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The Sirens of Suspense




Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused. She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, or Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken Trust and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy.  Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year.


Find Shannon on Goodreads and Twitter.


item1 FACT, FICTION & IDEAS item1

On a sunny, early summer day, I stopped in Moab on my way from Flagstaff to Boulder. I’d just finished my stint at the Grand Canyon Trust and was excited about starting a new business venture in Colorado. I was meeting my good friend Laura Kamala for lunch at my halfway mark. I had also finished book 2 of the Nora Abbott series, Broken Trust, and was casting about for a new plot for the third book.

Laura was equally pumped about the project consuming her life. A Grand Canyon Trust pal, Director of Utah Programs, Laura was, and is, passionate about protecting Canyonlands National Park borderlands from overuse and devastating oil and gas drilling.

I’d never seen Laura so animated as she spoke of her film project aimed at creating a documentary to showcase the park and convince the American public and the President to expand the boundaries via a new national monument. She’d been scouting for film sites, gathering interviews from prominent environmentalists, doing time-lapse photography, and even a helicopter shoot.

As the conversation continued I got an idea. “Who would hate this project so much they’d want to kill you?”

Laura didn’t miss a beat. She’s a big reader and had read Tainted Mountain and a draft of Broken Trust. “Let me think….” And we were off.

Stories can progress much like a child’s game of telephone. They start off with one clear idea and by the time the book is finished, it’s become something else entirely. So I thought it would be fun for readers to reconnect with Laura about her real life film project, what she’d expected from Nora’s story about it, and her impressions of the end product.

Shannon: When we brainstormed about the film project and murder, we mostly discussed details about Canyonlands and why it needed protecting. We talked about the process of making the film. I went home and played a what-if game to create the character of Lisa, Nora’s best friend who is the producer of the film and the one murdered. I purposely wanted to make her different from you. You're a deep, quiet, mountain lake, powerful in your serenity. Where I see Lisa as this flash flood of wild activity. At some point, Lisa became a real person to me and told me about herself and she turned out to be totally different from you, even down to her being a lesbian. When you read the book, knowing the starting point was your film, did you identify with Lisa?

Laura: Thank you, Shannon, for the opportunity to have this conversation. I certainly identified with Lisa’s enthusiasm for protecting a beloved landscape, not so much the part about being a murder victim, I’m laughing.

Shannon: You aren’t a native of Utah. How did you happen to put down roots here?

Laura: I’ve lived in southeast Utah for 38 years, after a book fell off the shelf at the Rutgers University library in New Jersey hitting me in the leg and setting me on a path; it was Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

Shannon: I was really nervous handing you the manuscript after I’d finished it. I worried that you’d be expecting a more thorough treatment of the dire threats to Canyonlands and that you might be disappointed when everything in Tattered Legacy didn’t put Moab and its people in the best light. We’re still friends, so I must not have torqued you off too badly. Did I get it wrong? Were you disappointed?

Laura: You’ve written a wonderful story inspired by some real life events and it’s fiction. You’re good at making stuff up; I wouldn’t describe events as inaccurate when they feed the story line. Are there inaccuracies in fiction?

Shannon: When we talked about the book and during the process when I’d ask questions, what were your hopes and expectations for addressing the Canyonlands issue in Tattered Legacy?

Laura: Honestly, Shannon, I didn’t have a personal agenda about the Canyonlands story for Tattered Legacy. I was delighted that you would be spreading awareness about the need to protect the Greater Canyonlands region. I’ve read all of your books and I knew I’d be in for an adventure with this one. You entertain by creatively surprising the reader in your stories, your quirky characters make me laugh and there are plenty of wildly dramatic interludes for adrenaline junkies like me.

Shannon: In Tattered Legacy, Lisa, the film’s producer, is murdered, but Nora does her best to make sure the film is finished. What ultimately happened with your project?

Laura: When it was almost completed, the film was killed by my former employer. Someone hated the project so much, they wanted to kill it! Thankfully, this was not a murder mystery story come to life. I learned the hard way that I should be making an independent film instead of working in partnership with a non-profit organization. We fell out over irreconcilable differences and politics; the story I was compelled to convey did not match their agenda.

Shannon: Your goal (and Nora’s in the book) is to bring awareness to the public about the need to expand the borders of Canyonlands. What is your response when people say (as characters in Tattered Legacy argue) that Utah already has enough protected land and if you took more land out of production it would hurt the hard-working people of Utah?

Laura: There is no other place on earth like southern Utah. Destroying this spectacular landscape with dirty energy production to primarily benefit multi-national corporations makes no sense at all, and ultimately fails to benefit local economies.

Shannon: What else would you like readers to know about Canyonlands and/or Moab and the area?

Laura: It’s an astonishing place and worth a visit once in your life. For anyone wanting information about the unfolding story of Greater Canyonlands see suwa.org/issues/greatercanyonlands/ or check out Protect Greater Canyonlands on Facebook.



HAVE A QUESTION FOR SHANNON OR LAURA? Ask or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of TATTERED LEGACY! (U.S. only please.)



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