Shane ‘S.K.’ Healy is a Cork, Ireland based indie author and musician. A UCC Music graduate, he faced a setback after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and turned to writing as a creative sanctuary. After getting back on his feet he worked in radio, online freelance journalism and music retail. He wants his debut novel, ‘Once Upon a Human Sky’ to remind readers of how they are able and have unique talents in a world that doesn’t always encourage us to think that way. Also, we still have time to slow climate change – do what you can! Meet Shane…
You are an author, but is it your day job? I guess I am! No, it’s not. Music is kind of my first love. I have a degree from UCC in Ireland. Guitar and voice are my main instruments. For the last nine years I’ve worked in an independent record shop in Cork called MusicZone where I get to meet likeminded people every day, host in-store gigs and explore and listen to great music. Other than that, I love going to the cinema and watching soccer among other things.
Did you always want to be an author? No, I don’t think so. I have written since my early teens, I wrote a short biography and novella in school, but wanted to be a full time musician i.e. rockstar! Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in my early 20s and couldn’t perform or be in groups any more. As I went through therapy and recovery I began to journal and write more poetry again. I also read a lot (for me; I’m a slow reader) and wrote the occasional fan fiction for sci fi movies I liked. After getting encouragement in poetry, I decided to write a novel. The pandemic helped with spare time.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My most recent book is my debut novel, Once Upon a Human Sky. Lots of things inspired me, from my previous work in radio to climate change to Scientology and Trump. But I suppose the most important inspiration is from mine and my friend’s mental health battles. As I said, I went through years of therapy, seeing different psychologists, taking part in courses and groups, medication, meditation, cbt. I learned a lot. And that’s part of the book.
My friend unfortunately passed away on January 7th. We would email each other weekly. Around the time I started writing the book, she was admitted to a specialist hospital in the UK and it was also around the time that Covid hit as well. That made it very difficult for people to visit her. It was so hard for her and I felt awful. I wanted to create a world in which she and others with struggles could be free and flourish with their innate gifts. The book starts in a hospital setting.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? Following on from my last answer, I want people with life struggles to see hope. And that a happy space can be found in unlikely places. I came out the other side of my health condition and life is brighter for me now. I still have bad days but I have learned to manage it and keep going. The thing with life is, it’s always changing. And there will be tough times, but time and a little bit of hope and perseverance can change things quicker than you think.
What are you most excited about with this book? The world and characters I have created, but also that other people will get to be in it with them. I genuinely loved writing about and being in the world of Aunn Teer with Bill and his friends (and enemies).
What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? I guess be interested in everything. The great thing about art is you can enjoy it but also be influenced and educated by it. It’s fun. I love movies. I love critiquing them afterwards and thinking about how they’re written. I also love video games, books, series, sport, music, photography, astronomy, nature, news, cooking. From working in a record shop, people are also really important. Being interested in people is so important in building empathy and learning about life stories. To succeed in anything, I suppose being interested in it at a fundamental level , as simple as that sounds, is the key.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism? I find when people are direct and honest with criticism, it’s mostly helpful. I don’t like when people are sarcastic or veiled in their criticism. It reminds me of a kind of bullying. With setbacks and criticism, usually I try to take it on board and improve myself with it in mind or change strategy. For example, when I received rejections from publishers with my book, it made me determined to make the self publishing route work.
Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? To be honest, as much as I enjoyed writing the book, I can’t say I enjoy a lot of the publicity side of it. That probably comes from my mental health issues. A couple years ago I found myself very depressed and anxious because of social media and what people said or didn’t say.
I talked about it with my friend, who’s also my boss, and he advised that I avoid social media. I did that for a year or so and found myself to be a lot happier. I gained confidence again over time and now with my book I have ventured back on social media a bit more. I just think of the book, the world, characters, my friend, and the work I put in and use that as motivation to grin and bare the social media excursions nowadays.
Also, having a few really good friends on there helps too, because you know they will always have your back. Their encouragement helps you to speak up for yourself, in a world where it’s all ‘me me me’.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I don’t hold myself accountable. I think you can only do what you can do and it has to come somewhat naturally. Again, I have come from a low base. For me, getting up and feeding my dogs is an achievement or listening to an album or making a cup of tea. I think the smallest and most basic of things in a day should be considered an achievement, but unfortunately in the world we live in, success has to be so incredibly big and stressful a lot of the time. That being said, if you’re motivated and enthused by something then you should pursue it, just don’t force it.
How do you structure your day and make time for writing? When I write poetry, I do the majority of it late at night on my iPad. I’ve always been a night bird and it’s when I feel most creative. Usually my partner, Noelle, is asleep next to me as I write. But I haven’t been writing as much poetry in the last year or so. When I was writing the novel, I would tend to go into the room with my records (circular plastic that plays music) and write for an hour or two around 9pm a few nights a week. My memory is a bit hazy around it. Time and memory were weird during Covid.
What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen With working in a record shop, it’s genuinely the people. And being able to discover new excellent music as recommended by people. With writing I guess it’s being able to be on your own and use your imagination.
What book uplifts you? One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is definitely one, and it was an influence on my book. My friend, Cethan Leahy’s book, Tuesdays Are Just As Bad is another. It inspired me to write my own and is fantastic in how it shows a lighthearted and funny side to mental health issues. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene for being awe-inspiring with regards to the universe, nature and existence. I’ve only seen the most recent film, but Little Women. I felt really inspired by the character of Jo Marsh and her endeavors to publish a book.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? After I’ve done my promotional work with this, I’m hoping to work on recording and releasing music under a different name; there’s a clue in the book!I genuinely hope you’ll enjoy the adventure I’ve written and feel free to reach out to me if you want and connect with me on Instagram.
Images Courtesy of Shane ‘S.K.’ Healy
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