Interview with Maribeth Shanley, Author of A View to the Unknown

What is your book about?    

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It’s the sequel to my first book, Crack in the World.  However, I wrote it to stand on its own.  It continues the story of Emily, a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father.  It takes Emily through the rest of her life as she continues to unravel the emotional torment her father subjected her to.  She continues not just to heal but to grow through that healing process.  She is a resilient individual, but the abuse left her with not only conscious scars but unconscious scars buried deep within her unconscious mind.  As a child, her emotional wounds which are now memories helped her to protect herself from her father.  Now, grown up and no longer in danger, her protective skills are wreaking havoc on her life by manifesting dysfunctional behavior.  She seeks to find a way to release her fears as she discovers meditation.  She becomes successful at releasing her fears and goes on to live a rich life full of hope and promise.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Once the girlfriend who influenced me to write Crack in the World, read the published story, she commented, “I love your characters, especially Emily and Sean. It would be a treat to follow their lives all the way to the end of their lives.” That’s all the prodding I needed. I too loved my characters and wasn’t ready to let go of them. So, immediately after Crack in the World was published, I began writing A View to the Unknown.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

A lot. I based Emily’s life on what happened to me as a child. I gave Emily all the tools I used during my healing which turns into a lifelong journey of putting what happened in perspective of my life. In the end, Emily discovers she had long ago forgiven her father for what he did to her. Because I let my stories take me on their journey, it was an amazing revelation for me to realize that I too had forgiven my father a long time ago. As Emily explains, holding onto anger, sadness and the rest of negative emotions are time-consuming. Such emotions stand in the way of happiness. Also, as I have done, Emily chose to spend her life living her life versus lamenting over her past. She views her past as her history and nothing more.

I based Jeannie’s personality on my playful, sarcastic, direct side. Jeannie was a fun character to create. She plays well against Emily’s personality which is more serious.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Emily is all about making deliberate choices in life. She was handed a raw deal being born to a narcissistic user. She could have easily allowed what happened to her to control her life. She could have become bitter and behaved like a perpetual victim, full of self-pity. She could have turned out to become a narcissistic user like her father; or, she could have chosen to put herself in situations of being abused in one fashion or another. However, she chose to focus on learning how to become happy. When she determined to become happy, happiness is the very thing she attracted. A very resourceful individual, she never backed away from a challenge.

Sean is a truly caring man. He was the very male Emily set her heart on finding. However, when she realized she had more to deal with than her conscious wounds, she bravely released Sean. She had been a prisoner all her life, and she didn’t want to inflict that on him. In the end, he made the choice to find her.

Jeannie recognized early on how fortunate she was to have been born to her parents. She could have easily brushed Emily and all her excess baggage aside, but she saw goodness in Emily that inspired her. I believe that goodness is one of the elements that kept Jeannie ticking. It was also Emily’s perseverance that gave Jeannie the will to know that there is more to life than meets the eye. She was a true believer. In the end, she was rewarded for her leap of faith to believe.

Who is your most unusual/most likable character?

In my mind, Sarah, Emily’s mother was the most unusual character. In my life, it was my mother who died first, leaving my father to write the narrative for my family’s future. Although he was quick to tell a person he didn’t care one way or another if my siblings left him or blamed him, in reality, he cared significantly. He cared so much that he did his best and was successful at casting me as the person who “ruined” the family. To this day, I have no relationship with three of my siblings. A fourth sibling, who stuck with me almost from the beginning, has walked away from me because I have reconnected with my middle sister, who she does not like. He created such a dysfunctional environment that I have simply had to accept that I will probably never have a lasting relationship with any of my siblings except my middle sister.

I gave Emily the opposite outcome. I allowed her father to die early when her mom was still young. I wanted to imagine how it could have been had my dad died first.

Sarah grew a backbone during the early chapters. She recognized that she could have been an enabler for her husband crimes against Emily and other children. Instead of hiding from that possible truth, she decided to accept that truth and, in the end; she became a champion for Emily. She was instrumental in assisting Emily as she worked through her conscious and unconscious scars. She showed immense kindness and empathy for Emily. She was central to keeping her family intact while encouraging Emily’s three siblings to feel nothing but empathy for what happened to her.

Most likable character: hmm…that’s a tough one. I guess for me; it was Jeannie. I have a tendency to be serious. However, in certain situations, I can let my hair completely down. Jeannie’s hair was always down. As Emily explains to Sean in the prequel, Jeannie was a free spirit. I love that about her as I love when my free spirit appears.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

They will because everyone knows all of these characters. During my career in the food manufacturing industry, I constantly traveled and ran into all of these characters on numerous occasions. They are real; and, they are believable.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Once I decided not to seek to have my memoir published, it took me approximately six months to write Crack in the World. It took me slightly longer to write the sequel.

