Thursday, March 25, 2021

Shane Wilson Interview - The Smoke in His Eyes

Photo Content from Shane Wilson

Shane Wilson is a storyteller. No matter the medium, the emphasis of his work is on the magical act of the story, and how the stories we tell immortalize us and give voice to the abstractions of human experience. His first two contemporary fantasy novels, set in his World of Muses universe, are currently available.

Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, Shane is a child of the southeastern United States where he feels simultaneously at-home and out-of-place. He graduated from Valdosta State University in south Georgia with a Masters in English. He taught college English in Georgia for four years before moving to North Carolina in 2013.

Shane plays guitar and writes songs with his two-man-band, Sequoia Rising. He writes songs as he writes stories--with an emphasis on the magic of human experience. He tends to chase the day with a whiskey (Wild Turkey 101) and a re-run of The Office.

Shane's novels are A Year Since the Rain (Snow Leopard Publishing, 2016) and The Smoke in His Eyes (GenZ Publishing, 2018). Shane's short story, "The Boy Who Kissed the Rain" was the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize winner and was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize.

Shane is currently at work on a new novel.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Jean, let me tell you—I spend so much time on this question. In some ways, it’s the question driving the narrative of this novel. I think storytelling’s innate value is its ability to help us make sense of human experience. The oldest and most simple stories were about where to find food or how to build shelter. As we evolved, the stories got more complex. Narratives gave birth to gods to help us explain the great traumas of human experience—famine, drought, genocide. Even now, as we evolve so do our stories. Now stories allow us to explore the even more abstract experiences that make up the texture of humanity—grief, love, loss, joy.

And I think that if you focus on the end of that question—“all of us”—you come to another aspect of storytelling that is so important—the telling. Storytelling is a communal exercise. It’s a process by which we explore our relationships with one another. It’s how we form bonds. It’s how we see our pasts and project our future. In many ways, storytelling is cultural survival and social evolution.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding experience that I’ve had since being published is being able to travel around and do live events in different places. These live events are definitely something I’ve been missing for the past year. I love talking about writing and creativity—not just my books, but in general—and I find those live events so rewarding. I love those conversations with people I would have never met otherwise.

Tell us your latest news.
Well, I have to brag about new record from my musical side project, Sequoia Rising. The album is called Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most, and it is an acoustic record full of singer-songwritery/ folk/ Americana goodness. The songs are vulnerable and personal and reflective, and I’m very proud of it. I hope people check it out (streaming everywhere).

I’ve also just published a short rom-com story in the new online literary magazine Miniskirt Magazine. You can read it for free HERE

Can you tell us when you started THE SMOKE IN HIS EYES, how that came about?
The Smoke in His Eyes is the elaborate result of a thought experiment. After publishing my first novel, I was kind of hung up with some imposter syndrome. You know—a bunch of “who am I to write a book” type stuff. This thinking led me to a line of questioning that would ultimately inform the conception of the story. That line of questioning went something like this:

· What is creativity?
· Where does creativity come from?
· Why are some people compelled to create art?
· Why are some of those people compelled to share their creations with the world?

The novel, in many ways, is an exploration of these ideas, which are explored in different ways through the novel’s three main characters: TJ, Lila, and Muna.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope that readers give some thought to the central question: where does creativity come from and why do we share it? I hope they question their own creative processes. I hope that readers consider what genuine and sincere pursuit of art looks like and whether those things matter to them in the art they consume and produce.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think I would want to introduce TJ to Kirsten from Station Eleven. That novel is so beautifully heartbreaking. It imagines a post-apocalyptic scenario where artists have found a way to reconnect with one another, and this small group of artists travel a circuit in what was the northern US, performing Shakespearean plays and playing music for the small settlements that they come across. I think TJ would fit in with that group, and in an apocalyptic scenario, I think Kirsten and her band of thespians and musicians would be good for him.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Life. I mean, I guess that’s always the answer. I’m a college English instructor, and the sheer amount of student writing that I have to read means that my mental capacity is wiped out by the time I get home for a good portion of the year. I tend to use breaks to isolate away and write, but life does tend to slow things down sometimes.

