Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Shannon Muir, Author

Shannon Muir, Author
"Pretty as a Picture" NEWSHOUNDS
Shannon Muir’s recently released short story GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES takes readers back to solve a mystery in the “golden age of radio,” a topic she knows something about given her degrees in radio/tv and communications. The author writes non-fiction and fantasy, science fiction and mystery stories, including  "Pretty as a Picture," a mystery in the anthology NEWSHOUNDS.  

In the future, she plans to focus on Mystery, New Pulp, and Genre Fiction. In the meantime, she expects stories submitted to Pro Se Press to be published. When she’s not writing, Muir likes to play multiplayer online games. She lives in California where she works in animation production.

Q: What led you to write your latest short story, GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES – ‘a new pulp tale’? Why set the story in ‘the golden age of radio?’ Is this part of a series?

Shannon Muir: The first two questions you have somewhat go together. I originally wrote GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES because I had one published story out with Pro Se Press (part of Pro Se Productions) called "Pretty as a Picture" in the anthology NEWSHOUNDS. At that time, Pro Se Press also ran an e-magazine, and GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES was submitted for that with the hope it would raise my profile as a writer for the genre and the publisher. Not long after the submission, the e-magazine folded, with the publisher remaining focused on full books, anthologies, and the "Single Shot" digital short story singles that were just starting up then. Anyone who had submitted to the e-magazine ended up in the Single Shot pile to be considered, but as a result over a year went by before I got to the right place in the queue to be considered and released.

As to how it ended up being the specific story that it is, that goes back to when I was in college as a double major in Radio-TV and English-Creative Writing. I wrote a thirty minute teleplay script called FROM THE FATAL HEART in which a dedication and request show DJ (those were very popular at the time) thought his wife committed suicide but she really hadn't; it turned out to be a carefully orchestrated murder. I'd chosen that subject matter because I was a Radio-TV major and in fact a DJ in college; I later established a show on our 10,000 watt college jazz station called "Women of Jazz" which I believe is still running over two decades later. Though that script actually received national recognition as a finalist for an award from a national college radio-television honor society, as I've looked back at it over the years there are some things I wished I'd done better. My DJ lead really played more of a passive role in the story, and I decided to challenge myself by writing a female centered story with a more active lead and see what I got. Also, because most traditional pulp stories are 1920s or 1930s for the most part, I decided to see what happened if I shifted to that time period. DJs as we know them today weren't around yet; radio's power lay heavily in the serialized programs that were broadcast, and the actors and actresses in them the stars of the airwaves. From that core, I built the rest, and I really like the way it turned out.

Right now, GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES is not part of a series, but in my mind I have certainly left it open ended enough to be one. I also really want to do more with these characters. To be honest, though, it's going to take a couple things to make that happen. First, enough people have to buy the short story to show demand. Second of all, positive reviews indicating demand for more would be needed, since a lot of people might buy it but find that was all they needed. Third, of course, is the publisher would have to be open to it. While they don't own the story, Pro Se does do a line of Single Shots that are series in nature, so it seems like if I would continue I owe the courtesy of continuing to work with that publisher if possible.

Q: You’ve written in a variety of genres—both fiction and non-fiction. Is GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES your first mystery? Do you have a favorite? Mystery? Fantasy? SciFi? Romance? Why?

Shannon Muir: My first mystery story actually was the previously mentioned "Pretty as a Picture" in NEWSHOUNDS, which features a newspaper staff in the 1950s using the power of the press to right wrongs. Mine is one of three stories in that book. Those characters were actually based on a "bible" as developed by Pro Se Press, which gave all the backstories of the characters. In a way that was kind of like writing for television – this is done for live-action and animated series, and I have written for an animated series in Japan, as well as worked in other positions on animated shows in the United States. This meant I was accustomed to the challenges of writing a story making sure I followed the rules set out for me. Again, that was extremely fun, and I really became attached to those characters even though they're not my own. If I got the chance to do more with them, I would.

My personal favorites to read are science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Science fiction and fantasy are exceptionally hard because you have to be able to build a completely believable world. While I have a passion for world building, I haven't built anything strong enough in science fiction or fantasy that I'm really happy with yet. The New Pulp works need some world building because you're often working in another time and place, but by no means to the same extent.

