The description of “A Year Since The Rain,” Shane Wilson’s debut novel, was so enticing that I was eager to read the book and interview the author. During our one-hour chat, Shane Wilson’s honesty and gift for storytelling made an impression on me. I selected the best of our conversation for this interview, which includes at the bottom the full audio version. Why did Shane Wilson want to traditionally publish his book? How did he feel on the book’s release day? Why is this novel worth your time? These are some of the questions he answered.
What’s the inspiration behind A Year Since The Rain?
This book is so weird in so many ways. I’ve published poetry in the past and I really thought I was writing a poem when I started writing this book. I wrote the title, “A Year Since The Rain” and three or four pages but I could never make it go. So I shut it down and put it on a shelf. A year later, I came back to it and wrote the first line: “Last year, when the rivers dried up, I was living next to a witch.” I’ve never lived next door to a witch! I kept rolling with that story and 6 000 words in I thought it wasn’t a poem anymore, it was much bigger than that.
Tell me more about the witch!
She starts off as this weird presence in the neighborhood that nobody understands. She keeps to herself but eventually she comes around and helps Allan, the protagonist. They become pretty close. He questions all the time whether or not she is a witch, where did that rumor come from. Eventually, she starts to walk around inside of his dreams.
Are you a fan of magical realism?
I have never intended the book to be that. It just happened. Perhaps because a lot of the books I read are weird like that too. When I was in graduate school I read a lot of Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Marquez. The presence of magic in a story frees up a little bit, it allows us to explore meaning and life in more ways.
Is writing a good book something that can be learned?
It is possible. I took one creative class and it was valuable. But I think the most valuable aspect of studying English literature is reading English literature. It exposes you to so many stories and ways of writing. I think that the formal education doesn’t matter. The life experience, and the ability to translate that to the page, that’s the more valuable skill.
How did you write the book?
I’m very much a “go with the flow” kind of guy. I am not a morning person. I prefer to carve out huge chunks of time and immerse myself in writing. I am a weekend writer and a summer writer. I can usually churn out a draft in a couple of summers. I started writing this book during a spring break, three years ago. It just came out of me for a while. I didn’t really outlined it until I was half-way through. I’m not a great planner. I like to let the story to just happen.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written. I tried on two separate occasions in high-school to write books. They were 50 or 60 pages, which is impressive for somebody who is fourteen. I also wrote poems I was trying to impress girls with. The first story I remember writing was about the scary dog in my neighborhood. Writing was always there. I didn’t know how it would look like when I was older.
Do you feel in your bones that you are an author?
The truth is that I have a bad case of impostor syndrome. Of course, everybody says it’s ridiculous. You’ve gone through all of the work, you’ ve done something that millions of people wanna do and that they would never do. Not only did you finish writing but you’ve also got it published and you’ve sold some copies of it. The release day signified the end of a three-years process. The book is a significant portion of whom I have been for three years. And now I don’t have to call it mine exclusively anymore. I have to give it to the world. Now I can not wonder: what’s next? Maybe that’s when you know you are an author.
How did the experience of publishing “A Year Since The Rain” shape Shane Wilson?
A big difference would be the amount of knowledge I have about publishing and navigating it. I had to know everything about the industry so that I can make the right choice for my book. I wasn’t sure it was a traditionally published book. I read so much, I interviewed people and talked to anybody who would listen to me. Another more intrinsic evolution has been the amount of confidence that I’ve allowed myself to feel in my work.
Why did you choose traditional publishing?
Part of it is that I really appreciate the muscle that comes with a publisher, even a small one. There is a lot of support that they can give you in terms of contacts and things like that. In my head, it was that I needed somebody to be able to say we believe in this book enough to put it out on our own dime. I think this is not necessarily a valid concern for everybody.
Why would people who are reading this interview want to buy your debut novel, A Year Since The Rain?
I think it is a fun read. I wouldn’t use the word easy. It can be uncomfortable sometimes. I think most good books try to challenge us to feel some kind of weight whether this is considering things we’ve done in the past or something about ourselves – who we are, what are we doing, where are we going, our motivations. I think that the characters in the book have aspects of their personality that people can relate to. It is a very character- centered book. It is a book about family, love, friends and heartache. As the story goes on, across town this giant sinkhole has opened up and threatens to eat the entire town if Allan doesn’t get out of there pretty soon. There a little bit of this magic stuff that’s going on the whole time, this weirdness.
Listen to the audio version of this interview: