Shelf Life is a recurring book column where our staff review buzzed-about novels, interview authors and discuss personal favorites.
MTSU alumna Shannon Greenland is the author of several award-winning fiction novels, including the teen spy series The Specialists and the young adult romance The Summer My Life Began.
Under the pseudonym S.E Green, Greenland has tapped into what she calls “her dark side” and has written two teen thriller novels, the second of which will debut in May. The new novel, Killer Within, is a follow-up to her first thriller, Killer Instinct, about a sociopathic teenage girl who satisfies her need to kill by targeting serial killers and delivering justice.
We spoke with Greenland on Wednesday about the upcoming release of “Killer Within,” her experiences at MTSU and her unexpected career as a writer:
Sidelines: You used to write adult literature, so how did you discover a love for teen fiction?
Greenland: “I wrote three romantic suspense novels, and my critique partners kept telling me to try and write something younger because I had a very young voice … So I did. I tried my hand at writing younger, and it was really within the first couple of pages I knew that that was my voice. I knew that that was the way I wanted to go.”
Sidelines: Your thriller books deal with a teenage girl with urges to kill, and your publicist mentioned how you balance your female character’s dark urges with unique coping mechanisms. Can you tell me more about that?
Greenland: “So, yes I have this dark 17-year-old sociopath, but I knew I needed to make her relatable to the reader, and though she’s got a lot going on emotionally, I have her very attached to her younger brother. She’s (also) a huge lover of pets and she works at the local veterinarian’s place. That really helps the reader see the side of her that lets us know she’s not this evil, dark person that everyone else thinks that she is, so that’s how I balance it.”
Sidelines: You said in an online a review that “Killer Instinct” explored the topic of nature vs. nurture. Will “Killer Within” continue to explore that same question, or will it take a different angle in the main character’s life?
Greenland: “Yeah the whole series is about that topic right there, nature vs. nurture, and what really does happen when both elements are present in your life. So it’s a continuation, not only of the story, but of that theme throughout.”
Sidelines: You also said that you expected readers to “either love it or hate it,” and the reviews did seem to be pretty much polarized. Do you expect that same reaction to “Killer Within?”
Greenland: “I do, and it’s exactly what I want, actually. I want people to embrace it. I want them to love it or to not love it … What good is a book if you’re just sort of “eh” about it, you know? I really want people to react to it, whichever way they want to react.”
Sidelines: What’s the reasoning behind your pen name, S.E. Green?
Greenland: “Well, this new series is very dark compared to my other books and I didn’t want somebody who had read my other books to pick it up expecting something romantic and adventurous, and then get this darkness.”
Sidelines: How did your education and experiences at MTSU prepare you for your career as an author?
Greenland: “I studied psychology at MTSU, (and the) classes I took definitely opened up my understanding to the psyche of people, but I wasn’t even writing back then. I was just like most undergrads, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But then when I graduated, I went on to find a love of math and kind of got into that. It wasn’t until after I was actually teaching math that I started writing novels, so it was kind of around the world and back again.”
Sidelines: How did you decide you wanted to start writing?
Greenland: “I actually was a very reluctant reader and writer growing up. I was always drawn more to the mathematics and sciences, so the fact that I’m a writer now still baffles me … I was teaching math and I was on my summer break, and I was bored, as most teachers during summer break, and a friend of mine brought over a stack of novels and plopped them in my living room and said, ‘Here. Maybe you won’t be so bored if you start reading.’ And I was like ‘Eh. Alright..’ So I picked up one and started thumbing through it, and before I knew it I had actually read a whole novel, and then I read another, and then another, and then I just started thinking of stuff I wanted to write about, and that’s how it happened for me.”
Sidelines: What advice do you have for young aspiring authors?
Greenland: “My advice is to write every day, no matter what it is. I wrote an entire novel, and I had no clue what I was doing, and then I went to a bunch of writing workshops and I learned how I was supposed to be writing … So if I had it to do all over again, I definitely would have joined a writing group, started networking, started attending workshops and learned the craft.”
To learn more about Shannon Greenland and her suspenseful novels, check out her website or follow her on Twitter @SEGreenAuthor. Keep an eye out for our review of “Killer Within” in the coming weeks!