Quad-Cities Author Sean Leary Offers Book Of Optimistic Tales For Difficult Times
Change. We undergo transformations every day of our lives, in ways small and significant, in ways good and bad. Sean Leary’s “Does The Shed Skin Know It Was Once A Snake?” offers 11 award-winning short stories dealing with the life changes many of us face, and the positive ways in which our lives can transform, even in difficult times.
“Shed Skin” is available in bookstores and webstores worldwide as a print book and eBook for every eReader format. It is also available direct from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org and Leary will be signing copies of the book from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at The Book Rack, 4764 Elmore Ave., Davenport.
“Shed Skin” continues the legacy of characters introduced in Leary’s best-selling collection “Every Number Is Lucky To Someone,” which was lauded by critics, named the “Paula Sands Live” Book Club Book of the Year in 2010 and was under consideration to be an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
The new book presents a richer look at their lives, many of which echo our own, and their struggles and striving to positively transform them. Humorous and heartbreaking, inspirational and down-to-earth, “Does The Shed Skin Know It Was Once A Snake?” offers a captivating trek through birth, death, love and life.
It wasn’t the commercial considerations of a sequel that lured Leary to revisit the Barstow family of “Every Number Is Lucky To Someone,” rather, it was a natural progression that was planned long before the release of “Every Number” in 2006.
“Before I released ‘Every Number’ I had about 25 stories written or outlined for the book, and 11 made it in,” Leary said. “A few of the remaining 14 ended up being finished and formed the base for the new book, which was actually intended to be released in 2007 but ended up being shelved when I took a sabbatical following the birth of my son. That ended up working out for the best in a number of ways, certainly because I wanted to spend all of my free time with my son, but also because it allowed me the time to work on the stories and the book in-depth and get it to where I was very happy with the end result.”
Leary also cited the influence of literary hero J.D. Salinger in continuing the characters’ stories.
“I’m a big Salinger fan and in his collections of short stories you see characters and families reoccur, which I always enjoyed,” Leary said. “You become attached to characters after you read their stories and want to revisit them. I wanted to do the same with these characters as a writer. I wanted to spend time with them again. I hope readers feel the same way.”
Both “Every Number” and “Shed Skin” offer optimistic short stories – some of which are poignant and heartfelt, others of which are lighthearted and humorous – but whereas the overarching theme in “Every Number” was about people’s perceptions of their lives shaping their happiness, the theme in “Shed Snake” is about maintaining faith, perspective and optimism in difficult times and finding happiness through the tough patches of life.
“It’s about trying to remember the big picture,” Leary said. “Something can happen to you that you feel is the worst thing in the world, but five years later you can look back on it and see that it was actually the best thing in the world because it turned your life around in a way that ended up being a positive. You never really know until you get a full perspective on things, so as difficult as it may be it is integral to keep our faith and optimism, not just to try to make it through tough times but also to remember that sometimes things happen for a reason and we’re just not aware of what the reason is at the time.”
So far, advance buzz on the book is overwhelmingly positive. Advance reviews and author and media reviews of the work have been terrific.
Linda Cook, of the National Federation of Press Women, said, “Sean Leary understands the moments, big and small, that make us human. His story-poems – for Sean is a poet regardless of what form his writing takes — are driven by emotion and change, and each paints a moving, thought-provoking portrait that touches the reader’s heart and mind.”
Alison Baker, of Yahoo! Entertainment Chicago called the book “Brilliant,” “Incredibly entertaining” and said “If you jumbled the skewed humor of David Sedaris, the humanistic storytelling of John Steinbeck and the occult spiritualism and mystery of ‘Lost,’ you’d get something akin to Sean Leary’s stories.”
Matthew Clemens, co-author of ‘No One Will Hear You,’ wrote “Leary never fails to be honest and deliver the emotional goods, revealing himself, and if the reader looks within, they will see themselves, as well.”
The book isn’t a traditional sequel to “Every Number” but rather offers different stories about the same characters featured in that earlier book. Some of the stories happen chronologically before the events of “Every Number,” some are far in the future. Some characters play prominent roles in the new book while others merely make cameos. As with “Every Number,” the stories in “Shed Skin” can be read and enjoyed individually, but when pieced together, make up a greater interlocking tapestry akin to a novel.
“It’s kind of like the show ‘Lost,’ well, before the last few seasons when ‘Lost’ got off the rails,” Leary laughed. “But like ‘Lost,’ it features a number of characters whose lives intersect in unusual and interesting ways.”
“Every Number” was a critical and commercial success immediately upon its release in October 2006. It hit the best-seller lists in several Midwestern and Southern California cities and was accompanied by a book tour of signings at various locations. From the time of its release until the end of 2006, only one other book – “The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne – sold more books in the Quad-Cities than “Every Number.”
The book continued to be a solid favorite throughout the next several years. In early 2007, a group of fervent fans from Southern California began a petition to get the book selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick, sending the collection of letters and signatures to Harpo Studios in Chicago. In response, Leary received an e-mail from a producer at the Oprah Winfrey Show asking for a copy of the book and additional information.
“The book didn’t make the cut as a Book Club pick, and I’m sure it was just one of hundreds or thousands they might have looked at, but just the fact that it was even under consideration is a huge honor,” Leary said.
In 2010, “Every Number” received similar kudos from the Quad-Cities’ Oprah – KWQC’s Paula Sands. Sands called it one of the best books of the year and made it a pick for her own book club, saying “It really did make me laugh and make me cry… it’s a wonderful book. I loved it.”
Leary is hoping “Shed Skin” has a similar impact.
“Of course I’d love it to have the same critical acclaim and sales as ‘Every Number,’ or surpass it,” Leary said. “But what’s more important is that people read it and love it and that it has a positive impact on their lives. Whether that’s as small as them just enjoying it as a good read or as large as really helping them through a difficult time in their lives, I hope it has an impact, and I hope they enjoy it.”
So, will there be a sequel to “Shed Skin?”
“I don’t know,” Leary said. “I actually have about a half-dozen stories that didn’t make it in to this book. And I love writing about the Barstow family because they offer a universal mirror to a lot of situations people go through in life. I enjoy spending time with them. But if there is a sequel, it will be a few years down the line.”
Leary is currently working on several projects, including “Luna Death Trigger,” the latest novel in his Arimathean saga, which is about the three Magi as ninja wizards, and a “top secret” novel project. He’s also teaching filmmaking and creative writing to kids and the single father of an eight-year-old, Jackson, with whom he wrote and illustrated a children’s books, “Here Comes The Goot!” (2010) and four others including “We Are All Characters” (2015). “I’ve got a lot going on,” Leary said. “But life is never short on bringing surprises, hopefully positive ones. Just like in the book.”
For more information, see www.seanleary.com.