I've done a lot of stuff in a self-published vein that came out of ten years of completed National Novel Writing Month attempts. For people not familiar with it, writers challenge themselves each November to complete a 50,000 word or more first draft of a novel within the month of November. I've done that for ten years straight, and succeeded, but I don't think I'll do that again. It taught me a lot about writing under pressure and how to get out of tight writing corners, and I discovered a lot of ideas that are interesting that I'm making available after doing editing and clean-up on them, but they kind of define being categorized. While they have leading women, they tend to not be Romances. I made that mistake initially, and quickly learned that Romance has a very defined set of terms; most of what I've written doesn't seem to fall there and what little can is a bit of a stretch. They're definitely all about contemporary women trying to find their identity in a variety of situations.

Going forward, I definitely plan to stick heavily to the mystery, New Pulp, and Genre Fiction work. To that end, there are still several stories in the pipeline forthcoming from Pro Se Press and one from Emby Press. Unfortunately I don't know dates for any of them at the moment.

Q: GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES is a short story. Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? How difficult is it to develop characters in a short story? How helpful is setting?

Shannon Muir: Short stories are harder overall. You have a limited amount of time to set up your location and characters so that people can jump in and follow the plot. You can do a lot in a little time but it takes a lot of planning ahead. Every word counts. I prefer on writing whichever way best suits the story I'm trying to tell. If it's a complex character tale, that usually needs a novel. However, if the character's essence can be captured enough to tell the story that you don't need to go into tons of self-examination, novellas or short stories can be more appropriate.

Q: Can you leverage your writing skills from your non-fiction books to writing fiction? What are the key differences?

Shannon Muir: Honestly, this is reversed. I've been trained in writing fiction long before I wrote my columns and later textbooks on the animation writing and production process; I just wasn't aggressively publishing it until later. I didn't do print journalism in college, or broadcast news. My columns and to a degree even the textbooks probably could be better likened to the tone of conversational blogs, helped out by the fact that I did a lot of guest interviews with fellow animation professionals. By then, I'd worked for Sony Animation and Nickelodeon and just had it on my heart to pay what I'd learned and what my friends could teach forward. In fact, I actually got hired to do the textbooks after the textbook company rejected a pitch based on my past columns plus new material, asking me to focus on the material they wanted to feature. That was a very specific situation of wanting to educate in a medium that has captured my heart since my youth and for which I've been proud to have be part of my career, and as you may notice I've not done anything non-fiction since. I'm not sure I feel qualified to compare the differences.

Q: Why do you focus on female protagonists?

Shannon Muir: I think in general because being a woman, I feel more confident coming from that viewpoint. As noted above, I did have a male lead in the FROM THE FATAL HEART teleplay, but I found him too passive. It also gave an interesting challenge to me when pitching stories to Pro Se Press because traditionally private investigators in those types of stories are male, so I hunted out the untold stories of how women might be able to make a difference outside of the norm. Even in the NEWSHOUNDS story with the ensemble cast, the characters prominently featured are the two women. That said, I think I've also gotten past that. I recently did two stories waiting to come out from Pro Se Press that have strong male leads and I really like how both of them turned out.

Q: Do you write to deliver a message, educate, inform, or just to entertain readers?

Shannon Muir: Again, it depends on what I'm doing. The New Pulp and Genre Fiction I write to entertain. Some of my more personal self-published projects are meant to get readers thinking on certain topics.

Q: How helpful is humor to your story-telling?

Shannon Muir: Humor tends to be a real challenge for me. I'm usually that person in the room who doesn't get the joke everyone else just got. I can be too serious for my own good sometimes. If I use humor, it may come in the form of puns or higher level intellectual humor, which both my father and his late father were very good at so I borrow what I learned to figure out.

Q: Do you use the concept of heroes vs villains in your story-telling? What makes a good villain? Do you need a villain to have a hero?

