Recently I had the pleasure of reading a fantastic book called Shesus, an amazing book by Hilary Shepard. Although it is her first book, she has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Not only could I not put the book down, but I was able to absorb myself into the words and actually feel for the characters within -- not a task that is easy to pull off for a writer.
When I was given the opportunity to interview Hilary for my blog, I was beyond excited. As evident below, Hilary cares deeply for Shesus and the characters that she created. Her passion is something that I admire deeply, and look up to as a writer myself. If she ever makes an appearance at a convention near me, I will definitely need to meet her, maybe even get her to autograph my copy of Shesus.
Now, without further adieu, I present my interview with Hilary Shepard!
Essel Pratt: Hilary, Shesus is quite possibly one of the best books I have read this year. You can really tell that you put not only a lot of time into the story, but a lot of your own personal feelings and love as well. What, in addition to childhood dreams, inspired you to write Shesus?
Hilary Shepard : So glad you loved my book! Although SHESUS was based on a series of re-occurring dreams I had, the story was one that came together after a series of events. A few years ago, my best friend Daryl Hannah and I started writing an environmental book together and she really opened my eyes to so many alarming facts about what could happen to this planet if we continue on this path. Then four people in my family, including me got cancer. Facing a life threatening illness really made me think about what legacy I wanted to leave, what story I wanted to tell. I began to formulate a story that would appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. Kids are our future, and it's their planet to inherit! I hoped to inspire them and to open their eyes to the ways we are poisoning our planet and ourselves.
The final straw was when a girlfriend of mine took me to see a 90 year old psychic in Las Vegas, an ex-showgirl she had been going to for years. She told me some stuff that no one could possibly know, and then she just wouldn't stop talking about this book I was going to write that was going to be a huge inspiration to people and that was going to make a lot of money and do a lot of good for the world. I was kind of taken aback as I'd never told anyone my plans to write this book. Then she wrote down something on a tiny piece of paper and handed it to me. She said “I don't know what this word means, but this is it." I unfurled the paper and the word SHESUS was written on it. I almost fell over. That was the character from my dreams' name that I had never told anyone. I thought, “Damn it! Now I have to write this book!" I had several operations to face, and I used my time in bed to write SHESUS.
Essel Pratt: I love that, despite the futuristic world’s dystpoic state, you began with a slice of Utopia. In many futuristic dystopian tales, the heroes are in search of the Promised Land. In Shesus, the heroes take an almost opposite adventure as they seek out the dystopia in order to save their Protected Land and the population. In a sense, it made the journey seem even more important and causes the reader to feel more empathetic for Bugbee and TheRose. Was this a conscious decision, or did the story evolve on its own?
Hilary Shepard : That's very astute of you to notice! I wanted the readers to experience how magical Eden is and what a tragedy it would be to lose the last bit of nature left on earth. I'm glad you felt that this added to the empathy the reader would feel for their quest!
Essel Pratt: One of the unique aspects of the book is the way you named the characters. Almost everyone shares their name with someone famous from pulp culture. How did you decide on the names, and which was your favorite?
Hilary Shepard : I really noticed our cultures's obsession with celebrity getting worse and worse, so when I imagined a future world I thought for sure people would be named after "olden-time" celebs. I thought it would be funny to create characters that were totally opposite than their namesake's! My most favorite is the annoying hyper active lonely kid who is named Bradpitt!
Essel Pratt: One of my favorite characters was Seven. He is mouthy, harsh, truthful, and defiant, yet he loves TheRose and Bugbee unconditionally it seems. What inspired him?
Hilary Shepard : I actually found a baby in the woods when I was 5. I told my mother who thought I was pretending and I kept her it all day my room! To this day I feel I saved the babies life, although my family sees it as kidnapping! I thought it would be great for them to find and save a little baby, and as they are the innocents to the ways of the world, he could be the tech savvy one! I can't tell you how many times a toddler has schooled me on tech issues! I love humor, even in the darkest times so 7 is the comic relief! Both my daughters are very funny and wise and I wrote down all their funny sayings since they were little! 7 directly quotes them sometimes!
