Shawn Thomas Odyssey is a 2011 debut novelist. His novel, the much anticipated The Wizard of Dark Street is scheduled to release on July 26th from Egmont. I was lucky enough to ask him some burning questions and below are his answers.
1. How is writing different from making music? And how is it similar? In other words, if you had to choose between music and writing, which art would you choose? And why?
Writing novels is a much more heady experience than creating music. Sometimes music seems almost easy compared to writing books, and a lot of the time I use music as a means of clearing my head when I’m writing. I’ll stop whatever I’m working on and play a song, or tinker on the guitar for a few minutes before diving back into the writing.
As far as which I’d choose? I’ve been asked that question many times, and truthfully I feel like it’s sort of a diabolical question for someone like me. I think one feeds the other. They balance me out. But in the end…and I don’t know if people are born to do certain things or not, but if that is so…writing stories is it for me. It’s certainly my greatest passion.
2. Was it difficult to write from the perspective of a (teenaged?) girl? Did you ever have moments where you paused and thought, “Would a girl really say this? Or react like this?”
It came very easily, because Oona is so clearly defined in my mind. There’s a clear division between what I would say or do and what Oona would say or do. And while boys and girls certainly behave differently, each girl behaves differently from all of the other girls as well, and this is one of the joys of writing about Oona because while she is very adventurous, getting herself into all kinds of trouble and physical danger, she is also into pretty things like dresses and dances. She’s at an age where she’s bridging the gap between being a girl and becoming a young lady. In the mid 1800’s, independently minded women were not nearly as celebrated as they are today, in fact they were often frowned upon. Oona is certainly a strong and sometimes fierce individual who also enjoys her more feminine qualities. She is a girl, no doubt about that. I just trusted in my gut that I would get her right, and I always feel like I do.
3. As a writer, what do you believe is the most important thing to keep in mind while telling a story?
There are a thousand and one things that a writer must keep in mind when writing a novel, all of them varying upon which stage of creation, be it first draft, second draft, third, editing, etc. But at the moment, I’m inclined to lean towards character. No matter how fantastic or interesting your concept is, I think if your central characters don’t pop off the page then you’ve got to figure out how they can. And to remember that people are not set things, and by that I mean that they are not so much nouns as they are verbs. They change moment to moment, and are full of contradictions and conflict and surprise. They should grow and be challenged constantly throughout the story. And it doesn’t hurt if they have some quality in them that the reader can either relate directly to or aspire to become. Something extraordinary.
4. What should readers look forward to in your story? As in, what is the one thing that sets it apart from all the others in the genre?
The Wizard of Dark Street is a classic whodunit mystery in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie set in a magical Victorian era world. It’s brimming with oddball characters, quirky riddles, and off-the-wall adventures into unknown and unexpected places. It has a brilliant heroine searching for something more than the life she has been handed, and who must learn to trust herself. It’s got a talking enchanted raven, a bumbling police inspector, a tattoo faced boy, a venomous girl, a witch, a Wizard, and a bizarre faerie servant who wears a cowboy hat. And of course, if you like to laugh at the absurdity of a highly logical person attempting to understand an unpredictable world, then there is definitely something in it for you.
That’s more than one thing, I know, but I can’t help myself.
5. Finally, what was your favourite book when you were a child?
I really loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Scott, read it to the class, and I was enthralled. Oh, and I was big into Shel Silverstein’s Where the Side Walk Ends as well. Both are classics, and both brilliant. Simply can’t be beat.
The Wizard of Dark Street is released on July 26th, 2011 in bookstores nationwide and online in both hardback and eBook formats.
Please visit: http://www.thewizardofdarkstreet.com