Today I am interviewing Peng Shepherd, author of the new dystopian novel, The Book of M.
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DJ: Hi Peng! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Peng Shepherd: Thank you for having me! The Book of M is my first novel, and it still feels like a dream that it’s actually out there. I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid, but really decided to get serious about it several years ago. I moved to New York to attend NYU’s MFA in creative writing program, which is where I first got the seed of the idea for this book, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I finished it. Before that, I studied International Studies and Diplomacy and worked for several years in the private security industry. Very different, I know!
DJ: What is The Book of M about?
Peng: The Book of M is about a mysterious phenomenon that first causes one person’s shadow to disappear, but then rapidly spreads across the globe, with terrifying effects—those who lose their shadows also start to lose their memories, but at the same time gain a new, dangerous kind of magic, and this begins to tear the world apart.
Husband Ory and wife Max have survived unscathed for two years, until at the beginning of the book, Max’s shadow suddenly disappears too, which forces them decide whether to keep hiding or to confront the nightmarish land outside their hideout in the hope of finding a cure.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Book of M?
Peng: I love big, sprawling stories set in our world but with some kind of fantastical or sci-fi twist, like Stephen King’s The Stand, Justin Cronin’s The Passage series, or Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. I really admire how those authors made each character feel so real, and how frighteningly possible their fictional realities seemed.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Peng: The book is told from four characters’ perspectives, each one affected by the shadowless curse in different ways. Ory just wants to keep his wife Max safe; Max is the one who loses her shadow and begins developing strange magic powers; Naz finds herself leading a war to save what she thinks is the key to a possible cure; and last is someone called “the amnesiac”, who also has no memories, but for a very different reason than the rest of the shadowless, and who might understand them better than anyone.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Book of M?
Peng: I really enjoyed weaving together the four different threads of the story. Sometimes I almost felt like I was discovering how it would all connect as the characters did! All of them want the same thing, but they go about trying to get it in very different ways, and end up very far away from each other and facing very different struggles. It was really challenging and rewarding to see if I could lead them all back together in the end.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Peng: I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think it’ll be the ending—I can’t say more than that though!
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Book of M that you can share with us?
Peng: “Did you know that the word that means a group of elephants together is memory?” he asked. “A memory of elephants.”
DJ: Now that The Book of M is released, what is next for you?
Peng: I’m in the very early stages of working on a second novel. I’m still figuring out exactly where it’s going, but I think it might have to do with missing artifacts, a shadowy organization, and a secret city…
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Website / Newsletter: www.pengshepherd.com
Goodreads: Peng Shepherd (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16889286.Peng_Shepherd)
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Book of M that we haven’t talked about yet?
Peng: Ooo, that’s a good question! I’d like readers to know that even though a lot of the book is fantastical, some of the events and characters were actually inspired by real life, which can sometimes be just as magical as fiction. Zero Shadow Day, for example, is an actual day that occurs every year in India, and the two elephants that appear in the story and do incredible things were based off real elephants that lived in the 1970’s.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Peng: Thank you!
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*** The Book of M is published by Willam Morrow and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.
About the Author:
Peng was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet. She earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, and has lived in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. The Book of M is her first novel.