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Stewartville. A town living in the shadow of the prisons that drive its economy. Haunted by the ghosts of its past. Cursed by the dark secrets hidden beneath. A town so entwined with the prisons waiting outside the city limits that it’s impossible to imagine one without the other, or to ever imagine escaping either. When a teenage boy digs into the history of the town, he discovers a tunnel system beneath Stewartville, passageways filled with dark secrets. Secrets leading not to freedom, but to unrelenting terror. Stewartville. Where the convicts aren’t the only prisoners.
Well, today I’m discover wordsmith. I want to, uh, welcome Shannon Felt. And Shannon, how are you today? Hi,
Shannon: I’m good. Hi everyone. Thank you for having me here.
Stephen: All right. Well, Shannon, uh, before we get started talking about your book, let’s find out a little bit about you. So tell us, uh, where you live and some of the things you like to do besides right.
Shannon: I live in Phoenix, Arizona, kind of right outside Phoenix. So you’re not
Stephen: getting the cold weather I’m getting today. ?
Shannon: No. Where are you at?
Stephen: Uh, I am in northeast Ohio and it’s actually snowing in parts of the area.
Shannon: Oh, you’re so lucky. I love snow. I do too. Yes, I agree. Oh, it’s beautiful. You wake up and it’s a winter wonderland and the world is
Absolutely. But I’ve been to Phoenix and besides, you know, killing you when it’s hot, it’s, it’s beautiful in its own way there too. So yeah,
Shannon: it can be. We’re moving soon to Georgia, so end of the year. Well, you won’t get excited about that there either,
Stephen: and maybe so. I’m sorry, what else do you like to do?
What are some things.
Shannon: Um, I do all kinds of stuff. I’m always finding something new to do. Right now I’m learning to play chess. I went through a bread making phase. We had fresh bread like every day. My family loved it. Um, just kind of anything, you know, I get bored kind of easily. I like to change things up.
Stephen: Yeah. So why did you wanna start?
Shannon: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always loved to read, and creating a world and losing yourself in the book is just the best feeling, and I wanna do that for myself and for other people. Um, And as a kid, we’d get these assignments, like write a short story, a short paragraph, and I’d fill out the whole page, flip it over, fill out the whole back of the page, just go way beyond the assignment.
Right. Um, so yeah, I guess that’s why . Okay. Nice.
Stephen: And, um, so the, the book we’re gonna be talking about is called The Prisoner of Stewartville. Yes. Um, so why did you wanna write this book and tell us a little bit about.
Shannon: Well, when I was 12, my mom started working with the federal prison system here in Phoenix, and they had this company Picnic Day, and I’ll never forget this, it was at the facility and we’re like roasting hot dogs and playing tag and 20 yards away.
There’s prisoners walking around the gate and I’m 12 and I’m thinking, oh my gosh, what did they do and why are we here with them? And just kind of that weirdness, the two worlds colliding, really stuck with. And then when I was 14, we moved to a small town where prisons were more a way of life. There. You could hear the sirens at night and there was nothing else around.
So there was tons of ghost stories, . And when I went back, um, a couple of years ago, a year before I wrote prisoners, I was like, oh wow, I’ve gotta write about this place. Like I’ve gotta take people on a visit to this town, even though it’s totally exaggerated in the book, it’s not nearly as evil and horrific as it is in the horror story, but I just thought this place has so much character it deserves to be
Oh, nice. Nice. So before we talk about your book, what’s your cat. Oh, can you hear
Shannon: her? No, I saw
Shannon: a little bit. She is four weeks old. This is Twiggy. Aww. And she’s been crawling all around my lap. So adorable. Yeah. All right.
Stephen: So give us a little bit of what the book’s about without giving it all away.
Shannon: Uh, it’s about, uh, boy and his friend.
They’re playing moral combat down in the basement that in the nineties. Uh, and the mom comes down, she’s a prison guard. And in this town, Everybody’s involved in the prison some way. You’re either a prison guard, you’re a prisoner. It starts off three reasons people move to Stewartville is they have family in prison.