What part of TJ did you enjoy writing the most?
TJ has intense visions that first come to him in abstract colors and sounds. As he moves through the story, he meets a woman named Muna who helps him learn how to mine those experiences for inspiration for his music. I really loved writing these abstract scenes. I enjoyed playing in that more visual and auditory sandbox and bending the rules of light and sound to a different purpose in those scenes.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
This is probably going to sound pretentious, but I think everyone should travel to some place drastically different from where they come from at least once in their lives. It doesn’t even have to be abroad. If you have spent your life in the city, go to the country. If you’ve lived on the beach, go to the mountains. I think these kinds of experiences can be rewarding.

Best date you've ever had?
We went to a Jason Isbell concert in Charlotte, NC. We cried the whole time. It was beautiful. As it turns out, music is a powerful emotional conduit.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I don’t know—maybe that Jason Isbell show. It was one of those moments that you would like to live inside for a long time.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
I wish I had a quirky answer for you here, but I’m afraid I’m pretty basic when I’m leaving home:
· Phone
· Keys
· Wallet
· A pen (I can always find something to write on. I can’t always find a pen.)

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
First Heartbreak?

First Concert?
Ben Folds at Underground Atlanta

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?

I mean, I guess true love with the guarantee of a heartbreak. Pain begets art, right?

  • 1. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • 2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • 3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • 4. Crosstalk by Connie Willis
  • 5. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot D√≠az
  • 6. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  • 7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • 8. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  • 9. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
  • 10. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Journey to writing THE SMOKE IN HIS EYES
I talked a little bit earlier about the line of thinking that brought me to the doorstep of this story idea, but the journey to the end of The Smoke in His Eyes is a bit more involved. First, I had this idea—to explore creativity in its different forms and with its varying goals. The first choice was how to pursue that thought. I landed on the idea of two musicians—TJ and Lila.

I wanted these two characters to find each other and enjoy making music together. I wanted TJ to be technically proficient while he struggled to be vulnerable in the art. Meanwhile, I wanted Lila to be the more passionate of the two. It’s easier for her to be vulnerable, but a record deal confines her and makes her into an artist she doesn’t want to be. As their journeys intersect and deviate, I wanted them to both struggle with sincerity but ultimately discover a path toward that end.

Beyond all of that theoretical / creativity/ “what does it all mean” mumbo jumbo, I decided to take it on myself to learn an instrument while writing the manuscript. I decided that if I was going to write about musicians, then I needed to understand that world on a technical level. What does it feel like to press the strings and make the chords? What does it feel like to play a song? I wanted to capture these processes in a meaningful way. So I bought a cheap guitar, and I absolutely fell in love with the instrument. My band, Sequoia Rising, and the album that we just released is all a result of my finding this story out in the ether and deciding to take the work seriously.

When TJ—a musical prodigy—witnesses a traumatic event as a child, his senses are overrun with intense hallucinations. Over the years, his visions increase in frequency and intensity, but he hides them from those he is closest to, including his best friend and musical partner, Lila, who challenges TJ to reject formulaic creation in order to create something beautiful and unique. But when Lila signs a record deal, TJ feels left behind and alone with his art and his visions.

That’s when TJ meets an artist named Muna. In his eyes and visions, Muna is made of smoke, and as this magical woman helps him learn how to manage his visions and how to translate what he sees and hears into music and lyrics, she begins to disappear. His journey into Muna’s past is a journey to discover where inspiration originates and what happens to an artist when that inspiration is gone.

You can purchase The Smoke in His Eyes at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SHANE WILSON for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. I usually think of getting a drink of water as soon as I wake up.

  2. "What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?" Getting the newspaper.

  3. What I have to do during the day.

  4. I brush my teeth & wash my face when I wake up

  5. First thing I think of is a cup of coffee.

  6. I think about the dreams I had.

  7. Me: "Whose turn is it to make the coffee?" Every day...

  8. Is the coffee done brewing?

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  9. First thing I think of is get myself a cup of coffee!

  10. I think what time is it and what day is it.

  11. I always think that I need more sleep and I am tired.

  12. I usually think I should roll over and go back to sleep. I usually don't.

  13. I wish i didn't have to go to work

  14. The first thing I think in the morning is that I want more sleep.

  15. How much time it takes until I can go back to sleep LOL