Saturday, May 22, 2010

7 Questions: Kieran Shea

Interview by David Cranmer

I heard you nearly gave a woman a heart attack with your writing. What was that all about?

Black Irish Blarney on the beach
Oh, that. I was at the Shamus Awards during this past year's Bouchercon, hanging out with Karen Olson and Clair Lamb. Karen has been encouraging, and she was up for a Shamus for her novel SHOT GIRL. Plus I was curious about the whole PWA cult of Randisi. It was a nice time, but I felt really awkward, you know? Like here I was, some fraudulent interloper, packed in with all these wicked-talented crime writers getting their gnosh on. Someone was in line behind me at the buffet and we started talking. I told him about the Ellery Queen story and he said that Janet Hutchings (EQ's Editor) was there and I should introduce myself, so I did. I was expecting a nice how-do-you-do, but what I got was an arm grab-- “So you’re, Kieran!” She proceeded to tell me that my Charlie Byrne short The Lifeguard Method” prompted the angriest letter she’d received in over twenty plus years of editing the magazine. The irate subscriber was so incensed that she canceled her life-long subscription. I apologized, but Janet said I shouldn’t because if I wasn’t pissing people off I wasn’t doing it right. Got a lot of high fives on that one from great guys like Sean Doolittle and Scott Phillips. So, now I guess I’m the old lady boogeyman.

What's next for ace detective Charlie Byrne?

I kind of bounce back and forth with Charlie stories. Last year I wrote a novel with him falling down his deepest hole yet, but I don't know exactly what to do with it. Crimefactory is serializing a longer piece called "The Blues Before and After" and part two will be coming in issue CF#3. It's funny. I also want to know what's next for Charlie because he's become so real for me. I worry about him a lot. He has this buried rage we haven't seen yet, this madness.

For those who don't know, who is Steve McQueen?

Steve McQueen is everything that is cool. To quote the film "The Tao of Steve"..."Steve McQueen. Y'know, he's the guy on his horse, the guy alone. He has his own code of honor, his own code of ethics, his own rules of living, man. He never, ever tries to impress the women but he always gets the girl." For the slow learners let's roll the tape.

Why are so many people down on New Jersey and is it deserved?

Here's a big secret--people from Jersey actually like it when outsiders sling their "what exit?" jokes and misconceptions. It thins the herd, so to speak. Just ask Dave White, he can go on for hours and hours about Garden State pride. Personally, I get a kick out of showing people the cool things about New Jersey. The quirkiness, characters, and great food. They blink with childish wonder that Jersey isn't what you see at the airport. It's a beautiful, complex place...warts and all. Now, turn around and go home.

You recently had a near death experience. How has that changed you?

I think the incident you’re referring to occurred last summer while out sailing on the Chesapeake with friends. It was wicked hot and an old mentor and close friend of mine who’d recently been diagnosed with the glacially slow type of ALS dove off the stern. Now, this is a man who has been powerfully strong his entire life—a former Marine—and immediately I knew something was wrong. Even though it was a pretty calm day the Chesapeake’s switchback currents and treacherous tidal rips are capable of defeating even the strongest of swimmers. I’m trained as a lifeguard, and I flew in after him. Even though my friend was good all day, as soon as he hit the water he couldn’t speak or move his limbs. Even now what I remember distinctly is the terror in his eyes. I stayed with him. Still under way, it took some time for my wife to navigate back for us. No one on board even realized we were in trouble until we struggled to climb aboard. The whole incident shook me to the core. To be perfectly honest, I think I even cried a little. Anyway, it just reaffirmed for me what everybody knows but never likes to dwell on, the fact that every single day, every one of us…we tread the edge of grief and loss. You can't live in fear. Like my friend who I helped rescue always says—life is precious. Go out and get some.

Kieran makes an appearance in the upcoming Thuglit antho

How does a husband and father of two find the time to write.

I gave up on writing years ago. It was only after my wife told someone at a cocktail party that I wrote a little fiction that I picked it up again. I've been fortunate that she grants me the time. Typically I can carve off maybe two or three hours a day in the morning to write because I'm an early riser. Scary early actually. Amish early.

What's your favorite curse or curse word, and why?

Favorite curse word, huh? Getting your James Lipton groove on, are you? There's so many. Right now I like "ass clown" because recently one of my brothers said my Dad referred to me as such. It just cracked me up, mixing the profane with the classic brain-stain image of a clown. I always hear carnival organ music when I say it.


  1. You gotta love "ass clown." It's really got a ring to it.

  2. Old Lady Boogeyman - I'd wear that title with pride, sir

  3. Why thank you, Jed. Like most, I do relish doing donuts on the old ladies' lawns.

  4. Great interview guys and yes life is precious. i had one of those near death rides a few years back.

  5. Charles, Your "Half a krapp of something abbatt" is a close second, though technically not a curse I guess.

    Frank, Same here. It certainly gives you a fresh perspective.

  6. Great questions and some revealing answers. Good stuff all round.

  7. I'm a fan of fuck stick at the moment. Great interview, Irish

  8. Thanks Dave.

    Keith, Fuck stick is a classic.

  9. That's something else, having a short story prompt someone to write a letter and cancel a subscription! Looks like Kieran lit a fire under her butt.

    Ass clown is pretty good. I'm LOL.

  10. Yeah, I dig having that on my resume.

  11. Cracking interview with one of my favourite writers.

  12. "It's a beautiful, complex place[...] Now, turn around and go home."

    That's how we feel up Maine way, too.

    Fantastic interview, both of you.

  13. Very entertaining, you two ass clowns.

    NJ Fact: We raise more thoroughbreds than Kentucky.