Monday, August 2, 2021

Shawn Nocher Interview - A Hand to Hold in Deep Water

Photo Content from Shawn Nocher

Shawn Nocher’s compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been longlisted or won honorable mentions from both SmokeLong Quarterly and Glimmer Train.

She earned her master of arts in writing at Johns Hopkins University, has given wings to two children, and lives with her husband and an assortment of sassy rescue animals in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes in a room of her own. This is her first novel.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The biggest thrill for me was seeing my first review—5 stars on Goodreads. I think that’s when it really hit me that this book was going out in the world and I was, just by putting it out there, soliciting opinions of it. I got chills the first time I saw my novel in a bookstore, but honestly, that first review was what brought it all home to me. I had been trying to convince myself that I wrote a book for me and how readers responded wouldn’t be the most important thing. But I was wrong. It means a lot to me to know the book is loved and people relate to the characters. That’s not to say a bad review would slay me, just that I want the book to move people and I suppose I hadn’t realized that until I saw that first review.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I’ve been writing short stories for years, but the structuring of a novel always intimidated me. But by the time I sat down to write this novel, I knew these characters as well as my own family. I felt like they’d been nudging at me for years to tell their story.

Tell us your latest news.
I’ve finished my second novel, The Precious Jules, and it’s in my publisher’s very happy hands right now. It looks like it will release next summer, 2022. And I’ve started on the next novel as well. Having a novel in the works lets me have an alternate reality and I love that.

Can you tell us when you started A HAND TO HOLD IN DEEP WATER, how that came about?
What would become the first chapter of this novel actually started as a short story when I was twenty-seven years old and part of a writing workshop. I’ve written many short stories since, but these characters wouldn’t leave me alone. Over the next decade, I imagined an elaborate backstory that explained how the characters found themselves in that short-story moment. By the time I sat down to write the novel it unfolded organically with the characters leading the way.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they are falling right into the pages, living the story alongside the characters. I hope that when they turn the last page they find themselves wishing they could stay there, and I hope days or weeks later they find themselves wondering just what Willy and Lacey are up to.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Willy and Lacey?
I think the most surprising thing I learned was that the writer creates the plot points, but if your characters are full and faceted, they will decide how to move through those plot points. I had to let them make their choices and that meant I had to know them—really know them. There were many times where I found myself scratching huge chunks of text because I realized I was controlling the characters rather than being a conduit for their story.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Most definitely I would want to introduce Willy to the McPheron brothers from Kent Haruf’s Eventide. The three of them share much more than a life of farming, however. They are all three men who have moved through disappointment, contended with their own loneliness, made family outside of blood, and battled their own selfishness to protect that family. They are paternal men who struggle from time to time but in the end, they almost always do the right and generous thing.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I had a busy event floral business for a dozen years and that kind of thing can suck the life out of you. But more than that, I faced two serious health crises with my children over the years that left little room for being lost in my imagination. Moving through those things, however, made me a better writer once the dust cleared. If you spend a lot of time facing your fears you can’t help but be changed by them once they have passed.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Have a life changing crisis. Seriously. I’m a stronger person and a better writer for having gone through difficult times. The danger, of course, is that a crisis can take you down and it feels like you’ll never stand again. But if you do, the world suddenly looks very different.

Best date you've ever had?
I have a fear of commercial flying. Weirdly, it’s the fact that I’m not in the cockpit that scares me most. Obviously, that is a control issue of some sort. My husband knows me well enough to understand this about me and gave me a flying lesson for my 40th birthday. It was glorious and I didn’t have a moment of fear.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I would go back to the places where I wasn’t my best self and be kinder, do the right thing, extend myself a little more. I don’t need a do-over in terms of big life decisions, I just wish that I could go back to any of my selfish moments and get it right.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Both of my children had major health scares. My daughter had brain surgery as a teen and it was a long recovery. My son struggled with a substance use disorder but has been in recovery for nearly eight years. Both of these things were brought me to my knees, but I am a different person because of them. I was humbled and empowered at the same time and while I never want to go through either of these things again, I am changed for the better by them.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
My glasses, pen and paper, and spare glasses.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Anywhere on a lake, preferably surrounded by pine trees.

First Heartbreak?
Finding out my parents weren’t perfect. It was soul crushing.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I can’t imagine not choosing love, always.

Willy Cherrymill and his stepdaughter Lacey are deeply bruised by a past brimming with unanswered questions. It’s been thirty years since May DuBerry, Willy’s young wife and Lacey’s mother, abandoned them both leaving Willy to raise Lacey alone.

Lacey Cherrymill is smart, stubborn and focused. She’s also a single mother to a young daughter recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. The last thing she needs to think about right now is the betrayal that rocked her childhood. Reluctantly, she has returned to her rural beginnings, a former dairy farm in the Maryland countryside, and to Willy, a man steeped in his own disappointments and all the guilt that goes with them.

Together they will pool their wobbly emotional resources to take care of Tasha, all the while trying to skirt the issue of May’s mysterious disappearance. But try as she might, Lacey can’t leave it alone. Just where is May DuBerry Cherrymill and why did she leave them, and how is it that they have never talked about the wreckage she left behind?

You can purchase A Hand to Hold in Deep Water at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SHAWN NOCHER for making this giveaway possible.
1Winner will receive a Copy of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher.


  1. I watch tv. I go to the casino. I play video games

  2. Lots of ways, binge-watching, playing with the dog, exercise, surfing the internet. I'm never bored.

  3. I spend my free time working in my garden and canning.