Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.
I encountered Shannon Heuston through her novel, Under God’s Big Sky. Based on the cover blurb, I half expected this book to be a post-apocalyptic SF/fantasy tale. It turned out to be something rather different.
Raised in near-isolation on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Montana under the harsh leadership of the man she knows only as the Yeoman of God, Leah has been told all her life that the world beyond was destroyed and that she is destined to bear its new Savior. But when an apparition from beyond the ranch intrudes, everything she has ever believed begins to unravel. Not knowing what she will find, fearful of calling down God’s wrath upon her, she abandons the only family she has ever known. The truth she discovers could liberate her, or destroy her.
Shannon Heuston tells a good tale, and clearly knows something of the psychology of fear, control, and betrayal. The plot, while not complex, keeps one reading. Even when Leah seems to find a “happy place” menace lurks beneath the surface. The inevitable final confrontation between Leah and Yeoman ends on a satisfying note, and although one might not agree with the young woman’s resulting religious conclusions, they make sense given who she is and what she endures. Heuston musters a wonderful turn of phrase from time to time, too. For an early novel by an indie writer, this is an enjoyable read, although it could benefit from a bit of tightening. I would hazard that Heuston has strong potential to surprise and delight readers in future works.
I recently asked Shannon Heuston a few questions about her writing:
What inspired you to write Under God’s Big Sky?
Actually I thought of the premise for Under God’s Big Sky many years ago, when I was a teenager and visiting my cousin in North Andover, Massachusetts. Originally I envisioned Agape [the Montana ranch where Leah grows up] as being populated by all teenagers, the same age as Leah. I wrote a little bit of it, then set it aside. Then a year ago I needed an idea for NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], so I revisited the story.
Had you published anything previously or since (books, articles, etc.)?
I published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Playground, prior to Under God’s Big Sky. This novel was about bullying and its long term aftermath. Many of the incidents related in The Playground actually happened to me; it’s more of a memoir than a novel but I made a lot of editorial changes, such as combining several characters into one, and some of my memories of the incidents were fuzzy so I filled in some blanks.
Before that, I’ve written here and there, but nothing that was formally published. Prior to 2016, becoming an author was always one of my lifelong dreams, but I never really put in the work before writing The Playground. Then once I started writing, it started pouring out of me. I just couldn’t stop!
What are you working on now?
Well, my third novel, Woman Scorned, was just published today [October 31, 2017] as a matter of fact! All my novels are completely different from each other, and this one belongs to the thriller/suspense genre with sort of a true crime feel. Monica and Lexie are devoted sisters until Lexie commits an unspeakable act of revenge on a former lover. One of the themes I explore is that of unconditional love. How do you go on loving someone even after they commit evil?
The novel I am currently writing is about time travel. A team of scientists manage to discover the secret to time travel. To test it out, Diana, one of the scientists, travels back in time to the 19th century. Although instructed not to interfere with history, she falls in love with a prominent citizen she knows is doomed.
Anything else on your mind?
The only additional comment I might add is to assure aspiring authors that your dreams are within reach, as long as you’re willing to work hard and never give up.
And finally, where can readers find you?