Shannon Baker is my guest today. Shannon, give us a brief bio.
Since I’m an accountant by day, and not likely to encounter much in the way of thrills, I concoct thrillers in my spare time. I spent 20 years living in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1, which inspired this novel. After escaping from Nebraska, I spent a few wonderful years on Colorado’s front range. Now I’m in Flagstaff, loving that Sedona’s red cliffs and the Grand Canyon are my new playground.
Tell us about your new book, Ashes of the Red Heifer.
Ashes of the Red Heifer is a thriller based on ancient Hebrew prophecy. From an the hills of Israel and the sweeping prairies of Nebraska to Jerusalem’s famed Dome of the Rock, it throws a young veterinarian into the middle of a deadly struggle between Jews, Muslims, and Christians, all desperate to force God’s hand.
What inspired you to write on this topic?
I read an article in the New Yorker about the Red Heifer prophecy and a rancher in Mississippi who decided God called him to provide Israel with the sacred beast. I’ve always been fascinated by religion and what it drives people to do.
What readers will enjoy this book?
Thriller readers will enjoy the danger and intrigue. Women’s fiction readers will appreciate Annie’s struggles to make sense out of her life and loves. Those interested in history and how it twists and curls into the present and future will find surprises. People who liked the Da Vinci Code and books by James Rollins will like the interplay of religion and real spirituality versus man’s ambition and distortions.
Is your main character and story, in any way, a reflection of you? Your own relationships?
Because the goal in writing is always to get to the truth of a character, dig inside and find out what drives them and how they feel, I think there is a part of me in every character I write. But there is a part of what I imagine, what I aspire to, what I dread. I’m not nearly as smart or determined as Annie. I hope I’m not as stubborn or prickly. But since I wrote and rewrote (and rewrote again) this book so many times, it’s interesting to see how Annie changed as my life changed. Coincidently, her relationships became more complicated as my life took some unexpected turns.
You’ve written fiction and nonfiction, received honors and awards for each. Which do you prefer? And why?
I love fiction. Since my first picture books and Winnie-the-Pooh, I’ve always loved stories. As early as I can remember I have made up stories to put me to sleep at night. I’ve been the heroine of countless adventures, saving the day, being brave and smart and looking fabulous. I always fell asleep before I had to come up with an ending.
What are the three toughest things about writing?
For me, the first and foremost challenge is plotting. How can I take all these really cool facts and other things I learn in research and fit them all together and add danger and intrigue and make it all keep building to a heart-stopping conclusion? After that is the sometimes plodding drudgery of getting it out of my head and onto paper (or screen). Now, I’m finding the push of marketing to be a challenge. So to sum this up: Plotting, Plodding, and Pushing.
What are you working on now?
I’ve finished a draft of Sacred Balance, another thriller. This one set in Flagstaff on the San Francisco peaks, a sacred landscape featuring into the religions of twelve separate tribes. A young ski area owner is determined to use man made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, but the enviros, tribes, and kachinas may use any means to stop it.
For more information on the red heifer prophecy, this book, or heaven-forbid, me, go to Shannon-Baker.com