Between the lines with Adam Shaughnessy (Q&A w/ event details)

Adam Shaughnessy will celebrate the publication of his new middle grade novel, The Unbelievable FIB 2: Over the Underworld, with a launch party at The Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, Rhode Island, this Tuesday evening, September 6th, at 6:00 p.m. This all ages event is free and open to the public; no RSVP is required. In addition to the sale and signing of books, there will be refreshments, crafts, a photo booth, and an author reading. Location: 10 Canal St.


Today, I’m joined by storyteller extraordinaire Adam Shaughnessy.

Adam is the author of The Unbelievable FIB 2: Over the Underworld (Algonquin Young Readers), due out tomorrow. He made his debut with last year’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, now out in paperback under the title The Trickster’s Tale. Also an educator, Adam received his BA in English from Connecticut College and is currently pursuing his MA in children’s literature from Hollins University. He also owns and runs Red Dragon Adventures, which brings story-based education enrichment programs to young people throughout New England. Adam makes his home in Waterford, Connecticut.

Author Adam Shaughnessy (Photo credit: Angela Chicoski)

Praise for The Unbelievable FIB 2: Over the Underworld:

“Readers excited by plot twists and riddles will enjoy this book’s mythical whodunit and anticipate future resolutions to its cliffhangers.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Just as Shaughnessy does in the first book, he continues to showcase clever, quirky writing and characters that add even more life and effortlessness to the story . . . Shaughnessy excels at weaving in such difficult themes into such an exciting and fast-paced story, and I highly recommend this to those who enjoy myth-inspired tales and rich, entertaining characters.” —Forever Lost in Literature

From the publisher:

Friends ABE and Pru race to stop the chain of events foretold in Norse myth to lead to Ragnarok–the war that ends the world.

It’s been a year since friends ABE and Pru joined Mister Fox’s Fantasy Investigation Bureau to save their hometown from an invasion of Viking gods and giants. Life has been incredibly ordinary ever since. Then the Norse Allfather, Odin, appears with terrible news: Baldur, his favorite son, has been murdered–the first step in a fated chain of events that leads to Ragnarok.

Over the Underworld, the second book in the Unbelievable FIB series, takes ABE and Pru on a thrilling new adventure. They outrun trolls, explore Asgard and the Viking underworld, and try to outsmart the Queen of the Dead herself to save the world–and survive seventh grade.


Now, Adam Shaughnessy reveals a few pages from the book of his life …

John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Adam Shaughnessy: Interesting question! I think it speaks to how the landscape of fandom has changed. I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to wear my literary lust loud and proud. I had my Space Invaders t-shirt and wristwatch that played Pac-Man (best invention ever). But the merchandise and the forums kids have today to celebrate their love of books weren’t really around then. I wish they had been! I read a ton—constantly—but I guess I was a closet bibliophile simply because reading was a private activity.

JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

AS: I loved fantasy and mythology as a kid. I read everything that mentioned King Arthur. Arthurian Legends and The Chronicles of Narnia were basically my gateway books. A well-worn and loved copy of Knights, by Julek Heller and Deidre Headon, maintains a favored place on my bookshelf. I must have read it a thousand times as a kid, and copied every illustration. From there, I went on to enjoy Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Sequence, David Eddings Belgariad Series, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, and many, many more.

JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

AS: This isn’t going to sound very original, but I just read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. It was great! It was a lot of fun revisiting Rowling’s world. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about the book is that it’s a script and so it represents another access point through which people can enter the world of Harry Potter. This is a story world that has been very successfully explored through the books, of course, but also the movies and now a play. I love that. Telling a story through a new medium always raises issues because the new medium invariably challenges the conceptions we formed during our first exploration of the story world. It forces us to reflect on our thinking and maybe open ourselves up to new interpretations. If we practice that process with fictional worlds, maybe we’ll get better about becoming more flexible in our real-world views.

JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?

AS: This is a tricky question. I try to vary my answer, depending on a person’s interests. You’ll hear me sing the praises of The Book of Three, Coraline, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy pretty often, though.

JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

AS: I’d suggest The Trickster’s Tale, the first of my books about The Unbelievable FIB. Mostly, I’d suggest it because I think (hope!) it’s a fun read for young people that blends mystery and Norse mythology. There are detectives, gods, giants, and one uncommonly rude squirrel. On a different level, though, I’m really pleased with how the book deals with the theme of becoming comfortable with uncertainty. That theme presents itself if different ways throughout the book. For me, though, one of the most interesting manifestations is how magic is treated. Often in stories for young people you have to believe in magic to experience it. In The Trickster’s Tale, it’s the people who aren’t sure what they believe who can experience magic. Basically, it’s the people who are open to possibility. This ability to embrace uncertainty and be open to possibility is important to me, especially today. I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more open to different ideas and other ways of thinking.

JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

AS: I am a big fan of X-Men comics from the 1980s and early 90s. Chris Claremont’s run on those books undoubtedly influenced my storytelling sensibilities and The Dark Phoenix Saga remains one of my all-time favorite reads.

JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

AS: I once waited three hours to meet Neil Gaiman at a signing at R J Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. It was shortly after I sold my first book, and I really wanted to tell Mr. Gaiman how grateful I was to him for sharing his stories and also his reflections about the challenges and rewards of creating art, and the necessity, too, of doing so. Unfortunately, I was there with a woman I was dating who has since become my wife (and will soon be the mother of my first child). The pressure of not sounding like an idiot in front of an author I so admired and a woman I really liked proved too much. I got to the front of the line and stood there silently like a fool while Mr. Gaiman (who was every bit as friendly and engaging as I could have hoped) signed my book.

JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

AS: Not really. That’s not to say I haven’t had some wonderful experiences! My first book was a 2015 Buzz Book at BookExpo America and the American Booksellers Association selected it for the Indies Introduce List and the Indies Next List. Because of those two things, I had the opportunity to go to BookExpo America the year my book launched, appear on a panel with some fantastic authors, and meet some amazing independent booksellers from around the country. But, honestly, I think I’m too insecure to ever have an “I’ve made it” moment. I’ll keep you posted, though!

JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?

AS: Right now? To sell my next book. Once I’ve achieved that goal a few more times, I might start thinking of more lofty ambitions.

JV: Fill in the blank: John B. Valeri is _____.

AS: … “brilliantly fishing for compliments!” (Editor’s note: You know it, brother!)


With thanks to Adam Shaughnessy for his generosity of time and thought and to Brooke Csuka, Publicist for Algonquin Books & Algonquin Young Readers, for making it all happen.

Note: Adam will also be at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT, on Wednesday, November 9th, at 5:00 p.m. for an iLoveMG event with Tania Unsworth, author of Brightwood.

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