Featured Author: Colleen M. Story
Colleen M. Story is this July’s Featured Author on The Official Blog of Amy Shannon Featured author page at https://writeramyshannon.wixsite.com/amyshannonblog/featured-authors
Amy Shannon: In three words, describe yourself.
Colleen M. Story: Hard-working, creative, deep
Amy Shannon: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?
Colleen M. Story: With the release of “The Beached Ones,” I’ve now published six books—three novels and three nonfiction books for writers. I did write several novels that weren’t published before I received my first publishing contract. I completed some and only partially completed others. They will be forever hidden away in my files!
Amy Shannon: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.
Colleen M. Story: My next novel, "The Beached Ones," releases on June 14, 2022, with CamCat Books.
Amy Shannon: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?
Colleen M. Story: So far, all the titles for my novels appeared early on. I usually brainstorm titles as I’m working on the first draft. One rises to the top pretty quickly—before I finish that draft. Then I go through multiple other drafts, but the title stays the same.
The titles for all of my nonfiction books changed several times. I went through the same process—brainstormed titles, then wrote down others as they occurred to me while writing the books. But with nonfiction, once I get down to my top two or three, I will run a poll to get feedback from readers. Inevitably, that will lead to changing the title once more before I publish.
Amy Shannon: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?
Colleen M. Story: I think all my characters are interesting—that’s why I write about them—and I couldn’t choose one as being more interesting than the others. So I’ll talk about my most recent main character, Daniel Shepard.
He grows up with his younger brother in an abusive home, which shapes him into being a self-reliant, somewhat hardened young man who seeks escape. I find him interesting because of his fierce loyalty to his younger brother and his undying commitment to rescue him from difficult circumstances no matter what it takes. Plus, he loves to ride motorcycles and takes a job as a stunt rider, which was fascinating to research.
Amy Shannon: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?
Colleen M. Story: This is a great question, as I often have elements of more than one genre in my stories and find it difficult to categorize them. I love the term “supernatural thriller,” which I hadn’t heard before publishing this book. My publisher (CamCat Books) used it when describing “The Beached Ones,” and I think it fits well. My previous novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” would fit in this category too.
Amy Shannon: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.
Colleen M. Story: “Loreena’s Gift” was published in 2016 with Dzanc Books. It tells the story of a blind young woman who lives with their uncle in a mountain town. She plays piano in the church and does her best to be the “good girl,” but she’s hiding a secret: with the touch of her hand, she can kill a person. Even more perplexing—in the moments before death, as she travels with them to the afterlife, she can see.
She manages to keep her gift—and her hands—under wraps until her troubled brother, who has been drawn into doing drugs, returns to town. One night, she has to save him from a drug dealer out for payment. After that, she’s drawn into a dangerous world that tests the true nature of her talent and forces her to consider how far she’s willing to go to survive.
Amy Shannon: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.
Colleen M. Story: From “The Beached Ones”:
“Okay.” Tony rubbed his hands together. “Time for the plane.”
To Tony it was always just "the plane." Daniel had explained what an F-14 Tomcat was, a fighter, a twin-engine war destroyer, but to Tony it would always be the plane. Ducking his head to get the best view, he waited, the tip of his tongue hovering at the corner of his mouth. Daniel revved the plane back and forth in front of him, eyeing the ridge. He would have to hit it just right, angled a little off-center and propelled with sufficient velocity, or the toy wouldn't make it over. Instead it would likely hit, go airborne, and crash under the table, or plunge its pointed nose into the ridges and promptly land on its back.
He’d gotten it right only a few times out of the many he’d tried, but Tony was always ready to catch it, just in case. One, two...
Amy Shannon: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.
Colleen M. Story: I was a musician before I was a writer, begging my mom for a piano when I turned five years old. I still play French horn in the local symphony and pit orchestras and teach private music lessons.
Amy Shannon: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?