I believe both books have always been inside me. They begged me to write them. However, it wasn’t until I began meditating on a regular basis to an audio program called Holosync, that I was able to access my voice. With its creator’s blessing, Holosync, and Bill Harris, play a significant role in A View to the Unknown. Meditation to Holosync not only rewired my brain so that I have been able to unravel the dysfunctional behavior my past inflicted on me, but it opened up my hidden talents that I think I always knew were there but didn’t know how to access.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Because A View to the Unknown was the sequel to Crack in the World, this question relates to most of the sequel. The first several chapters deal directly with Emily’s continued healing. However, I soon introduce other characters and phenomenon that took a lot of imagination on my part. Because the development of the sequel depended on imagination, I enjoyed writing the sequel more than the prequel. Writing it convinced me that I am indeed a capable and talented author. It made me realize that I have many more stories inside just waiting to be written.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes, I did. In fact, I recall telling another person who longs to write that, if you have a story to tell, the Internet is your friend. It offers fact checking so that you can get your story right and make it believable.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

For those who seek inspiration that it is possible to overcome the past to learn to become happy, I believe my book piques that reader’s interest. I want readers to know that it is possible to move beyond pain if they are willing to invest their time in achieving that goal.

For other readers, I’ve incorporated reincarnation, a dog-napping and child napping to entertain them. I recall seeing somewhere on social media a person commented about my canva poster. She said, “Who wouldn’t love to read about reincarnation, dog, and kidnapping.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I’ve written several short stories which are available on my website; www.maribethshanley.com. I am writing a new novel which will probably become more a novelette and just made notes on yet another novel I will write in the future. Of course, like other authors, I’ve begun writing a couple of novels I will probably return to at some point. Too, I’m a relatively new writer, so, I’m sure I will run into road blocks in the future which I’ll have to overcome.

I don’t do outlines. Instead, I know what I want to add to my stories. As I write, I simply let the story tell itself. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.

At what age did you discover writing?

I discovered writing when I was in college. I was not encouraged to go to college. In fact, soon after high school, I expressed to my parents that I wanted to go to college, but they did everything in their power to discourage me. In their minds, I was not “college material.” Besides, there was only one sibling that was groomed to go to college and she was much younger than me.

While in college which I attended in my late twenties and after leaving my parent’s home, I wrote a short story for a literature course. It was the first story I recall writing. Unfortunately, I gave it to a friend to read, and it became forever lost.

 

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

With my first novel, I intuitively knew when it was finished. A View to the Unknown was easy because I took Emily and Sean to the end of their lives. I guess, in the future I’ll just have to trust my gut and intuitiveness.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Yes, there is a message. In fact, in the book I’m currently writing, the theme, in general, is the same, that happiness is a choice. The other message is that doing the right thing is also a choice. It’s a deliberate choice.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

Yes, I do. Toward the end of the book, Emily realizes that she forgave her father years ago. Her revelation became my revelation. That was a true surprise for me.

What has changed for you since you wrote your first book?

I believe I have gained more self-confidence in myself, and I believe that self-confidence is helping me become a better writer.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t have a schedule. I write when I am inspired to write. Because I love to write, so far it’s been relatively easy for me to find the time to write. I do find that I have a tendency to write before going to bed; and, there are times I get so engrossed in writing that I have to force myself to stop so I can turn in. I’m currently working on my memoir and a few nights ago, I looked at the clock to see it was 3 a.m.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Snack food…good Lord, no. I inherited the Shanley fat gene. If I gave into snack food, I’d be as big as a house. My beverage of choice is Peach flavored water, a Fruit 2O product. I always have a bottle of water nearby.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

So far, allowing the story to tell itself. I wrote a short ghost story (also available on my website). I think writing it was the most fun I’ve had writing thus far because I simply let my imagination carry me away.

Does writing come easy for you?

I’ve loved writing most of my adult life. At least the life that began once I moved away from my parent’s home. After my mother died and I came face to face with my past, I used writing to “throw up” my pain. Writing became therapeutic during that period. As I write my memoir, I’m also discovering how my writing during that period is helping me write the memoir.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

Honestly that my writing is good enough to be published. In a real sense, being published has been a humbling experience.

 

2 Comments

Filed under books, life, Maribeth Shanley, writing

2 responses to “Interview with Maribeth Shanley, Author of A View to the Unknown

  1. Nice interview, Maribeth. Good luck in all your projects!

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