Thursday, March 31, 2011

Author Interview Patrick Shannon

Patrick Shannon is the author of a very amusing book titled Letters From Wheatfield. My review of the book will be up at I am grateful to the author for answering the random questions I send to the poor people who agree to be interviewed by me.

About the book: What do you do for fun if you live in a small rural town, dauntingly far from the nearest city's plentiful amusements? Upon what resources do you draw to spice up your existence? Letters from Wheatfield provides the answer - and it isn't always pretty.
      The fictitious town of Wheatfield is a tiny island in a vast sea of wheat fields and cattle ranges. Its nearest neighboring towns, similarly small, are well over the horizon. But its isolation has no effect on its inhabitants. Theirs is a society of mirthful, blithe, spritely wags - a condition abetted by the presence of not a few eccentric individuals.
      In Letters from Wheatfield, two transplants from Manhattan write to a cousin back home about the remarkable community that has assimilated and transmuted them - much to their amazement and great pleasure.

About the Author: Patrick Shannon, author of the young reader's book, Viva Cisco, currently resides in Conrad, Montana. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, he worked thirty-three years for a major oil company, bringing him rich experiences from traveling in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S. Born and raised in Southern California, Shannon attended East Carolina and Oklahoma Universities and UCLA. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi scholarship society.

First, let's start with the book you so kindly sent me to read, Letters From Wheatfield. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
   Actually, from living her in my adopted town of Conrad, Montana. Approximately 40% of the stories in the book are based on actual events here, gussied up by my imagination, or course.
   You see, Montanans, in general, are very witty people, and the residents of Conrad just seem to have a greater share of that trait. So when you have a town full of congenial, fun-loving characters like that, you have a community that is one heckuva good time.
   And there is another factor. Like my fictitious town of Wheatfield, Conrad lies within the "Pixie Triangle" - an area where loony things just sort of happen. For example, there was an incident recently, in a nearby town, that would have been a surefire candidate for the Wheatfield Book of World Record Vegetables. (I swear this is the truth. I have the newspaper clipping to prove it.) A black bear was trying to force its way through a woman's kitchen door, and she successfully beat it off wit ha giant, 14-inch zucchini from her garden. The article included a picture of the zucchini and a yardstick. Now, if you can live in a place like this and not write a book, there's something wrong with you.

Haha. I can only imagine. And it's nice to see someone else who would use the term "gussied up" in a sentence.
What about your book in particular do you think differentiates it from others in the same category?
I think the fact that so much of it is based on actual situations gives it an authenticity that otherwise wouldn't be there. Several of my reviewers who have small town backgrounds have commented on this.

I can attest to that, coming from a small town in Wyoming. The professor bit about Columbia and how the gossip got out of hand was something I could even relate to when it comes to small town gossip.
What is your publishing story? How did you go about getting your book published?
After years of trying to breach the impenetrable walls of traditional publishers, and because I was approaching my 79th birthday, I went the self-publishing route with Outskirts Press. I wasn't interested in the money or fame. I just wanted to leave something of my writings behind. Outskirts Press has done a fine, professional job of granting my wish.

Understandable. Sometimes it works for an author to go the self-publishing route and that sounds like a great way to celebrate your 79th birthday.
How long have you been writing?
I have been working at writing ever since High School, some 62 years now.  My ability to write didn’t really kick in until my retirement, though.  One day I took a look through all the stuff I had written over the years, and I was shocked.  It was just garbage, and I resolved then and there to start writing something better with which to replace it.  To my utter and pleasant surprise, I discovered that, at this late stage in my life, I had finally learned to write.

Ah, the looking back on younger writing. It's amazing what the years will do to how we feel about our own writing.
How many drafts do you normally write for a specific project?
Three, essentially.  The first draft is done on a letter pad, in pencil, with me ensconced in my contour chair.  I get solidly into a right-brain mode and just get the story line down as fast as it will flow.  I don’t worry about words, punctuation or sentence structure.  I just get the story line down. The next draft is done on that same pad or on attachment sheets.  In this one I do some correcting of sentence structure and a lot of word replacement.  This is where I give my old thesaurus a good workout to select words with exactly the connotation I want. The third draft occurs as I type the pencil draft into the computer.  Something about the pace and streaming of that process makes me sensitive to the “musicality” of my sentences – the lilt, the tempo – and I make some pretty significant changes to sentence structure at that time. After that, of course, there are countless passes at editing for spelling and punctuation.

I'd imagine if we all counted each edit round the number would be insane as to how many drafts it would take to finish a novel.
What was the hardest part of the editing process once you started working with the editor?
I try to do my own editing as completely as possible before it gets into an editor’s hands.  It’s just a pride thing, I guess.  My biggest problem with that is maintaining concentration.  While I should be scrutinizing every word for spelling and punctuation, I get caught up in rereading for content.  I’m my own biggest fan, I guess.

I can understand that, wanting the book to be in as best shape as possible before someone else works on it but sometimes it's difficult to see our own mistakes. Focus can be tough but you seem to have done well.
Favorite genre to read in?
Fiction, but I divide my time between classic novels, spy thrillers and mysteries.

There are so many great fiction novels to read and many great classics.
What are some of your favorite authors?
Among the classics, I love Thomas Hardy and George Eliot.  Jude The Obscure, Mill On The Floss and Middlemarch are among my favorite stories.  For just plain escape, I read Le Carre, John Lescroart, Jeffrey Archer and Alexander McCall Smith.  On the serious side, to try to understand what is happening to our country and our world, I turn to Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Basevich and Chris Hedges.

Some excellent authors, some I have heard of and a few that I have not.
Do you have any other novels the readers might be interested in?
My first book was for young readers in the 10 to 14 age group. Its title is Viva Cisco and, in keeping with my style, it is humorous. I have a third book ready to go. It's called Viva Laughter, and I like to think of it as my tour de force as a humorist. If I can get the necessary releases for my use of a few well-known names, I will try to get it published.

Those sound great and you are indeed a humorous writer. I wish you luck in getting the third book published. Thank you for answering all of my questions and letting me read your fun book.

Patrick Shannon can be found online at the web site, Or by email at


L'Aussie said...

Patrick and Dawn, thanks for this interview. I now know a new author!


Dawn Embers said...

Denise - Thanks for commenting on the interview.