By JENNIFER K. BAUER
For the rest of his life the boy is swayed and driven by his mother’s abandonment and the image of the man: hairy, dark, filthy, enormous, more ape than human, very likely Sasquatch.
“For me, meshing extreme emotional reality with this very fantastical supernatural world, I kind of like the tension it creates. I like things that don’t take themselves too seriously, even if there is darkness,” said Shields, who lives in Spokane and will read from and sign her work at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 at BookPeople of Moscow.
Since the novel’s release in January, Shields, 37, has been hailed as one of Spokane’s rising literary stars with reviews in the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. Her first book, the 2012 short story collection, “Favorite Monster,” was also stuffed with paranormal creativity.
“As a kid my bread and butter was Greek mythology, monsters and metaphor. I loved that it wasn’t always happy, happy stories. There were dark endings to great heroes. That struck me as true to life even as a little kid,” said Shields, who laughs at some of the reactions she gets to her work.
“I get a lot of similar comments about the novel that I got about the short story collection: ‘Wow, you’re really weird,’ or ‘You look so normal.’ ”
Shields grew up in Spokane, got a degree in English literature at the University of Washington and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Montana in Missoula. In part, she chose the school after reading “Perma Red” by UM professor Debra Magpie Earling, a coming-of-age novel about a woman on the Flathead Indian Reservation who is pursued by three men.
“It started to shift my whole perspective on what sort of writer I wanted to be,” Shields said.
After school, Shields worked at a sales job for three years, then moved with her husband to a remote cabin on Lake Pend Oreille to redevote herself to writing. Her first stories were about a cyclops working in a Seattle public relations firm and a girl whose brother is turned to stone by their neighbor, Medusa. These became the tales of “Favorite Monster.” The main character in “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac,” Eli Roebuck, came from one of the stories.
Now the mother of two children, ages 3 and 5, Shields is researching her next novel, which is set at the Hanford Site with a mad scientist who lives in Reactor B. One of the characters will suffer from multiple sclerosis, a disease she was diagnosed with two years ago.
“It does feel like more than a full-time job, to write, parent and care for myself. It’s my big juggling act. I wish I could just get rid of the M.S.,” said Shields, who deals with extreme fatigue, numbness, tingling and “the worst euphemism ever, the M.S. hug,” a feeling of tightening around the chest.
Shields said she’s excited to visit Moscow to read from her book, which also features the Palouse in its pages.
IF YOU GO
Who: Novelist Sharma Shields with “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac”
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 5
Where: BookPeople of Moscow, 521 S. Main St.