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Ghostwriter

Harry Shannon: Temptation And Consequence
--Interview by Scott Nicholson

Harry Shannon is a newcomer on the writing scene, though his previous career experiences alone would beg for an autobiography. His books are Bad Seed, Night of the Beast and Night of the Werewolf. He’s a musician, actor, and psychological counselor in addition to his freelance writing. Shannon works primarily in the fields of mystery, suspense, and horror. My blurb on him is: "Harry Shannon is the next link in that tradition leading from Donald Westlake to Lawrence Block."

1.Tell us about your diverse background and how that has helped your writing.

Harry: I started out intending to write books and plays, but got distracted in high school after having been encouraged to become an actor. After a bunch of Ford commercials, some TV bit parts and a ton of "cattle call" auditions (three hundred six-foot-two, red haired, freckle-faced guys all carrying guitars and trying out for the same part) I walked away to try my hand at song writing. Back in the 1970s I had a string of "country music" hits for the likes of Eddy Arnold, Kathy Mattea and Reba McIntire, some movie titles songs and pop chart singles, but I burned out on all of that as well (a serious alcohol and drug problem helped to bring me down). After sobering up in 1986, I went back to school to study counseling. I started a private practice in 1988 and maintained it while VP Music for Carolco Pictures ("Terminator 2," "The Doors" and all the Rambo flicks) and as an independent music supervisor/songwriter on films like "Wagons east," "Basic Instinct" and "Universal Soldier." I left the film business in 1994.

The urge to write returned in 1999, and I cranked out a few horror and noir short stories to test the market. Since the response was favorable, I began a mystery series. Last year the first mystery novel attracted Joni Evans of the William Morris Agency, who is helping me to shape and submit it professionally. I guess this long-winded answer (to a short and pithy question) boils down to the fact that like many writers, I have a pretty eclectic background. That helps a great deal when one is dreaming up characters and situations and trying to harness melodrama for the sake of a story.

2. How autobiographical is your series character Mick Callahan?

Harry: Well, let's see. Mick Callahan is six-two, 220 lbs., a recovering alcoholic media shrink who has a hot temper and can't stay out of trouble. Hey, but he has black hair and a broken nose, so he's nothing like me, right?

3. Tell us about your collection "Bad Seed"?

Harry: "BAD SEED" is a collection consisting of the first short stories I have ever published. The majority were in "zines" like Blue Murder, Terror Tales, Alternate Realities, etc. The book is interesting in that it changes gears from horror to crime noir without explanation; asking the reader to note the similarities in form and structure. The first edition (filled with typos) was limited to 100 signed and numbered. Fortunately the book met with a decent reception. The second edition (more properly proofed, and with additional stories) has just been released. As of now, I'm thrilled to note a number of HWA "Stoker" recommendations have accrued in the category of "fiction collection" and for the story "Quickie" in "short fiction." For anyone who is curious, "Quickie" remains posted in the archives at Alternate Realities Zine.com and also at my own site, www.harryshannon.com. It's a fun story, inspired by the modality of old television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

4. Your characters are often fringe elements of society, though thoroughly human. What aspects of human nature do you like to explore?

Harry: Carl Jung said we need to examine and "eat" our shadow in order to become a fully mature, functional human being. I find I like to explore temptation and the consequences of both resisting and giving in to it; in other words, the way what Buddhism refers to as "attachments" or "cravings" both destroy and shape human integrity. What we become is fully a product of the degree to which we succumbed to or fight our basic urges. I also am fascinated with my own, human tendency towards violence. In truth, it is largely under control, but always bubbling near the surface. One of my heroes is Mohandas Ghandi, but I haven't got a prayer of being anything like him in this lifetime!

5. What goals do you have for your writing career at this point?

Harry: I have sent an extensive rewrite of my first Mick Callahan mystery "Memorial Day" back to the powers-that-be in New York, and just started rewriting the second book in the series. I have found this craft of writing (especially the creation of the novel) both fascinating and highly intimidating. The truth is, all I want to do at this point is at least begin to master it well enough to compete with the big kids.

For more, visit Harry's website
-- contents copyright 2001 by Scott Nicholson

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