Author Interview: Victoria Ventris Shea / Shagoon


Welcome Readers to another wonderful author interview. Today we are talking with Victoria Ventris Shea about history, writing, and her book, Shagoon. Get comfy and lets get chatting.


JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Victoria. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

VVS-Hi there. Thank you for inviting me for an interview. I live on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest of the US. I always gravitate toward forest and water--we have both here—possibly more deer than people. My husband is a general contractor, so we built the house ourselves. The community refers to it as “the wood house” or “cabin” which suits me just fine.

I love to cook with my family or for groups, especially East Indian food. For now, my pleasure is a walk on the beach, yoga, writing, and finding my way in social media, which is new to me. My perfect day would be with family and lots of chocolate, sunshine, beach and at sunset, a really good brandy.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

VVS-I really don’t have a favorite time period. I love reading historical fiction because I can learn while being entertained—the best of both worlds. So I write the same genre that I love to read, still learning through research. I even enjoy prehistoric time periods like the bestseller Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel which has been around for a long time.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

VVS-My favorite historical figure is Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). He lived an unassuming life and yet changed, is still changing, the world. He didn’t just lead, he lived non-violent protest for India’s independence from Britain. It was peaceful non-cooperation. Even more valuable to me is his attitude toward people. He saw the ugliness and callousness in them as an innocence, rather than a weakness. It helped me as a teacher to (light-heartedly) apply that attitude toward my students: “I can see from your writing that you are somewhat innocent of spelling.” It helped me see that it wasn’t entirely their problem, it was mine too.

If I could ask him one question, it would be, “How can violence be removed from non-violent protests?” I suspect that with his attitude about innocence, his answer would have something to do with education.

JMR-What was your route to writing? Did you always want to be a writer? When did you fall in love with history?

VVS-I guess I started with poetry when my first love dumped me at a tender age. I found comfort in naming my emotions and manipulating them on the page. My desire to write beyond that came unexpectedly. I remember a friend saying she wanted to write “the great American novel” someday and I cringed, “What a boring, awful way to spend your time.” It was during the process of helping my 6th grade students in Hawaii with their writing that I found delight and when I actually realized the power a word or phrase can have, I was addicted. To think that words on a page can make someone laugh or cry or have new insight or be inspired, well, it’s better than a really amazing glass of wine! And I love working with words—my self-editing seems to go on nearly forever, and I enjoy every minute. I’m sure that sounds horrible to a lot of people.

I fell in love with history when I fell in love with my husband. In school I hated history--my only D grade. Then I married a man who happened to love history, read it for fun! a guy who could tell me about past moments in such a way that I could see a person’s plight, smell the smells, feel his feelings, understand his motivations, and I realized that history is about real people like me, not dates, names and places to be memorized.

JMR- About your writing, you said you ‘put together bits of history in a new way’. Can you explain what that means?

VVS-“Putting together bits of history” for me begins with broad research within my topic, i.e. the Tlingit for SHAGOON. I begin searching for notable events, looking or a cluster of interesting events in order to select a time period. Then within that time period, I see how those events might fit together. For example, in SHAGOON I realized that Alaskan Tlingit children were purchased by a Spanish priest. Then I found the priest at a California mission which had been visited by Captain George Vancouver who sailed a route from Alaska to California to Hawaii three years in a row within that same time period. Voila!—my storyline. And, a steamy young Hawaiian was on ship during one of those trips, thus the love interest. My main characters aren’t true but should have been.

JMR- Can you share with our readers the impetus for your story.

VVS-Believe it or not, a psychic told me to write it. She said I had been an Alaskan Indian twin at one time and my twin was still on the other side. I’d always been interested in Native American cultures and I had had an over-the-top happy dream that I woke from in the middle of a laugh and felt I had been with someone who knew me very well. So the psychic’s message felt right. When I read that twins in many Native cultures were left in the woods to die with moss in their mouths, it felt personal, and I had to write about it. The process has felt like a healing somehow.

JMR- Victoria, tell us about your new book, Shagoon.

VVS-SHAGOON—Here’s the short pitch: Raised in an 18th century Californian Spanish mission, Ana is sent with Captain Vancouver via Hawaii to her Alaskan Tlingit people whom she’s never known. Shocked by dangers and torn from love, she fights to belong. The story begins with Ana’s formidable parents, then through Ana’s life, we learn about the Ohlone, Hawaiian and Tlingit cultures and build relationships with the benevolent Captain Vancouver and his notable officers (Puget, Whidbey, Baker, Menzies), the Hawaiian Kamehameha and his favorite wife Ka’ahumanu, as well as Baranov, the governor of Russian America. Even a discarded newborn can change the world.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

VVS-My new historical fiction will be about Prohibition, THE GANG’S ALL HERE. The setting is eastern Washington state in the greater Spokane area. My grandfather was a bootlegger, and my grandmother was active in the Temperance movement, so some conflict there. Plus, the lake cabin that we made into  our home was originally built as a private drinking house to be visited via boat from the (dry) dance hall on the lake.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.


Website   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

VVS- What are you most proud of with SHAGOON?

It is a story from the perspective of indigenous cultures when they were strong, before influence from the “Cloud Face tribes.” I’m proud of the value of life message—giving those babies a chance to live. It presents how desperate we all are to belong, to not be alone in the world. I think the most important to me is the importance of story. Those cultures, and the cultures of each of our families, cannot survive without story. Story is vital.

JMR- That you Victoria for stopping by and sharing your book with us. Readers, I've added a link below if you are interested in reading more about it.

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