Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Shea Butler!
Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
Our dreams and our aspirations make us unique. I love reaching for the stars, experiencing all that we can and being creative. I was that little girl who huddled beneath her sheets after “lights out” with a flashlight reading when I was supposed to be sleeping. I loved being transported to new worlds, experiencing new adventures through the characters and being taken on marvelous journeys. I hope to do the same for others with my storytelling. Through my characters and my stories, I hope to illuminate and explore this amazing world we live in, both past, present and future. I was born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad and had the great good fortune to be an airline brat. My father was a 747 Captain for TWA which enabled me to travel the world, experience and see this amazing world we live in. I am a horsewoman. I grew up Fox Hunting and in my early thirties I played polo, being on a team that won a National 5 Goal Indoor Polo Championship. I love reading, gardening and fishing. I am also a certified scuba diver. Some of the places I’ve dived include Mexico, Hawaii, California and the Turks and Caicos Islands. I work in the television and film business. I am an award winning writer, producer and director. While most of my focus has been on television and film, I am now venturing back into novel and short story writing. I write action and adventure but am planning on expanding into sci-fi. I believe one should live life to the fullest, experience all one can and share with others. I love being adventuresome, love exploring new places and things. I believe it inspires and enriches my storytelling.
Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
I cannot imagine life without a fur baby of some sort. I grew up with a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cattle, chickens, a racoon, hamsters, fish, and even a baby alligator. I love dogs and horses and miss having both but was fortunate to grow up with them. Each one holds a special place in my heart and I know I’ll see them all on the other side of the rainbow bridge. Recently, my heart broke when I had to put down my big, grey Thoroughbred, Silver Matt. I know I will get another horse and another dog but right now, the only pet I have is Lucy, a long-haired tri-color cat. She was a stray that showed up on my doorstep as a tiny kitten. I came home from work late at night and there she was. Imagine, after giving her a bowl of milk and some treats she never left! Several characters in my stories have stray cats that just showed up and stayed. Art imitating life.
Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
While not a pet, I just finished a children’s book, “Finding Home: The Adventures of Abo, the Wild African Puppy,” about a Wild African Puppy who is lost in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. I wrote the book as a prop for the short film, “Finding Home,” which I wrote and directed (currently in post production.) The film is about a mother reading her son’s favorite book to him while he’s in a coma in the hopes that the story and her voice will help bring him out of his coma and back home to her. I intercut between the hospital room, the children’s book and African footage I shot while on a horseback riding safari in Botswana. After writing the script for the film, I realized that I would also have to write the children’s book. That was quite the adventure in and of itself as I had never written a children’s book before. It was so much fun to tell the story of Abo and his interaction with all the wild animals in his search for his pack in the book through my still photos from my trip. The Wild African Dogs, or Painted Dogs as they are also known, are an endangered species and hopefully I’ll find a publisher for the book so proceeds from sales can go to the conservation of these beautiful animals.
In my short story, “Giving Up The Ghost,” my main character, a private investigator, has a beat up, stray alley cat named Tazer who just showed up on the fire escape outside her office. I hope to expand the short story into a novel and Tazer will definitely be a character in the story. Like many cats, he’s demanding, indignant and entitled even though he’s a stray.
I have also co-written a comic book: Undercover Cockroach: The C.I.A.’s Smallest Undercover Roach. Cockroaches aren’t exactly pets but I love the little critter. You can find the comic on Amazon.
What are you reading now?
I have a stack of books by my bed. I’m an avid and very fast reader. I love “beach” reading – romance, mysteries, westerns, crime and science fiction. Right now, I have “The Wolves of Winter” by Tyrell Johnson, “Shattered Mirror” by Iris Johansen, “Hold Back The Dark” by Kay Hooper and “The Walls” by my friend Holly Overton. I am in the process of re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and “Directors Tell The Story” by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli.
What writing projects are you currently working on?
I just finished the first draft of a coming of age screenplay that I hope to direct next spring. In terms of novel writing, I am adapting my film noir, bounty hunter screenplay into a novel that will become an on-going book series. I am also writing a new short story about a murder that takes place during a baking competition. After that, I hope to tackle expanding “Giving Up The Ghost” into a full length novel.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Dick Francis is one of my all time favorite authors. All his novels are set in the world of English horseracing. As an ex-jockey for the Queen of England, he knew that world well. As an avid equestrian, I love being immersed in the world of horses. I am also a big Patricia Briggs and Stephen King fan and love the Eve Dallas books by J.D. Robb.
Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.
