Thursday, August 27, 2009

Through the Fire by Shawn Grady

I'm excited to welcome new author Shawn Grady with his debut novel: Through the Fire.

Here's the back cover copy:

Firefighting burns in Aidan O'Neill's blood. The son of a fireman, O'Neill has a sixth sense about fire and often takes dangerous risks. When one act of disobedience nearly gets a rookie killed, O'Neill is suspended. His weeks off are supposed to be a time to reflect but instead he escapes to Mexico, where another rash act of bravery actually kills him. But only for a few minutes. Called back to Reno, he's now haunted by visions of hell and paralyzed in the face of fire. And at the worst time, because an arsonist is targeting Reno. With a growing love interest with one of the investigators complicating everything, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the fires creep ever closer.

Intriguing, huh?

Shawn graciously agreed to drop by Net's Book Notes and answer some interview questions. So, let’s jump in:

When did you get started writing?

I’ve been writing since a young age, but finally realized after reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway that I didn’t need a stack of 3x5 cards with character descriptions and a detailed plot outline to begin a novel. I just needed to start writing. So, in 2001 I did, though eventually set it down for about two years. In 2004 I started attending writing conferences and submitting manuscripts. And in 2008 I had the blessing of signing a three-book deal with Bethany House Publishers.

Tell us what inspired Through the Fire.

I stuck with the old adage to “write what you know”, and in the context of the firehouse and the camaraderie and banter and tradition I wanted to relate a personal story of loss and redemption and reflect a bit of the greatest story ever told.

Which you did very well. Tell us about winning “Most Promising New Author” at Mt. Hermon in 2008. Was it a total surprise? Was that what caused you to be more noticed by editors and/or agents? (or were you already agented and/or contracted?)

Winning the award at Mount Hermon was a great surprise and honor. It felt like a great validation from my peers and the staff. I had already signed with Bethany House that February and the award was a huge boon that helped carry me through the hard work of crafting and honing my first novel.

I can understand that boost required while facing the doubts that come with finishing a project. What’s next for you? (book title, release date, etc.)

Right now I am working on a title due out in the summer of 2010 called, Tomorrow We Die. It’s about a Reno paramedic who feels like he’s chasing the Angel of Death.

We’ll be watching for that one. How can readers contact you?

I love to hear from readers and can be contacted through my website:

Thanks for stopping by, Shawn! We wish you the best with your writing.

Shawn's bio:

Shawn Grady has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.

Shawn currently lives in Reno, Nevada, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.

And now, my review:

“Why are you the most qualified person to write this story?” Writers know when they're writing a book proposal, they have to answer that question.

Firefighter Shawn Grady answered that question in spades on every page of his debut novel, Through the Fire.

I’m staring at a near-blank screen, racking my thoughts for words as I tap out this review. Where to start?

Prose: phenomenal.
Heart: real.
Story: believable and well-paced.
Emotional payout: satisfying.
Spiritual: surprised me with effective and believable, non-preachy and heartfelt threads.

With a busy schedule like mine, reading a book in a short span of time is nearly impossible. I read Through the Fire in three days. The story races. Shawn uses witty prose to drag you in and make you chuckle, scratch your chin, even stop to think. But only for a second. Then you gotta jump back in and see what’s gonna happen next.

And the fact that this is Shawn’s debut novel . . . fantastic! He nailed characterization, plotting, prose. You will cheer his beaten-up hero on through to the last page.

Shawn’s obvious expertise in firefighting lent a fulfilling realism that you can’t fake. That’s what made Shawn the best author for this story.

And writing it in first person?! C’mon! If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m a staunch believer in first person prose. I love it! His choice to write this story in first person was brilliant—you’re sucked into the story as if these things are happening to you. And in suspense, that’s what you want.

You’ll also probably recognize from my other reviews, I’m not a huge fan of suspense. But I’ve been looking forward to Shawn’s book since last September when we “met” through ShoutLife after the ACFW conference. The summary drew me in.

Congrats to Shawn on a fantastic debut novel, which I know will be award-winning before it has completed its run.

Looking forward to your future work.

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