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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

ℚ Shadows, Shells, and Spain - John Meyer

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Shadows, Shells, and Spain (, Summer Nomad Publications, 312 pages), a fictional travel memoir.

"The story was well written and grows more profound the longer he travels the trail.

It had a bit of literary fiction, romance, mystery and drama all wrapped into one story.

The theme, I felt, is about life, loss and love, and how to move on from grief. This would be ideal for people who love travelogues and who love tear-jerking novels."


|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Other Titles by John Meyer || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||


A very warm welcome to John Meyer; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!
"Thanks for hosting me!"
What was the inspiration for Shadows, Shells, and Spain?
"Shadows, Shells, and Spain was first conceived while I was visiting the town of Estella during the research stage of my previous book, Bulls, Bands, and London. Exploring the town, I saw many hikers marching through Estella with their gigantic backpacks and their walking sticks. Who were these people?

I soon discovered they were a diverse group of people from all over the world, who were determined to walk 800 kilometers across the country along an ancient Roman trading route in order to visit Santiago de Compostela. Each walker had their own personal reason for their demanding journey. Some had just quit their jobs. Some had just quit their marriages. Some just needed to unplug from their stressful lives back home. Whatever their reason they were all united in their belief that walking across Spain would help them heal from their hurts or stimulate their minds to live their lives better when they returned home.

So in the June of 2014, I joined the pilgrimage and walked the Spanish Camino from Pamplona to Santiago. The adventure had everything I needed to write my next book. I had the rich history of the Camino; I uncovered interesting anecdotes in every town; and I met wonderful characters from around the world. All I needed to do was add my fictional story to my already unbelievable reality."
Do you stick to a particular genre?
"Yes, for now...

I initially wanted to combine my love of writing with my love of traveling. Naturally, I first explored writing non-fiction travel books. But I also wanted to add more of a personal adventure—even a fictional one. That’s when I came up with my concept for something I called a fictional travel memoir. The fun part was that I would travel to these foreign countries and then use the characters I met, the experiences I had, and the challenges I faced to create a fictional story far greater than my own journey."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book?
"Well, the main character, Jamie Draper, is certainly me to a large degree. I always write in the first person and I want to share my thoughts and conclusions about what I saw and experienced with my readers.

It's also important to me that the story takes place in real time. So if my Camino trip takes 22 days, then Jamie's trip must now take 22 days. Because one theme that always pervades my books is that the adventures are entirely truthful and possible. The story is fictional but the traveling part is authentic. And the only way I can competently express my feelings for these exotic locations that are featured in my books are through my main character.

Again, this only holds true for the traveling sections and not the main story. The character itself is not me!"
Can you tell us something quirky about Shadows, Shells, and Spain, its story and characters?
"So while Jamie is me to a large degree, his missing wife, Pam, and his traveling companion, Brie, are completely fictional.

However, all the other characters in Shadows, Shells, and Spain are based on real people whom I met on the Camino trail—especially the more colorful personalities. It was funny how many people wanted to be in the book. "You're writing a book about the Camino? Can I be in it?" "Sure, do something outrageous." "Why?" "You think I'm going to write about a nice guy who says and does nice things all the time? Where's the drama in that? You want to get in my book? You have to be outrageous." Now while that tactic didn't exactly work, they certainly opened up their hearts and told me a lot of interesting details about their lives."
What is your writing process?
"I outline everything! I know my beginning and my ending and everything in between. And I use the principles taught in John Truby's The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. It is, by far, the most comprehensive writing course I have ever taken. Now while most of his concepts are for the movie industry, his story principles can be applied to any long-form medium. You still need an inciting incident, a flawed hero, allies to help the hero, a main opponent, a moral decline of the hero, and a big battle at the end of the story that would later refine the hero into becoming a better person. (Obviously, a lot more goes into a novel, but you get the idea…) And while the story evolves and I discover things along the way (especially how characters act and react to each other), the basic narrative remains intact....especially the ending.

I think about my ending much more than my beginning. The ending is often the first thing I write. Even if it’s only a paragraph or a few lines of dialogue, it sits there the entire time while I write everything else. Then when I reach that ending, I only have to tweak it. If I don’t have my ending, I don’t start writing!"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Shadows, Shells, and Spain - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"Shadows, Shells, and Spain is definitely not the first book to take place on the exhausting and exhilarating Camino de Santiago. Even if you do a cursory search on Google, you will be presented with dozens of books about the Camino. But notice something similar about most of those covers? They're all so brown! Most of those covers represent the dreaded Meseta section of the Camino path, "the two-hundred-kilometer stretch of barren plateau that lies in the center of the country. Pilgrims complain of its dry heat, lack of shade, limited food resources, non-existent landmarks, and drab scenery." Why would you want to showcase that kind of scenery for your book cover?

When I walked the path in June of 2014, most of the landscape was green and lush and absolutely lovely. Therefore, I was determined to create a cover that reflected that majestic beauty.

So the main front photo was taken by me on a stretch of road outside Los Arcos. My designer, Tania Craan, only manipulated it a little by enlarging the two pilgrims. They looked fine in the original photo but when it was presented inside a smaller cover photo on some of those ebook websites, they were a little difficult to see.

The back cover photo of the pilgrim statue in León was also taken by me because it had it all: the shell and yellow arrow (which are prominent symbols on the Camino) painted on the cement in front of a tired, reflective pilgrim.

The rest of the cover is all Tania cleverly incorporating the symbols of the shell, yellow arrow, and the green Camino landscape."
Why should we read Shadows, Shells, and Spain and what sets it apart from the rest?
Who would you recommend this book to and what should readers be aware of?

"First of all, most of my readers are travelers, or at least, people who have a desire to travel and explore themselves while they wander the world. And, as I've already explained, I try to make the traveling sections as accurate as possible. Or, at least, reflect what happened to me when I visited these locations.

However, the book covers much more than that. It's also—predominately—a fictional story. And I'll let my early reviewers speak to that point!
"If you love travel and history with plenty of drama told with a twist of humour then this book is for you."

"The journey by Jamie, Brie and the other Peregrinos is interspersed with history, legends and travel snippets - a kind of early history meets modern tourism. If you are not into history don’t worry, it is told with humour and, at times, healthy scepticism."

Now I've read a few other Camino books as well. They were personal. They were (probably) true accounts of the narrator's journey. Sometimes they were spiritual. But I wanted to create something different. A fun, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, love story—that reflected my own grueling journey on the Camino path that was recognizable to my own personal challenges with snorers, flies, allergies, and twisted ankles. I even mention my intention on the back cover: "First, get a Camino guidebook. Then get the real story behind the majestic beauty and awesome power of the Camino de Santiago...""
Thank you for sharing!

To learn more about the Camino visit John's website.

Shadows, Shells, and Spain
Available NOW!

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3 comments:

  1. And yikes, you found an old photo of me on the first day of my Camino! Good sleuthing...

    ReplyDelete