Del and I did this interview back in early January. By now, we have emailed back and forth enough that I feel like I know him personally. I really hope you'll read this interview. It will give you a little insight into Del and into Kevin because I think there is some of each in the other. Del is a funny person which is hard to do when talking about building dams in South Africa, but he is also deep. So I hope when you read Kevin's Point of View, you'll see all the layers in it, not just the top layer. There's a lot more underneath. Thanks for taking the time to read this interview and for reading my review and I know Del appreciates it. He's been very patient with me and anxiously waiting for his review. Thanks for everything you've shared Del!
1. Who is Kevin? Is he based on you or someone you know or a combination of people?
There are many people that comprise Kevin. When I was young I was a perpetual daydreamer – and still am sometimes – so that part of Kevin is certainly from my own childhood. But I was never as brave as Kevin and I think much of that comes from my childhood friend Marty DiVietti, who was always getting me in trouble by pulling me into his adventures.
2. Why did it take 18 years to write Kevin's Point of View?
I’ve almost always worked and had jobs in high school, college and now as an adult. When you work, and then have a family, it leaves very little time for writing and other creative pursuits. I started writing Kevin’s Point of View when my son, Alex, was an infant and I was in graduate school. During the days I would take care of him and write in my head, and when everyone would finally go to bed I would write for 30 minutes or so after I finished my homework. I managed to write 3 or 4 chapters this way by the time I finished my MS in civil engineering. When I got a job right after graduating I become even busier and my writing became more and more infrequent. Meghan, our daughter was born, two years after I graduated and my wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year after she was born, so suddenly I was very, very busy working and helping take care of my family. I finally managed to finish all the writing, edits, changes, deletions, and revisions that any novel requires just last year.
3. Did you enjoy writing Kevin's Point of View and will you write anymore novels for kids?
I had the BEST time writing Kevin’s Point of view. Even now, when I’m re-reading sections I find myself still pulled into the story. I’ve written one other kids novel – The Map – which was published in serial form in several newspapers as part of the Newspapers In Education program. One chapter of The Map was published each week for 15 weeks. I also have a picture book manuscript called I Want to Sleep on the Floor Tonight, which is about my son’s troubles sleeping when he was younger. I’ve never sent it to anyone, but I would love for it to published one day because I think it’s a great and funny story.
If there’s enough interest in Kevin’s Point of View I have several additional books planned – all in my head – and I’d love the opportunity to continue this story. While I won’t give anything away, I will say that, just like the ending of Kevin’s Point of View, things aren’t as they seem. The story is much deeper and more complicated than anyone realizes, especially for Kevin.
4. Write or build dams?
In a perfect world, I’d work on both. Working on dams is extremely rewarding because I’m helping communities by providing safe and reliable sources of water. Dams are also exceptionally complex and amazing structures and there’s such a cool factor when you’re working on something that stores billions of gallons of water. Writing children’s books has that same cool factor that dams do, but in a much different way. There’s something amazing about connecting with a kid whose reading your book and thoroughly lost in the story – the same story you love. You share this great relationship where you both get the same thing and understand all the intricacies of the story.
5. Are you a reader? What could we find on your bookshelf if we had a peek?
Yes, I’m a big reader, but I’m very picky about what I read. My favorite children’s books are, hands down, the Harry Potter series. My daughter and I went to every midnight book sale and still go to the midnight movie premiers. David Sedaris is probably my favorite essayist and Carl Hiaasen is my favorite adult novelist. On the non-fiction side, I devour anything written my Malcolm Gladwell. My BA is in Journalism and I still read any newspaper I can get my hands on, with my favorite being the Wall Street Journal. One day I would love to write for the Wall Street Journal.
6. You're self published right? Tell us about that experience.
When you work on a single thing – anything – for 18 years it’s easy for it to cross the line from healthy distraction to unhealthy obsession. And I think this is the case with Kevin’s Point of View. After this long it turned into something I HAD to see in print. But it’s also a story with lots of twists and turns. About eight years after I started writing I submitted the incomplete manuscript of Kevin’s Point of View for a national award with the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators and, to my amazement, it was one of four finalists. This recognition led me to a well respected New York based literary agent, and I was convinced that the story would be published by one of the big New York publishers. But after only two sales attempts, and two rejections, my agent stopped trying to sell the story. I continued to submit the story to agents, and would get some initial interest, but because I was so busy with my work and family I would never have much time to follow up with most of them. What finally convinced me to self-publish was the ease and low cost of print on demand technology and how accepted marketing and selling products on the internet now is. Without these things in place I wouldn’t have self published.
7. Would you self publish again?
Yes. I’m considering self publishing The Map. The first chapter of The Map is included at the very end of Kevin’s Point of View. The Map is about a 14 year old boy who inherits a treasure map after his uncle’s death. The treasure map, he’s told, will lead him to the thing that was most precious to his uncle when he was 14. There are similarities between The Map and Kevin’s Point of View in that they both explore the significance of family and how important it is to fight for the people we love – especially our family.
8. Do you have a fan page on Facebook?
Yes. Just type in Kevin’s Point of View on Facebook and have a look. Don’t forget to ‘Like’ it!
9. Do you have any signings coming up?
I do have a signing at the Border’s where I live in Boulder, Colorado. The date hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will be in late January or early February.
10. Where can we find your book?
Right now the best place to find Kevin’s Point of View is on Amazon, but it’s also available on Lulu.com. If you live in Colorado you can find it at the Boulder Book Store and at Borders at the 29th Street Mall.
11. What did you learn from writing Kevin's Point of View?
I learned that it’s more important to stay true to, and always write for, your audience. In this case my audience are kids and I’ve never abandoned the idea that writing for them is all I should ever think about. This may sound overly obvious, but kids think and behave and learn and see the world far differently than adults. I’ve always tried to create stories that I know kids will like, even when adults may not see them in the same way.
I also learned that I love writing just about anything. In 2006 I was selected to be one of several ‘Colorado Voices’ by the Denver Post and wrote a regular Op-Ed column for their Sunday paper. And in 2007 one my essays, Republican Hair, was selected by the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing contest. Had I not spent so much time writing Kevin’s Point of view I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to apply for these.
12. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’ve received lots of questions about the cover art and so I feel compelled to tell the story behind the picture. When I was writing Kevin’s Point of View, I’d often call my teacher friends and ask them if I could try out what I was working on their kids. Teachers always love these offers and so I’ve spoken to at least a dozen classrooms over the years. Each time I would talk I’d always get these amazing thank you notes and one such note was from a kid named Ruben Quintana and he drew the picture that’s now on the cover of the book, which is from a scene in Chapter 2. Inside the card he wrote, “I hope they make your book into a movie.” Over the years I’ve received lots of rejections, but almost every kid who has read Kevin’s Point of View has absolutely loved it. Ruben’s drawing reminds me that I’m writing for children, my readers.
Well, I think that last line sums it up best. Most of us review books for our readers. Del Shannon wrote and self published Kevin's Point of View, because the kids he read it to loved it and wanted more. I promise you won't be disappointed if you email Del or read Kevin's Point of View and guess who gets credit for the cover drawing? On the inside page it reads "Cover Drawing: Ruben Quintana".
Heather in Sandwich