Interview with Shannon Kirk, author of The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

I’ve always written, even as a girl. I used to hide poems in a big dictionary in my bedroom. In the fifth grade, I came in second place for a short book I wrote, titled, “Sentimental Sweetooth.” Then I back-burnered my writing journey by going to college and law school. I never took courses on writing, no certificates. Nothing.

In 2008, I took a job at Boston law firm and moved my family from Chicago to Massachusetts. We moved to a beautiful commuter town with a harbor and a beach. The environment was a total shock, coming from the neighborhood we came from in Chicago, like being thrust into a rainbow. I think the move and immersing into this colorful, salty town dislodged something in me. Almost immediately, I started writing again. And since then, I haven’t stopped.

I spent about three years getting rejected by agents. Along the way, I figured out I needed to beef up my writing credentials. So I entered the William Faulkner writing competition and placed for three years in a row. I landed my wonderful agent in or around 2013.

Where did the idea for The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall come from? The inspiration for it's characters?

The idea for The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall came by way of a dream. I was on a ski weekend with my husband and son, and one night I had the most vivid dream I’ve ever had. It was of the bluest reservoir surrounded by towering, sunlit, green—the greenest green—trees, and I was on a boat, speeding toward the reservoir down a river. I’m not sure why this dream was so vivid, the hues so deep, and why I recall such specificity about it. I couldn’t shake it the next day, so I wrote every detail. That dream forms Lachlan’s Reserve (one of the Heavens) and thus the spine of the whole novel.

The characters are either pure fictional or inspired by attributes I’ve perceived in close family members and friends. Armadillo, for example, Vivienne’s best friend, is a medley of all of my life’s best friends.

Is there one life lesson or message you hope readers will take away from this unusual story?

Review HERE
I hope that the reader walks away with a feeling of enjoyment. But if we’re talking about specific lessons or messages, I’m not one to teach anyone how to live their lives. I would say though, one guiding principle that I did include in the book, and one I strive to follow myself, is that absolutely nothing is as valuable as love. I tried to demonstrate this point with the Ivan and Ele story, by how they throw the briefcase of money away. Now whether or not throwing the money away really mattered, it was the commitment they both had in discarding monetary fulfillment, for something money can’t buy that, in my mind, fired their lifelong relationship.

I realize it might sound trite to say love is more important than money. But frankly, with what I see going on in the world, in America, right now, perhaps such a message deserves to be resaid. With the elevation of empty glitz and glam everywhere we look, perhaps we might ask ourselves: Who is happier, the person with the reality show and the ten cars, or me, sitting here on my beat-up couch with my family and cats? If we were to measure happiness and no more, perhaps the two scenarios are equal, I don’t know. But I do know, I don’t need ten cars to make me happier than sitting on my couch with my family and my cats. I’d rather take the time and effort it would take to get all the glitz and the glam writing or reading books.

Does it get harder or easier to come up with fresh, new ideas after you publish several books?

I hope I can always say, no. Frankly, I have five different manuscripts in the works right now, and I have about twenty other ideas in my various notebooks.

How does your work as a lawyer affect your storylines and characters?

I think that being a lawyer has certainly helped me to organize the narrative. As a trial lawyer, I’ve had to build stories for juries and judges and also in motion papers. In order to be persuasive, you must be clear, your timeline solid, and the progression of the argument organized. I’m sure this has all helped in how I organize plot and character development.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy almost everything about writing, even most parts of editing. Actually, I love to edit (except for one stage of editing, I’ll explain). Perhaps my favorite part of writing is when I’m at the height of a cycle of what I call “writing mode.” This is a state I get in where I’ll wake up and have no idea what I’m about to write, but I’m otherwise compelled to sit down and start purging some scene or action or dialogue or prose. When I allow this organic process to unfold, I get lost in time, hours can go by, almost like I’m transported. And whatever it is I write in those cycles, it’s never planned. I just let my mind take me where it wants to go, whatever crazy insane idea it’s building. And then I edit from there.

The only part that feels like a chore to me is when I do the next-to- final edit of a manuscript before sending it to my agent. In that next-to- final edit, I check for redundancies and overused words, and it takes forever. It can be painful, actually.

What would you most like your readers to know about you?

I would like readers to know that I write in multiple genres. I write thrillers, literary fiction, poetry, sci-fi, and I may even try to finish a middle grade book. It’s important to me that I foster a relationship with readers that allows me to write cross genre.

Any advice for young authors wanting to write books in this genre?

Just write. Don’t get bogged down in all the technical rules school insists on. Yes, learn the technical rules, do your school work. But in my opinion, the best way to become a writer is to throw the rules out, purge whatever creative story is in your mind, and TELL A STORY. You can worry about all the technical stuff later when you edit.

Don’t let anyone slow you down. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself with rules and opinions about how it’s usually done. You write what you want to write, how you want to write it, when you want to write it. The hardest part about writing is the substance, the next hardest is editing. You can’t edit and showcase your technical skills without the substance. The substance is all you, all organic, all the creative and inventive stuff in your mind—the stuff that is not in

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