Tuesday, September 6, 2016

**GIVEAWAY** Interview - Review - Shannon Kirk - The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

Happy Day after the unofficial beginning of autumn. Now that the kids are back in school and the house is feeling a little empty its time to get our reads back on and I have just the book to get your juices flowing.
Every once in a while there is an extraordinary read, one that not only entertains but transcends as well, The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall, is one of those novels.
Enjoy my conversation with Shannon then enter to win a copy of your own!

ISBN-13: 9781944387082
Publisher: Reputation Books
Release Date: 09-06-2016
Length: 310pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon//IndieBound

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall (previously titled Heavens) was a finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition.

What if you could choose your Heaven now? Go on a celestial shopping trip of sorts? Thirty-five-year-old Vivienne does just that, as she lies dying in the ICU: a fatal walk into the path of a truck. In her final week of life, Vivienne treks through the Heavens of a priest, a best friend, a homeless child, and a lover who never was. Vivienne's guardian angel, Noah, who just may be her soul mate, escorts her through selections of Heavens and through the confusion Vivienne experiences as she flounders between a doubt of life and the certainty of death. Although her visits to varied afterlives provide peace and beauty, choosing proves not so easy: Vivienne's love for her young son and her earthly love for his father pull her from her colorful journey—and from her divine love of Noah.
The nature of love, the variety of life, unending hope, and the importance of saying goodbye are central to this tale.

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Shannon welcome back to The Reading Frenzy to talk about your second novel, The Extraordinary Journal of Vivienne Marshall.
Tell my readers a bit about it please.
The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall is about a mid-thirties woman who is hit by a truck. In her last week of life in the ICU, she visits different possible “Heavens” with her guardian angel, who may be her soul mate, to see what she’d like as her own afterlife. Vivienne is torn between the magic and colors of these different Heavens and the love she holds for her young son, who she’ll have to leave behind if she dies, and also for a physical love for his father. The nature of love, the certainty of death, and the doubt of life are central to this uplifting tale that is ultimately filled with love and hope.

This novel is night and day removed from the premise of your debut, Method 15/33. Is it hard for you to switch writing gears like this?
Absolutely not. What is hard for me is to be forced to write in just one genre. It is difficult given the business side of publishing to be able to write cross genre, but for me (and this is personal, every writer makes his or her own choice here), there is no point to keep writing if the topic and genre are not what I’m inspired to write on in any given day. This will likely mean it will take me much longer, perhaps forever, to ever make a name for myself such that I could write full time (and quit my day job), but I’m not writing for commercial reasons.

Do you think most of your thriller fans would like this book? Why?
I do. There are certainly readers who only like thrillers, and obviously I’m superfine with that. Much respect. But there are also readers who read many types of books. I do. I go from reading non-fiction financial or travel-log books to beach romance to epic Pulitzer-prize-winning literary fiction to whatever. For me, variety in reading not only gives multiple personal escapes, but is also instructive to the craft of writing. As for readers who liked METHOD 15/33, I think that VIVIENNE might offer them mysteries too; there are certainly questions posed throughout VIVIENNE that require the reader to “turn the page” and answer the questions. Also, one of the underlying subtexts of METHOD 15/33 is indeed, love, even though it’s a psychological thriller. Also in METHOD 15/33, there are character-driven questions about the nature of individual spirituality, even though the protagonist is a clinical sociopath. So here, with VIVIENNE, the entire book is an expansion on these two themes.

