Photo by Pete Gardner Photography

Rather than just writing a bunch of boring, stodgy old FAQ’s for my website, I thought it might be fun to turn my interviewing skills – more usually used on rock n’ roll musos over the past ten years in hundreds of interviews for 100% ROCK MAGAZINE, X-Press Magazine, Around The Sound and a handful of other publications – upon myself and have a selfie-style chat about my new novel, Jada: Mountain Warrior.

Strap yourself in and come along for the ride.

Interviewer Shane: Good day to you, Sir. Congrats on the publication of your debut novel, Jada: Mountain Warrior. Can you tell us what it is about? I know there are unicorns and monsters involved!

Author Shane: Thankyou, it’s a pleasure to be here talking with myself. The novel is about a young girl, Jada, in an alternate fantasy world, training to be a warrior – which is a thing with her clan, who live on a mountain and tend to a herd of unicorns. She and an elder warrior are attacked by harpies – they are monstrous half–woman, half-eagle creatures who are extremely unpleasant, ‘orrible, nasty things that have a history of acrimony with humans – and… without giving away too many spoilers, things escalate and Jada has to learn how to be a better, braver, stronger person if she is to help defeat the harpy army and save her people.

Q: And there is magic, I believe – and a giant tiger!?

A: [Laughs] Yes there is! Jada discovers magical powers she didn’t realise she had, and has to come to grips with what she can do, and how to deal with the burden of being special, as well as learn very quickly how to fight! As for the tiger… no spoilers, dude!!

Q: Did it take a long time to write?

A: On one hand, it’s taken my whole life, pretty much. I first remember trying to write something on Mum’s electric typewriter when I was about twelve. I got banned for wasting paper and typewriter ribbon very quickly, and it seemed that every time I tried to write something after that, someone or other would find a reason to tell me not to bother. Either the writing was rubbish according to them, or it wasn’t a worthy use of my time, or not a valid career choice or even hobby. Eventually it became this huge emotional block – I started dozens and dozens of stories throughout the years, and never stopped scribbling ideas down, but could never get to the end of any of them. I couldn’t bring myself to show them to anyone – the couple of times I did I chose poorly and they tore my writing to shreds rather than encouraging me. Finally, I did a couple of courses, got some professional help, and found it within myself to finally tell a story all the way through. More specifically, though, Jada took me about a year to write, and six months more to edit.

Q: Would life have turned out differently had you found a mentor earlier?

A: Very possibly. I think inside myself I always wanted a mentor, and I even tried to collaborate on a couple of ideas along the way, but nothing panned out. On the other hand, perhaps I needed the life experience and emotional maturity before I was ready to do this.

Q: Was it an emotional experience to get to this point, to finally hold your own novel in your hands?

A: Oh boy, it really was. It took a lot of work, and a few bucks in therapy, and a lot of support from my wife in particular, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m not ashamed to say I wept a little when I finished the first draft, and again when I finished the final manuscript, and most definitely when I held the actual books for the first time.

The wannabe author, aged 12 +/- circa 1978

Q: Do you still have your pre-teen writing and all the pieces you started through the years?

A: Not all of them – a lot were lost in between moving houses, or on old computers or damaged floppy disks, water damage or termites or whatever, especially my teenage and 20-something stuff. Maybe that’s for the best [laughs]. I do have a document box full of notes and ideas and scraps of paper and sketches and notebooks and what-not, though. If I ever run out of ideas I can tap into them! And I have a folder on my laptop with enough raw ideas and works in progress or works in development that could come to maybe 20 novels and dozens of short stories. The only part of my pre-teen attempts at writing which I do actually remember is the first line I typed in a science fiction novel-to-be-that-never-was as a twelve year old, and I have included it as a kind of a homage to the younger, searching, me, in my second novel as a kind of closure. That made me very happy.

Q: So your second novel is science fiction?

A: It is – it’s very different from Jada. But you’ll have to wait a few months for that one.

Photo by Pete Gardner Photography

Q: You include an excerpt from the next novel at the end of Jada…

A: Yes! It’s sort of… I’ve been describing it as a Bogart-styled private investigator/Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-styled sci fi story with a big pinch of humour. It’s a little more grown up than Jada, but still PG-rated – there’s no sex, but the main character does have history with some of the female characters, and the only swearing is swear words that I invented myself [laughs] – how cool would it be to invent swear words which caught on? I love that idea!

Q: Jada: Mountain Warrior features a lot of strong female characters. Why is that?

A: Have you met any women? They’re mighty! My friends certainly are, anyway. Apart from a few close male friends I have almost always preferred the company of women – I have much more respect for their open-mindedness, nurturing nature and (mostly) lack of bogan narrow-mindedness and testerone swagger. To put it another way, I believe in the equality of the sexes – not just for the sake of it, but because it’s just the way it is. Frankly, a lot of women are a lot more equal, in my opinion, than a lot of men. Plus, this novel started as a short story for/featuring my daughter, so it was a no-brainer for me to make the character someone she could look up to, and imbue that character with the positive traits I have been trying to teach her and hope she will, some day, learn to emulate.

Q: So the Jada character in the book is your daughter?

A: No, not at all. They share a couple of qualities and a similar look and a similar age, but the fictional character is just that – a fictional character. The original short story started off with that character named after my daughter but as it evolved, that didn’t seem right, so I changed it well before publication. I hope that my daughter will see some positivity and strength and honesty in Jada which she can see the value in emulating.

