Author Shawn Grady signs a
copy of his novel.
Courier Staff Photo
By Beatrice Esteban, Courier Staff Writer
James Logan graduate and author Shawn Grady returned to his alma mater Tuesday to talk to current English Two students about his careers as a firefighter and an action-novel writer.
Grady, who was graduated from Logan in 1994 and currently works as a firefighter in Reno, told the sophomores who gathered in the Little Theater for the event that he had wanted to write a novel ever since he was a student here, but that idea daunted him until he jotted down the first lines of his first novel, Through the Fire, on a napkin while on a dinner date with his wife.
During his first presentation of the day to first period English Two students, Grady told them he didn't know how to begin his novel until he read Ernest Hemingway's book A Movable Feast, about Hemingway's days as an ex-patriot writer in Europe.
Hemingway, he said, was also daunted by the idea of writing a complete novel, and instead "endeavored each day to write one true sentence."
Grady said that freed him from having to work out complex plot devices, characterizations and other features of a full-fledged novel before starting. "I didn't need to write a big story arc," he said, "All I needed to do was simply write."
The few sentences he jotted in the diner were the result that lead to the eventual completion of his first novel.
In response to a question from a student, Grady said that getting the resulting novel published was even harder than writing it. He said that it was rejected more times than he counted. It was even rejected by the company, Bethany House, which eventually published it. Grady signed a three-book deal with Bethany House Publishers in 2008; they published Through the Fire in July 2009.
His second novel, Tomorrow We Die, was published this July 1 and a third novel, Falls Like Lightning, is due for release next July.
Grady said he has always loved reading and writing, a love supported by some of his high school teachers. One of his teachers, Language Arts teacher Ken Pando, was in the audience attending with his English Two class. Grady had been in his Spanish class.
"I remember sitting in the same seats you're sitting in," he said. While at Logan he felt "stirring with me the need to express myself."
To students who want to become authors, he recommended attending writing workshops, where aspiring writers can get feedback from editors and literary agents and get advice and pointers from other authors.
Grady was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference.
Grady said both of his novels sprang from his experiences as a firefighter and paramedic. He has worked for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. He previously worked for private ambulance services, including one in San Jose. According to his website, "he line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras."
In his job, he is often "confronted with people who are facing death," he said.
He described his second novel as being about a Reno paramedic who "seems to have been chasing the Angel of Death." After receiving a cryptic note from a passenger in his ambulance, Jonathan, the hero of Tomorrow We Die, is thrust into a "maze of intrigue...that threatens the lives of his family" and himself.
After graduating from James Logan, Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego as a Theology undergrad. Afterward, he earned an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno.
"After high school, I thought I might be a pastor," Grady said, but after a year of training, he shifted gears and pursued a career in emergency services.
"My experiences in emergency work seared themselves into my subconcious," he told the students.
Grady is on tour promoting his books. He was in Roseville. Tonight he will appear at the Barnes and Noble store in Danville.
After the presentation, Grady signed copies of his novels for students and teachers who bought them. He ran out of copies of his first novel to sell before the sixth period presentation, and had very few of the second novel to sell and sign by the time the seventh presentation started.
Asked about the business of publishing, Grady said writing is an activity in which "art intersects commerce."
He said that publishing houses are careful in choosing which books to publish, since their goal is to make money.
"Your best promotion of your first book is your second book," he said, because readers who enjoy your second book will be more likely to want to read more of your work will buy your first one.
His second book has been popular enough the earn a second printing, he said.
In response to a student's question, Grady said there has been some interest in making movies from the books.