They are in prison, or they work for the prisons. So Denny’s mom is a prison guard and she comes downstairs to the basement where they’re playing and she’s mad and she takes her steel toe boots and she throws it against the wall. And these bricks fall out of the. And then she leaves and they look behind there and there’s the tunnel, um, in Denny’s basement and Denny wants to explore it.
Um, our main character, he’s lived there all his life and he’s like, no, there is nothing good behind this wall. We are not looking back here. Um, and Denny keeps pushing it and then a lot of awful, horrible things. Begin to happen once this tunnel opens. Um, and our main character is trying to figure out what’s going on while also trying to figure out who he is.
Is he gonna wind up a prisoner or is he gonna wind up working for the prisons? And he doesn’t know he and he doesn’t feel like it’s in his hands. Stewartville is gonna make that decision for him. Um, and so you have to read the book and find out what happens.
Stephen: Nice, nice. So what would you say this is like a suspense thriller, or what type of book would you say?
Shannon: I would like to say it’s a literary horror, but that might be a little pretentious, but I guess it’s thriller suspense, um, horror. There’s some supernatural, there’s some, a cult. There’s the idea of a monster. So it’s really got a whole bunch of different, um, sort of genres within horror in it. Okay. Well that’s interesting.
Stephen: Okay. And can you think of any books that are out there that are similar to this one for people that are listening?
Shannon: I maybe salem’s lot a little bit because it’s also about a town with all these creepy things happening. Um, one of my big influences, and I’m not, I don’t know if I’m gonna say his name right, Chuck Pich.
He wrote Fight Club. Yep. Um, it’s kind of got that grungy feel to it. Okay.
Stephen: So, so, uh, did you intend to write a horror grungy book or is this just kinda what came.
Shannon: It’s kinda what came out. It’s where I found my voice. I’m a catastrophic thinker. Like worst case scenario could happen. I’m thinking of it. So that’s how my writing goes.
It could be I’m trying to write a romantic picnic and next thing there’s an ax murderer because , I’m terrified of that happening in real life. Yeah. Yeah.
Stephen: So I like that because, uh, I kind of did the same thing. I writing it once I realized what I was writing, uh, that just came out naturally instead of trying to force.
Yeah. Much, much better. Yeah. Uh, so is this independently or do you have a, an agent, a, a publisher or anything like
Shannon: that? Independently? Right now, a small press, uh, Bridget Skate Press. It’s the second release for this book. Um, before that it was through Silver Shamrock. And Bridgets Gate has just been awesome.
They’ve got us, um, social media managers, publicists, so it’s really worked out well and the horror community is so great and it’s so close knit, especially like on Twitter and social media, um, that it’s just feels like there’s a tight community. Supporting authors and artists. Nice,
Stephen: nice. So you say it’s a second release.
So they printed it up, put books out there, it sold well, and they said, let’s do another run. Yeah.
Shannon: And the first publishing company shut down. Um, and Bridget Skate Press was contacted me and said, we’d love to carry your books. So I was like, oh yeah. Great. Thank you, .
Stephen: Cool. And is this your, your very first book or do you have others?
Shannon: This was my first one. That’s what I, um, I wrote some, a short story afterwards after Prisoner got picked up. Um, the short story was published first in an anthology, and I have a few more short stories out there. Um, but it was my first long fiction.
Stephen: Okay. And and how did it feel when you had a publisher and then they’re like, yeah, we’re shutting down.
Shannon: That was, I didn’t even know what was happening, honestly. Somebody wrote me on Twitter and they said, did you hear the news? And I was like, quick news. And I went on there, there was some drama involved with this publishing company. I don’t really wanna get into it, but I got into Twitter and I saw, and I was like, oh, okay, well, um, I guess I’m done here.
But it was also kind of exciting, like, okay, let’s see where the next journey is for this book and, and where we can go from. Well,
Stephen: that’s a good attitude. I mean, if you were having any regrets or double thoughts, then you know, it actually maybe worked in your favor, so good. Right. You know, good attitude on that.
I must say . Okay. When did the book come out?
