Monday, February 10, 2014

Isolation, Illusion, & Deception: An Interview

Recently, I had the pleasure of stumbling across the work of A.B. Shepherd, displaced Michigander who is now spending her days on the much warmer, much sunnier Australian coast. Both her novella “The Beacon” and her novel Lifeboat are good reads for anyone who is into science fiction/fantasy—which of course, I am. And I must say, she did a great job with the surprise ending, both times. Lucky for me, A.B. Shepherd is a patient woman and has agreed to let me pick her brain about both stories.
Shepherd: Thanks for hosting me Kory. I have never had a twofer before - where I get to talk about both my books in an interview.

My pleasure! Though very different, they have similar ideas. So it is fun to talk about them at the same time. :)
Both your novella “The Beacon” and the novel Lifeboat have very different subject matters, yet both feature a protagonist who was isolated from her familiar environment and transported to an alien one. Were these themes of isolation and transportation intentional or accidental?
Shepherd: I never realized that before, but it is true. It is entirely accidental. My protagonists tend to be, in some small way, autobiographical. Perhaps it is my own sense of isolation that I’ve always felt from the world. I grew up a loner in the midst of a family of six and often longed to be transported away. Or maybe it is the isolation I felt on moving to Australia four years ago, even though I have my husband and in-laws who are wonderful. Maybe I’m just never comfortable. Is that too deep and depressing?
Me: Not at all.  Apart from the autobiographical influence, what is the source of your inspiration for these stories?
Shepherd: Lifeboat was inspired by one of those UFO hunter/chaser reality TV shows. Cass was intended to be a UFO chaser who went off on adventures. At least that was what was supposed to happen, yet when I sat down to write that story, Cass took over and said, “Nuh uh. That’s not my story. Listen up woman. This is what really happened.” I felt like I was acting as a medium from that point on. She dictated and I typed.
“The Beacon” was a bit different. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going when I sat down to write it, but I have a love of lighthouses, having grown up in Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes. I always wanted to write a story set in a remote lighthouse. I guess you could say the lighthouse itself was the inspiration, but I love mysteries, and it seemed the ideal setting for one.
Me: In “The Beacon” you didn’t give your protagonist a name. Why?
Shepherd: That was a very deliberate move. It started because I couldn’t decide on a name for her, but after writing a few chapters I decided I wanted to see if I could pull off writing a book where the protagonist never revealed her name and the readers didn’t miss it. I think it was fairly successful. I had one reader tell me she never even noticed until I asked her if it impacted her enjoyment of the story. I haven’t had any negative feedback on that at all. How did you feel about it as a reader?
Me: I absolutely agree with your readers. It doesn’t hamper the story at all.

Okay, next question: Lifeboat points out the human obsession with apocalyptic events. Why do you think we are so keen on seeing the destruction of our world?
Shepherd: I don’t think most of us are hoping to see the destruction of our world, but I do think many people believe the world will end as we know it in our own lifetime. Just look at all the people obsessed with the biblical book of Revelation, Nostradamus, and the end of the Mayan Calendar. I personally know people who are “Preppers”. Our planet is screaming that something is coming. The extremely hot summer here in Australia while at the same time North American is experiencing record breaking cold weather and snow is just one indicator. The questions are: When? Are we listening? And can we survive it?
Me: Both of your stories Lifeboat and “The Beacon” explore illusion and deception. What fascinates you about illusion and deception, especially considering that fiction itself is a sort of “sleight of hand”?
Shepherd: Illusion and deception are all around us. Boy, I’m sounding like a bit of a nutcase in this interview! Lol. I love when I can’t figure out where an author is going with their story and they surprise me with the ending - as long as it makes sense. So often with mysteries or suspense stories I figure it out long before the end. That sometimes lessens my enjoyment. This is in direct contradiction to my real life where I tend to take people at face value and believe what they present to me as truth. Except for the obvious scammers of course!
Me: Domestic violence is an issue for your characters in “The Beacon” and at the end of the story, you even provide contact information to domestic violence hotlines.  Were you hoping readers from similar situations would be encouraged to seek help after reading your story?
Shepherd: Not specifically. When I wrote “The Beacon” I didn’t feel like the story was about domestic violence, but when I finished it that turned out to be a key element. I felt that if someone read the story, and could relate to it somehow regarding the domestic violence aspect, whether for themselves or for a loved one, I wanted them to realize there is help out there. No one should have to live their lives walking on eggshells, wondering when the next violent act will occur. My grandmother was survivor of domestic violence and she divorced her abusive husband at a time in history when such a thing was unthinkable. I am so proud of her. I want others to know they can survive it too.
Me: What are you working on now? And what can we expect to see from your soon?
Shepherd: I have two works in progress at the moment, though I am still in fairly early stages of both. One is a sequel to Lifeboat, by popular demand. When I published Lifeboat I didn’t believe it was possible to write a sequel so when readers were asking for one I told them - sorry it was a one-off. I think I was grieving the ending of the story and I had to get through the mourning period before I could see that maybe there was room for a sequel. I’m very excited about it now. It will feature Cassie’s children.
I’m also working on another psychological thriller. Lots of murder in this one and maybe a little bit of illusion and deception as well. I don’t have titles for either project yet, but hope to publish them both by the end of the year.
Oh I can’t wait to read the sequel. Be sure to let us know when it comes out! :) Okay, now let’s wind-down with some non-work related questions:
What is your favorite word?
Periwinkle. Yes, I know it’s a color. I just love the way it sounds.
What is your least favorite word?
Who is your favorite author?
Shepherd: You know, for me that is an impossible question. See? Impossible! Hah. There are just so many fabulous authors out there who are so incredibly talented. The list is far longer than my arm, but Kory M. Shrum has been added to the list recently.

