Thursday, January 23, 2014

Author Stephanie Parker McKean and Fear of Shadows

Well, since we are all hunkered down around a roaring fire until this horrid cold passes, (by June I fear), I'd like to invite you to meet Author Stephanie Parker McKean as she talks a little about her book: Fear of Shadows. Oh, and somewhere in there, you'll find a little surprise in the form of a character interview. What fun!

Who is Stephanie McKean, you ask? Let's see if I can shed some light on that for you by sharing her Author Bio.

          I’ve survived being mauled by an African lion; bitten by a poisonous water moccasin snake; attacked by a miniature chimp; and childhood sexual abuse.
            What doesn’t make you bitter makes you better. You really can’t make lemonade without
lemons.
            And thank God, I’ve made the transition from atheist to Christian. My two favorite Bible verses are: in everything give thanks, and all things work together, for good to them that love the LORD.
            The worst day in my life: I lost my job at the newspaper; my mother died and I couldn’t make plans to attend her funeral because my husband had come home from the hospital in an ambulance to die at home; our sheepdog died, and my truck caught on fire in downtown San Antonio. After that, things could only get better! They did. I am now married to the marvelous Rev. Alan McKean, a talented author in his own right with The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home to his credit. We live in the lovely Black Isle of Scotland where we can walk our rough collie, Angel Joy, along the beach.
            Not that life is ever without pain, sorrow and trials. We said goodbye to my 37-year-old son, U.S. Marine Corps Major Luke Gaines Parker, on Nov. 17, 2013, when his plane crashed. He went straight from the sky into the arms of Jesus, but I will spend the rest of my life missing him.
            I was born with an innate pride for Texas (which explains why five of my six published books are set in the Texas Hill Country), and a love for animals. When I was four, I caught my first pet and kept it until my parents discovered me playing with it. You can’t blame them—it was a scorpion! When I was older, our family ran a roadside zoo, which explains the chimp and African lion attacks. You can’t blame them—they were wild animals.
            My published books include Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee, Shadow Chase, Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart and the newly released Fear of Shadows.
I think we can take a moment to say 'WOW', after reading that. Now, please, if you like, it is time for the interview which promises to be equally interesting.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

Well, I guess that goes back to getting into trouble in first grade for telling “tall tales.” My parents and my teacher instructed me not to lie. Then when I was 11, my dad brought home a black Shetland pony in the back of the station wagon. He told us that he had sold a book and used the money to buy us a pony. “Dad,” I asked. “What’s your book about?” He told me. I asked, “Is it true?” He replied, “No, I just made it up.” Well, that decided me: if a person could get away with telling lies when they were writing a book – then I wanted to be a writer! Now that's funny.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

After working two and three jobs all my life to make ends meet, I am blessed to be a stay-at-home wife. Since my husband is a pastor, I can’t write full time because of parish responsibilities. A lot of my time is set aside for marketing and helping my author husband, Alan T McKean (time travel adventures “The Scent of Time” and “The Scent of Home”), edit his books. Thanks to Alan’s support, I did enter the three-day novel contest this year.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Self-sufficient Texas Eugenia Thornhill espouses many rebellions including giving a man authority over her heart, or her life. She hates the mother who named her “Texas” after her birth state instead of loving her enough to give her a real name. She hates the mother who ran off and left her as a young child with a cold, emotionless father. 
Texas likes to brag that she’s not afraid of anything—not even spiders or snakes. Her boast proves empty when she meets childhood friend West Strom and realizes that she is deathly afraid of shadows, but clueless as to why. Time and again she shatters their nascent romance by mindlessly shrieking and fleeing the shadows that terrify her.

Pranksters also seem intent on sabotaging the relationship. A dead raccoon is hung on the refrigerator, a rock is thrown through the window, furniture is trundled around the room in total disarray, then righted again before West arrives to investigate.
Texas is tricked into holding a séance. West, a strong Christian, is appalled that Texas is involved in witchcraft. That almost ends their friendship.
The most destructive force entering her life proves to be the seemingly harmless fun of frequenting a Texas dancehall with Thornhill Ranch manager, Jason Peace. She finds herself accused of murder and forced into hiding. When she escapes and clears her name, it only adds to the dystopia at the ranch.
Texas exhibits her paintings in a feminist art show in San Antonio and meets her mother. Her mother apologizes, but does not explain her abandonment. When they say goodbye, Texas is saying goodbye to a stranger.
West arrives to rescue her from what Texas has realized is a nefarious art exhibit revolving around hate and discord. But even though West gives Texas a kiss that stuns her with its passion, how many times can her childhood hero rescue her from her foolish choices and paralyzing fear of shadows?
When Texas finally solves the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and learns the truth about her fear of shadows, it is a truth that threatens to destroy every person she loves. Definitely intriguing. I will have to look into getting myself a copy.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

