emotional buttons! Last weekend for sure, when I was rereading an old favorite book. Maybe, by the time this is published, more recently than that.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
In movies, it always looks like so much fun to be a teenager during the ’50s—sock hops and poodle skirts and rock n roll. Post-war peace and prosperity. So I think I’ll go with that.
What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
The Bernini statues in Rome.
Where can readers stalk you?
At my website, sharonshinn.net, or on my Facebook page, sharonshinnbooks.
Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…
Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.
But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart.