Monday, August 20, 2018

Peng Shepherd Author Interview

Photo Content from Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet. She earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, and has lived in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. The Book of M is her first novel.


Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 5, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062669605
ISBN-13: 978-0062669605

Praise for THE BOOK OF M

“A beautiful and haunting story about the power of memory and the necessity of human connection, this book is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece and the one dystopian novel you really need to read this year.” Bustle

“I was both disturbed and inspired by Max’s and Ory’s journey through apocalypses large and small. Peng Shepherd has written a prescient, dark fable for the now and for the soon-to-be. The Book of M is our beautiful nightmare shadow.” 
Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World

The Book of M is exciting, imaginative, unique, and beautiful. Shepherd proves herself not just a writer to watch, but a writer to treasure.” 
Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life

“Prepare to fall in love with your own shadow. And to lose sleep. Shepherd is urgently good, and has written one of those books that makes you look up at two in the morning, to a world that’s new, newly scary, and freshly appreciated: what all the great stories do.” 
David Lipsky, New York Times bestselling author of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and Absolutely American

“A beautifully written existential apocalypse, following everyday people on a search for love, memory and meaning across the richly realized and frighteningly familiar ruins of America.” 
Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas

“Sheperd’s debut is graceful and riveting, slowly peeling back layers of an intricately constructed and unsettling alternate future.” 
Publishers Weekly

“First-time novelist Shepherd has crafted an engaging and twisty tale about memory’s impact on who or what we become. For aficionados of literary dystopian fiction such as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or those who enjoy stories of cross-country travel.” 
Library Journal

“Fans of Station Eleven, listen up!...This one is g-r-e-a-t.” 
Book Riot

“Eerie, dark, and compelling, this will not disappoint lovers of The Passage (2010) and Station Eleven (2014).” Booklist

“Brilliant debut... The Book of M is right up there with Station Eleven: achingly beautiful literary novels about a changed world.”

“Outstanding and unforgettable...The Book of M is a scary, surprising, sad and sentimental story that will be deeply felt by readers while capturing their imaginations and hearts.” 
BookPage (Top Fiction Pick)

“For fans of Station Eleven, this summer release will have you engulfed from beginning to end.” 

“[Shepherd’s] first novel, The Book of M, tells the fantastic story of ordinary people caught up in a catastrophe in which people lose their shadows — and their memories.” 
Arizona PBS

“Beautifully written, Peng Shepherd delivers an extraordinary story about love, hope, the unquenchable search for answers that may never come, and, ultimately, survival...The characters all have such depth to them that it’s impossible to not become invested in the story, which twists and turns often.”

The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.”

“It’s a great setting for a murder, and each of Rader-Day’s prickly millennials feels capable of murder—to say nothing of sleep-deprived, near hysterical Eden. Readers will have fun following the subtle clues.” 
Publishers Weekly

“Reminiscent of books like Stephen King’s The Stand, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Michael Tolkin’s NK3... she keeps the journey interesting, makes us care about her characters, and invites us to think about how we are all the stuff of dreams.” 
Toronto Star

“The Book of M shines consistently, first in the sense of magical wonder that permeates each of its pages, and second, in the emotional depth that Shepherd is able to draw out of her characters... brutal and brilliant in equal measure.” 
The Contemporary Clerk

“Shepherd’s tale pushes the post-apocalyptic story in a new and exciting direction, making readers ponder questions about reality, self-perception and relationships.” 
Shelf Awareness

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I am obsessed with yaks. Yes, yaks, the animal. It’s a silly thing that’s now a big inside joke with my friends—they draw yaks my birthday cards, or buy me cheap plush animals or art if they come across them in weird places.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I always wanted to write. I was that kid trying to write and illustrate my own books in kindergarten, and printing out hundreds and hundreds of pages of my “masterpieces” and putting them into three-ring binders in high school. I’ve been in love with books and storytelling for as long as I can remember.

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?
That’s a really hard question! If I had to answer today, I think it might be Edith in Josiah Bancroft’s Books of Babel series. It’s such a fascinating premise: what if the tower of Babel, in all its mystery, glory, and danger, still existed today? Every level of Bancroft’s tower is so imaginative and full of adventure, begging to be explored. Plus, getting to captain an airship and wield a super powerful mechanical arm? Count me in.

Did you learn anything from writing THE BOOK OF M and what was it?
THE BOOK OF M was the first time I’d seriously tried to write something in first person. (I won’t go into details here because of spoilers!) I was nervous about it because I had so much more experience with third person, but that part of the book could be no other way. I had to do it. And I’m really glad I did.

What part of Ory did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed going into his backstory. The main action of the story takes place two years after the world has collapsed, but there are several chapters from Ory’s perspective that jump back, to the days just before everything ends, and then the first few months after, when those left are learning how to survive. Getting to write about him in a time when there were still cell phones and day jobs and television shows, and then when there suddenly weren’t anymore, was really interesting.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Max?
Actually, what’s surprised me most is how many people ask if Max is based on me, because she’s the main character. The answer is definitely no. She’s a completely different person! None of the characters in the story are really based on me—some might share a trait or two because that’s inevitable, we’re all humans, but Max feels especially different.

In your debut novel; THE BOOK OF M, can you tell my Nerd community a little about it?
The Book of M is a little bit sci-fi/fantasy, a little bit mystery, and a little bit dystopian, but at its heart, it’s a post-apocalyptic love story. It’s set in the near future, and follows a mysterious phenomenon that’s causing people’s shadows to disappear all over the world, with terrifying effects—those who lose their shadows gain mysterious abilities, but at the cost of a memory every time they use their new power, which plunges the world into chaos.

The book follows a husband and wife, Ory and Max, who have survived for two years by hiding… until at the beginning of the story, Max’s shadow disappears too, and forces them to confront the nightmarish land outside in the hope of saving her.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Write the first draft as quickly as you reasonably can. If you get tripped up before you get to the end—either by endlessly redoing a certain part or just losing the writing momentum—and never finish, then you have nothing. Even if it’s bad, you can always make something better in revision, but you can’t make nothing better.

What was the last thing you bought?
A book (it’s basically always a book).

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?

What did you do for your last birthday?
I had dinner with my husband and a few friends at a really awesome restaurant. That’s my ideal celebration—a small group, great food.

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
That’s a hard question! There are so many great restaurants. There is one place here that makes a creamy Chestnut soup with a little quail egg dropped on top. It’s impossible to describe and I always have to beg people to try it because it doesn’t sound particularly amazing, but it’s one of the best things on the menu. Everyone raves about it afterwards.

Have you ever written a love letter?
Yes! I write one every year.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Wow, my hair is finally starting to grow out a little! (I buzzed it last year for fun—it’s almost a bob now!)


  • 1. The “Zero Shadow Day” in the book is actually a real-life day that happens every year in India.
  • 2. The two elephant characters in the book were also inspired by real-life elephants.
  • 3. I used to live in the Arlington/Washington D.C. area where a big part of the story is set.
  • 4. It took nine months to write the first draft, and six more to revise the final.
  • 5. I wrote the entire project in Scrivener, which is my absolute favorite writing tool.
  • 6. There originally were nine (!!!!) points of view in the novel. Only four made it into the published version.
  • 7. My favorite thing that I had to cut during revision was a pair of talking crows that followed a group of characters around and told them riddles.
  • 8. The Amnesiac was one of the last characters to be created, but became one of the most important.
  • 9. Only one of the characters (a very minor one) was originally inspired by a person I know.
  • 10. I knew the ending almost immediately, long before I knew anything else about the story.

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

You can purchase The Book of M at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you PENG SHEPHERD for making this giveaway possible.
10 Winners will receive a Copy of THE BOOK OF M by Peng Shepherd. 
AUGUST 21st TUESDAY Book Queen Reviews REVIEW
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AUGUST 27th MONDAY A Dream Within A Dream REVIEW
AUGUST 28th TUESDAY Wishful Endings TENS LIST 
AUGUST 31st FRIDAY Here's to Happy Endings REVIEW


  1. "How would you like to spend a Sunday morning?" Reading the funny pages and eating coffee cake from the old Betty Crocker cookbook.

  2. I like to spend it reading a good book.

  3. Sleeping in is a great way to spend Sunday morning followed by a good brunch, then a meandering walk on the boardwalk at the Nature Center.