Fear of shadows is set in the unique Texas Hill Country where life often revolves around guest ranches and a plethora of wildlife. Texas Eugenia Thornhill leaves the empty, tree-less Nevada desert to visit her grandparents on their Texas guest ranch, only to learn that she is terrified of tree shadows and all shadows. She doesn’t know why.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

When I looked at a picture of a house I had lived in as a young child, I was drawn inside the tree-surrounded house and through the house to the open back door. Just beyond my line of vision, my father was brutally beating something. I couldn’t see it clearly. It scared me so much that I jerked myself back out of the picture. I was never able to make myself go back again to see what was dying. Sadly, my father was an atheist and an evil man. Just after this, he left in the middle of the night with me and moved clear across the country from California to the Florida Everglades. We lived in the Everglades swamp for months. That was the impetus for the story. Texas Thornhill is a creation of an independent, feisty Texas girl. That is pretty intense.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

Good question. Forgiveness and overcoming fear are important components of the story. My characters came to life and carried the story along, building on the foundation of that frightening memory. I can relate to characters coming to life. Amazing experience, isn't it?

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I usually start with a sketchy outline, but as the characters come to life – the story moves itself. Often, it veers sharply away from the outline. Some of the books in my Bridge to Nowhere Miz Mike series literally wrote themselves. The characters are so real that they took charge. LOL, this is where you become a reporter, and wish you could type faster.

What is the time span in your novel; weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

Fear of Shadows has a time span of only a few months. The incident at the feminist art exhibit in San Antonio is real and accurate. I did less research on Fear of Shadows than on any of my other five books because it simply wasn’t needed. The story flowed around the Texas Hill Country which I had already researched for the other books. A lot of my previous research was obtained from reading back issues of local newspapers, visiting interesting sites, and interviewing people.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?


My first book, Heart Shadows, is set in the Nevada Desert and one of the main characters is Native American. I spent months researching Paiute Indians. I spent hours both at the sheriff’s office and the library researching people who had vanished. The most enjoyable part of the research was visiting ghost towns and interviewing gold miners who still worked claims in the mountains. Until the Shadows Flee and Shadow Chase are set in the Texas Hill Country but required new research that I was able to use for Fear of Shadows. Bridge to Nowhere and the other Miz Mike Bridge series books are entirely different. They are humorous with an older protagonist and were written for “baby boomers.” I have also written a Young Adult pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart. It's great that you have been able to write for such different audiences.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

Sunpenny Publishing released Bridge to Nowhere and has accepted three more Miz Mike books. The next in the series, Bridge Beyond Betrayal, should be released this spring. Meanwhile, I self-published Love’s Beating Heart and Fear of Shadows.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist, or just take one day at a time?

When I lived in the U.S., I had a great marketing strategy because I had worked at newspapers and was working for a boss who had ties to the local TV and radio stations. When I married Alan and moved to Scotland, marketing became more difficult. We have done some book signings and talked to groups. Mostly I use Facebook, Twitter, and any other electronic venues that are offered. We tried a promotional company but have actually had about the same results on our own. It’s mostly one day at a time. I find marketing to be quite an undertaking. Most authors don't realize just what's involved, and to be successful, you have to set anywhere between 10-20 hours a week.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. Never give up. I started writing some fifty years ago and got 150 rejection slips before Sunpenny Publishing took Bridge to Nowhere. I did sell some magazine articles and a lot of non-fiction and fiction stories for Sunday School take-home magazines. But my dream has always been to write books. If that’s your dream, keep writing! Do all you can to polish your craft while you wait for that first big break.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m working on the sixth Miz Mike Bridge series. I don’t even have a title for it yet. Because I know the characters so well, it’s writing itself. It’s funny, fast-moving, and I haven’t even stopped long enough to draft an outline for it yet.
Thank you so much for taking time out from your schedule to answer  my questions. It's been a pleasure to have you.

Ready to learn a little more about Fear of Shadows?

