Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Interview With Young Adult Author Shannon Greenland

I first met Shannon Greenland in the mid-2000s at the South Carolina Book Festival. We shared a table with what was then our mutual publisher, Echelon Press. What Shannon shares with all of us who aspire to be traditionally published is a journey, one that takes relentless determination and constant self-evaluation.

In quick order, we shared tables, meals, and war stories at Printer’s Row Book Festival in Chicago and The Southern Festival of Books in Memphis when that storied event used to rotate between the City of the Blues and Nashville. What I learned along the way, as many of us do when we meet writers we admire, is that this innately talented novelist is a down-to-earth lady. She’s a former schoolteacher with a devilishly adventurous side.

“You name it and I’ve pretty much done it. Hiking, rafting, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, mountain biking, spelunking, canoeing, power lifting, running, camping, para sailing . . . well, you get the drift. I’ve been all over the world, use my crazy adventures to spice up my writing, and I’m always on the lookout for the next best thrill.”

Her award winning teen spy series, The Specialists, was an ALA top pick and a National Reader’s Choice Recipient. Today, Shannon, writing under the pen name S.E.Green, is traveling around the South with several fellow authors on the Compelling Reads Tour debuting her latest novel, an intense young adult psychological thriller, Killer Instinct (Simon Pulse, 2014).

“From horror to paranormal, thriller to historical, and sci-fi to southern gothic, the Compelling Reads tour has something for everyone. And I am so excited to be a part of it!” Shannon said. For Killer Instinct in particular, Kirkus Reviews labels it “a zippy, gripping psychological drama.”

The novel’s protagonist is Lane, a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick.

Why? Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs.

And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return. . . in parts.

When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim.

Shannon’s edge-of-the-chair plot keeps readers’ hearts racing and has them turning page after page until reaching an ending with a twist that yanks them right out of the seat.

Welcome, Shannon, to Writer’s Who Kill.

Lane is a different sort of girl, even different from her own siblings. You thought way outside the box in developing her character. What was your inspiration for her?

I kept hearing this detached voice in my head. This voice that spoke in very black and white terms. Then I picked up a pencil and started scribbling, and Lane’s voice was born.

“I crave my night outings, and on more than one occasion have caught myself zoning out during the day thinking about them. Sometimes they consume me. They fulfill a part of me I’ve yet to figure out. I can’t help but wonder that if just watching these deviants causes my blood to race through my body, what will actually taking one of them down do to me?”

Lane seems wise beyond her years in some respects, yet still suffers some of the angst all teens do. You’re an award-winning YA author. Is there a formula for achieving that balance in your characters or does it just happen organically?

Yes, very organic. When I write, I am a teen in my head.

Killer Instinct has an intricate plot. Did you outline it or did the plot unfold as you wrote?

The plot unfolded naturally. I had no clue who the Decapitator was going to be. This worked well because it kept me guessing as I know it does the reader.

One piece of advice you’ve given before is to never underestimate your audience’s sophistication. Do you believe there is even a definitive line between YA and adult genres today or have they blended?

Adults are reading YA and vice versa. I think novice writers often make the mistake of simplifying their writing for the MG or YA audience. Kids and teens are smart. Definitely don’t simplify!

When you go on your adventures (spelunking or snorkeling, for example) do you purposefully go off with discovering a new plot for a book in mind or does the adventure spark an idea?

It works both ways for me. Research is my favorite thing. If I’m plotting a book that takes place in Hawaii, then I definitely need to go there. For research, of course :)

 What can readers expect on your tour? (Interaction, Q&A, etc?)

 A little bit of everything. Story building. “Dating” the author. Giveaways. Q&A.

The WWK blog appeals to both readers and aspiring writers, so here’s the enduring question for those of us who share your journey. You’ve earned your success. What advice do you have for those of us still plodding (and plotting) through the process of acquiring an agent and getting published?

My number one advice is to write a draft all the way through without stopping. Then go back and revise. Be picky in your agent search. And while on submission, start a new project. Never sit still.

You used to hate reading. What changed?

A friend of mine gave me a stack of romance novels, and out of boredom I picked one up. I read it. Liked it. Read another. Then found my way to the library. Suddenly I was reading and checking things out in all kinds of genres. And then I found my “home” in suspense/mystery/thrillers. I still do love reading romance, though. Very much so!

To find out if the Compelling Reads Tour is visiting a city near you, check out this link:

For more information on Shannon and her books, log onto:


  1. I remember hiding under the covers with a flashlight reading East of Eden while my family slept. Kids read and love adult books, why shouldn't adults love children's books? George and Martha by James Marshall is one of my go-to favorites.

    I wrote short stories in which the main characters were age eight and seventeen. Readers asked me if the stories were YA. I had no idea and wondered why it mattered.

    Your series sounds so suspenseful, I might hesitate to read it! Good luck with your tour. Thanks for stopping by and talking with Mountain Man.

  2. Welcome to WWK, Shannon. It’s fun to see how people handle the YA market these days. To some extent it is the best of both worlds: you get the YAs, plus adults are more than willing to read YA material.

    ~ Jim

  3. Thank you for stopping by WWK, Shannon. I am definitely going to check out KILLER INSTINCT.
    I work with young people at my library and your advice is spot-on - never underestimate teens. Contrary to what the media reports, they read - a lot. And they are very devoted to their favorite authors. You must get a kick out of meeting your readers on tour.

  4. I worked for a while with at-risk teens, and they will read quite a bit if the books made available to them are the kinds of things they'd like to read. Yours certainly sounds like they fit that category.

  5. It is great when you hear the voice of a character inside your head. It make writing much easier.

  6. Welcome to WWK, Shannon. I think since the Harry Potter series, more and more adults are reading YA books and enjoying them. I know I do, and your book and character sound intriguing.