The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Author Interview - Jeri Smith Ready

I recently read, reviewed and raved about Jeri Smith Ready's YA debut, Shade (review here). One of my favourite paranormal books so far this year, I can't recommend it highly enough. Jeri herself is a lovely lady who kindly agreed to answer some questions about Shade - check out her great responses in this author interview:

Shade has a definite Celtic leaning, from Newgrange to Logan's Irish heritage and Zachary's Scottishness.  What inspired you to take the story in this direction?
Nearly all my books have some Celtic aspect, usually featuring characters who are Irish-American. While I am personally at least one-quarter Irish and I definitely identify with that side of me, my family never really emphasized it. It wasn’t like we rooted for Notre Dame football and guzzled Guinness like the Keeleys. I went to university with many of those types, though—you know, the Irish-Americans who are more “Irish” than the actual Irish?

As for Zachary’s Scottishness…sigh, what can I say? We American chicks have a thing for Scotsmen. My husband is part Scottish (and an astronomer and a VERY patient man, so I guess that’s where I get my inspiration for that character). He’s a McLeod of McLeod of the Isle of Skye. I’ve never seen him in a kilt, but that just gives me something to look forward to in life!

Once I started writing the book and exploring the possible causes for the Shift, I centered on Newgrange, so that drove the Irish connection deeper. (Although Newgrange is actually pre-Celtic, since it hails from the Neolithic period five thousand years ago.) With the location being overseas, it made even more sense for Zachary to be not American and a world traveler, so that he would have some experience with the subject—that way Aura wouldn’t think he was a totally useless partner. And, you know, the accent.

In Shade, ghosts appear in the clothes that they wore when they were most happy.  Were you to become ghostly, what would you be wearing and can you share the reason why?
Ooh, good question! I would either be in my wedding dress, or I’d be six years old on some random summer day, wearing a butterfly bikini swimsuit.

The ghosts are also able to travel to anywhere they went during their corporeal life - is there somewhere that you would specifically return to or somewhere you would absolutely avoid?
When I lived in London for my third year at university, two friends and I took a trip to Scotland. One place we stayed was a farmhouse outside Anstruther on the east coast. It was near the summer solstice, so the sky was periwinkle at midnight—the most gorgeous color I’d ever seen. I took a walk in a nearby field of heather and just listened to the silence and the occasional low of a cow. So I would either go there or to Oban. And Greece.

I would avoid any hospital I’ve ever been in (other than the one I worked in—that was pretty nice). I would definitely avoid middle school.

Music is clearly important to you - I loved the use of Irish and punk music in Shade.  Are you able to surmise Shade, the characters or your experience of writing the book in three songs and, if so, what would they be?
OK, if only three songs, I would have to choose one for each of the three main characters:

For Logan: “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly
For Aura: “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
For Zachary: “I Will Possess Your Heart” by Death Cab for Cutie

None of these are surprising, of course, because they’re all in the book. But they perfectly sum up each character. Logan desperately wants to let go of his life and assure Aura that she’ll be okay without him. Aura sometimes wants to just “forget the world” and the harsh reality life has dealt her lately.

And Zachary…you know that steady, pervasive bass line that runs through the entire song, no matter how chaotic the rest of the tune gets? That’s him. I’ve heard that at one point during the recording of that song, the guitar player accidentally tripped over the bass player’s cord and pulled it out of the outlet, but the mistake was kept in the track. There’s a point in SHIFT where Zachary is much less than perfect, so I think that’s his “cord kicked out of the outlet” moment. It’s just a momentary stutter, but it’s there, and I wouldn’t dream of leaving it out.

Finally, what advice can you give to prospective writers of YA fiction, or to adult authors who are considering YA for the first time?
I think the most important thing is not to “sound like a teen” (there’s waaaay too much emphasis on getting the “right” words), but to think and feel like a teen. Remember what it was like to experience all those things for the first time. I’m not sure if I can give advice on how to do this, though, because for me it’s completely natural. I’ve been emotionally 17 since I was 11.

Thanks so much for having me, Sya!

And thank you, Jeri for taking the time to answer these questions while also writing at least two dozen books at once! There is some more information about Shade below, including an excellent trailer. Jeri has also been kind enough to offer a signed UK version of Shade for a giveaway - coming super soon!

Jeri loves to hear from readers, so visit her at, on Facebook at, or on Twitter at Her next release will be the short story “Thief,” in the YA vampire anthology ETERNAL: MORE LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, coming November 1. Her most recent release is BRING ON THE NIGHT, #3 in the WVMP RADIO adult vampire series. Her debut YA novel, SHADE, was released in May 2010, with a sequel, SHIFT, coming May 2011.


Lauren said…
Fascinating interview! I loved Shade, so it's great to get a little extra insight the influences behind it.
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