Welcome Shannon! Thanks for joining us.
Tell us a little about yourself. Did you always want to be a writer?
SP: Growing up I loved stories it was my way of escape. After reading a book I was obsessed with how I’d tell the story differently. I would have elaborate stories when I did chores to keep my attention on the task at hand. I’m a thinker not a doer so doing activities are harder for me to accomplish. In University I wanted to write a novel about young adults making their way into the world, but didn’t have the confidence to really do it. I listened to how people spoke, what they were talking about and interested in. I was jealous of writers and always dreamed of being a writer, but it was never a goal because I didn’t have the confidence to do it. No one said – hey you are a good writer, you should write a book. I wrote articles, blogs, and at work but never thought I’d be good at writing a story, until the day I met Ajak.
Ajak is a lost boy of South Sudan during the 1980’s civil war and I met him when I was Emce of an event. His story hit home because it started with him being forced from his family at the age of 8 and forced to walk across the country into Ethiopia while caring for other boys. Finding food, caring for the sick, fighting off animals, finding water, and burying the dead. My son was 8 at the time and due to my huge streak of empathy and imagination I started seeing my son going through the same horrific ordeal. I tried writing a version of Ajak’s story with the goal of creating empathy in Canadian children for the plight of children in war. It didn’t work. First it wasn’t my story to tell. Two it was other. Every time I moved the story from the child’s protagonist inner struggle to his environment the reader was popped out of the empathy. It became another person’s story. It became Africa. It became other. Not their problem, they no longer had to empathize or identify because the protagonist was different than the targeted reader. The one thing I did learn about the process was I could write. I had the talent to put words to the page and bring an emotional response in a reader. More importantly, I enjoyed it.
Thirteen is about a 13 year old boy. Is he based on your son? What does your son think of Jack?
SP: The core of Jack is. When I finally realized that I needed to make the story more identifiable to Canadian kids, I was having my own battle with my 13 year old son. Those who know him say he’s like a Canadian Teenage version of Russell Brand in his revolutionary ideas, image, and humour. He is an independent handful who wants to be free to do whatever he wants to do. He doesn’t listen to authority very well, doesn’t fit the school mold and is highly intelligent. These are the core characteristics that make up Jack. My children’s grade 7 teacher read THIRTEEN and told my daughter he saw Carter in Jack.
My son will not read the book. He gets upset when I give his friends a copy of it or talk about it. Recently, he was picked up for having fireworks by the cops. The main thing he was upset about was that it made him an archetype of my book. Jack was picked up by the cops for lighting off fireworks the night before the invasion. My son wasn’t impressed that he was now following in Jack’s footsteps.
I love my son. He is a unique individual who keeps me on my toes because he will try pretty much anything and will figure things out for himself, sometimes with negative consequences. He always seems to get himself out of trouble though and just like Jack, he’s resourceful enough to get a job done.
Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to writing?
SP: I’m a pantser for the most part. I write the dialogue then fill it in with the story. I let my characters lead me by the nose and then go back and revise a million times to get the structure right. I have a macro plan for the story as it progresses through the series but how they are going to get there is all the characters.
Is there a book or author that made a lasting impression on you?
SP: Writers who influenced me. There have been so many. I can’t really say one writer influenced me more than any other. I like Bronte sisters for their dark love stories with independent female leads. I like African literature for the dark topics they tell the world about. I like George Martin because he kills off the heroes and has full round characters who make good and bad decisions. I like Abercrombie for his character Logan Nine Fingers. I read all kinds of true stories about war, refugees, and geo politics. The one book that I draw the most from in my theories on what the world would do if Canada was attacked is the book, We Shook Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire about the UN in Rawanda during the genocide civil war. I also draw on real world terrorist news stories like 9-11 and now Paris.
Here’s a few fun quick-answer questions:
- Coke or Pepsi? Coke
- McDonalds or Burger King? McDonalds
- Coffee or Tea? Coffee
- Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla
- Tim’s or Starbucks? Starbucks
- Cake or Pie? Both
Shannon Peel grew up in Enderby, BC where her family’s root run deep. Growing up where television was either non existent or very limited she relied on books & imagination to travel into the world beyond.
She went to UBC to study and earn a general studies BA with a concentration in Political Science and Economics. Macro analysis of world events, social justice and human motivations became a passion of hers. This passion is a driving force in all her stories, which have political, economic, and social justice undercurrents.
After a career in the financial field she decided to stay home and raise her two children until school age. In 2007 she return to the workforce as a sales / marketing / advertising professional.
You can visit Shannon at www.shannonpeel.com
Jack wants to hang out with his friends but his mom’s rules keep him grounded until they wake up to machine gun fire. Foreign soldiers have invaded his hometown cutting off power, shutting down communications, and restricting travel. To make matters worse, he doesn’t know if his dad is alive, wounded, captured, or dead. He wants to find him, however, his mother doesn’t care, the soldiers are in his way, and the cop who busted him is no help at all.