Warren A. Shepherd is the newest addition to the Mirror World family and the author of Sex, Bugs & UFOs, available now as an ebook or paperback from our store or wherever you buy books.
We asked Warren to tell us a little bit about himself and his new release and here’s what he said:
First of all, what’s Sex, Bugs & UFOs really all about?
First and foremost, my novel explores the feelings of alienation, literally and figuratively. The genesis of the book was a single line: “It was Wednesday, and Morrissey was still on the wrong planet.” It encapsulated the feelings of isolation and alienation I felt when I came to Canada from England at the age of seven, one foot in both worlds but belonging in neither. As the years wore on, I began to question the very meaning of life (thanks, Douglas Adams) and my reason for being became less and less clear, charting me down a dark path of existential angst throughout my twenties. While I’ve come to terms with my tenuous place in the universe and my hopes for the future, the search for meaning continues, and the indelible stamp that search puts on my creativity is inescapable.
You mentioned Douglas Adams, are there any other authors that you take inspiration from?
I’ll never forget the first time I read “Marathon Man” by William Goldman. I was captivated by the way he deftly spun two seemingly disparate tales, each thrilling in their own right, eventually tying them together in to one satisfyingly cohesive narrative. I was struck by the power words have if wielded with confidence, patience, and style. But I suppose my biggest influence is Douglas Adams, and in fact, when I started writing “Sex, Bugs & UFOs” it was intended to be of the same flavour as his iconic books. But as I continued to write, it morphed into a more serious adventure, albeit with hints of my own humour woven throughout. It was through this evolution that I discovered my true writing voice.
As a debut novelist, would you say you write ‘for the market’ or ‘for yourself’?
Without a doubt, I write for myself. Trends come and go and if you try to write for the current one, you may find that by your eventual publication date, you’ve missed the trend entirely. So best to just write the books that you want to read, which is what I did. While I do find books that I enjoy out there, it was becoming harder and harder to find stories and voices that excited me. That’s why the query process is so difficult when I’m asked for ‘comp titles’. If there were books out there I could compare mine to, I wouldn’t have to write them! It is, of course, the hope that by creating my own worlds, I’ll find others along the way who want to inhabit them with me.
What advice would you give a beginning writer?
There are as many different writing styles as there are people — what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. But the one inescapable truth is that writing is hard. If it weren’t, everyone would be doing it. (Though it sometimes seems as if everyone is.) Splaying your heart and soul for all to see is not for the faint of heart and requires a thick skin, an open mind, and heaps of discipline. It forces you to confront your weaknesses, but it also allows you to revel in your strengths. Hold on to that thought; it will get you through the dark times when no one is on the road but you, and you must rely on your own will and determination to reach your destination. Above all, keep writing. Don’t wait for inspiration – you can’t steer a parked car.
I’ve asked this to our other authors, but what was your ‘journey to publication’ like?
If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then I have felt every one of them on my journey to publication. At times it seemed as if I was walking on air. Others, as if I was tap dancing on Lego. When I first began the submission process, my head was full of stars and hopes, believing it would only be a matter of days before some big publisher snapped my book up and sent me shooting toward those stars. But with each rejection came a cold dose of reality. Eventually, I realized that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t you, it was me. So I hauled my manuscript back into the shop, stripped it down, supercharged it, gave it a good polish, and sent it back out to the track to put it through its paces. The process was emotionally draining, demoralizing, and soul-destroying. But when the dream of being a writer is what gives your life purpose, I knew that the only way forward was forward, one step at a time. The payoff came when I had not one, but two publishers vying for the rights to my book. Finally, someone appreciated what I had to offer, saw potential in my words, and wanted to go on that journey with me. And suddenly every stubbed toe, every blister, every rusty nail through the foot felt as if it had been been worth it.
Warren A. Shepherd was seven when he first realized the world didn’t fit him quite right. Two sizes too big or two sizes too small, he couldn’t be sure. But having been transported from the streets of London, England to the streets of Toronto, Canada at such a young age left him with a profound sense of alienation — a boy with one foot in each world yet belonging in neither. The experience, however, did sharpen his sense of self-awareness and made him a keen observer of the human (and not-so-human) condition.
When he sees what humankind is capable of, both the good and the bad, he imagines how we would cope amongst the stars and is driven to tell stories of strange new worlds to try to explain the one that he often cannot.
After all, it takes an alien to know an alien…