Essel Pratt: TheRose and Bugbee were two of the most believable characters I have seen portrayed in a book, in a long time. Their curiosity, heroism, and “must succeed” attitude are amazing. In fact, I often thought of my own two daughters, who are 12 and 16, while I was reading. Did you find yourself putting portions of your childhood in their actions and thoughts?
Hilary Shepard : I based TheRose and Bugbee on my two daughters, as well as me and my sister. My relationship with my older sister growing up was very similar- I looked up to her and she protected and loved me. My two girls are very much the same! We all even speak the secret “sister speak" language for real , that they do in the book! We drive everyone crazy trying to understand us!
Essel Pratt: Shesus has an underlying tone of the preservation of the Earth, and gives us a glimpse at what the world might look like if we damage our planet to the point in which it begins to fight back and we must shelter ourselves from the devastation we caused. However, you hinted in a few spots, such as where weeds grew from the cracked road, that despite all of the pain we force on the earth, she can still heal. How close do you feel we are to forcing ourselves into a world like you created within Shesus? Do we still have time to reverse the devastation before we do too much damage?
Hilary Shepard : I truly believe we can reverse the damage done to our earth and ourselves, but not until everyone realizes we're all on the same team! I hate when the media portrays people like Daryl as clueless hippie nuts! She and all her fellow Eco warriors are just trying to help everyone understand how harmful we are being to the only place we have to live! The earth is very resilient though- I spend a lot of time on the Big Island of Hawaii and you should see what manages to thrive and grow through all the black lava! I do think we will hit a breaking point very soon from which we can't return though, and I hope I'm wrong!
Essel Pratt: As I read Shesus, I couldn’t help but think about who would play the characters in a movie based on the book. Who would you like to see portray some of the characters? Would some of them differ from their namesakes in the book?
Hilary Shepard : I know the characters so well and have a very clear view of who I'd like to play most of them in a movie. I picture my daughter Scarlett playing TheRose and I think Cher would be awesome as JJ! I'd love Adam Levine to be Johnnyseed and I'm open to suggestions on who'd make a great Budseed! Daryl wants to direct the movies and she and I share the same vision. I know the movie will be epic!
Essel Pratt: What is next in your writing career, do you have anything special planned?
Hilary Shepard : I am not writing anything until I get SHESUS to the point where it's very successful ! Promoting this book I really believe in is my first priority now! I live and breathe my stories, so I don't want to leave my SHESUS world just yet!
Essel Pratt: Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to share or plug?
Hilary Shepard : I just finished shooting a hilarious TV pilot starring Rosannah Arquette where I play her wise cracking friend! We got to improvise a lot and if it gets picked up I'd be in it and a write episodes too. It's kind of a female Larry David "Curb your Enthusiasm" and I had a blast! Fingers crossed you'll see it on TV next year.
Essel Pratt: okay, I have one final question. If you had to live out the rest of your life as either Divatox or JJ, which would you choose and why?
Hilary Shepard : I love Divatox, the bratty evil Queen I played on the Power Rangers but I actually am a lot like JJ and ( I played the bass and sand and wrote all the songs on the album American Girls my all girl band , American Girls did in 1984) and music is still a big part if my life so JJ wins!
Essel Pratt: Thank you for taking time to answer my questions and share your thoughts, and thank you for writing such an amazing book. Shesus became an instant favorite before I had even reached the half-way mark, I cannot recommend it enough.
Hilary Shepard : Thank you so much for your enthusiastic love for my book Shesus! My greatest wish is that people read it and are inspired by it. My all-time favorite book is "to Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, so when you compared me to her, I was in heaven!
I want to thank Hilary for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. If you have not had the chance to read Shesus, please click the link below and purchase your copy today!