Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shifter by Steven Jackson--Book Review & Interview

SHIFTER by Steven Jackson. The concept of this book intrigued me from the back cover. I got the book with high hopes and it basically held up to what it said it would. The concept is very unique, something I haven't ever run across. It was a refreshing read. The characters were easy to relate to. The setting was wonderful, and I loved the ending. There was a little bit of language and I had some personal issues with the writing style, but I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good, interesting read.

:) :) :) :)

John Davis might be going insane. Or he might be reshaping reality. He isn’t sure which.
When the world starts shifting around him, he’s the only one who seems to notice. The changes seem harmless at first—sunny skies, a nicer apartment, new furniture—but quickly turn sinister when his best friend vanishes without a trace. In his search for the truth behind his friend’s disappearance, John uncovers a mysterious organization dedicated to hunting down those who can shift reality—and they want John dead. If John isn’t the Shifter, he needs to find out who is before the organization catches up to him and his reality unravels completely.

What made you decide to become a writer?

Ah, nothing glamorous I’m afraid! I’d love to say I was adopted by a troupe of travelling librarians at the age of three and made to read books by candlelight...but unfortunately although I love books and always read a lot I never really thought about writing and never once attracted the attention of wandering bibliosoph. That is until I finished reading Harry Potter, or maybe it was the Twilight series...(how many writer-points have I just lost?!)... I’m not sure – this was October 2009 so it could well have been Breaking Dawn. Anyway, I just wondered how people like Stephanie Meyer could just sit down one day and write these incredible novels that people absolutely loved, having barely looked at a book before. I thought that if the rumours were true, and J K Rowling just dreamed up Harry on a train one day, maybe I could have a go at writing something. So I tried. I just wanted to see if I could write a coherent, interesting novel. It was for me back then, I wasn’t thinking about publication at that point. Perhaps in the end it was a challenge I set myself, never really thinking I’d manage it.

Who inspires you?

When I was asked that in an interview once I panicked and said “Alfred the Great”. I didn’t get the job. These days I’d say Stephen Hawking, for making physics accessible to someone like me. His book A Briefer History of Time had a sort of wry humour in places which you have to admire, plus it explained things so that I can appear more intelligent than I really am at parties. He’s an amazing story of triumph over adversity, but he’s humble, amusing and self-deprecating with it. And if it’s something we Brits love it’s a self-deprecating hero. And if Hawking can write a book without having the full use of his body, then what excuse do I have not to try?

What would you like your readers to get out of your writing?

I’d like it if people came away feeling that they had connected with the main character, and that they felt for him in his plight. I think he’s a really likeable guy, the kind of person you’d like to meet. In a way, I feel sorry for what I put him through! So if there was something people could take from my writing it’s probably a feeling that they were really engaged with the story and the people in it. Also, someone once asked me if there was a romantic relationship between two of the characters that I’d not really considered when I was writing it. That was a pleasant surprise, to think that there were elements to these people that I as their creator hadn’t thought about. I’d heard that when you’re writing some characters get away from you and develop into something you can’t remember intending for them to be, but it was a revelation to have it happen to me. I’d like readers to see something in those characters I hadn’t seen, a depth or a personality trait that they’d discovered and I hadn’t. 

Where did this idea come from?

The idea of Shifts and Shifters developed out of my hope that nothing was set in stone. I think I wanted to believe that if you tried, you could shape your own reality and mould your future regardless of your present. In a funny way it kind of reflects my journey into the world of writers and stories and books. I was set doing one thing, looking wistfully into a world I didn’t belong to and wanting to see if I could do what they did. I think the idea of shaping and realising your own reality, making it and yourself into who and what you want to be, is something that everyone thinks about. It’s the whole concept of taking control of your life and becoming the person you want to be and making the world fit around it; it’s quite an empowering thought. Of course that’s only how the general idea came about; in the book it’s much more dangerous and unpredictable, capable of causing death and destruction as well as good things. Perhaps it comes back to being careful what you wish for, only my characters never wished for it even if I did.

Who was your favorite character to develop?

I think in all honesty my favourite was probably Brice, the highly unpleasant technology guy. He, and one or two others have been described by one reviewer as a total sociopath, which is probably fair. I loved getting into his head, putting myself in his shoes and immersing myself in his twisted character. He is partially based on the nameless pangs of anger and jealousy we’ve all felt and quickly suppressed - being unsuitable for polite society - and partially based on my experience of people like him. He’s the dark side given life and a brain. It was interesting to pit him against the unfailingly cheerful Stuart, who actually I started to resent myself, having spent too long thinking with Brice’s mind. I think it’s disturbing how easy it is to adopt an evil person’s point of view if you try hard enough.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t take it too seriously. Have fun with it. If at any moment you begin to resent your book or the act of writing it, put it away. I am extremely aware of how pretentious I sound when I say this but writing is an art. It’s not something to be rushed or judged as it’s taking shape. I managed to complete Shifter within seven weeks, but I only realised that was quite fast when I later considered trying to get it published. I never started out wanting to publish; I only wanted to write to see if I could. When I decided to try and publish it, then it got serious and I started freaking out. My advice to people is to concentrate on the story and your enjoyment of creating it, not the end goal of publishing it and living in a giant house made of diamonds. I hear most people make virtually no money on their first book anyway, so don’t think like that or you’ll disturb your writing and get disappointed all in one go. Just enjoy it.

What can we expect next from you?

I am about 60,000 words into my second book, which I am having great fun with at the moment. I can’t wait to finish it and send it to my publishers. It’s just finding the time to finish it is so hard! Work is suddenly really busy and weekends and evenings get booked up with social things so quickly. I don’t have a huge amount of time to myself. It’s no surprise really that Shifter (written at a time when I was living at home with my parents trying to make enough money to move out) was finished in less than two months. This one (being written now that I’m living with my partner in the city) has already taken a year and it’s hovering at the two thirds mark. I’m hopeful that in the next two months it’ll be done. It’s a supernatural thriller; I’m playing with werewolf/demon concepts but setting it very firmly in the real world with real people. It has a controversial aspect to it that I’m wondering if people (i.e. my publishers!) will like; I guess it’s a risk I take for telling the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it. I guess I’m still unknown enough to get away with writing my story rather than the story I think will sell!

 Where can we purchase your book?

You can get it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and from Rhemalda Publishing at I’m currently working on a publicity campaign to spread the word a bit and maybe have it available at a few other places but that’s still quite a way off. The links to the book are below – I’m pretty nervous about it being exposed to the world; nothing prepares you for that - but I really hope people enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

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