Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview with pulp and fiction writer Shannon Muir

An emerging voice in new pulp and genre fiction, writer Shannon Muir wraps up this week on Reviews and Interviews. She’s here to talk about her pulp tale, “Ghost of the Airwaves” and the Newshounds anthology.

Shannon Muir’s most recent genre fiction release is the Single Shot "Ghost of the Airwaves," a New Pulp tale, preceded by her debut genre fiction story "Pretty as a Picture" in the anthology Newshounds from Pro Se Productions. Prior to venturing into the world of New Pulp, Muir is best known to genre readers as co-writer of the long-running webcomic FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY with her partner, Kevin Paul Shaw Broden (featured in Pro Se's anthology THE BLACK FEDORA, his own story in Newshounds, and the self-published REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST). She tends to gravitate towards writing stories with females in leading or influential roles, which can prove a challenge in the time periods that pulp stories are set in. Muir aspires to bring different perspective to a classic time period by taking on this viewpoint. Muir also has credits in new adult contemporary fiction, as well as published textbooks on the animation industry, a field in which she's held writing and production positions as part of her nearly twenty year career focused in family entertainment. She currently resides in Glendale, California.

Welcome, Shannon. Please tell us about your current release.
My current release is a digital single (short story) from Pro Se Press entitled "Ghost of the Airwaves," which is a tale of mystery and murder in radio's golden age. A radio actress' husband is murdered under mysterious circumstances, and police are certain they know what happened. A mysterious letter sent to the actress by someone known only as "Ghost of the Airwaves" sheds new light on the case and she's determined to see justice done… no matter the cost.

What inspired you to write this story?
I actually wrote a live action TV script in college that was produced and got national recognition from a television honor society called FROM THE FATAL HEART. In it, a modern day DJ with a love request call in show thought his wife committed suicide after battling with a disease, but finds this not to be the case. After years went by, there were things in that script I wish I'd done better despite the accolades – I wished the DJ had been more proactive and wondered how the story would have gone with a female lead. I switched genders, moved the time period and the focus of being on the radio, and let my imagination fill in the blanks. This story is the result of that and I really love how it turned out.

I also decided to give this a try after I really enjoyed doing another story for Pro Se Press that was media-based in nature, based on their pre-established characters. The anthology, called Newshounds, followed a group of folks at a newspaper using the written word to right wrongs in the big city. The story that I wrote for it, "Pretty as a Picture," primarily focused on the two women of the group as they worked to uncover dastardly dealings at a charity benefit.

Excerpt from “Pretty as a Picture” found in Newshounds:
"Are you out of your mind?" Margie Haviland insisted to her editor in the main press room of the Partisan, a paper known for exposing more than a few dirty downsides of the city and fighting for the everyday citizen. "You expect me and Viv," Margie said, thumbing a finger at Vivian Bailey, the tall and knockout female reporter of the group, "to just go and crash some charity function?" '
"Definitely not crash it, at least not openly," Red responded, much calmer and collected than the saucy, petite Margie. "We don't want to call attention to ourselves. But the reality is you and Viv are the only female reporters we've got that can swing this kind of a high pressure undercover job. As you know though, there are, shall we say, added complications."
"Such as the fact that Margie comes from the same rich elite that will be attending this function," pointed out Ted Boland, the lead male reporter for the Partisan. "Some of these folks could even be family or friends."
"Trust me, they'd be no friends of mine," Margie all but spat in Ted's face. "I left that life behind a long time ago."
"Not only are you our top photographer, you also know how to get around and what to look for," the editor reassured Margie. "That's why you and Viv need to do this. Augustus Morton says he's doing this all as a charity benefit, allowing a sneak peek at next year's European styles before they trend in the States. All the proceeds would be to benefit business scholarships to further the education of young people, including internships with Morton's companies."
”Internships with him will just teach them how to play dirty pool. This Morton's got a history of being nothing but trouble," stressed Viv. "He looks so great on the surface with what the public sees, but as you all know we've turned up a few dirty things about him. Unfortunately, we never quite witnessed his involvement in those dealings."
"Which is why we can't miss this time, doll," Ted responded.
"You're walking on thin ice calling me doll and you know it, Mr. Boland," Viv threw back, not even giving him the respect of answering with a first name.
"All right you two, we get it," spoke up Dice, the circulation manager. "I think everyone knows what's at stake here. We all got to play it like pros. Viv, Margie, come up with a strategy of how to get into this special event. The big thing, our friend Augustus Morton," Red underscored sarcastically, "emphasized in his little invite is that this charity fashion show will culminate with the unveiling of his new personally discovered star, name of Kitty Kline."
"Knowing you Red, you researched like crazy about this star doll of his," ace reporter Ted added in. "So, what kind of dirt did you uncover?"
"That's the thing. I came up with nothing."
"You mean she's squeaky clean?" asked Margie.
"I mean, I found diddly squat. All my years in this biz and I can't even turn up a hint as to who this gal is."
"If she even exists at all," Viv pointed out. "Maybe that's the ultimate joke of it. Morton's pulled bigger ruses and gotten away with it."
"That's true," Red agreed. "But what's Morton's game, if that's the case?"
A young woman came into the room just then, about eighteen years of age. She seemed mousey and vulnerable at the same time, even though her blond curly hair would probably make her look quite alluring if she just lost the glasses. Margie didn't see an ounce of professionalism in the girl. As for the three main men of the Partisan, they were rather easily distracted.
"I've got your mail, Mr. Dillinger," the young lady said to the editor of the paper. "Should I just put it on the desk?"
Redmond Dillinger just sighed, exasperated.
"Kathy, how many times do I have to repeat this? No interrupting when we're having a meeting here. It could wait," Red reminded the young woman, but very gently. He was going really soft on her, something that didn't get by either of the ladies.
"But sir," Kathy responded innocently. "Your next big story could be in this pile."
She batted her eyelashes.
"That may be true, but I won't be able to psychically read it in the middle of a meeting and change course. Believe me, it can wait."

