Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for New Feet

So there's this scene, right at the beginning, where a whole bunch of folks doff their clothes and run stark-nekkid by an angry mob and scads of camera-rolling reporters.

And I was like, that's pretty cool. Show me some naked joggers and you've got my attention.

Ever since I discovered her extreme flash fiction talent, Florida author Shannon Esposito has held my attention, so it's no surprise that her latest novel, Strange New Feet, grabbed me from the get-go and never let up. Shannon's book was released last year and, I'm ashamed to say, I hadn't gotten around to reading it until just now. So this review is a little late in the coming but let me say this: it was so worth the wait.

If you're a fan of Patricia Cornwell's writing you'll love Strange New Feet. The main character, Safia Raine, reminds me a little of Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell's forensic pathologist. Both characters are smart, feisty, strong-minded professional women with open, bleeding hearts. Safia isn't a doctor but she does work at a hospital. She has a unique gift that allows her to find health problems in patients without invasive surgery. In one of these examinations she discovers the unthinkable – a teenager named Olivia isn't just any  girl – she's part chimpanzee. A chimera.

At this, Shannon dives into an explosive examination of what it means to be human. As well as being intellectually stimulating, the book never lacks for excitement. Olivia's life is threatened as the world freaks out about her DNA and Safia takes Olivia on the run to save her life.

Yes, yes, yes, it's got naked people and chase scenes and murder and mayhem, but it's the science that fascinates me the most. I asked Shannon how the heck she came up with the idea.
"The inspiration for this novel came from a meeting transcript I found online from the President's Council of Bioethics held in 2003 called something like "Chimeras and the Boundaries of Being Human." I am a huge science geek at heart so being able to read this transcipt and how these scientists were trying to figure out the future for a human-chimpanzee chimera was like Christmas. They weren't saying "if" they were saying "when" we go this far. They were asking things like, "Would they be exploited by being forced to do menial & dangerous labor? Would they have a right to a public school education if they had the capacity to learn? Would the public think of this new creation as an ehnanced chimp or a degraded human?" Basically for me, the immediate question that needs answered is what exactly does it mean to be human? And then how human would this chimera need to be to be afforded human rights? After about a year of fascinating and terrifying research, I was armed and ready to tackle the question for myself. So, I created Olivia, a 14 year old human-chimpanzee girl, and put her out in the world of my near-future novel. Then let the games begin.  Safia Raine, the other main character, is actually the daughter of the main character of my first book, Sahara's Song. I wanted to write a sequel with Safia and she just happened to work perfectly as Olivia's ally.
"This was a labor of love, so I'm donating all proceeds of this book to Nowzad rescue. They help bring home the dogs that our soldiers get attached to while they're overseas. I know that science isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think the discussions the characters have over what makes us human would be interesting to...well, any human!"
But what about the naked people, Shannon?
"Okay, let's talk about the "nekkid" scene! Isn't it great as a writer to be able to put your characters in these situations that you would never be brave enough to do in real life? This was one of those for me. I wanted to show Safia's character, that she would do whatever was neccessary to protect the people she loved. Plus, the best way to stop a fight is to get naked, right? Stop laughing, you know you're going to try it next time!"
One of the reasons I was finally compelled to read Shannon's book was I bought a Kindle. Maybe it's just because it's a novelty but I'm really enjoying the device. I like being able to hold it comfortably in my arthritic hands. I like the fact it holds tons of books and yet fits in my purse. And I like being able to increase the font size - the older I get, the bigger the fonts get!

Mostly, I'm excited about being able to read authors I never would have gotten a chance to read. Suddenly publishing isn't an exclusive club. Anyone can write a book and have it "put out there" for the world to enjoy. That's exciting both from a reader and a writer's standpoint.

While Strange New Feet is self-published, Shannon isn't giving up on traditional publishing.
"As far as the whole self-publishing thing goes, I think this is an exciting time to be a writer. We are in more control of our own destiny now than ever. I'm not giving up on traditional publishing, though. It still has a lot to offer for a new writer, such as getting into places like Walmart, Target, Costco, etc. I actually have a paranormal mystery I'm shopping for an agent now that I hope I can find a traditional publisher for. But, I also have another mystery series idea that I'm working on that I will e-publish myself. Both formats support each other's sales, so what do we have to lose? As far as e-book sales for me, they are trickling in. But I'm not doing any marketing. Right now I'm just writing, writing and writing!"
And that's what I should be doing. Writing! Sometimes, though, it's good to put the pen down and do some reading. Especially when you're reading some Shannon Esposito.

Shannon has two other novels as well as Strange New Feet. Click on the titles for buying information.

Strange New Feet

Sahara's Song

The Monarch

You can find out more about Shannon (and read some of her wonderful flash stories) at her blog, Murder in Paradise.



  1. Dang, you turned that letter into one heck of a Sesame-esque plug. Shannon certainly is a talented writer.

  2. Seems like a fascinating book. I loved the interview!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am glad you got a good laugh. I did tour the student, I just laughed at her comment and added: "I know, it's an old ladies' name, but I love it!" It's true, I haven't met so many women named "Doris" until I went to work for nursing



  3. Thanks for sharing, I love reading about how people come up with their ideas and so on, great blog and thanks for stopping by mine.

  4. I like the title and it sounds like a very interesting book. Great interview you two and best of luck with it Shannon!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to write such a sparkly review, Cathy! I'm glad you enjoyed the story & the science in it. It's a hard sell :-)

    I miss you and the friday flash gang now that I'm concentrating on the novels. But as Arnold said "I'll be back" (insert silly accent there)

    Thanks again, you seriously rock! xoxox

  6. Great review - Sounds very compelling. Especially with self-pub books, it's sometimes hard to know which ones to go for. I think using your blog as a platform for helping other writers and readers is great. Outside of the blogosphere, there is very little marketing for some of these books, so it is good for me (as a reader) to hear about new, exciting books.

  7. You had me at a half girl, half chimp named Olivia. What's not to like?!! I haven't caught up with Shannon's latest, but your review tells me it must be my next must read. Thanks for the insight! ~ Olivia

  8. Sounds like a good book. It has a very interesting premises. Half chimp, Half girl.
    I think I have met a couple of half ape, half man. But never someone like Olivia.

  9. Sounds like a great book - ethical questions are great-they make us think! I am definitely going to have to check this one out.

  10. Sounds interesting I'll have to stop by the library and see if I can find it. Thanks for the reading recommendation.

  11. Great review Cathy, and congrats to Shannon! It is now on my official list of things to I better get off the computer and get on that.

  12. Well, since you did mention the naked people more than twice (I think), I suppose I am now obligated to check it out.

  13. Great review, Cathy. I am a fan, and have seen this around, but am embarrassed to say, I hadn't really looked into it.

    I have been kinda busy, but that is a crappy excuse.

    I am going to have to check this out. Shannon's Story "Her Migration" opens the Best of Friday Flash Volume one. It's so beautifully written and memorable, I definitely want to read more. :-)

  14. I love Shannon's writing, and this was one excellent plug for her work.


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