Shannon: Uh, February, 2020. Okay. So it’s been a two year release now. and I’m just finally getting started on a companion novel for Stewartsville. The sophomore novel is really hard. Once you get that first one, you’re like, well, I don’t wanna write the exact same thing. I don’t know what else to write.
What if it’s not as good? It’s really hard, and I’ve read online the sophomore book is just a killer to get through. So
Stephen: is this new one going to be a sequel or something? It’s
Shannon: going to be, um, well, like a companion novel. It’s gonna run alongside the events that’s occurring in the first book. So it’s not a prequel or a sequel?
Um, it’s in the same universe, same timeline, different character.
Stephen: Oh. But, so it’s a series, but, uh, different. I, I like that. That’s interesting.
Shannon: Yeah, it was one of the minor characters in the, uh, original book, and I thought it’d be great to see her perspective. She kind of played a big role in what happened with our main character, so I thought, let’s see it through her eyes and, and what’s going on here.
Stephen: I like that idea. I like that. What are people saying, readers saying about the book now?
Shannon: Uh, they seem to like it. It’s got good reviews. 4.3 on Good Reads, doing well for something on Amazon they really like. Um, that Stewartville winds up being the main character of the novel and I’m really happy readers got that because that was my, that’s what I tried to do when writing it.
We have. Casey the main character, and, but he’s more of an observer. He tells us about stewartville and even though the town of course doesn’t have a voice, you really get the sense that this is who we’re following. This is the main character in the book, is this town.
Stephen: That’s nice. Yeah. I, I just watched some horror movies over the weekend with a friend and we were pointing out how some of them make the, the building or whatever, uh, character and how to do that in a horror and why it works.
So I think that’s, uh, interesting. Uh, right after that discussion, I’m talking to you, which is same type of thing. That’s really good. So Great. Uh, now if you had a choice, would you choose to turn this into a movie or a TV
Shannon: show? Oh, I think a movie would work better. Okay. Well maybe now that I’m doing a companion novel, it would be good as this series is a TV show, but I think a movie would be great.
Just something. Like lighthouse or witch, sort of that art house. Horror. Yeah. Okay. Kinda feel,
Stephen: go, go for the, the big ones that aren’t the blockbusters, but, uh,
Shannon: yeah. Hereditary. Oh, hereditary. That was a gut runger. But I’d love to do a movie like that. .
Stephen: Did you watch, uh, Midsummer The One After Hereditary?
Yeah, I like that one a little bit better. Really? Uh, hereditary just really got me in the gut. That was a, an emotional horrific, like the emotions were worse than the horror that was occurring in the movie. Right. The real life, which I love. And that’s kind of how Stewart the prisoners of Stewartville is, but Nice.
Stephen: If you got any horror fans listening right now, uh, you probably just had ’em going, oh, I’m gonna check this book out. Cause those are good choice horror movies, I must say. Uh, not your typical run. Nice. I like that. . Uh, and do you have a website and where can people find your book?
Shannon: I don’t have a website right now.
People can find my book on Amazon or at Bridgets Gate Press. They have a universal link for all d. Um, sellers, I’m on Twitter, not very often. I’m not great with social media or online things at all. Okay. Um, but I do post occasionally and then maybe delete it later. I don’t know , but Okay. All
Stephen: right. So, uh, do you have, is your booking Kindle Unlimited?
Is that why It’s mainly on.
Shannon: Yes, it’s on unlimited. You could also get the paper back. Okay.
Stephen: Do you have plans later to go wide with it or are you doing well enough on ku you’re gonna leave it?
Shannon: Um, I would like to go wider with it. Um, get it into more stores. Um, we’ll see. Uh, Bridget’s Gate has been great.
They said if we get offers that will help us, they’re more than happy to, uh, help us have those offers come through. So I’m not stuck with one. Publisher one Access point. I don’t even know. .
Stephen: Right. Okay. All right. Well that’s good. It sounds like you’ve got a good, uh, group that you’re working with.
Shannon: Yeah, they’ve been fantastic.
Stephen: Great. And you already told us about your next book. So let me ask you, uh, what are some of the books and authors that you’ve enjoyed reading throughout your life that are
Shannon: your favorites? Oh gosh, that’s so hard. I have, I read anything and everything. I don’t know, beloved, by Tony Morrison is one of my favorite books.
And it’s also sort of a ghost story. Um, I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it’s No, my mother
Stephen: did at one point. Remember her telling me about it.
Shannon: Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s just a beautiful novel. Um, my husband and I were going through Netflix or something the other day, and we came across communion with Christopher Walkin.
And we both went, oh my gosh. I remember reading this book as like a teen, and it terrifying me. These aliens creeping into this guy’s room, and there’s been so many influences just, I mean, even as a kid reading Sweet Valley High Halloween specials, RL Stein, fear Street, you know Stephen King, all kinds.
I’ll read anything. ?
Stephen: Well, yeah, for better or for worse. Uh, when I was 10, my mother bought me a box set of books for Christmas and it was a Stephen King box set. So that kinda melded me right there. Here. Everything will, should read Stephen King . Yeah. So, um, and where you live, uh, in Phoenix, and I know, uh, it’s, it’s an interesting place, uh, to get around, but do you have any, uh, favorite bookstores?
Shannon: Just the Barnes and Noble. I know that’s awful, but it’s just right up the road. Um, we’re kind of in a, more of a farming community out here, outside of Phoenix. Um, so yeah, Barnes and Noble is kind of our closest. We’ve got the kids. It’s just quick to go over there.
Stephen: And that’s, I remember Phoenix being like that, um, walking around in, uh, the areas.
I’m like, wow, this is, you know, you think it’s just a big open, sprawling desert. And there are definite places like that. But, uh, there are areas too where it’s, you know, like a small town, you know, kind of mm-hmm. Laer. So, yeah. Uh, It, it’d be nice to have more bookstores, but . Yeah, I get it.
Shannon: I would love to open one
Stephen: I just had a friend do that, like a popup bookstore. How’d it go? Uh, it’s going good for her. She’s got like five or six, uh, places scheduled for this fall. Oh, nice. Always wanted to have a bookstore and this was a way to do it without investing in a big building and all the books and you know, she keeps up with the latest hot books and stuff.
She put my book out on her table, so I’m always good for you. Let’s do it.
Shannon: Do you get a chance to promote your book? Why don’t we do it here, ?
Stephen: Yeah. Well, um, I can, uh, I’ll look it up and send you some info how she does it, uh, and things, uh, so yeah. Uh, that would be interesting. Uh, I’ll, I’ll let you know.
Sounds good. All right. So, um, Shannon, before we talk a little more author stuff, uh, if someone came up to you and said, Hey, I heard you wrote a a book. Uh, why should I get it and read it? What would you.
Shannon: Oh wow, that’s a tough one. I knew you were gonna do this. Um, . Um, I think if they wanna lose themselves in a world for a couple of days, it’s a quick reading book.
It’ll take you on a tour of a place that you’re probably gonna love. Um, and that might terrify you a little and make you feel something. So that’s why you should pick up the. I don’t you edit this, right? Like , all the bad stuff outta here.
Stephen: All the, all the mistakes I leave in. Oh great. That’s the most fun part.
Shannon: You won’t have to edit anything then. No. Yeah, we’re
Stephen: doing perfect. Yeah, no, I love that. That’s great. Uh, I’ve had a lot of authors have something prepared for that and it’s what they tell people all the time, but I’ve had a few other authors go, wow, that’s a good question. I’m gonna have to write that down cuz somebody else might ask that.
Yeah, I’m gonna have to,
Shannon: I got it. I’m gonna have to remember that one. And it’s hard, you know, it’s hard talking yourself up. I think a lot of authors have trouble with that too, saying, oh, it’s the best book you’ll ever read. You know, it’s uncomfortable saying that ,
Stephen: which isn’t necessarily true. Uh, I have a buddy who reads, uh, nonfiction war books, so he would not agree with that statement that, you know, that’s why I never make a statement like that.
Yeah. You know? So, Well, Shannon, I appreciate you sharing the book with us. We’ll have links in the show notes and, uh, it sounds really cool. I’m a big horror fan, so thank you for sharing.