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Interview: Shana Mahaffey, Author of Sounds Like Crazy

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Living in San Francisco in an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends and five cats, Shana Mahaffey is a survivor of Catechism and cat scratch fever.  Ms. Mahaffey is a member of the writer’s  community Sanchez Grotto Annex, and has had her work published in SoMa Literary Review and Sunset Magazine.  Shana Mahaffey’s latest work is a very intriguing sounding story, in which I hope to have the pleasure to immerse myself within soon, Sounds Like Crazy.  

Readers may discover more about Shana Mahaffey, her works and contact her at her website.

Please tell us a bit about your book: Sounds Like Crazy — characters, plot, etc.

Sounds Like Crazy is as a darkly comic and ultimately healing story about Holly Miller, an Emmy Award winning cartoon voiceover performer who has actual voices in her head, multiple personalities who make her career a huge success, and shield her from a terrible secret in her past.

If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet the Silent One, because he is so peaceful. Hanging out with him for an afternoon, doing yoga, and watching the world, would be a wonderful respite from the busy day-to-day fun.

If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?

This is a tough question because when I am writing, I immerse myself in my book, living and breathing all the characters. Right now, I move through my days thinking, “How would Cassidy,” the main character of the novel I’m currently working on, “react to this? What would she think? Do? How would it influence her future?” I do the same with the other key characters, and to a lesser degree, minor characters. One small example would be as I ride my bike up the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park. It’s a bright day, temperature in the mid sixties, a slight breeze blowing. I ride along at a leisurely pace so as to hear the rustling sound of the leaves on the Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees. Cassidy would stop her bike so she could lie under one of the trees, close her eyes and match her breathing with the sound of the leaves. Ingo, another character in my new novel, would not be riding a bike and would never notice the trees. He’d be at the local pub drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

Early morning and late at night, I love to write sitting in my bed with my laptop on a pillow. All other times, my favorite place to write is the Sanchez Grotto — a shared space of authors that is full of creativity and support. To get into my head down fingers on the keyboard mood, I drink strong coffee (sometimes a lot of it). If I’m really struggling to get words on the page, I will drape my grandfather’s sweater over my shoulders. I keep it in my office for these occasions.

What are you reading right now?

I read mysteries and thrillers when writing. Currently, I am reading The Lieberman/Reinhart mystery series by Frank Tallis.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

Robertson Davies is, hands down, my favorite author. And, to make my esteem for him more special, he died on my birthday, which I took to be a particularly good omen for my career as an author. My favorite Robertson Davies book is What’s Bred in the Bone. Other favorites include Roger Zelazny and The Chronicles of Amber, and a lifelong favorite is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet Robertson Davies. First, because he is my favorite author, I’d like to tell him how much I admire his writing. Second, to ask him for any tips and tricks he’d like to share. And finally, third, to have a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze with him.  Two authors having an afternoon chat. I’d really feel like I made it after that.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

I have so many wonderful memories and all of them compete for the favorite position. The one I’ll share is from Camp Sparta, an annual week of fun that took place in my grandfather, Poppa’s, backyard. The last night of our first camp, we had an over night, away from the safety of Poppa’s Hogan, in Memorial Park in San Mateo, California. We had a wonderful day of hiking round the park, camper’s dinner, post meal poker, and then snuggled in our sleeping bags whispering ghost stories, each trying to scare the rest with tales of wild animals and creepy ghouls. Hours later, after we finally fell asleep, I remember the equivalent of those night creatures we had whispered about earlier, pouring buckets of rain over our heads to awaken us. Wet and shivering we packed the Volkswagen bus that served as the camp vehicle and got in it to leave. Poppa turned the key and nothing. Next thing we were pushing the sputtering VW bus down the street. A collective cheer went up when the motor finally turned over. We loaded back in and were about to depart, when Poppa counted heads and noticed one missing. We had almost left the eldest, and obviously smartest because he dry as toast, under a tree.

Poppa drove us home, and then, breaking all the rules, had us take hot baths, and then warmed us with hot chocolate. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the contentment I felt sitting with my cousins, in front of the fire, with a hot cup of chocolate in my hands — the heat of the liquid and laughter of my cousins erasing all the wet and cold from hours before.

Please describe a perfect meal — including menu and those present.

As a vegetarian, I’m not a big foodie. Instead, I enjoy meals for the company, wine, and dessert, especially if it includes chocolate and frosting — preferably both! A perfect meal would be with my family — siblings, mother, grandfather A.K.A Poppa, aunts, uncles, cousins — my urban family (my wonderful group of friends), family friends with a capital F, and my animal friends and family — cats and dogs. We’d sit at a very large table filled with bread, cheese, and nice wines. For the other courses, I’d be happy with the fun and frivolity that goes with a gathering of everyone you love, and love to be around, enriched by the aforementioned wine, bread and cheese; however, people do need to eat. So, throw down a green salad and simple pasta to cover the first and main course. Once that’s done, we’d finish up a great meal with a velvety chocolate port, espresso, and, of course, a triple layer chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

I love to take long city walks. I do this often in San Francisco, but love to explore any city in this manner. Other ways are curling up in bed, flanked by my two cats, a good book in hand, a coffee or glass of wine with friends, and to be totally California cliché, yoga ?.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

There are many places I’d love to live — New York City, Paris, Lake Tahoe, the South of France —to name a few. However, in all of these places I would not have the community of friends and family I have in San Francisco. Even though I feel the call of other places near and far, I wouldn’t trade the life I have in San Francisco for anything. It doesn’t mean I won’t visit, though.

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.

Since I’ve read the Chronicles of Amber at least 100 times since the age of 16, Roger Zelazny is clearly my one author. I never tire of going on adventures with his characters.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

Besides winning the Booker Prize, National Book Award, and maybe the Pulitzer for my novels, I dream that my novels all become Oscar winning movies. The next big dream I have is to win the lottery. Once I’ve cleared that hurdle, I’d figure out how much money I need to live comfortably for another 100 years and set it aside. Then I’d take the remainder and give half to all my favorite charities like Marine Mammal center, World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC, and various Food Bank and education charities. For the other half, I’d invite all my friends and family to come over with all their bills and I’d write checks until the debts were paid or the money was gone. All works in progress!

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

In the afternoons, I go to the café near my writing office and order a cupcake to go with my coffee. This is no ordinary cupcake; rather, it has a giant pile of buttercream frosting (are you sensing a pattern here?). I excuse the frosting as motivation for writing. Another guilty pleasure is walking at night, either in San Francisco or anywhere else I am visiting, and looking in people’s windows. I love to see the interiors of different homes, the decorating style, paint color and so forth. Sometimes I look and judge. Other times, I imagine what my life would be like if this was my home, my decorations, my paint color, etc.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

I think American writer, painter, sculptor and publisher Brian Andreas says it better than I can: “Anyone can slay a dragon …but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.”

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About April Pohren

  • I’ve heard of people having this disassociate behavior illness. It’s fascinating and very sad for all involved. I would like to read this book. Thank you for this giveaway and the chance to win it. I hope I do.

    Barb Shelton
    [Personal contact info deleted]