I couldn’t be more excited to share this middle grade book with you because, as most of you already know, I love mythology! And today we get to chat with an author who knows quite a lot about that subject. But . . . let me share his book with you first.
The Norse gods have returned to Middleton—and they’ve brought bad news. Loki’s misdeeds have grown from mischief to murder. He has killed Baldur, favorite of the gods. By doing so, he has set in motion events that will lead to Ragnarok, a war between the gods and giants that will destroy their world and ours. Now Odin wants ABE and Pru to help find Loki and imprison him before the giants can rally to his side. But the gods aren’t the only ones back in town. An old friend has also returned and he’s brought new questions about Baldur’s death.
To answer those questions, ABE and Pru will travel to Niflheim, the Norse underworld and confront the Queen of the Dead herself. Unfortunately, they quickly find that getting into the world of the dead is easy. It’s getting out again—alive—that proves difficult. And, in the end, can anyone really escape Death?
Hi Adam! It’s great having you here. Let’s start with when you realized you wanted to be a writer.
The impulse has struck me at various points in my life. I wrote my first manuscript, The Knight’s Quest, in third grade.
Third grade? Very cool…
I remember thinking at that point that I’d like to be a writer. I also thought I’d like to be an illustrator, too. And, to be fair, the glowing sword I drew for the cover was pretty sweet. But I went away from the idea of being a writer for a while—a long while, in fact. I think being an English major in college helped to push me away. Writing began to seem like something that other (far more clever) people did. But even as my desire to be a writer ebbed and flowed, my love for stories remained true, as did my desire to share stories with people—and young people, in particular. I did some storytelling in and after college, and over my two decades in education I developed a brand of enrichment programming that shared stories with children through interactive tales that blended storytelling and cooperative games. It wasn’t really until my mother passed away that I began to revisit what I really cared about and what I really wanted to accomplish in life. That’s when I circled back to the idea of being a writer, around 2009, and started on the path that led to my first book.
I love how you mentioned that, at one point, you felt that writing was what other, more clever people did, not you. I’m sure many of our writing readers can relate.
This series uses lots of mythological elements, so obviously you enjoy mythology. What is it about mythology that intrigues you the most?
I think I’d have to say it’s the familiarity of mythology that draws me to it. That might sound strange to some people. But anyone who loves to read and who loves to read fantasy, in particular, will understand the sentiment. I grew up reading myths. So the landscapes and characters, fictional and fantastic though they are, are also familiar and welcoming. I feel like I’ve been a tag-along on many a hero’s journey. When it came time to write my own book it was impossible to resist the draw to revisit the mythological realms I loved as a child.
How did you approach writing this second book in the series? Did you find you used craft and technique differently from developing the first book?
The biggest different between my approach to the first book and the second book was in the degree to which I listened to my inner editor. I wrote about eleven drafts of the first book. Many of those drafts were complete rewrites, start to finish. That’s because in the early drafts, in particular, I shut off my inner editor completely. I went down any and every narrative path that struck my fancy. Naturally, I made a lot of wrong turns and ran up against plenty of dead ends. But I learned something from each digression and I had a ton of fun along the way. I think there’s a tremendous value to just letting your imagination go and not worrying about how the content you’re producing will be received.
That definitely takes the pressure off a little.
Writing is all about revision and trusting that you can make the bad stuff good, in time. When it came time to write the second book, though, I had to approach things a little differently. I had a contract and deadlines. Fortunately, I also had the experience I’d gained from writing my first book. I’d learned to trust my instincts a little. I’d learned to recognize which narrative paths were most likely to get me where I needed to go. I didn’t have to wander so much (which was great, because time was much more of a factor!)
Ooh… ‘Writing is all about revision and trusting that you can make the bad stuff good…’ Very wise.
What is a question you’ve never been asked during an interview that you’ve always wanted to answer?
I’ve always wondered that nobody has asked me about ABE’s name and why it’s capitalized. To be fair, I do explain in the book that the nickname ABE comes from the character’s initials. But nobody’s asked why I chose to use initials and capitals in the first place. For the record it’s because I read once that our eyes and brains have to work a little harder on capital letters. We have a greater visual fluency with lower case letters. When we come across a capital letter we slow down a bit. We have to look more closely. That’s ABE’s thing. He looks closely. He sees things that other people miss. So I liked the idea of his name reflecting that. It’s a small detail, and ultimately an unimportant one, but it’s one of those details that floats just beneath the surface that writers like to fit into their works.
In today’s ever-changing publishing landscape, what have you found is the hardest part of being a published author?
I have to preface this answer by saying I’ve been very fortunate. Very. Every single person I’ve encountered through the process of bringing my two books to life has been a pleasure to work with. My agent, my editors, my copyeditors, my publicists—I’ve learned from and been treated well and kindly by all of them. Now, having said that, I have to confess that the hardest part of being a published author is having had to face the reality that this is a business. As I said, I’ve had excellent individuals around me who have served as a buffer against what lurks beyond—the publishing industry. And it is that, an industry. There are times I miss my days as a educator. I had the good luck to enter education at a time and in a place where the work was driven wholly by a passion to improve the circumstances of the children and families with whom we worked. There was no other metric. We weren’t selling anything. And I worked at a community school where with ramparts still held against the onslaught of standardization and testing. As an author, things are a little different. I still have the great pleasure of working with people who care about creating good works for young people. But as an author I have to sell myself. I have to sell my books. That element of self promotion was absent in my first career.
I really love this answer. Thank you for sharing it with us and for dropping by! It’s been a pleasure having you here, again. One last question: Please tell our readers what’s up next for you.
There are many projects I’m eager to advance. I’d love to write a third Unbelievable FIB book someday.
I’m also currently working on a new middle grade science fiction book involving cryptids and secret organizations with monstrous origins. And I have an idea for a graphic novel that really excites the adolescent comic book lover that’s still kicking around inside me. I have to confess, though, that the past year has been dominated by the birth and growth of my daughter. Now that I’m settling into fatherhood I’m hoping to have more time to get back to writing!
Adam Shaugnessy likes to tell people that he is a superhero, a space explorer, and a pirate. None of those things are true, but Adam likes to say them anyway.
In fact, Adam is the author of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB and is currently at work on the second book in the Unbelievable FIB series. He began his career in education first as an elementary-school teacher and then as a director of school-aged programs, but gradually realized that his passion was for sharing stories. Adam also owns and runs Red Dragon Adventures, which brings story-based education enrichment programs to young people throughout New England.
Adam is currently working on his master’s degree in children’s literature at Hollins University. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Jane, their cat, Sydney, and an unnamed mouse that Sydney has yet to catch, but Adam is sure she will.
Do you enjoy mythology? What about it intrigues you?