Shannon Muir: I use protagonists, antagonists, and villains. Maybe it's just my English degree training kicking in, but I think heroes and villains might be a bit too black and white. Antagonists are people who conflict with the protagonist but who may have some redemptive qualities, while villains tend to not have anything redeeming about them. I think what makes a successful opponent to your protagonist – or hero, to use your word – hinges on the motivations being convincing. In short, if there's no good reason for he or she to do what causes the problem, the whole thing falls apart. As far as needing a villain to have a hero, you don't need a hero but you need some sort of opposition or conflict. That can be – to draw on the English training again – man versus man (or woman versus woman, or whatever mix here), man or woman versus society, man or woman versus nature, or even an individual with a personal struggle. There must be an opposition to be conquered. If the person focused on in the story triumphs, this can make them a hero, but even that might not be necessarily true. Stories can go in so many directions, and that's what makes it fun.

Q:  What’s next?

Shannon Muir: Hopefully more of the stories I know are pending with Pro Se Press will come out soon, in the short term. I've got a couple of personal project series I've published myself I want to wrap up in 2015 or early 2016 at latest. The mystery, New Pulp, and Genre Fiction is really where I plan to be putting the bulk of my effort in the future, however.

Q: Tell us about Shannon Muir. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Shannon Muir: I like to play massive multiplayer online games, in particular LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE based on the world development of J.R.R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS. My father raised my sister and I on those stories and THE HOBBIT is still my favorite story of all time; I identify with Bilbo Baggins an awful lot to this day. As an interesting aside, I actually worked for several years on a virtual world intended for younger audiences; I was part of the team behind the launch of the now-closed PETPET PARK that was a spinoff of the NEOPETS franchise. While an interesting way to empower the players to craft their own stories, there's also a lot that goes into it from a game balance and world development perspective and I learned a lot in the several years I got to be a part of it.

Also, I've liked board games all my life but don't often find enough people to play them with. Got together with some old friends for the first time recently and they introduced me to TICKET TO RIDE, which I really enjoyed. I hope to be able to do more of that again.

I'm also known as the person behind two writing focused blogs. INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS at and DISCOVER WORDS at, which have been around for a couple years now. Interviews and guests posts tend to be the focus of INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS, while excerpts reign at DISCOVER WORDS. However, in early 2015, I had a huge hiccup with my provider that cost me both the blogs and it is going to be an uphill battle to reconstruct them. I'm going to try and get everything reposted that people have taken time to assemble for me, but with over two years of content this may not be completely possible though I will give it my utmost best.

On that note, thank you so much for giving me the time to share about my emerging work in New Pulp and Genre Fiction, along with my creative passions.

About Shannon Muir

Shannon Muir’s most recent genre fiction release is the Single Shot GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES a New Pulp digital single tale, preceded by her debut genre fiction story "Pretty as a Picture" in the anthology NEWSHOUNDS from Pro Se Productions. Prior to venturing into the world of New Pulp, Muir is best known to genre readers as co-writer of the long-running webcomic FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY with her partner, Kevin Paul Shaw Broden (featured in Pro Se's anthology THE BLACK FEDORA, his own story in NEWSHOUNDS, and the self-published REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST). She tends to gravitate towards writing stories with females in leading or influential roles, which can prove a challenge in the time periods that pulp stories are set in. Muir aspires to bring different perspective to a classic time period by taking on this viewpoint. Muir also has credits in new adult contemporary fiction, as well as published textbooks on the animation industry, a field in which she's held writing and production positions as part of her nearly twenty year career focused in family entertainment. She currently resides in Glendale, California.

GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES is from Pro Se Productions’ Single Shot line. It is a tale of mystery and murder set against the backdrop of the Golden Age of Radio! Through this stand alone digital single, Author Shannon Muir introduces the world to Ghost of the Airwaves!

GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES is the suspenseful tale of radio actress Abigail Hanson, whose husband died under mysterious circumstances. Everyone believes the culprit is caught until a mysterious typed letter from "Ghost of the Airwaves" comes through her mail slot. Abigail becomes determined to find out who killed her husband and uses her own observant eye to help coax the police along. But, as she delves deeper into the mystery, Abigail may learn she should have stayed behind the microphone…to stay alive!
Cover art and logo design by Jeff Hayes and digital formatting by Russ Anderson. A Pro Se Single Shot digital single from Pro Se Productions!

