What led you to the choice of becoming a writer?
I always enjoyed writing stories and envisioned someday penning a novel. Reading A Moveable Feast by Hemingway freed me up to realize that to be a writer, I didn’t need to have a huge story arc all planned out right away, I just needed to write. Having gained more life experience working as a firefighter and paramedic I couldn’t help but let the words spill out on the page.
What are some of the spiritual themes you like to write about?
Loss and redemption, death and resurrection. Being set in the paramedic world, with the protagonist’s mentor a Medical Examiner at the morgue, Tomorrow We Die provided fertile ground to explore those long standing literary themes.
We’d love to hear a little about yourself and your writing journey. What were some of the steps you took along the publication road?
Attending writing conferences is huge. It gives a writer the opportunity to understand the industry, to hone one’s craft, to network with other writers and to meet agents and editors face to face.
What are you working on right now?
My current project is called Falls Like Lightning.
Here’s a peek at initial back cover copy:
When hotshot smokejumper Silas Kent gets his own fire crew, he thinks he’s achieved what he always wanted. But amid the largest lightning caused fire complex the west has seen in over a century, his team is quickly forced into service. Before he’s ready they’re in a plane over the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada.
Experienced firefighting pilot Elle Westmore has been called up to fly jumper crews into the heart of the forest infernos. As a single mother of a six year old who is suffering from increasing and unexplainable seizures, her situation has grown complicated.
It doesn’t take long for things to go very wrong, very quickly. A suspicious engine explosion forces Elle to make an emergency landing in a mountain lake.
Silas is able to parachute to safety, but soon discovers his crew can’t be trusted.
They’re hiding something, and now Silas is on a race to save himself and Elle—both from the conflagration encircling them…and from a more dangerous threat.
His own team.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Through the Fire hit shelves in the summer of 2009 and Tomorrow We Die released summer of 2010.
What do you do besides write books?
I am also a firefighter in Reno, Nevada.
What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? Did you like it? What snacks did you eat?
Toy Story 3. Like the others it was fantastic. I had popcorn and Junior Mints with my wife and kids.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Just about the full spectrum.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
We’re very busy now with both firefighting and writing careers and I really have to schedule and discipline time to read. I believe that reading great writers is an integral part to being one.
Other than the Bible, what is your all time favorite book?
Peace Like a River and Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) are right up there.
How do you keep your balance in today’s busy world?
My wife and I work hard to schedule and to do our best to keep our relationships with the Lord, with each other, and with our children the top priorities.
ADVICE TO WRITERS
What can you tell authors who have been receiving only rejections from publishers?
It’s not necessarily a critique of your work. It comes with the territory. It is often just a matter of a house needing only a certain thing at a certain time. But it can be used by an author to discover and strengthen weaknesses in one’s work so that it is more honed for the next proposal.
If you could recommend only one ‘How To Writing Book’ what would it be?
Hard to say. I really like Self Editing for Fiction Writers for mechanics and The Writers Journey for story arc and development.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Here’s a peek at the back cover copy for Tomorrow We Die:
Paramedic Jonathan Trestle has had a week of death. Every call seems to end up with someone flatlining until finally he is able to revive a disheveled patient long enough for the man to hand him a crumpled piece of paper and say, “Give this to Martin.” With the simple decision to honor a dying man’s last wish, Trestle soon finds himself snared in a mystery of murder and danger. His only clue is a scrap of paper covered with indecipherable dashes, but with his future, freedom, and life on the line, he must race for the truth before the Angel of Death comes calling for him.
How did you choose your characters’ names?
I’ll often give names to my protagonists that my wife and I didn’t use for our children. Aidan in Through the Fire, Jonathan in Tomorrow We Die, and Silas, Elle, and Madison in the forthcoming Falls Like Lightning.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
With Tomorrow We Die and Through the Fire I tried to approach my protagonists like a method actor does a role, getting inside their heads and applying their actions and thoughts as how I, as them with all the intricacies of their own personalities and environments, would react to things. Other characters are often mosaics of people I’ve known or worked with, some are embodiments of mythical archetypes or serve a certain purpose for the story.
What gave you the inspiration for this story?
My time as a paramedic for private ambulance companies played a big role. There is a definite angst that builds with being underpaid and overworked and regularly exposed to humanity in its most dire circumstances. The paramedic life gave me a lot to work with for a novel.
Are there any themes in Tomorrow We Die that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
I think the most important theme is summed up in the two Bible verses from 1 Corinthians 15 that bookend the novel. The first says:
“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’"
and the second says:
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
ABOUT THE READERS
Who would you say are your readers?
My books have broad appeal across gender and age ranges. They tend to have a PG-13 or so rating. I’d say on average from about sixth to seventh grade as the youngest through adult.
And what kinds of things can readers expect from your books?
Action and suspense woven with intricate character story arcs.
How do you do the research for your books?
Predominantly I have been writing professions that I know intimately. With this newest project, Falls Like Lightning, I have done extra reading on the smokejumping profession and interviewed a smokejumper personally.
How can reader's get an introduction to your story page.
Readers can actually see the first two chapters as they appear in print, at http://www.scribd.com/doc/34063278/Tomorrow-We-Die
Where can we find you on the web?
I love feedback from readers and endeavor to always get back to those who email. I can be found at http://www.shawngradybooks.com/ or at http://www.facebook.com/shawngradybooks .
Shawn, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing with us. To have the possibility to receive a copy of Tomorrow We Dieleave a comment with your email (name at domain name dot com). Giveaway closes Sunday, September 26, 2010 at midnight (CST). Only US postal codes.
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Even Smoke Runs From the FireFirefighting burns in Aidan O'Neill's blood, but his innate gift for reading flames has made him overconfident and sometimes puts lives in danger. When one call goes horribly wrong and a rookie is hurt, Aidan ends up suspended and finds himself questioning everything.
It couldn't have happened at a worse time.
An arsonist is targeting Reno, leaving a scorched path of destruction. The department needs Aidan back, but his return is troubled. The gift he relied on for so long has gone silent•and it's as though the fires are coming for him, hunting him down. Teaming with a beguiling fire investigator who may know more than she's saying, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the flames burn ever closer.
An Explosive Blend of Action, Romance, and Danger