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An Interview with Shawn Speakman

An Interview with Shawn Speakman published on

51wR6eamEQL._UX250_Shawn Speakman grew up in the beautiful wilds of Washington State near Mt. St. Helens. After moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, he befriended New York Times bestselling fantasy author Terry Brooks and became his webmaster. It has led to a life filled with magic and words.

He was a manager at one of the largest Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the country for many years but now owns the online bookstore The Signed Page, manages the websites for authors Terry Brooks and Naomi Novik, and freelance writes for Random House at

Shawn is a cancer survivor, knows angel fire east, and currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

About the Book

We were fortunate to score an interview with Shawn in which we discuss his latest anthology, Unbound.

Unbound features works by:


  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Kristen Britain
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher
  • Rachel Caine
  • Harry Connolly
  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Jason M. Hough
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Brian McClellan
  • John Marco
  • Tim Marquitz
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Peter Orullian
  • Kat Richardson
  • Anthony Ryan
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Brian Staveley
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Sam Sykes
  • Mazarkis Williams


Todd Lockwood contributed the cover artwork.

Unbound is getting a lot of pre-release attention, and I know that a ton of people are excited to read it, me included. Can you walk us through the process of creating an anthology, from start to finish? What’s it like to be a story-wrangler?

The decision to publish Unbound was a hard one but not for the reasons you might think. When I published my debut novel, The Dark Thorn, and the anthology Unfettered, I didn’t know if I wanted to start a publishing press. Having talked to Subterranean Press’s Bill Schafer a great deal when putting together Unfettered, I knew how much work it would be. I had to convince myself that it would be worth it. That took longer than I thought.

After I decided to grow Grim Oak Press with Unbound and Unfettered II, it became much easier. I have befriended many writers over my twenty years of working in the field and extending anthology invitations has been easy, especially with the success of Unfettered. Once I had about 20 writers, I told them to get to work. They write. I receive the stories. I edit. My friend Rachelle copyedits. The writer fixes the edits. And voila! We have a book! The hardest part? Arranging the stories in a way that maximizes the impact of the overall anthology on the reader.

Which three stories in Unbound are you most excited to see reader reaction to, and why?

Since Unbound is an anthology without a theme—the writers could submit any story they wanted to in so long as it was a genre tale—I have received some great stories. I can’t pick a favorite. That said, I am really interested to see what people think of Madwalls by Rachel Caine, River and Echo by John Marco, An Unfortunate Influx of Filipians by Terry Brooks, and Jury Duty by Jim Butcher. The first two are really emotional tales and the last two are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Especially the Brooks story. Anyone who loves the Landover series will want to buy the anthology just for this story alone!

Not only do you have a short story of your own in Unbound, but you’re a novelist as well. Which is more difficult for you, writing a novel, or writing a short story?

I know many authors who have a hard time with short stories. Terry Brooks is famous for saying it takes him twice as long to write a short story as it does a novel. For me, I’m the opposite. Short stories come very naturally to me. Always have. I can have an idea, flesh it out entirely within an hour, and finish writing it in a few days. In fact, I take more enjoyment from short stories—at the moment, anyway—because I am reaching a broader audience with them. And they have helped me with my novel writing, where each chapter should be similar in design to that of a short story.

The other great thing I love about writing short stories is the chance to discover new things about my novel’s world without having to force it into the novel. For instance, my Unbound story is a grimdark tale told from the point of view of a villain who has a cameo in The Everwinter Wraith but who plays a much larger role in the next book, The Splintered King. I needed to write the Unbound short story before I could even think about writing his chapter in Wraith. I didn’t know Tathal Ennis until that happened.

I hope you don’t mind if, now that I have your complete attention, to ask about your next full length novel: The Everwinter Wraith. What can you tell us about it, aside from it is set five years after The Dark Thorn? How far into the writing process are you with it?

The Everwinter Wraith is ultimately about consequences to life choices. My main character, Richard McAllister, helped avert a disaster of Biblical proportions in The Dark Thorn. But his role in that novel indirectly moved other chess pieces on the board. I’ll just say that nature abhors a vacuum and evil loves to take up residence in that void.

As far as writing, it has come far too slowly. I have a lot going on in my life, especially with Terry’s The Shannara Chronicles airing in January, and finding time to write has been difficult. But I’ve been putting down words at a great pace for the last month. Terry and I are even racing words right now. I hate to lose. And so does he. So it makes for a fun competition that benefits both of us. The Everwinter Wraith is over 1/3 done but that part is always the hardest 1/3 for me. I expect things to move even faster as we head toward the New Year. I should know a publication date by then.