News For All, Justice for the Innocent and Weak!
That is the Masthead of The Partisan and the mission of its keepers in Pro Se Productions’ action packed tribute to the printed press- NEWSHOUNDS! Dogged reporters, crusty editors, copyboys and cub photographers with dreams of grandeur. Pressmen who know the city lives and breathes by what they print. Characters like Editor ‘Red Dillinger, reporters Viv Bailey and Ted Boland, photographer Margie Haviland, and more all work for The Partisan, a 1950s paper partial to the common man, to righting the wrongs done against the housewives and the blue collars! And this gaggle of hard bitten, hard fighting men and women are known near and far to those who love them and those who wish to see them dead! Do No Wrong in Their City unless you want it covered by the Newshounds! Started in 1930 to stand up for the little person and to protect the rights of the rightless. The Partisan has always been the paper that focused on both accurate news reporting and standing up for the common citizen against crime and corruption of all types. This led to a style of writing both factual and fiery that the paper is known for. Authors Kevin Paul Shaw Broden, Shannon Muir, and J. Walt Layne bring life to the chaotic adventures of a larger than life newspaper staff in this three story collection. Only two types of people work at The Partisan- Those truly interested in standing up for truth and justice and what’s rightand those with a death wish or nowhere else to go. Either way, they make great stories for Pro Se Productions’ NEWSHOUNDS!

Excerpt: from NEWSHOUNDS "Pretty as a Picture"

"Are you out of your mind?" Margie Haviland insisted to her editor in the main press room of the Partisan, a paper known for exposing more than a few dirty downsides of the city and fighting for the everyday citizen. "You expect me and Viv," Margie said, thumbing a finger at Vivian Bailey, the tall and knockout female reporter of the group, "to just go and crash some charity function?" '
"Definitely not crash it, at least not openly," Red responded, much calmer and collected than the saucy, petite Margie. "We don't want to call attention to ourselves. But the reality is you and Viv are the only female reporters we've got that can swing this kind of a high pressure undercover job. As you know though, there are, shall we say, added complications."
"Such as the fact that Margie comes from the same rich elite that will be attending this function," pointed out Ted Boland, the lead male reporter for the Partisan. "Some of these folks could even be family or friends."
"Trust me, they'd be no friends of mine," Margie all but spat in Ted's face. "I left that life behind a long time ago."
"Not only are you our top photographer, you also know how to get around and what to look for," the editor reassured Margie. "That's why you and Viv need to do this. Augustus Morton says he's doing this all as a charity benefit, allowing a sneak peek at next year's European styles before they trend in the States. All the proceeds would be to benefit business scholarships to further the education of young people, including internships with Morton's companies."
“Internships with him will just teach them how to play dirty pool. This Morton's got a history of being nothing but trouble," stressed Viv. "He looks so great on the surface with what the public sees, but as you all know we've turned up a few dirty things about him. Unfortunately, we never quite witnessed his involvement in those dealings."
"Which is why we can't miss this time, doll," Ted responded.
"You're walking on thin ice calling me doll and you know it, Mr. Boland," Viv threw back, not even giving him the respect of answering with a first name.
"All right you two, we get it," spoke up Dice, the circulation manager. "I think everyone knows what's at stake here. We all got to play it like pros. Viv, Margie, come up with a strategy of how to get into this special event. The big thing, our friend Augustus Morton," Red underscored sarcastically, "emphasized in his little invite is that this charity fashion show will culminate with the unveiling of his new personally discovered star, name of Kitty Kline."
"Knowing you Red, you researched like crazy about this star doll of his," ace reporter Ted added in. "So, what kind of dirt did you uncover?"
"That's the thing. I came up with nothing."
"You mean she's squeaky clean?" asked Margie.
"I mean, I found diddly squat. All my years in this biz and I can't even turn up a hint as to who this gal is."
"If she even exists at all," Viv pointed out. "Maybe that's the ultimate joke of it. Morton's pulled bigger ruses and gotten away with it."
"That's true," Red agreed. "But what's Morton's game, if that's the case?"

NEWSHOUNDS "Pretty as a Picture"

Twitter: @Shannon_Muir

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