Saturday, August 26, 2017

0 S. M. Parker, author of THE RATTLED BONES, on finding your writer person

We're delighted to have S. M. Parker with us to chat about her latest novel, THE RATTLED BONES.
Shannon, what was your inspiration for writing THE RATTLED BONES?

I live by the rough coast of the Atlantic and it is an inspiring and often ominous place to reside. The ocean holds treasures and mysteries and secrets and power and I’ve always wanted to tell a story about the lurking deep, as well as the strong women and men who risk their lives to work the seas.

A few years ago, I read a newspaper article about the history of Malaga Island—a small unassuming fishing village off the coast of Maine. The residents were poor and proud and made their meager living from the sea. In 1912, the families were forcibly evicted by Maine’s Governor and institutionalized for being culturally and racially “different” during a time when eugenics was driving scientific research and practices. I discovered that, even today, descendants of Malaga Island residents feel shame for their blood ties to the people of Malaga. It seemed heartbreaking to me, that the victims of cultural erasure should feel shame. Shouldn’t the shame reside with the men who stole humanity from other men (and their children and wives)?

I was suddenly like the ghost in THE RATTLED BONES: I needed to tell this story.

And brave Rilla Brae seemed like the perfect character to pull the past into the present.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There are some creepy scenes in this novel, the scare-you-out-of-your-skin kind of scenes and I definitely wrestled with a lot of self-doubt while writing them. I thought: who am I to be writing this type of narrative when so many authors before me have done this so well? So, yeah. Self-doubt. I wanted (and needed) the haunting to come alive on the page in ways that were believable and would make gooseflesh rise on a reader’s skin as the story unfolded. The hauntings were the hardest and most satisfying scenes to write. And honestly? I got scared a few times while proofing the book before final publication and I’d written it!! ☺

How long did you work on THE RATTLED BONES?

After selling the book to Simon & Schuster based on the opening chapters, I went to a seaside cottage and wrote THE RATTLED BONES in three weeks. It seems ridiculous, I know. It was. I will fully admit that first draft was a terrible, awful, very bad first draft but it was a first draft. From there, I did two rounds of edits over the next nine or so months to firm up the characters and story threads. But initially, staring out at the unending, thundering ocean while imagining every creek in the old cottage sounded like a voice…well…it inspired me for sure!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That I could write and sell a second book! HA! I laugh (now), but the sophomore novel is a very tricky thing for many writers and I was no exception.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE RATTLED BONES?

Mostly I hope it’s an entertaining read. It’s always my goal as a storyteller. But for this book in particular, I tried to steep readers in the reality that women (young or old or ghostly) are strong and resilient story makers. We have a unique and powerful lens through which we view the world and that should always be validated.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

It may not seem so AHA! but, yeah. In writing my third book it sort of clicked for me that this was my job now. Wake up every day and go to the chair. Sit down. Write. Write terrible words or words that make you think HUH! this could be something. Whatever it is, just write.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc.?

I need total silence when I write. No kids, no music, no laundry calling to me. I’m easily distracted so silence is my best friend when drafting.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Find your writer person. A person you can trust with all things books and writer’s block and frustration. Hopefully this person will also like chocolate chip cookies if you like chocolate chip cookies. And hopefully this person can make you laugh so hard your face hurts. Read books (a lot of books) and discuss those books with your cookie-eating person and trust that person with your goals and fears. Invite hard criticisms. (Constructive hard criticisms) And when you find this writer person who has your whole heart and this love of cookies and a lust for laughter, you will feel safe enough—worthy enough—to risk putting words on the page.

What are you working on now?

I’m a little superstitious (like THE RATTLED BONES heroine, Rilla Brae! ☺) so I don’t usually don’t talk about books in the works, though I can say it’s a novel!

BUT, I do have a short story in the YA anthology, WELCOME HOME (releasing September 5th) called “Tunneling Through.” The anthology is on love and adoption, two inseparable topics that are very near and dear to my heart.


The Rattled Bones
by S.M. Parker
Simon Pulse
Released 8/22/2017

Unearthing years of buried secrets, Rilla Brae is haunted by ghostly visions tied to the tainted history of a mysterious island in this haunting novel from the author of The Girl Who Fell.

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl has appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about—if they know about it at all—due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there—an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the ghostly girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow—until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

Purchase The Rattled Bones at Amazon
Purchase The Rattled Bones at IndieBound
View The Rattled Bones on Goodreads


S.M. ParkerShannon Parker lives on the Atlantic coast in a house full of boys. She’s traveled to over three dozen countries and has a few dozen more to go. She works in education and can usually be found rescuing dogs, chickens, old houses and wooden boats. Shannon has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies and ridiculous laughter—ideally, at the same time. Find her at


Have you had a chance to read THE RATTLED BONES yet? Have you written a story inspired by a newspaper article? Have you found your cooking-eating writer person? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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