The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
Today, find out more about SPIRIT WARRIOR.
What initially got you interested in writing?
I didn’t write any fiction until three years ago. Making up stories, however, has been part of my life since I was a kid. I didn’t just forget my homework. No, wild dogs attacked me on my way to school and tore it up. My teachers knew me as “that kid that always lies.” Of course, I wasn’t lying—I was making my boring world more colorful by inventing exciting things that only I could see.
This all changed when three years ago, I listened to Joanna Penn’s podcast at www.thecreativepenn.com. I’d always thought that successful authors were born with an innate talent I didn’t have. Joanna talked about how writing was primarily a craft that could be learned. That was a revelation.
It took me another year of doing online workshops to learn techniques until I published my first book. But this new insight was the spark that set off my creativity and made me believe that yes, I could do this.
What genres do you prefer to write in?
I love Urban Fantasy. To me, that means stories set in our modern world, with normal characters, people like you and me, but with a little magical twist added.
That’s probably the reason why Harry Potter spoke to me so strongly. I love the idea of creating ordinary human beings who have some powers that set them apart from everyone else, and then explore how this changes them and their environment. Add a pinch or a bucket of romance, depending on the story, and I’m hooked.
As an indie author, I have the luxury to explore a mix of genres. Urban fantasy, romance, crime and thriller—they all inspire me in different ways. My notebook is full of ideas for future stories, incorporating elements of other genres into my urban fantasy novels.
Are there any authors you prefer to read and why?
There are too many to list them all. JRR Tolkien blew my mind when I first read “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager. That was my first exposure to world-building on an epic scale. I still re-read all three books every decade or so.
Later followed Terry Pratchett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and a lot of the early scifi classics like Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. I don’t read them anymore because I haven’t got the patience (or time). But even now, decades later, their storytelling and worldbuilding influence the way I see the world.
For character development and voice, I love Stephen King. He’s one of my go-tos when it comes to young characters’ voices. “Stand by Me” is a masterpiece of exploring the way teenagers see the world and express themselves.
Over the last few years, I’ve picked up many modern urban fantasy writers like Darynda Jones or Laurell K. Hamilton. I also greatly enjoy lesser known authors like Julie Kagawa and Anna Mcilwraith. So much to read and so little time!
How did you make the move into being a published author?
After I decided to try my hand at writing, I researched how best to get my work out there. I very quickly decided that with electronic access to the buying and reading public, I would be foolish not to try self-publishing.
As a self-published author, I don’t need to negotiate gatekeepers, stick to what traditional publishers consider might sell, and I keep a far larger percentage of the royalties.
The trade-off is that I’m entirely responsible for my own editing, cover design, and marketing efforts and costs. Nobody chases me for deadlines which is also a drawback. I work much better under pressure!
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love losing myself in worlds that are just the way I want them to be. My characters become my best friends. I get to play with them, do terrible things to them, and then make sure they get their happy end.
Where I live, we have a vibrant creative writing community. Every weekend we meet up and do writing exercises, exchange ideas, hang out and just be with each other. Writers are awesome people, creative, challenging, smart. Even if I never earned a penny selling books, I’d still do it just for the people I get to hang out with!
What do you find most challenging about writing?
The most challenging thing about writing is that you never know if you’re any good. Especially at the beginning, you write into the void. Eventually, people will tell you they enjoyed reading your books (or not), but right at the start, you need a lot of determination to carry on and finish your story.
Impostor syndrome is a real thing, and all creatives suffer from it. Google it—its insidious! Every writer has that moment when they publish a new book, “Is this the one where readers realize I have no clue what I’m doing?” Realizing that literally everybody suffers from it helped me a lot!
Do you have any tips for writers who find themselves experiencing writer’s block?
Honestly? I’m sure some writers will kill me for this, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It usually hides another issue: not being sure what comes next, i.e. lack of outlining. Falling out of love with your characters (it happens). The fear of not being a good enough writer.
Whenever I don’t know what to write, I type something. Anything. I literally sit down and write, “I have no idea what to write. I thought I’d pen the next Great American Novel but that’s not happening. Etc etc.” Do a stream of consciousness. It’s amazing how that rattles loose something in our brains.
The other tip is to stop writing for a few days and do something completely different, as long as it still has to do with your project. Draw your characters. Create a pinterest board with worldbuilding or casting inspiration. Sometimes our brains need to be engaged slightly differently to regain enthusiasm for the story.
What advice would you give to people that want to enter the field?
I assume you already read a lot. Narrow down what you REALLY enjoy about the stories you read. For me, it’s the “fish out of water” trope. That’s why my characters live in a country they don’t fully understand or gain powers that give them access to a brand-new world.
Join organizations like the Romance Writers of America. Even as a non-member you can take their online courses. They are more helpful than I can say. As mentioned above, writing is a craft and can be learned. Study techniques like writing in Deep Point of View. You wouldn’t jump into any other profession without training, so why should writing be any different?
And lastly, if you don’t have a creative writing group in your area, go to www.meetup.com and set one up yourself! It’s the single most important motivating factor for me to continue with my career (other than my awesome readers, of course!).
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I love writing about strong women and non-toxic men. I want my readers to be entertained and fall in love with my characters. The stories are exciting, sure, but modeling how people are so much stronger when they interact respectfully, is important to me.
