INTERVIEW WITH Merry Shannon
March Newsletter 2006
By Connie Ward, BSB Publicist/Author Liaison

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I’ve been making up stories in my head since I was a very little girl, and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so to be honest it was never really so much a “decision” as it was just simply being true to myself.  I used to carry journals around in elementary and middle school and scribble down everything that popped into my head.  In high school and college, writing was my escape from the pressures of school and family.   I have a terrible habit, though, of starting these really great stories and then getting tired of them and setting them aside without finishing.  When I started writing Sword of the Guardian for a group of online friends, I was determined to make it the first project I actually completed.  And when I was fortunate enough to find Bold Strokes, and the story was accepted for publication, I realized just how much I love doing this.  I hope to continue writing for many, many years to come.


What type of stories do you write and why?

I think my stories are probably best described as romantic adventures.  As a kid I was obsessed with fantasy and historical fiction, and when I got a little older my interests branched out into romances.  My favorite plotlines are ones that center on two people falling in love in the midst of some thrilling, fanciful exploit that captures the imagination.   When I write such stories it allows me the opportunity to visit other worlds and other historical time periods, to step inside the shoes of a person who would live in such a place and time and experience life through their eyes.  It’s escapism, pure and simple, and it’s part of the reason why most of my stories take place in fantasy worlds or historical periods rather than a modern-day setting.


What does/do your family/friends think about your writing?

My mom has always been supportive of my writing, ever since I was young.  For years she’s been telling me I ought to write children’s books.  Well, I didn’t end up taking that route, exactly, but she’s proud of me nonetheless, and has been very adamant that she wants to read my book when it comes out.

My friends have always been my greatest inspiration and the best cheerleaders a writer could ask for.  Some of them have been reading my work for five or six years now, and they never fail to offer suggestions and beg me to keep a story going.   They make me feel like I’m actually good at this, and I wouldn’t have the self-discipline to complete my projects if it weren’t for their constant encouragement.


Where do you get your ideas?

A lot of my ideas come to me in dreams, actually.  In fact, while I’m in the middle of writing a story I often go through long bouts of insomnia while the characters work out dialogue in my head, or an action scene develops play-by-play.   It’s like my mind is so excited about spending time with these characters in their worlds that it doesn’t want to leave them, even for sleep.  It can be a little inconvenient, sometimes, but it’s those periods of sleeplessness that patch plot holes, resolve logic flaws, deepen characters, and suggest some of the coolest scenes that end up going into the stories.  


How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write?

It depends on the story, really.  Usually I get an idea of the setting first, and then the characters, and then the vital character-developing scenes (which are usually situations of angst-ridden sexual tension).  Those scenes tell me where the story needs to come from and where it needs to go.  I can write the first five or so chapters of a book without a specified outline, but once I’ve got a solid beginning I usually have to take some time to sit down and detail where I’m going with it.  


What makes Sword of the Guardian special to you?

Aside from the fact that it’s my first published work?  *wink* Actually, this story to me is special on several levels.  It’s based on a story idea I had when I was in middle school, and I was very fond of the characters then, so for me it feels a little like they’ve come back to life.  This is the first novel-length story I’ve ever completed that features lesbian characters.  And as a coming-of-age story, it somewhat reflects my own journey as a romance writer.  The first time I posted the love scene for my friends to read, I forbad them from commenting on it because I was so shy!  I’ve grown quite a bit more comfortable since then. 


How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Some characters are inspired by people I grew up with; for example, in Sword of the Guardian, Kumire’s physical appearance was based on a teacher I had in high school that we all used to call “the Grasshopper” because of his broad forehead and narrow face.  

Generally the romantic hero(ine) of the story is based not on myself, but on the person that I wish I could be: confident, powerful, and impossibly sexy without even trying.  Unfortunately I’m far too much of a geek to ever rank that high on the sexy scale, but at least I get the chance to experience it vicariously when I write.


Which lesbian authors inspired you most?

In terms of fantasy writers, I’d have to say Katherine V. Forrest for Daughters of a Coral Dawn, Cate Culpepper for her Tristaine series (can’t wait for the third one!), and Jane Fletcher for… well… absolutely everything she’s written.   For historical fiction I’d say Radclyffe’s Innocent Hearts, T.Novan and Taylor Rickard’s Words Heard in Silence, and D. Jordan Redhawk’s Tiopa Ki Lakota.  Other speculative fiction writers I like include Gael Baudino (Gossamer Axe), Gun Brooke (Protector of the Realm), and Alex Mykals (Adeptus Major). There are about a billion more but there probably isn’t enough room to list them all here.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Finish your projects.  Don’t leave your stories hanging and don’t blame writer’s block for the fact that you haven’t added a sentence to your latest story in months.  The best way to learn and grow as a writer is to write through not just the parts that flow easily but also the parts that take a lot of work.  Learn to take criticism, because if you want to write you’re going to be facing a lot of it.  Be open to the fact that sometimes it might be necessary to throw out entire chapters, add characters, change timelines, and alter plot flow in order for your story to become the best it can be.  Listen to the people who have been doing this for years, and trust their judgment.  Read as much as you possibly can, because you’ll learn more from what others have done than you ever could just scribbling away on your own.  But most of all, just write.  Write often, and regularly, because it’s only through practice that you’ll improve your skills and actually produce that manuscript you’re dreaming of.


When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?

I like to read and do Web design, but my favorite hobby is called cosplay.  You know those geeks at sci-fi conventions who run around dressed in elaborate homemade costumes of their favorite characters?  That’s me.  My girlfriend and I spend far too much time and money making glittery, ridiculously extravagant costumes so we can parade around in them with our friends.  I’m also a huge fan of the Japanese all-female Takarazuka theater, and I collect as many of their shows, magazines, and books as I can get my hands on.  Gorgeous cross-dressing women flirting with each other on a sparkly Broadway-style stage—it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Reprint of Article in BSB March Newsletter 2006