What exciting story are you working on next?
Besides having several other stories still waiting in the wings to appear with Pro Se Press, I am working on my own collection of short stories called DYING WITH HER NAME IN LIGHTS. These stories will still be entertainment industry focused in nature, and many occurring in historical time periods versus the modern day of my other independently published work. However, these would be a bit more character driven versus the action-driven nature of what I do with Pro Se Press. Having said that, I still think character is an important part of any story.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer for years, back when I was a child. If you mean as a published author, my very first stories were in print (in exchange for subscription copies) to a bi-monthly high quality Play By Mail magazine called PAPER MAYHEM. Basically, think board games by mail, but that's oversimplifying some. Anyway, I started doing fiction based on the game I was in at the time, with the permission of the people that ran it, and really fell in love with doing that. If that sounds in a way like fan fiction, I guess you could call it that, albeit sanctioned fan fiction. I continued until 1998 when the owner, Dave Webber, unexpectedly passed away. Without that support, I don't think I'd have ventured further into submitting to outlets like Pro Se Press or others, as well a self-publishing a few stories I want to tell that I think have too niche an audience to be distributed by others. In the future, though, I hope to do more work such as I have been fortunate to do with Pro Se Press. Tommy Hancock and his team are very passionate about new pulp and genre fiction, and are getting a lot of interesting materials out there; I'm glad to be part of it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time as I hold down a regular job as well. Fortunately I take public transit, and have mastered the use of the smart phone. While at time a challenge to do, I have a Microsoft Word compatible program on my Android and will tap out short scenes or outlines, and then email them to myself for easier integration. It's really helped.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
To be playing LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE on one of my dual monitors while working out story problems in Microsoft Word on the other.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, a writer. My sister and I collaborated on our first novel when I was around 10 years old. Teachers in the fifth and sixth grade had my poetry and stories on display at the local mall as part of school district creative arts displays; I kind of started getting a hint that way. Later, once I became a teenager, I also wanted to write for animation; years later, I became one of two Western writers to write for a Japanese produced program. Definitely, my childhood dreams did come true.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My hope is that I am able to create characters that are interesting enough that readers will want to follow them on whatever adventure they are on – a murder mystery, a saga of self-discovery, or a flight of epic fantasy. I believe that at the heart of any story that will impact a reader there must be a strong character. That doesn't necessarily mean deep, though mine often are. What it does mean to me is that the reader truly buys into the fact this character has these adventures and behaves in consistent ways. Most of all, I hope readers keep exploring and discovering the worlds created by all kinds of writers, for what we do is meaningless without readers to enjoy those words.


Thanks, Shannon!

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