Colleen M. Story: Margaret Atwood, Andre Dubus III, Kazuo Ishiguro—but I have many so I may give a different answer on a different day!
Amy Shannon: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)
Colleen M. Story: The last book I read and really enjoyed was “The Scent Keeper” by Erica Bauermeister. I loved the original idea of being able to “capture” scents like photographs, and the writing, characters, and storyline were all very enjoyable—the kind of story you don’t want to end.
Amy Shannon: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?
Colleen M. Story: I’m a pantser by nature, meaning I abhor outlines. I usually get a basic idea for a story along with the main character and an image of the ending, then I just write. I have to go through multiple drafts to determine the story I'm telling, but I love the process of discovery.
Amy Shannon: Why do you write?
Colleen M. Story: I write because I feel compelled to, because I love the process (a good writing day leaves me feeling high), and because it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Amy Shannon: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?
Colleen M. Story: Yes, I’m working on a new novel right now that’s a retelling of the King Midas myth. Unlike my other novels, which came entirely from my muse, this one I’m writing because a friend of mine gave me the idea. So it’s proceeding a bit differently than my other stories have. I’m close on a title, but it’s not final yet.
Amy Shannon: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?
Colleen M. Story: I read my own work a lot while working on it, but once I’ve finished it and published it, I don’t.
Amy Shannon: I play music when I write, and depending on the setting or mood of the story depends on what I listen to. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what genre or artist/band do you listen to?
Colleen M. Story: If I’m drafting the story, music can really help to set the mood, as you say, and can be extremely beneficial to my ability to sink into that fantasy world. But once I move into the editing process, I’m more likely to need silence while working.
Amy Shannon: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?
Colleen M. Story: Haha. I totally agree—the blurb and the synopsis are the hardest by far.
Amy Shannon: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).
Colleen M. Story: I would first choose my dad and my grandma, as they have both passed away and I’d love to share a cup of tea with them. Next, I'd choose my piano professor from college, who was hugely influential in my life and passed away shortly after my senior recital. He was amazingly talented and I’d love to visit with him now that I’ve lived a little longer.
I’ve met many authors I’ve admired, including Margaret Atwood, so my last one would probably be Sting. I have admired his music and lyrics for decades and still find to this day that I'll be doing something in life and one of his lyrics will pop into my head and I'll gain a new understanding of it. He's a deep thinker. In a recent interview, Steve Colbert was asking him several questions. One was, "What's the one thing you own you should really throw out?" Sting's answer: "Caution."
Amy Shannon: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?
Colleen M. Story: I think there are two types of success—the success that comes to you from the outside world, and that which you feel inside. Like most authors, I hope for success as a writer in the outside world, which means good book sales and reviews and future publishing contracts. But I find deeper meaning in successes like completing a book, touching a reader with the story, and perhaps most of all, becoming a better writer the longer I work at it.
Amy Shannon: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?
Colleen M. Story: At one point, my main dream in life was to traditionally publish a book. I thought if I could do that, I could die happy! Now that I’ve reached that goal, I hope to continue to grow as a writer, musician, teacher, and person, and to help others along the way to reach their potential as so many mentors helped me to reach mine.
Amy Shannon: I am on a quest to read as many banned, burned, or challenged books as possible? What is your feeling or opinion on banning books? It seems to be a new epidemic now.
Colleen M. Story: From what I’ve seen, banning books is something one group does to gain power over another. When you make ideas disappear, you contribute to the shrinking imaginations of people. And we need our imaginations and creativity more today than ever before. I think banning books is similar to restricting speech, and I’m strongly against both.
Amy Shannon: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?
Colleen M. Story: I’ve worked with hundreds of authors so far in my life, and one thing I know—if you feel compelled to write, there’s a reason for it. Listen to that little voice inside you. Maybe you’re meant to be a bestselling author. Or maybe it’s about leaving a history for your family, or reaching out to help only a handful of other people. No matter what, writing will be beneficial in your life.
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