By: Andrea Randall
The Indie Bookshelf first took notice of Charles Sheehan-Miles with our Review Bomb of "Just Remember to Breathe" back in October. Since then, Charles has published the absolutely fabulous "A Song for Julia," reviewed on our blog this week.
I had the opportunity to appease my nosy side this week, and interview Charles. Enjoy!
Andrea Randall (AR): Charles, should I call you Charles or something else?
Charles Sheehan-Miles (CSM): Charles is fine.
AR: I first heard of you through chatter on The Indie Bookshelf early this Fall about a little book called "Just Remember to Breathe." A quick amazon search will show that you've been writing much longer than a few months. Talk a little bit about your entry into the literary world.
CSM: I’ve been writing most of my life, and self publishing since 2001. The first book I published, Prayer at Rumayla, is a fairly bitter, grim story about a young soldier who had just come home from the Gulf War, and is based very closely on my own experience. It’s so grim though, it never really hit any commercial success. I followed that in 2007 with Republic, which has done fairly well over the years. I spent the next five years working on the followup to Republic which I finally published this year.
Just Remember to Breathe was kind of a lark… a diversion, to be honest. I had just finished Insurgent, and I needed to work on something completely different for a little while to get some perspective before re-writing. But when I started writing it, the story just flew out: I found myself writing faster, more easily, than anything I’d ever done before.
AR: "A Song for Julia" (ASFJ) is the second book in a series you've called "The Thompson Sisters". "Just Remember to Breathe" (JRTB) was the first. Do people need to read these books in order, or are they stand-alones?
CSM: Both are stand-alone novels. At the time I wrote Just Remember to Breathe, I thought it was a one- time thing, a departure from my normal genre. But I enjoyed writing it so much, when I got to the family dinner scene at Thanksgiving I realized I just might have the core for several more stories. I started working on A Song for Julia not long after Just Remember to Breathe came out.
*Interviewer note: I fell in love with Crank Wilson during the dinner scene Charles references from "Just Remember to Breathe." Read it. You'll see why I clamored to get my hands on "A Song for Julia".*
AR: ASFJ is set a decade before JRTB, what made you want to do that?
CSM: The timing made sense, because I knew the story was going to be about how they met. In some ways Julia interested me the most. Here was this woman from such a proper, repressed family who had declared her independence from all of them, married a punk rocker and made a career out of managing the band. I wanted to know how that came about. In order to get there, I had to go back in time… so I counted back to when they might have met, and that landed me in 2002.
Which led me to all sorts of questions: what was going on in 2002? And the backdrop of that time had a lot going on: September 11 was still raw, we were preparing to invade another country, so much was happening in our country, I new that the story had to at least touch on those matters.
AR: Tell me a bit about the development of Crank's and Julia's characters. Where did they come from? They're each so unique and heartbreaking in their own right.
CSM: I have no idea.
No, seriously. Initially they were just a brush, a paragraph or two in Just Remember to Breathe. It was enough to intrigue me and make me wonder about them, so I started asking questions, and each question led to more answers, and pretty soon I had two characters I absolutely loved.
CSM: Crank: Margaritas.
Julia: White Russian
AR: I LOVED JRTB, but A Song for Julia was so much more, for me, as a reader. Do you feel differently about both stories as well?
CSM: I do. I really enjoyed writing Just Remember to Breathe. But I felt A Song for Julia was a much stronger book: the characterization and conflict is much deeper, and I grew to really love the characters. I’d have loved to have been able to spend a lot more time with all of them, and I’m hoping to do so with a future project.
AR: What's your favorite line from Crank? Julia?
CSM: Crank: (running behind Julia at the airport): "Before you think I’m a complete pig…never mind. I am."
Julia: “Actually, Mother, we didn’t have sex until we got back to your condominium. Your bed is so much softer than the ones in cheap hotels.”
See? Go read "A Song for Julia" (Amazon Link) and check out Charles' Facebook page to stay up-to-date on everything that goes on in that beautiful mind of his.
Thank you Charles!