That sounded a bit sappy… But I feel there is so much toxicity in our world today, such lack of empathy and attempts to dehumanize “the other”, that I want my books to be an antidote. I want my readers to be able to lose themselves in my world and feel better when they finish my books.
Is there anything else about you that you think readers might find interesting?
Not sure if it’s interesting, but I now live in Germany, a country in which I grew up until I was twenty years old. Then I moved to London, met my Irish husband, and lived in an English-speaking environment for the next twenty years. As a result, I speak English with a strong Irish accent and I can barely communicate in my mother tongue anymore. Which is weird.
up, carrying with it the smell of late fall, of damp vegetation and sour
apples. It played with Adi’s hair, although she barely noticed the cold breeze.
Too many eyes were staring at her. Adi’s skin itched with the attention. She
wasn’t usually this shy, but the weight of all the glares made her afraid to
lift her head.
they won’t bite. Let me introduce you. They’re my family—they’ll love you.”
Adi understood Honi’s unspoken words.
were there? Forty? Fifty? Had the entire Mekui’te tribe come out to greet them?
Adi shivered. The smell of early snow made her nose twitch. It brought bad
memories of a woman with white eyes, forcing her to make a choice between
Honi’s life and a lifelong thrall.
when an ice-cold gust blew across the open space where Honi had parked their
rental. He had called ahead, laughing and joking with his old friend and
mentor, John. The shaman of the Mekui’te tribe had expected them hours earlier,
but they’d gotten held up at the airport. Their luggage had gone missing for a
few hours, plus the rental car hadn’t been ready yet.
driven the five hours from the airport to the reservation, they had to take
turns because both of them had been exhausted after the long trip from Germany
back to the U.S. The closer they’d gotten to their destination, the more Honi’d
woken up. His excitement to see his family again after more than a year had
been so infectious that Adi’d swallowed down her apprehension.
kept a smile on her face, trying to appear relaxed and at ease. Inside, she was
anything but. There was something disconcerting standing in front of such a
large group of people, most of who looked at her with suspicion.
she was a stranger? Had John told the community she was a spirit walker? She
couldn’t imagine he had. So why the hostility that wafted from the silent group
like an invisible cloud?
to a tall man with a black Stetson pulled deep into his craggy face. His eyes
were warm as he hugged Honi to him. Adi remembered meeting him in the hospital
when she’d sat next to Honi’s bed, waiting for him to wake up from a coma. His
name was Jim Fisher, and he was Honi’s father.
for a moment as the two men chatted excitedly. He looked just like Honi would
when he got older. Still tall and lean, only the lines around his eyes betrayed
his age. Her boyfriend turned towards her and waved her over. She kept her eyes
on Jim Fisher’s face as she approached, smiling politely.
changed from one second to the next. Gone was the warmth, the humor. Instead,
he crossed his arms and spread his legs, anchoring himself. Adi had already
stuck out her hand, ready to shake his. Confused, she pulled it back. She
looked at Honi, who seemed equally baffled.
silence, Adi spoke, still keeping a timid smile on her face. “Mr. Fisher? Do
you remember me? We met at—”
are.” The words were harsh, underlined by his angry expression.
woman responsible for Honi giving up his entire future. For you, he dropped
university, and followed you to Germany. And now you have the nerve to come
here, with him, asking for my blessing? You, an outsider to this community?”
her, his dark eyes blazing with fury. Adi swallowed hard. She hadn’t been sure
how she would be greeted. She’d been nervous about meeting Honi’s family, but
had not expected this level of hostility towards her.
grew hot, and tears welled up. Driving all the way to the reservation had taken
forever. During the entire journey, Honi had told her stories about his family.
About his relationship with John and many of the elders. He’d made her laugh so
many times with funny stories about how lovable and unique the tribe’s people
were. Adi had expected that they might be slow to accept her. But she’d been
unprepared to be shut out like this from the very first moment she met Honi’s
balled into fists. She fought back tears of exhaustion and humiliation. Then
she blinked her eyes open again, fiercely determined to not show any weakness.
A familiar emotion welled up. How dared they treat her like this? They didn’t
even know her. They had no idea what Honi and Adi had been through. It was a
miracle that they made it out the other side alive and well. Adi had sacrificed
the rest of her life in servitude to the faerie queen, with the understanding
that Honi could never find out.
whispered. When he didn’t turn around and continued staring at his father, she
repeated louder, “Honi!”
around. His obvious confusion and sadness calmed her down a little bit and
softened her next words.
tired. Can we please postpone all this until tomorrow? I don’t want to stand
here in the freezing wind and argue with these people.”
hand dismissively at Honi’s tribe—not the nicest choice of words, but she was
pissed at her treatment. Honi’s eyebrows drew together as the only outward sign
of irritation with the way she’d just shrugged off his entire family. He took
her arm and without saying another word to his father, he led her back to the
been to stay with his parents, but instead, Honi drove to the only motel within
ten miles of the reservation. After he’d checked them in, he silently carried
their suitcases into the double room. Adi was glad he’d done so without asking,
because the tiredness was now so enveloping that she could barely keep her head
five-star luxury hotel, but the linens were reasonably clean, and the room
smelled only a little. Adi sat down at the edge of the bed, too numb and
exhausted even to cry. Honi sat next to her and put his arm around her
shoulders. He looked as upset as she felt.
sorry. I don’t know why he acted the way he did.” He pulled her in tighter, and
Adi put her head on his shoulder. “Let’s get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow
we’ll go back and start over.”