It’s a very inspirational/spiritual book. What was the inspiration behind it?
Many things. One, I had a dream during a ski vacation with my husband and son that was probably the most vivid and “real” dream I’d ever had in my life. I was in “Lachlan’s” reservoir. The entire dream was so magical and colorful, the super blue reservoir, the emerald sky punctuated by green trees so thick they were like broccoli. People in my dream were sorting surfboards and canoes into piles. And everyone was so happy and cheerful, and I too, was so happy and cheerful. It was one of those dreams that when you wake up, you scratch and squeeze your mind to go back to sleep, bummed that the magic is burst. The second thing that inspired the book was a trip after this dream my mother and I took to the Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel, California. If you’ve never been there, it’s seriously Heaven. There are all these twisted beautiful trees lining golf courses, and deer basically run the joint. Hammocks all over. Wild life. A human sanctuary. I wrote a lot of the manuscript on that trip. Then there are many more things to have inspired me and the items in this novel. For example, a taxi-man one day randomly and without prompting telling me he had to catch up on his skiing in Heaven one day, all in the middle of me writing this book. I took it as a sign to keep going. There are very personal items sprinkled everywhere, in almost all chapters. I really did see a homeless boy sleeping in a doorway in Argentina. I really did know a boy named Lachlan who took me to a botanical garden and later became a priest. VIVIENNE is not autobiographical and is truly straight fiction, but there are elements that are inspired from my truthful experiences, and my interpretation and memories of those experiences.

Shannon I always fall in love with a secondary character or two and its no different here, I in fact fell in love with several. But let’s focus on Marty.
Tell us about how you chose him for Vivienne’s ICU nurse.
Marty is intended to add levity, a hopefully comic relief. A soft shoulder for comfort, to cry on. I needed some constant thread throughout the novel, and especially during the daunting, white times in the hospital, that might give hope and happiness. But that was just my initial intent. I honestly don’t know where Marty came from.  I just started writing with the intent to infuse some levity, and Marty popped on the page and dominated. He’s also meant to add another thread of “mystery”—what is is secret? Why was he so close to another patient in his ward, so close to have stolen her journal? Marty just flowed out of me and demanded to be the nurse on the page. I don’t understand from where in my mind or where from the universe he came from. But I love him too. I was thinking on doing maybe a whole new novel with him as a central character. 

You also feature a children’s book in the novel and acknowledge it in the back of the book, The One and Only Ivan. What led you to this book and how did it become such an integral part of the story?
I read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN to my son at around the time I was working on VIVIENNE. And it struck both of us pretty hard. My son and I laughed and cried together during that entire story. And to this day, we still talk of it as our absolute most favorite reading experience together.  IVAN holds a special, front-facing spot in our home library. The author, Katherine Applegate, has been absolutely graceful and wonderful throughout the years. I don’t really know her, but I’ve sent her a few emails along the way, telling her of the progress and updates of VIVIENNE. She has always been responsive and encouraging to me as a writer. I think anyone who could write something like IVAN has to have a beautiful soul.  IVAN is such a great story, it’s a Heaven in and of itself. I highly recommend all people of all ages to read it, or much better, listen to it as a child.

According to your website The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall was a 2012 William Faulkner Wisdom Writing Competition finalist. Does that mean you actually wrote it before Method 15/33, and if so why didn’t it publish first?
I wrote both METHOD 15/33 and THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL (which before publication and in earlier stages was called HEAVENS) roughly at the same time. I never queried agents for METHOD 15/33, in fact. Here’s what happened. I finished HEAVENS (now VIVIENNE) and queried agents with that manuscript. A few showed interest, and then Kimberley Cameron signed me. When I was signing the agency contract, I told her that I also had another novel I’d just become finalist for, METHOD 15/33, so she said to send that to her too.  We decided to pitch publishers on both novels, roughly at the same time, but we started in earnest with METHOD 15/33.  Thrillers, mysteries, etc., apparently are much easier to sell to publishers, especially those who specialize in that genre. So basically, we simply sold METHOD first.  VIVIENNE is obviously different though, and we didn’t sell that so easily. Many editors vacillated, gave incredibly positive feedback, but as I’m a debut, and the structure of VIVIENNE is not mainstream, I think that’s why VIVIENNE took longer to come to market. But my agent, Kimberley Cameron, is the best agent in the world for me. She has always maintained that an author can publish cross-genre and fully supports my efforts here. She’s been an incredible advocate for VIVIENNE.

Shannon last year when I asked if you wanted to write full time or loved being crazy busy you plead the fifth. Very lawyerly of you ;-)
Remember you’re still under oath, what about now?
HA!  I think it’s fair to say that I absolutely, 100%, totally, totally, totally, DESIRE to write full time.  No doubt about that. It’s just not practical financially at this time in my life. Fingers crossed.  Someday.