And last, a fun question: If you were given ten million dollars (after taxes), what are the first three big-ticket items you would buy?

I’m a simple man with simple needs. I don’t possess a lot of “things,” if that makes sense. I’d probably build a nice home on the Oregon coast, build a nice home on the Hawaii coast, and the third big-ticket item I would hold back in case my future children needed something big-ticket.

Book Gossip: Volume One

Book Gossip: Volume One published on 6 Comments on Book Gossip: Volume One


The last book in Jacqueline Carey’s Agent of Hel trilogy, Poison Fruit, came out last fall. So what has she been working on? Two projects, it turns out. The first is a novella, “One Hundred Ablutions”, which will be published in Yanni Kuznia’s Fantasy Medley 3. It will tell the tale of Dala – a young woman chosen by her people’s overlords to be a slave among slaves, and will include themes of ritual and redemption. The anthology will also include novellas from Kevin Hearne, Laura Bickle, and Aliette de Bodard.

Carey’s next novel will be a dark retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and will chronicle the lives of the titular characters Miranda and Caliban. It will be published in July 2016. I am still hoping that this is a code, and what it really means is that she is writing a new trilogy set in Terre D’Ange, but that hope is dwindling fast.

Seth Skorkowsky will be publishing a new collection of Black Raven stories in October, and is also hard at work on the third book in his wonderful Valducan series: Ibenus. He gave us a brief teaser of the plot, and it looks fantastic. Don’t believe us? Read it for yourself.

After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search of answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an Internet group intent on exposing them. Victoria, who belongs this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans.

Back in April, Guy Gavriel Kay announced his new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, which will be published in spring 2016. This will, of course, be one of his lyrical and thoughtful fantasies in which he reveals a culture that has its roots in our world, but is obscured by a fantastical lens.

In The Children of Earth and Sky Kay returns to the familiar territory established in several earlier works, a reimagining of the melting pot of the medieval Mediterranean. In his hands well-known places and events are transformed into the wonderful and strange through the lens of fantasy, and brought to life with brilliantly drawn characters and the most graceful of styles, which will seduce his many fans and new readers alike.

Isn't this a beautiful cover?

The interesting bit about this is that in February of last year, he sold not one, but two books. Could Children of Earth and Sky be the first in a duology like the Sarantine Mosaic or Under Heaven and River of Stars? It’s a wonderful notion – how many of us wish Tigana had been the first of two (or, maybe, seventeen) books?

Perhaps he could take a page from Robin Hobb? Her Realm of the Elderlings series is made up of sixteen novels.

robin hobb

Assassin’s Fate, the book every single one of her fans longs for, yet are terrified by, is the culminating novel. It is sure to be wonderful and bittersweet at the same time, especially since she allows her story to take her to dark places. I can’t say that she ever simply “kills off” characters for the fun of it (or to add some drama), but she is devoted to the story she wishes to tell. No one is safe. No one is safe from having to wait, either. Typically, Hobb has a publishing schedule that has a book by her out every year. To my deepest sorrow, it looks like we will have to wait until spring 2017. It will be worth it. The best things are worth waiting for.

Fortunately, sometimes patience wins the day! Our wait for Grim Oak Press’s Unbound is nearly over, however. Shawn Speakman, expert author wrangler and talented writer, has put together another anthology that is… bound… to be a fantastic read. A lot of anthologies celebrate a particular theme, or joke, or location. Unbound is a compilation of stories that the authors just wanted to write. The Table of Contents is impressive, with Kristen Britain, Tim Marquitz, Terry Brooks, Shawn Speakman, and Jim Butcher. (Yes, the Butcher story will involve our first glimpse of Harry Dresden post-Skin Game). Speakman prizes collectibles, and knows exactly what book lovers want. Follow the link to Grim Oak Press to purchase limited editions and ARCs.

In other news:
1. The first book in Tad Williams’s new Osten Ard trilogy has been delayed by one full year due to publishing shenanigans.
2. Christopher Moore is working on a book called Noire, set in 1947 San Francisco. Will the Author Guy never cease to surprise us?
3. Ernest Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, has signed another contract for a science fiction novel to be delivered at a later date.
4. Jeff Vandermeer spent the month of August away from social media, and came away 100,000 words richer. He is working on not one but two new novels for us.

That’s it until next time! Feel free to share in the comments any juicy book-related gossip.

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