(Edit: When this was posted the author misspelled A. Shepherd’s name. . .multiple times. I cannot express how sorry I am.)
A. Shepherd has a story coming out in Miscellany II this month. I recently had the chance to interview her.
[Rodney M Bliss] First thing I have to ask about is your name “A. Shepherd”? Is it simply to highlight the clever wordplay on your initial and name? Or, is there more to the story, like J. K. Rowling choosing to use initials to avoid people making prejudgments on her writing based on her name? In promoting “To Wake A Sleeping Child” has your gender as an author been a help or hindrance or had no effect?
[A. Shepherd] I always relished the idea of a seriously clever pen name but then I found myself irritated at other people’s attempts at clever pen names. I tossed some things around before accepting A. Shepherd as my author name because, as you stated, the prejudgments on the name Amy are about as thick as the prejudgments on the name Britney – most involve blonde hair and the inability to function as an adult woman. I felt that in keeping my very common, feminine name most men would never bother to pick up my book. At the very least, I hoped the assumptions about the A. in A. Shepherd would be Aaron or Amos or Arnie or some blather like that. ‘It could be a dude? Maybe? Maybe it’s worth reading if it’s by a dude.’
It’s no secret nor conspiracy that female authors have to work overtime to be taken seriously if they aren’t doling out the eighteen-thousandth rendition of Jane Austin’s work or worse, trying to dig themselves out from underneath the factory produced Hallmark-esque vomit novels cluttering up the shelves of Barnes and Noble where they got a start simply because they have names like Samantha or Karen or Britney or Amy. To answer that last question – yes, I do believe gender has had an effect.
[RMB] In the Introduction to Miscellany Volume I, the editor states that the only connecting theme was humor. Yet, your story Two For One was dark. Can you explain how you balanced those two themes humor/horror in writing?
[AS] Horror is humorous to me. What do you do after you are frightened? You laugh, right? Heart thumping, skin flushed, pupils dilated – you’ve either jolted or squealed or peed a little – and then you giggle uncontrollably because you just don’t know what else to do with all that adrenaline. Right? It’s not just me, right? To sort of explain, I just don’t ever really believe in horror. It doesn’t really ever scare me and it’s always been kind of goofy, to be honest. Supposed-horror movies are just ridiculous. Trying to write something truly horror is almost as pointless. Unless a person is there experiencing someone removing their bowels and feeling the tug from the inside, it is never that scary. So why not jest about cannibalism? It’s hilarious. Come on.
[RMB] What attracted you to writing? Do you find you like to write the same type of stories you like to read?
[AS] Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’? Other than the fact that Danny Kaye was my icon as a child, the daydreaming and fantasizing pretty much sums up my youth. (Honorable Mention to Ben Stiller’s 2013 remake – I very rarely ADORE or even like, for that matter, remakes. His vision of Walter Mitty is beautiful and remains in my top 5 movies of all time) It would not be far from either movie to be a decent description of my inner-workings. It’s maybe a little sad or ridiculous how often I am caught up in daydreams and what if’s. But it led me to writing, starting at a young age, and it hasn’t let up since. I never aspired to story-telling because it has always been part of me, whether I want it or not. I’ll read just about anything and my writing goes about the same – one day humor, the next misery, the next inspiring, the next goofy as hell, the next depressive and moody, the next comedic. And on and on. I’ll never be great at one genre because I dabble in too many puddles.
[RMB] Without giving away anything around the enjoyment of the story, what can you tell us about your entry in Miscellany Volume II? What should readers expect, especially if they’ve read Miscellany Volume I?
[AS] Much of my story for Miscellany Vol. II comes from rage. I was furious at just about everything while writing it. It probably doesn’t read as fury, thankfully, but the intent and the not-so-subtle parallels were borne out of sheer disappointment at the sickening froth of selfishness, greed, and stupidity current humanity seems to lovingly display in newer and ever-stupider ways. So all that to say, I guess, is to expect aliens. Yep.
[RMB] You’ve published both short stories and a novel. Is there one format that you enjoy writing more than the other? Do you find it difficult to switch between the long and short form?
[AS] I don’t like the yolk of one format. Being tethered to something like novel-only or short story-only is akin to giving a painter one color of green. I believe the magic happens when you get into a little of everything. Throw some prose or literary fiction into science fiction, smear assonance and iambic pentameter into a horror plot, play in every color and sentence structure. Get it on your face and feet and in your mouth, if you have to. Then find your favorite discoveries, clean them up, and market the suckers.
[RMB] Tell us a little about your upcoming book, the sequel for “To Wake A Sleeping Child.”
[AS] Oi vey.
It doesn’t even have a title, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve gotten about half the plot maneuvered into place and some chapters banged out but I find myself years-buried in a concrete problem called ‘my brain’. It’s like writer’s block but it ain’t a cube, it’s an ocean. And there are sharks and pirates and an island somewhere with really great fruit but all the sea turtles have microplastics in their guts and the bluefin tuna isn’t on sale anymore and my son needs braces so there’s another five grand down the shitter and oh my gosh, that stupid gold plated toilet that brainless idiot ordered from China who’s going to blow up the planet because someone mispronounced the emperor’s name in an interview with Butch McDumb and the whole world was watching so now the garbage that used to float on the ocean is sinking and the otters that eat the fish are eating all the plastic Walmart bags SO MANY people use and refuse to recycle and *sobbing uncontrollably* and there’s still not enough coconut flavored lip balm in the aisle where I used to find the good mouth wash.
Book 2 coming soon. Soon-ish. Maybe.
Thanks for your time.
from the desk of A. Shepherd
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here
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