Meet Shane W. Smith!
Shane W. Smith was born in 1985. For quite a long time after this, nothing much happened. Then he got used to writing about himself in third person for bios like this. Before The Lesser Evil, his proudest professional moment was getting a comic book entitled Academaesthetics published in an A-ranked academic journal. His family makes up the remainder of his proud moments.
Shane has a Bachelor Degree in Creative Writing with First Class Honours, and believes that analysing stories to find out what makes them work is the best possible use of his brain power.
Read more about Shane’s growing portfolio at http://shanewsmith.com !
Hello! What’s your name, and what’s your deal?
Hello! My name is Shane Walsh-Smith, and I am published as Shane W Smith.
I have a wife, one-point-five children, a full-time job, and I am a published author.
What do you write and why?
I write all sorts of things! I’ve tried my hand at sci-fi novels, comedic screenplays, general fiction short stories and children’s books, and graphic novels in both science-fiction and non-fiction.
But so far, only my graphic novels have been published commercially.
Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?
I love to read as widely as possible, and in as many different forms as I can lay my hands on. Definitely do enjoy sitting down with a good graphic novel from time to time, but I haven’t done so in a while.
What is the title you are promoting right now?
My science fiction graphic novel, The Lesser Evil.
What is it about?
Young Ross Tillman cannot wait to get out of school and pursue his dream of owning his own ship. Struggling against what seems to be his genetic fate, Ross is determined to avoid following his father into a career in local industry. The manufacture and sale of the narcotic tubinj is the economic cornerstone of Messar, but Ross is determined to escape from its pull.
For Stanley Myres, Chancellor of the galactic Senate, the writing appears to be on the wall. His political position is becoming more tenuous by the day, as rival factions in the Senate seem poised to enact a coup de tat. In an attempt to retain control, he utilises his secret paramilitary forces and hatches a violent scheme that casts Messar into a state of civil war.
Overlord of exiled superpower Padakan House, Elam Padakan wants to create a better galaxy, with himself at its head. When the opportunity to liberate Messar from the Senate presents itself, he sees it as a chance to achieve everything he has ever striven for. There’s just one problem: he hasn’t even told his own brother what his true intentions are.
All three men are drawn into the civil war on Messar, and as their paths begin to intersect and tangle together, they come to realise that the galaxy has very different plans for all of their dreams.
The Lesser Evil is a book that examines what it means to have a dream… and what that dream can end up costing, regardless of whether it comes true.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
One of the things about graphic novels – perhaps more so than other forms – is that they are judged on the perceived quality of a few titles. This is a little unfair, but not entirely unjustified, as the majority of comics out there are pretty average, with little or no literary ambition. (A similar statement can also be made of the science-fiction genre, for that matter!)
I don’t believe the graphic novel form itself is inherently hamstrung in any way, and is certainly capable of representing its share of quality literature (and indeed, has done so several times).
I aspire to something greater than mediocrity. I have formally studied the Hero’s Journey, and have learned about structure, pacing and storytelling in general. I have read, in great depth, about subtext and the imperative parallels between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ journey. The Lesser Evil isn’t just some comic; it is literary.
What’s the story behind the story?
The very first iteration of The Lesser Evil came into existence in 1999, after I saw The Phantom Menace, and convinced myself that I could write better sci-fi than that. As it turned out, I was right, but it was still nowhere near publishable quality. I redrafted it a bunch of times, had it rejected for publication about a dozen times, and put it back on the shelf for a while.
I picked it up again a couple of years later, and was struck by just how personal the story was. My teenage self had written it as a blam-boom Star Wars-clone, but reading back on it, I could identify some strong themes under the surface, just waiting to be brought out. In a very crude sense, I could see myself in the characters, my beliefs and ideology… a snapshot of my younger years.
So I went back to it. I slashed the story to about a third of its original length, keeping only those elements that directly interrogated a central theme of dreaming, then converted the whole thing to a graphic novel script (an exhilarating and liberating process!), spent about two years putting the artwork together, and here we are!
Cutting your book by 2/3… that’s a pretty brutal edit. How could you do something like that?
I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it.
I know it sounds weird, and maybe a little psychotic, but editing in this way is a huge amount of fun for me. I love taking a red pen to a hardcopy and slashing away at it, omitting everything from single commas to entire chapters. It’s a brilliant process, and I think an integral and necessary part of professional writing.
What is your goal as an author?
To always, always, always be getting better. I don’t believe in cookie-cutter writing, and hope that I never succumb to that particular money-making machine. I feel that every book, every story, every publication must represent a forward step in my evolution as a writer.
Similarly, I would like to always enjoy the process.
Also, if I could make enough money to quit my job and write more, that would be good too.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
Zeta Comics has signed me up for a five-volume sequel to The Lesser Evil. The working title is Death’s Feast. I’m hard at work on that at the moment, and hope to see it make its way into stores by the end of 2012. And I have another two full-length graphic novels and a number of shorter graphic vignettes on my to-do list that I hope will close off the series.
In addition to that, I have a number of other projects in various stages of completion. I have a half-finished serial novella entitled The Tube going up on my blog, a rough-and-ready daily piece that has no lofty ambitions beyond being engaging to read. I have text for a picture book that I’m attempting to shop around, entitled Not Just Annie’s Story. I have in rough planning stages another project called Kiss of the Dragon, but it’s at such an early stage that I don’t even know whether it’ll be told in prose or graphic… or something else entirely!
Where can readers find you and your work?
The Lesser Evil hasn’t hit the bricks and mortar stores yet, but it’s a physical product that you can purchase from Amazon or Book Depository (or any number of other online retailers). A bunch of my other work can be found online for free.
My website has more details about my published work, my works in progress, and me.
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
Neither route is perfect, and each one will have its place in my writing career, I am sure.
Traditional publishing is the way I lean, but that’s mostly because that’s been my goal for as far back as I can remember. Receiving professional validation for the quality of my work is a pretty awesome thing. Also, it’s kind of nice leaving printing, cover design, and distribution to someone else. Finally, signing a book contract is an experience that I would love to repeat as often as possible – I can’t recommend that more highly!
Self-publishing on the other hand doesn’t get nearly as much respect as it should. A lot of high quality niche writing is out there; alas, it is much harder to get noticed. As there is little or no filtering of content and a lack of editorial rigour, a lot of lesser quality stuff is muddying up the waters, something especially true of ebooks. That said, I am considering a platform like this for something I’m working on at the moment, so I’m obviously not against the concept!
What is the most important advice you can give to aspiring writers?
The Lesser Evil was a lengthy novel for almost a decade, and had been (rightly) rejected for publication about ten times before I junked it and re-envisioned it as a graphic novel. Less than two months after I finished putting it together, I’d landed an offer for publication with Zeta Comics for The Lesser Evil (and its sequel)!
I’ve given this advice before, and it’s pretty much the best advice I am capable of giving.
My #1 tip: If you can’t get a novel published, maybe it’s not meant to be a novel. Turn it into a screenplay, a song, a painting, an interpretive dance… or like me, make it a graphic novel.
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Thanks for having me!
Please pay Shane a visit at the links below!