Well, Happy New Year!! To kick off 2017 I welcome Shaun Griffiths to my blog. He’s had many fascinating life experiences, values delivering messages about friendship and character to young people through his writing and has almost died three times. You read that right. To learn more about Shaun and his work, read on!
Hi, and welcome! Tell us a little bit about where you’re from, what genre you write in, and how you came to be an author.
Shaun: Hi and thank you for this invitation to an interview. A little about my background. I was born in South Wales where I studied Electronic Engineering. I worked in Industry, travelled for a number of years and then moved into commerce. I’m settled now in Poland where we’ve built our house on land that was in my wife’s family for generations. The world around us is rolling hills and pine forest which I find really inspirational. A lot of what I see, I try to recreate in the Young Adult Fantasy stories I write.
I started writing about three years ago. I became so tired of sitting in front TV and watching the violence and foul language that passes for children’s humour these days. I wanted to write a story that I felt was exciting but also free of mindless violence. Obviously you can’t write a story about a world in conflict without someone getting hurt, but I try to write stories that I feel are appropriate for Young Adults. I recently self-published a second part to a trilogy I plan to write.
That’s great! I agree that often there’s too much exposure too early on. It’s refreshing to see an author not trying not to push those boundaries but rather offering an alternative. Now, Shaun, tell us about your family.
Shaun: My family is my wife and children that support me. It is also the dogs, cats, bears and apes that inhabit my world. I tend to live and dream in my fantasy world a lot. I write about Shape Shifters in a world that you would recognise around you.
Blending the real with the imagined and living half-way in between–I like it! Now, can you share with us something from personal life that inspired a particular work?
Shaun: The scenes I write take a lot from the experiences I had during my travels. I wrote a short story that was recently published in an AAYAA Anthology. The theme was “That Moment When…”
Part of my story was about a man crossing a desert, who’s attacked and runs out of water. It was a collage of memories from the time I spent in Egypt and the Sinai deserts. I was backpacking with friends, sleeping on the beaches at a time when the Sinai was undeveloped. Israel had recently handed the country back to Egypt but had taken everything with them (including the sand for Eilat beach). There was a local bakery and a shack selling bottled water for one US dollar or one Egyptian pound, they were interchangeable. That’s all that was left. So. one night, I had my money stolen. I had to make a choice between returning to “civilisation’ for funds, or sticking it out with the water I had. I really didn’t want to leave. The desert is one of the most beautiful environments to find yourself. But the memories of thirst and hallucinating from lack of food are still vivid. That was when I discovered how sweet water can really taste. The other part to my story is about my love for coffee. I write about an imaginary traveller who believes he has created the perfect brew, but he also stumbles across the man without water. It’s again based on my experience of Egyptian hospitality and generosity toward travellers.
What a rich and fascinating variety of experiences and it sounds like they inspired some fascinating story lines. Do you model characters after yourself or after someone you know or do they all materialize into thin air from your imagination?
Shaun: Some of my characters have skills that I wished I had cultivated during my life. Running, swimming, Kendo. But mostly, they are make believe people, having to react to extreme situations in ways that I hope I would also deal with, if I had to. I don’t mean to imply that I have heroic morals! Far from it. But I try to let my characters react in ways I feel readers of younger adult fiction would appreciate.
Is there a particular message you try to convey with your work, or do you write purely for the entertainment factor? Both?
Shaun: In the YA trilogy I’m writing, I am trying to convey the importance of love and respect for others, the value of friendship, commitment to the Clan, the line between respect and fear of parents, making the right moral decisions, recognising and choosing between good and evil.
These are situations that my children have to deal with in some way every day. I’ve tried to subtly write them into a fantasy world with fantasy characters that I hope some people will recognise but also find entertaining, without being in your face about it.
What great themes! And that’s the beauty of art–disappearing into a made up world but relating and learning in the process of being entertained. How do life and art intersect on an ongoing basis?
Shaun: I would have to say in the world around me. I walk out of my door, and I see a magical world that I try to describe in my writing.
For example, stopping to watch wind currents pass through the forest. You can follow the path of swaying pines in the circulating eddies of wind. I can stand in a part of the forest that is completely still, but “see” a gust of wind approaching or just pass me by.
Or the changes of light with the changes of weather. Seeing an approaching snowstorm can create a sky of a purple/grey colour that I never see at any other time.
Or walking outside on a clear night, without any street light or city light pollution, you just have to stop and wonder.
These are the things that my writing is made of, that inspire me. I would like to think this is my art.
The two, life and art, become inseparable. What’s one thing your readers and mine would find really interesting or unique about you as a person?
Shaun: I think of myself as having a really lucky life. I’ve been to many places off the beaten track, but also found myself in some sticky situations. I can honestly say I’ve been in three situations where I felt I was going to die. But I got out of it and I believe it’s because I do have an angel on my shoulder looking out for me. I know this is not really unique, but because I feel I’ve been lucky, I now try to give back more than I receive. My first novel I self- published and donated the royalties to the Children in Need charity. The second novel I’ve translated into Polish and given to my community around me as a thank you for accepting and welcoming me into their world. It is their world that I’m writing about. I’m sorry, I know it’s not really unique, it is something I that makes me happy knowing I’ve tried to contribute.
That’s about you and your experiences, so it’s absolutely unique! And I love that you strive to give back with your work. Now, we want to know: what do you have out and where we can find it?
Shaun: I’m well into writing the third, and possibly final part of my YA trilogy, called Changing Times. Parts 1 and 2 are available on Amazon, as is my contribution to the AAYAA Anthology.
There is more about me and my work on my author’s page. You are very welcome to sign up to my forthcoming News Letter I plan to post out. You can do so here: http://www.shaunlgriffiths.com/
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my writing.
Thank you for being here today! If you’re looking for inspiring young adult writing that keeps it clean and teaches valuable lessons while engaging the fantastical, Shaun’s work is for you. Head on over, grab a copy of his work, and immerse yourself. In fact, that sounds like a great way to start out 2017–with a good book.