Interview with Shawn P. Cormier

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Books played a major part in my childhood. I was a loner with few friends. I was not a sports fan, so my heroes were fictitious characters. The books I read taught me many of the virtues I still carry with me. While some kids looked up to and emulated the sports figure of the week, I looked up to and emulated the likes of Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, Travis from Old Yeller, and Menion Leah (from The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks.) I was a library rat. Some of my favorite books when I was a child were Old Yeller by Fred Gibson, Snow Dog by Kjelgaard, White Fang by London, everything Tolkien and The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Those are still my five favorite books!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember it well! I knew I wanted to be a writer after I read Jim Kjelgaard's Big Red, the story of a boy and his dog and how they hunted down a killer bear. I was so smitten with that book that the first story I ever wrote (for my fifth grade English teacher, Ms. Budzinski) was titled, "Old Majesty.” Old Majesty was the bear in Big Red, so I guess you could say there was a wee bit of plagiarism involved. But I was only 11, and I did get an A. After that I read The Hobbit and knew I wanted to write fantasy.
What is your writing process?
The first stage in my writing process is the idea stage. This is where the majority of the work is done. On the outside, the idea stage looks like a great big period of inactivity. Hey! Look at him! He's mowing his lawn again? Isn't he supposed to be writing? But in truth, I am very much preoccupied with building the story. What is it really about? What do I want to say? The actual plot is secondary, because as we all know there are a thousand different way to get from point A to point B, and if you are a good writer, each way will be as compelling to the reader as the next. No, the idea stage is for big picture thinking. I mull and pontificate and mope around for weeks. Sometimes I take notes along the way. As this stage begins to wrap up, I begin making the connections between characters and events, deciding on point of view, background material, plot shifts, how to surprise the reader. With Nomadin, the first book in the Nomadin Trilogy, I had LOADS of time for the idea stage. No one was expecting a book from me, so there was no point in rushing it. With the second book, the idea stage had to be shortened. Fortunately, I had done more than enough thinking for book one, so the idea stage for book two went more smoothly.

When the ideas are to my satisfaction, I begin to sketch things out. Some call it outlining, but for me it's more like heavy note taking. I begin to get all those ideas on paper. I'm still not worried about the actual writing at this point. I want to flesh out character motivations, especially the bad guy's. I explore scenes that I find emotionally crucial such as the darkest moment, the climax. Then I begin writing. If I've done enough mulling and note taking, the writing is the easiest part of the process, and the most enjoyable. Since I haven't truly outlined and haven't set anything in stone, I can be flexible, and often the writing surprises me.

Finally, there comes the rewriting process. This is where the work of writing really begins. The first draft is a non-stop frenzy. The second and subsequent drafts (3-4 usually) are all about the words - sentence construction, dialogue, description, how to create that picture in the readers mind. It's all about the words. This final process is the most tedious, but also the most rewarding.
Describe your desk
My desk is where ever I find absolute solitude to write. For two years while writing Nomadin, my desk was the front seat of my truck. I would drive to an isolated spot, turn off the engine, pull out my college lined notebook and write. I wrote much of the first draft of Nomadin in my truck. There is very little to distract you in your truck. It's a great place to write! I also like to write at the library, surrounded by books.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on the outskirts of a small rural town out by a small farm that had a stream running through its fields. This setting gave me absolute solitude and freedom. There were no cell phones, no computer games (unless you count Pong) and I had no friends close by. I spent the majority of my formative years alone, and I absolutely loved it! The quiet solitude gave me time to imagine and explore and form many of the story ideas I have today. And the setting for the Trilogy is absolutely the setting from my childhood, from Southford (I grew up in Southbridge) to Farmer Parson's (Farmer Dudek in real life) to the Drowsy Wood (an actual grove of even rowed pine trees by my house). So I guess you could say where I grew up is where my character Ilien Woodhill grew up.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When I first finished Nomadin, I shopped it to every agent and publisher I thought might have interest in it. Thirty-six rejections later I began to feel a little discouraged. At that time I subscribed to Publisher's Weekly, a magazine about book publishing, and read an article about a young kid named Christopher Paolinin who had just been picked up by a major publisher after self-publishing his fantasy book called Eragon. I was running my family's jewelry store at that time and liked the idea of having control and turning my love for writing into a business of my own. I read every book about self-publishing (this was before print-on-demand) and gave it a go. Best decision I ever made! I sold over 8000 physical books of my trilogy (and got to keep ALL THE PROFITS) before turning to EBooks.
How do you handle character development?
The main character in Nomadin is a young boy named Ilien Woodhill, but I never "developed" him. Rather, I knew Ilien from the moment I set eyes on him. I was in my sophomore year in college when I began a story about a young boy who lived with a crotchety old wizard. I wasn't planning on going anywhere with the story. It was just a bit of writing for the fun of it. I had no idea for a plot. I just saw this boy in my mind. He never knew his father. His mother was absent much of the time, and he had this deep rooted desire to be noticed by someone, anyone. He felt so real. I managed three chapters and put it away. I didn't know it then, but those three chapters would later become the first three chapters of Nomadin. Nearly ten years later, after finishing a novel that will never see the light of day, I picked up those three chapters and felt that connection again. Only this time, Ilien refused to be put down. It is the same way with other characters. Maybe I put so much time into thinking about the story before I start writing that characters feel like real people who I simply watch and listen to.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
For me, the most effective marketing technique is always the one where I get to sit and talk to book lovers. I have always found it difficult to get traction marketing online, but put me by the front door of a bookstore with a stack of books and I can sell the dickens out of them! I guess I'm old fashioned!
Published 2015-08-02.
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Books by This Author

Necromancer - Sequel to NiDemon
Series: Nomadin Trilogy, Book 3. Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 73,600. Language: English. Published: August 21, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
Transported to a cursed land, Ilien must seek and destroy the one thing that can never be destroyed. His only hope lies with a horribly deformed child he unknowingly maimed, and a mystical woman whose past is secretly entwined with his. If he succeeds, he may never see home again. If he fails, he will forever be known as . . . the Necromancer.
NiDemon - Sequel to Nomadin
Series: Nomadin Trilogy, Book 2. Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 79,820. Language: English. Published: August 6, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(4.00 from 1 review)
Fleeing the Nomadin, Ilien seeks aid from the last person he ever thought would give it. For his father, Gallund, is held prisoner by an enemy immune to Nomadin magic, an enemy who would use him to release an unthinkable evil upon the world. To rescue him, Ilien must forsake all he knows to be true. He must learn a forbidden magic. He must discover who he truly is, or become . . . NiDemon.
Nomadin
Series: Nomadin Trilogy, Book 1. Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 87,400. Language: English. Published: August 5, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
Twelve-year-old Ilien Woodhill is having a rough week. His enchanted pencil won't stop mouthing off to the biggest bully in town, he discovers he might be Satan reborn, and the eyes he accidentally conjured up refuse to leave him alone. Oh, and he might have been born a girl. He's not sure which bothers him most, but he is dead sure of one thing. Saving the world won't be easy!