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An Interview with Shawn Speakman

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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 Suvudu.com.

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:

cover-unbound-275x419

  • 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

Interview

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.

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