Excerpt from Fear of Shadows

Boldly, I pushed the swinging doors open and flipped on the light switch in the kitchen. When the light flashed, the cabinets around the walls threw shadows at me. I screamed and ran helplessly out of the house, leaving the door open.
No one was around to see my tears or witness the unreasoning terror that drove me from this—my own house. I stood alone in the dark night looking back at the house flooded with light and wondering what to do. Gone were thoughts of West coming to check on me. Instead, I wondered how I could make my quivering legs carry back across the yard so I could at least close the front door I had left open. I knew that my inert body could carry me no further than the front door. I would not be spending the night in that place of terror. I couldn’t even make myself enter it to turn off the lights I left burning.

Book Blurb, Fear of Shadows

I was about to lose my virginity against my will in a moldy smelling house with plaster falling off the walls—on a torn, stained bed with no sheets and rat droppings bouncing around me. I deserved better. I deserved the right of choice.

Self-sufficient Texas Eugenia Thornhill espouses many rebellions including giving a man authority over her heart, or life. She hates the mother who named her after her birth state, then ran off, leaving her with a cold, emotionless father.
Texas likes to brag that she’s not afraid of anything—not even spiders or snakes. Her boast proves empty when she meets childhood friend West Strom and realizes that she is deathly afraid of shadows, but doesn’t know why. Time and again she shatters their nascent romance by allowing shadows to terrify her.
Pranksters also seem intent on sabotaging the relationship. Dead animals, rocks through windows, tumbled furniture—who could hate her so much, and why? When Texas is tricked into holding a séance, West, who is a Christian, is appalled and calls it “witchcraft.”
The most destructive force entering her life proves to be ranch manager Jason Peace who drags her to a Texas dancehall where she is falsely accused of murder. When she clears her name, it muddies things at the ranch.
Texas exhibits her paintings in a feminist art show in San Antonio and meets her mother, but when they say goodbye, Texas says goodbye to a stranger.
West rescues Texas from the nefarious art exhibit revolving around hate and discord, and gives her a kiss that stuns her with its passion. But how many times can her childhood hero rescue her from foolish choices and her paralyzing fear of shadows?
When Texas finally solves the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and learns the truth about her fear of shadows, it is a truth that threatens to destroy every single person she loves. Ready for some more? If you read on you will find the character interview I had promised you.


Character Interview with Texas Eugenia Thornhill

Q: Today, I welcome Texas Eugenia Thornhill. Texas, glad to have you with us. Now, I understand that you hate your name. Could you explain why?

A: My mother left me when I was young. I resent the fact that she was so indifferent to me that she named me after my birth state instead of picking a real name for me.

Q: If you could pick your own name, what would it be?

A: Something cute and unusual that shows real reflection.

Q: I understand that you’re an artist. Yet, it says here in my notes that you removed your paintings from a feminist art exhibit in San Antonio. Why?

A: Have you ever been to one of those shows? I don’t know if they are all alike, but the one I went to was abominable. I was embarrassed when I left. I didn’t want anyone to see me and know that I had been there.
Q: That bad, huh? Can you give me an example of…

A: You can read about it in my newly released Christian mystery-romance-suspense book, Fear of Shadows.

Q: So what can you tell me about this fear of shadows? Shadows aren’t real, are they? I mean, they can’t hurt you. Are you really afraid of shadows, Texas?

A: I grew up in the Nevada desert. There were no shadows there because nothing grows tall enough to make shadows. So when I got to the Texas Hill Country where there were trees, I discovered that I was afraid of shadows.

Q: Do you know why you’re afraid of shadows?”

A: I do now that I solved the mystery. But I’m not giving it away here. You’ll have to read Fear of Shadows.

Q: I understand you are rebellious and that your rebellions include men. I assume that means that you don’t want to get married. Can you tell us a little about that?

A: My father Gene was unfair and unkind to my stepmother. His example taught me to distrust love. It taught me to distrust putting myself under any man’s authority—including a husband.

Q: Yet, you call your book, Fear of Shadows, a mystery-romance-suspense. If you hate and distrust men, how does the romance get into it?”

A: I’m not giving that away here. You’ll have to read the book.

If you would like to connect with Stephanie, you can find her here, (along with the links for her books):

Author’s Page

Fear of Shadows




Books by Stephanie Parker McKean: Christian mystery-romance-suspense Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee, Shadow Chase, Fear of Shadows and Bridge to Nowhere. Young Adult pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart.








1 comment:

  1. What an interesting life story. I am glad I took the time to read about you and your book.

    ReplyDelete