Also last year you mentioned this novel yet your working title then was Heavens, you said that you were feeling some industry pressure to be “branded”, how true. It reminds me of a character actor who once he/she plays a villain they’re never able to wear a white hat.
How hard was it to sell this book?
It was difficult. One major publisher said they loved it, but thought readers would be confused because I had published a psychological thriller. I’m not saying publishing professionals are wrong about branding; they’re the experts, they’re right in terms of marketing and establishing a readership. They wish to invest in a “brand” such that over time an author is well known and readers can expect certain things from him or her. I get the business side of this. But, regardless of the business and financial truth of it all, as I’ve mentioned, this is just a truth I’m not willing to accept for myself. It’s simply a truth I acknowledge and live with and, again, I wouldn’t be being honest with myself if I didn’t take the challenge and write what I wish, write what’s in my mind. Kimberley Cameron has started a publishing company, Reputation Books, for authors of hers like me. And isn’t that grand? Wasn’t I lucky to fall in with her? Sort of fate, time, circumstance, sort of unbelievable luck, I’d say. And we chose to publish VIVIENNE through Reputation Books.

With such a busy schedule will you be attending any events?
Are they listed?
Oh yes, absolutely.  I hope to publicize the fall tour this week. Stay tuned.
Shannon's Book Tour is HERE

Thanks again for such an enjoyable, inspirational read. Good luck!
What’s on your writing desk now?
Thank you!!  What’s on my desk now? Oh, too much!  I’ve got three completed manuscripts that need to be retooled: a supernatural horror (GOAT), a literary fiction with multiple POVs (ABSENCE, which I’ve been working on since 2009), and a sci-fi love story (THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF INTERPLANETARY LOVE).  And, I’m actively working on two thrillers: the second in an intended three-part series for Method 15/33 (this one called VIEBURY GROVE) and a thriller called AUNTY, which is one I’m having some devilish fun with.

My Review
The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall
Shannon Kirk

Kirk takes readers on a highly conjectural journey between life and death in her new amazingly imaginative, gut wrenching and heartwarming novel. A tale that tells us love has power in death and beyond. Readers get a fly on the wall, in reverse perspective of her remarkable protagonist Vivienne Marshall, who we get to know using her visionary past, present and future trio of timelines via her eloquent, vivid fairy-tale like narrative. Her settings are whimsical her co-stars unforgettable, and her love is eternal constant makes this a keeper shelf, page-turner.

In an instant Vivienne Marshall became a statistic, a 21st century cautionary tale when while texting she walks into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Extraordinarily while lying in her hospital bed precariously clinging to life she’s visited by Noah, her deceased first love who informs her he’s her guardian angel and he’s here to help her choose her perfect Heaven. But its not that easy for Vivienne, although what Noah is offering is tempting she doesn’t want to leave her young son Ivan.

Connect with Shannon - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads

MEET Shannon:
Shannon has been honored three times by the Faulkner Society in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for her works The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall (2012 finalist), Method 15/33 (2013 finalist), and Impossibility of Interplanetary Love (2014 short-list finalist). When not practicing law, Shannon writes in her free time. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son.
Shannon writes in several genres: literary fiction, suspense/thriller, and young adult.
Shannon is a member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

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  1. Great interview, thanks so much for sharing it and the giveaway!

  2. Thanks for this captivating and unique novel which i would enjoy.

  3. Awww that's a great anecdote, the one about her son! My son is a reader too but it's been a long time since we shared a book. now I'm inspired to look for one so we can renew our bond in true bookworm fashion.

  4. I think it is a great idea to go where the next book idea is taking you and not just follow the expected path. I imagine the stories are more engaging and meaningful, then. This story isn't like one I've read before so I look forward to it.
    Thanks for the intro to Shannon and enjoyed the interview, ladies!

    1. I agree Sophia Rose and I'm glad that today author's have so many more choices!

  5. Ah that's awesome writing where you're passionate about and not just for commercial reasons. You can definitely tell when someone is doing something they feel strongly about or are pulled towards.

  6. What a creative sounding book and good on Shannon Kirk for following her passion for what she wants to write. On another note The One and Only Ivan was a very poignant book, so great to see her incorporating it.