Q: Without wanting to pry into difficult personal issues, whilst writing the novel your daughter became estranged from you and your wife, right?

A: Yeah, it’s vile. The mother is the most toxic person I have ever had the misfortune to meet. Sadly she has been psychologically abusing my daughter from a very young age. It’s called Parental Alienation, and is when one parent or carer manipulates and brainwashes a child against the other parent or carer. When my daughter was three she came to my now-wife and asked, “why is my Daddy a bad daddy?” My wife said, “he’s not, why do you say that?” My daughter replied, “my Mummy always says Daddy is a bad Daddy.” She’s had that toxicity in her ear her entire life, we had several instances of my legal custody being stolen from me for extended periods, countless visits to the Family Court – who, incidentally, are as corrupt, gender- and liar-biased and useless as any organisation on the planet – and finally in February this year my daughter effectively ran away to her mother’s after school and has been little more than abusive towards us ever since. We understand she has been brainwashed, lied to constantly, but that doesn’t exactly make it any less difficult to deal with. It really is heartbreaking.

Q: Did that make finishing the book difficult?

A: It did. Many times I caught myself typing her name instead of Jada, and had to work hard not to let my upset at our situation spill over into Jada’s story. But it was a relief when it was published, and I am very proud how my wife and I have dealt with the appalling situation. I’m just itching now to move onto the next story!

Cover art by Dave Howarth

Q: Jada has an extremely cool cover!

A: Thanks – it certainly is. I have a tremendously talented friend in England – Dave Howarth – who I can send an appalling scribble to and he will turn it into magnificent artwork. Not to mention he is a lovely guy with superb taste in music. He’s one in a million. Click here to look him up

Q: There is some violence in the book. What age do you think it is suited for?

A: Yes, there are some battles, there is some good and also bad guys getting wounded and even killed, there’s a bit of blood and the loss of loved ones… but it’s no more than you’d see in a PG or soft M-rated movie nowadays. I think it’s a PG-rated story. The violence isn’t graphic, it’s story-driven. There is no joy taken in it. And there’s no bad language, no sex – I think it is good for 11 or 12 and up through adulthood. I have friends my age who have loved it, so it’s definitely not ONLY a kid’s book. I deliberately wanted to write a book for kids my daughter’s age – so there’s no gore, nothing sexual or vulgar – which would also appeal to adult readers as well.

Q: You mentioned superhero movies. Do you think Jada has a cinematic feel to it?

A: I think I write with the movie of the story playing out in my head, if that makes sense? I try to picture it scene by scene and frame by frame, and yeah – it would be amazing to see it for real on the big screen some day! If anyone knows Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg, feel free to introduce us [laughs].

Q: It’s no spoiler to say that Jada finishes open-endedly. Are you planning a sequel?

A: Not planning… but there is always a chance I will revisit that world and Jada at some stage. It’s a world I really enjoyed writing in, and it’s a world which has a lot of possibilities. Perhaps if this one does well and readers are interested enough, I’ll write a follow-up. A few people have told me already that they’re keen for another Jada story – but first, I have a couple of very different stories to tell.

Q: Do tell!!

A: Oh no – a lot of development and writing needs to be done before any of them are ready to talk about! Let’s just focus on Jada and the sci fi novel coming – hopefully – in November, for now.

Q: You have self-published Jada: Mountain Warrior. What does that mean for readers?

A: It means that I am relying on readers to spread the word as much as possible if they like what I’ve done. To sign up to my newsletter and follow my social media platforms. To buy a copy for their kids, or nieces and nephews, or grandkids, or friends, or share reviews and recommend the book to them. At this stage I don’t have the luxury of a publisher putting the novel on bookstore shelves around the country, so it’s the only way for a truly independent author to be heard further afield than our own tiny little network. The more people hear about it, the more buy it, the more I can put food on the table and hopefully be able to afford to find time away from the grind of regular work to write more stories, and offer better deals, especially to loyal fans.

Q: So, we can expect your next book in November?

A: Well, I’m back doing chef work to pay the bills, and struggling to find time to edit the first draft of the next book. I want to publish in November – that is my goal – but it’s still tentative at this stage. If I can find the time, I can have it ready for Christmas at the very least – I started editing it today and got 10% into it, and I’m really happy and excited with how it is reading. When I get that one finished, then I’ll have to decide which story to focus on writing next – I have a few possibilities!

Q: It sounds like ideas are not in short supply. Where does the creativity come from?

A: I’ve always had more ideas than I have the time to even write down! I honestly don’t know where the ideas come from… is it from the imagination, from some broken malfunctioning circuit in the brain? I always loved Robert E Howard’s description of it. He created Conan The Barbarian and wrote all the early stores, and he once said that he felt those stories were told to him inside his head, that he wasn’t responsible for them other than to, pretty much transcribe them, I guess. Either way, maybe creativity is a form of inspired madness?

Shane Pinnegar
Shane Pinnegar is an author, chef and music/pop culture writer who lives in Western Australia. He has a lovely wife, two rambunctious dogs with no respect for personal space, especially on the sofa or bed, twenty-something koi, a flock of itinerate galahs who visit regularly, and a never-comprehensive-enough rock n' roll record collection.


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