Review of "Where Echoes Lie" and Interview with Author Shannon Schuren
I just finished reading Where Echoes Lie by Shannon Schuren last night . . . at midnight . . . as the clock ticked over to the beginning of All Souls Day. How perfect!
Because this is a story about a lost soul -- a ghost story -- a fabulous, eerie, page-turning ghost story.
But what makes this book so special is the rest of the story surrounding the legend of the ghost bride and the modern-day characters who interact with her. What does she want? What does she need? Will she harm them to get it? Shannon Schuren does a fabulous job of intertwining a coming-of-age story with the secrets of the past. As a stellar storyteller, Schuren creates characters we immediately care for, perfectly flawed and incredibly human in their interactions with each other. The dialog is crisply written in a way that makes us feel like clandestine eavesdroppers on family arguments, painful revelations, and heartfelt hopes and dreams. Add to that an incredibly well-developed, page-turning plot and you've got a highly-recommended must read. Just start reading early enough at night so that you don't get to the wonderfully scary bits at midnight like I did!!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
In this eerie thriller of a ghost story, a teenage girl must solve the mystery of the ghost bride that has haunted her community in rural Kentucky for more than a century.
Rena Faye believes in things she can see and touch, or at least capture through the lens of her camera. Things like the moonbow--a gray-and-white colorless bow that arcs out of Cumberland Falls every month when the moon is full. This natural phenomenon is what keeps her family's motel business afloat, and what puts their tiny Kentucky town on the map. That, and the legend of the ghost bride.
Along with everyone else who has grown up near the falls, Rena knows the tragic tale of the bride who walks the cliff on moonlit nights. But when her grandma tells her that the legend is real, and worse, that the ghost bride has cursed the women of their family, she dismisses it as just another of her mawmaw's famous stories. But when Rena Faye's life begins to fall apart, she must delve deeper into the stories surrounding the legend, and reexamine who she can trust, as well as the truth about her town and family history. before the curse takes everything--and everyone--she holds dear.
In addition to reviewing her book, I’m so pleased to share an interview with author Shannon Schuren. I've previously reviewed her debut YA novel, The Virtue of Sin. Shannon and I met at a Midwest Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators event just before her first book was set to release, so I’m extremely happy to celebrate the publication of her second young adult novel. Congratulations!!
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing adventure so far?
A. I was a bookworm growing up, like a lot of us, but I never really thought that could be a career path for me. But when I was about to turn 30, I realized I was in danger of not fulfilling one of my bucket list goals, which was to write a book. So I did, and it was awful, but once I got started I didn’t want to stop. So I kept at it and I joined SCBWI and attended some writing conferences and after seven more ‘practice’ manuscripts, I honed my craft enough to attract the attention of my amazing agent, Barbara Poelle. She sold The Virtue of Sin to Philomel in 2017, and started me off on a whole new adventure!
When I’m not writing, I like hanging out with my family, playing board games—especially Clue—and watching B-movies.
Q. How has the process or experience been different for the release of your second book than you debut novel?
A. The biggest difference is probably releasing in a post-Covid world. I didn’t plan an in-person launch this time around, which I did for my debut. Between worries about exposure and supply-chain issues (which pushed my release date back) it felt like too many moving parts to try and plan a big event. I have been doing virtual events, which is new and a bit out of my comfort zone. But it’s been fun to be able to connect with people no matter where they are on the planet! While the online events are new to me, the rest of the process feels more comfortable this time around, since I have my previous experience to draw on.
Q. While both books are for the young adult market, they are very different. The Virtue of Sin was a coming-of-age story set in a dystopian world and your new release is a ghost story. I’d love to hear your inspiration for Where Echoes Lie. And I’m also curious if it was hard to shift genres.
A. The first spark of inspiration for Where Echoes Lie came from a trip my family and I took to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky, back in 2005. Cumberland Falls is known for the moonbow, which is a colorless rainbow that appears out of the mist of the falls every month on clear nights during a full moon. During the day, the mist produces a rainbow. But at night, the bow appears in shades of gray and white. The moonbow is rare; there are only 7 places on earth where you can see one, and only a couple are in the US, and out of those, Cumberland Falls is the only place you can see one on a regular basis. During the day, the park is this quiet little place and then on full moon nights, literally thousands of people show up at the top of this waterfall to look for the moonbow. The tourists bring cameras and the locals bring picnic suppers and blankets and guitars. The whole experience was just amazing and I knew that someday I was going to have to write about it.
As far as switching genres, I didn’t really find it difficult. When I started The Virtue of Sin, I think I was a bit naïve as far as realizing how much world-building would be involved in creating the isolated society of the cult. So being able to write within the framework of the real world and having a real place to draw inspiration from felt much easier! And when I say ‘real world’ I mean with ghosts, of course. I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, so getting to write one of my own was a treat!
Q. This is your second book with your publisher Philomel Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House). Did you originally have a two-book deal with them? Did you give them a rough idea about book two from the beginning?
A. I did have a two-book deal with Philomel. I had a different idea of what book two would originally entail, but my editor and agent were not as keen on it as I was. My lovely agent, Barbara Poelle, steered me toward this idea after I mentioned I had always wanted to write something gothic. From there, I had to produce a synopsis before I wrote anything else, which was difficult considering my usual process is to wing it and figure out the plot as I go. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t really work on a deadline!
Q. Would you be willing to share with readers the different types of jobs you’ve had? I always like to ask authors this, mainly because authors always seem to have had interesting job histories.
A. Fun question! I worked as a bartender at Noah’s Ark in Wisconsin Dells during my summers all through college. That was actually where I met my husband. I was also a waitress and bartender at several different places in high school and college. I worked for a brief time as a sales consultant at a store that only sold socks, called Socks Galore. And then I was a preschool teacher for about a decade before leaving that field to become a children’s librarian.
Q. If there’s anything that you wish you could go back and tell your “unpublished” self, what would that be?
A. Don’t lose hope – that character trait your mother used to call stubbornness is actually persistence, and it will serve you well!
Q. What sort of books do you like to read as an adult and what were some of your favorites as a teen?
A. I would say that I read pretty widely these days – I love young adult fiction in all genres, anything gothic, psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries set in exotic locales, and narrative nonfiction. As a teen, I loved the Sweet Valley High series and gobbled up every single one of those little paperbacks that I could get my hands on. That is also when my love of gothic romance and gothic thrillers developed. I remember reading a lot of Barbara Michaels, whom I discovered through my mom’s subscription to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Ammie, Come Home is one of my favorite ghost stories ever. And I was obsessed with V. C. Andrews, especially My Sweet Audrina. Fun fact – one of the characters in Where Echoes Lie is named after a character in that book!
Q. Can we look forward to more books from you in the coming months?
A. I hope so! I’m currently working on another YA gothic ghost story involving a creepy ancestral home. Fingers crossed I can tell you more about that soon!
Super Six List
Fav Pizza Topping: Sausage and mushroom
Book You’re Reading Now: I just finished I Remember You, which is an Icelandic ghost story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Next on my TBR pile is The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It’s a sequel to The Inheritance Games, which I absolutely loved, so I cannot wait to dive into this one!
Coffee, Tea, or Both: Tea, any kind, any time.
Fav Activity as a Child: Besides reading? :) It’s a toss up between creating soap opera-style dramas with my Barbies and roller skating.
Most Interesting Place You’ve Lived: a tiny cabin in Wisconsin Dells, across the highway from the Drive-In theater. I saw a lot of movies without the soundtrack!
Best Place You’ve Vacationed: A cruise of the British Isles
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Thanks so much, Shannon!!