Animals were a staple of my life growing up. I have pictures of my father holding me as an infant on one of his polo ponies and pictures of our German Shepard puppy in Egypt where I was born. Of course, there were always horses. My sister and I also had a donkey named Tequila, TeeKee for short, a border collie named Lady, a racoon, a baby alligator (see below for that story) as well as numerous cats.
Why do you include animals in your writing?
Animals are amazing and enrich our lives. They are part of the world we live in so interacting with animals and pets is a daily part of people’s lives. So, it makes sense that they would be part of the daily lives of the characters I create. Pets are always happy to see you and no matter how horrendous your day was, they will give you unabashed love and devotion if you give it to them in return.
What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?
“The Black Stallion” is a favorite, both the book and the movie. High seas, a mysterious stallion, and a ship wreck – as a child I was transported into this fictional world.
When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?
I was always a voracious reader. My mother read to me as a toddler and I couldn’t get enough of books as a child. I loved books even more than watching television or going to the movies. So, it was only natural that I started scribbling little stories in a notebook growing up. My first real story was about a girl and a young foal she rescues when its mother died. Hmmm… horses again. I do see a recurring theme. I moved a lot as a child and during one of those moves, the handwritten tale got lost. I do wish I still had a copy of it but I’m sure I’d cringe if I read it today. But completing that story fired my imagination to create more stories and I knew from that time that I would always write and tell my stories, whether published or not.
What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?
While I will always write regardless of being published or not, I would love to see one of my books published in hardback and up on library shelves. That is one of the top five on my bucket list. Other items on my bucket list include travels to Scotland and Norway (I have ancestral ties to those countries), directing a full length feature film and enjoying life day by day.
What do your pets do when you are writing?
Lucy, my tri-color kitty, is rather bored by the process. I am usually curled up on my bed or in a big armchair with my laptop when I write and totally focused. She will occasionally insist on being the center of attention by getting between me and my laptop and demanding that I pet her. If she doesn’t get her way, she has been known to pounce. She has very sharp teeth and lets me know that she’s not happy I’m paying more attention to my fictional characters than I am to her. After all, life for a cat is all about them! But for the most part she’ll stroll outside and nap in the sunshine in my garden.
What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?
The most unusual pet I ever had was a baby alligator. Years ago, and before it was illegal, a friend of my father’s shipped him a baby alligator. It was the size of a salamander and my older sister and I begged to keep it. My parents were exceedingly open to allowing my sister and I to experience and explore the world and everything in it, so they said yes. Off we went to the store to get a large aquarium and a mesh top for it. We kept the baby alligator until it got to be about a foot long feeding it raw chicken. By then, it was getting too much to handle, even with gloves, and the aquarium was too small. At that point, we donated it to a zoo and we’d go and visit it there.
Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?
I have always loved to read curled up in bed. I think it goes back to when I was a child with that flashlight. But honestly, I can read anywhere. On a train, a plane, in a car, at the beach and certainly sitting in my garden. I will lose all track of time and totally become immersed in the world of the story and the real world will disappear. In regard to my writing, I prefer to write curled up on the couch or in a big armchair with my laptop. I do have a desk but it seems too business-like and sterile. I love to have the windows and doors open to hear the birds, the rustle of the wind and smell the flowers. Many times, I will suddenly look up from writing (or reading) and realize it is the middle of the night and hours have passed.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Writing is hard work, time consuming and there’s a lot of rejection. So, love the telling of stories and the creation of unknown worlds in and of itself. While being published is fabulous and we all love to be recognized for our hard work, it may be years before you are. Love the process. If you do, persevere because, bottom line, you aren’t a writer unless you write. So, butt in the chair, hands on the keys and… ready, set, go!
Shea is an award-winning filmmaker for her short films “The Trial of Ben Barry,” “The Waystation,” and the 2017 web series, “Trouble Creek.” Currently, she’s in post-production on a short film, “Finding Home,” and writing the feature film, “Dare,” to direct in 2019. Shea’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation Directing Fellowship and the Warner Bros. Television Director’s Workshop. She’s been a development executive, a segment producer for reality TV and a script supervisor for television and film with an MA in TV & Film. She’s a member of the Writers Guild, IATSE 871, Alliance of Women Directors and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sisters In Crime and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.
She is a certified scuba diver and avid horsewoman and was on a polo team that won a U.S. National 5 Goal Polo Championship. Born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad, Shea has traveled extensively throughout the world, her most recent trip being a horseback riding safari through the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
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Comic Book on Amazon: Undercover Cockroach: The C.I.A.’s Smallest Undercover Roach