Novelists: What Music, Film, and Theater Can Teach Us ~ An Interview with Paul Anthony Shortt

Irish author Paul Anthony Shortt’s urban fantasy, SILENT OATH, releases today. He’s doing a one day blitz tour to help spread the word about the release. He stopped by to answer a few questions on his background in music, film, and theater, Ireland (where he lives), New York (where his stories are set), and the main characters from his new book. Welcome, Paul!

Silent Oath

JA: Can you tell us a little bit more about Nathan Shepherd and Elena DeSantis, your characters from the LOCKED WITHIN trilogy?

APS: Happy to!

Nathan and Elena are both reborn. This means they can remember their past lives and draw strength and knowledge from their memories. Throughout their past lives they have been lovers and companions, always finding each other and working together to protect people from those who would prey on the weak.

When we met Nathan in Locked Within, he hadn’t yet found Elena, or even remembered her. He was an office worker in a boring job, driven to investigate mysterious deaths. Since then, he’s honed his skills and pinpointed memories which have allowed him to become a guardian of the people of New York. With his friends, he is trying to take the city back from the Council of Chains, who view humans as lesser creatures.

Elena is a bit of a mystery to Nathan. When she arrives on the scene, there’s an air of uncertainty and mistrust. Can Nathan trust that she is who she claims to be? What is the reason for her stand-offish nature? Why have they not found each other before this?

JA: I noticed on your website that you also have a short story, “Taking Sides: Cynthia,” which features the character Cynthia in a prequel to your new book, SILENT OATH. Are you considering other short pieces of fiction to support your series?

PAS: I am. In the first book, Cynthia ended up hospitalised early on, so she missed out on most of the action. While her injuries were necessary to show the dangers of Nathan prodding around in supernatural affairs, I was sad that she didn’t get to be more involved.

Cynthia has a more active, and important, role in Silent Oath, so I wanted to give readers a chance to reconnect with her beforehand.

I have another short story in mind, set between Silent Oath and the final part of the trilogy. This one will be set around Christmas time, and focus on Elena.

JA: Your bio says, “Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave [you] a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching [you] something new [you] could use.” Can you share a brief bit of writing advice that you learned from each of these disciplines?

PAS: Music teaches you that patterns can be beautiful. People often think that predicting a story makes it weak, however in music, much of the joy comes from anticipating what notes or motifs will come next. The power of a piece comes from the way in which expected methods are used, not just in originality. As a writer, you have to accept that it’s almost impossible to be truly original, and just tell the best story you can.

Film also has that element of pattern and the importance of the three-act structure, but more than that, it teaches us to pay attention to the audience’s wishes. Readers’ tastes have changed. Where 10 years ago, an author, particularly a fantasy author, could happily give chapter upon chapter of setting and backstory before getting to the action, today an editor is more likely to tell you to cut to the chase and spread that backstory throughout later sections. Readers are becoming more and more demanding. They want to be entertained, and an author needs to be aware that, if they expect people to pay for their work, they may have to consider how they can make their writing more appealing, while still holding on to that artistic spirit.

Finally, theatre teaches you that no matter how good a writer you are, you’re just one part of the process. You could be the best writer in the world, and you’ll still need crit partners, beta readers, an editor, cover designers, and help with promotion. Be humble, be gracious, and always acknowledge those who helped get you where you are.

JA: I also saw that you like to cook. What’s your favorite dish to make?

PAS: Probably chilli, which is a specialty of mine, or a nice roast chicken. I also do a really good corn bread.

JA: You set your books in New York but live in Ireland. Why did you choose New York as your setting? Did you visit in the name of research? Are there any particular places in New York that are featured in the books?

PAS: My wife gave me the perfect answer to this:

“When the Old World wanted to hide from itself, where else was it going to go?”

I wanted to create a setting where old and new merged, the same way the reborn become stronger in their current incarnations for remembering their past ones. New York symbolises the American ideal of starting a new life, of a multitude of cultures coming together to form something new. New Yorkers are amazing people. They come through hardship and unite to get by. I wanted that city for my book.

I’ve been to New York twice, once on my honeymoon and once while my wife was pregnant with our twin girls. While there I did visit places I used, or planned to use, in the books. But New York is so huge, it was impossible to see it all, and a lot of my research was made possible through the use of Google, and the Streetview function of Google Maps. 😉

Riverside Park is probably the most important place that shows up in the series. It’s where Roland, Nathan’s friend and adviser, lives. Freedom Tunnel, where the Lost take refuge, is a real place, if not as fantastic as it appears in the series. Silent Oath takes the reader all over the city, from Chinatown to Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

JA: I would love to visit Ireland someday! Do you find creative inspiration in your surroundings? If you could only choose one place in Ireland to recommend as a “must-see” for someone who’s never been, what would it be and why?

PAS: You should, we’ve got so much to see and do, and beautiful countryside.

I find that certain old buildings, or the way a particular mountain or stretch of forest looks when the sunlight hits it just right, can inspire me. There’s a deep sense of myth covered over with the modern world in many places.

It’s difficult to pick just one place to go, but if forced, I’d say Glendalough. It’s a pair of lakes in a valley, a short drive south of my hometown. If you can get there on a quiet day it’s incredibly peaceful.

JA: “There’s a deep sense of myth covered over with the modern world in many places” — love that. I’ll have to keep Glendalough in mind for any future trip. Thank you for the interview, Paul!

PAS: Thank you for having me, it’s been great fun!

More About Silent Oath

Hope has returned to New York City. Nathan Shepherd leads a small band of dedicated fighters against the Council of Chains and the city’s supernatural masters. But it’s not enough. Because from the shadows of Nathan’s former lives comes an old enemy, one who knows terrible secrets that Nathan has not yet remembered, secrets that could undo everything he has fought for.

Nathan’s only chance to uncover the memories of his previous existence, and to conquer these new forces of evil, lies in Elena DeSantis. A woman he has fought beside in past lifetimes. A woman he has loved.

Together, Nathan and Elena are the only future the city has.

SILENT OATH is available for purchase at Amazon.

More About Paul

Paul Anthony Shortt
Paul Anthony Shortt

A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren’t enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life. Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

Paul lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica.

Paul’s first novel, Locked Within, was released on November 6th, 2012, by WiDo Publishing. Silent Oath is the second book in this urban fantasy trilogy.

Paul can be found online here:

Silent Oath Banner

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

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