Me: Woo!

Shepherd: Note the well-deserved sucking up.

Me: Noted!

Shepherd: But here are just a few who have rocked my world: Veronica Roth, John Marsden, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich. *sigh* I could go on forever.
What’s your go to snack food?
Oh boy. I don’t allow myself much in the way of snacks, but I love dark chocolate, gummy snakes, most baked goods, chips, and all manner of things that are completely unhealthy.
If you could have any (but only one) super power, what would it be?
Flying - effortlessly like Superman. Oh yeah. Definitely.
If you could pick the brain of any writer/poet/artist from anywhere across time and space, who would it be and why?
This is completely geeky and off the wall, but I’d love the pick the brain of whoever it is who wrote the Voynich Manuscript. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a handwritten book estimated to have been written between 1404-1438 and it was written in an unknown language with many illustrations. It has yet to be deciphered by anyone. There is speculation that it could be gibberish. I’d really love to know what it says and what its purpose was.
If you could have any hottie supernatural boyfriend/partner/lover from any of the fictional universes, who/what would it be and why?
This is where I get really, REALLY boring. I love a hottie fictional lover as much as the next gal, but there’s never been one that I’ve said, “Oh yeah baby - I want THAT one!” See, usually they are taken by their fictional partner and I’m no poacher - even in fantasy. I even tend to skim explicit sex scenes in novels - not because I’m a prude - but because they just don’t do much for me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by my real life partner. See? I told you I was boring.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Singing. But not on stage. Maybe as a studio musician, singing back-up tracks or something. I love to sing, although I am not good enough to be professional. I do love my karaoke at home, when I’m alone.
What profession would you not like to do?
Plumbing. I’d never want to have to deal with other people’s waste products. Ick. *shudder*
If Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell existed, which circle would you be trapped in and why?
Okay, I’d be in the third circle - gluttony. For explanation see the snack food question. Yes, I love my junk food. I may only let myself have it generally on weekends, but still. *sigh* You are a cruel woman Kory. But I prefer to live in my own delusional world where there are no Nine Circles of Hell. Hell is right here on Earth. Just look around you. Too dark of a way to end this interview? Okay, then I will leave you with this quote from Lifeboat as you stride off into your future: “In a spirit of hope and new beginnings, we linked arms like a couple of kids. Pushing aside sad thoughts, we strode off into our future.”
What can I say except that I’ll stop by and see you on my way to Greed. ;) To learn more about the fabulous A.B. Shepherd, you can visit her website. Both her novella “The Beacon” and her novel Lifeboat are available for your immediate enjoyment.

As a transplanted Michigander, Shepherd is now loving her time in the Limestone Coast region of Australia.  Married, with two grown children (but no grandbabies), she's also a novice fiber crafter, with some experience in knitting and needle felting. One day she hopes to learn to spin wool into yarn.
She loves to hear from readers and welcomes them to contact her on her blog, or at


  1. Thank you so much for asking questions that made me really think about the answers and for hosting this interview on your blog Kory. I hope your readers have as much fun with it as I did. <3

  2. It's great to meet Shepherd and best wishes to her! And thanks Kory for the Twitter invite. I went to Grand Ledge High in the same Lansing area, only on the west side.

  3. Thanks for coming over to my site, Stephen! You are most welcome here, especially as a fellow Michigander ;)