Friday, March 6, 2015

Author Shannon Baker…Canyonlands National Park: Fact v Fiction {+ Giveaway}

Tattered Legacy by Shannon Baker(Note: The winner of this giveaway is Stephanie Faris. Congratulations Stephanie and thanks to all that have visited.)

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Shannon Baker to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about her current release, TATTERED LEGACY, which I reviewed Tuesday.

Shannon joins us to tell how TATTERED LEGACY came about and share a conversation between her and Laura Kamala, who is concerned about the Canyonlands National Park. Welcome, Shannon. 

On a sunny, early summer day, I stopped in Moab on my way from Flagstaff to Boulder. I’d just finished my stint at the Grand Canyon Trust and was excited about starting a new business venture in Colorado. I was meeting my good friend Laura Kamala for lunch at my halfway mark. I had also finished book 2 of the Nora Abbott series, BROKEN TRUST, and was casting about for a new plot for the third book. 

Laura was equally pumped about the project consuming her life. A Grand Canyon Trust pal, Director of Utah Programs, Laura was, and is, passionate about protecting Canyonlands National Park borderlands from overuse and devastating oil and gas drilling. 

I’d never seen Laura so animated as she spoke of her film project aimed at creating a documentary to showcase the park and convince the American public and the President to expand the boundaries via a new national monument. She’d been scouting for film sites, gathering interviews from prominent environmentalists, doing time-lapse photography, and even a helicopter shoot. 

As the conversation continued I got an idea. “Who would hate this project so much they’d want to kill you?”

Laura didn’t miss a beat. She’s a big reader and had read TAINTED MOUNTAIN and a draft of BROKEN TRUST. “Let me think….” And we were off.

Stories can progress much like a child’s game of telephone. They start off with one clear idea and by the time the book is finished, it’s become something else entirely. So I thought it would be fun for readers to reconnect with Laura about her real life film project, what she’d expected from Nora’s story about it, and her impressions of the end product. 

Shannon: When we brainstormed about the film project and murder, we mostly discussed details about Canyonlands and why it needed protecting. We talked about the process of making the film. I went home and played a what-if game to create the character of Lisa, Nora’s best friend who is the producer of the film and the one murdered. I purposely wanted to make her different from you. You're a deep, quiet, mountain lake, powerful in your serenity. Where I see Lisa as this flash flood of wild activity. At some point, Lisa became a real person to me and told me about herself and she turned out to be totally different from you, even down to her being a lesbian. When you read the book, knowing the starting point was your film, did you identify with Lisa?

Laura: Thank you, Shannon, for the opportunity to have this conversation. I certainly identified with Lisa’s enthusiasm for protecting a beloved landscape, not so much the part about being a murder victim, I’m laughing. 

Shannon: You aren’t a native of Utah. How did you happen to put down roots here? 

Laura: I’ve lived in southeast Utah for 38 years, after a book fell off the shelf at the Rutgers University library in New Jersey hitting me in the leg and setting me on a path; it was Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

Shannon: I was really nervous handing you the manuscript after I’d finished it. I worried that you’d be expecting a more thorough treatment of the dire threats to Canyonlands and that you might be disappointed when everything in TATTERED LEGACY didn’t put Moab and its people in the best light. We’re still friends, so I must not have torqued you off too badly. Did I get it wrong? Were you disappointed? 

Laura: You’ve written a wonderful story inspired by some real life events and it’s fiction. You’re good at making stuff up; I wouldn’t describe events as inaccurate when they feed the story line. Are there inaccuracies in fiction?

Shannon: When we talked about the book and during the process when I’d ask questions, what were your hopes and expectations for addressing the Canyonlands issue in TATTERED LEGACY?

Laura: Honestly, Shannon, I didn’t have a personal agenda about the Canyonlands story for TATTERED LEGACY. I was delighted that you would be spreading awareness about the need to protect the Greater Canyonlands region. I’ve read all of your books and I knew I’d be in for an adventure with this one. You entertain by creatively surprising the reader in your stories, your quirky characters make me laugh and there are plenty of wildly dramatic interludes for adrenaline junkies like me.

Shannon: In TATTERED LEGACY, Lisa, the film’s producer, is murdered, but Nora does her best to make sure the film is finished. What ultimately happened with your project?

Laura: When it was almost completed, the film was killed by my former employer. Someone hated the project so much, they wanted to kill it! Thankfully, this was not a murder mystery story come to life. I learned the hard way that I should be making an independent film instead of working in partnership with a non-profit organization. We fell out over irreconcilable differences and politics; the story I was compelled to convey did not match their agenda.

Shannon: Your goal (and Nora’s in the book) is to bring awareness to the public about the need to expand the borders of Canyonlands. What is your response when people say (as characters in TATTERED LEGACY argue) that Utah already has enough protected land and if you took more land out of production it would hurt the hard-working people of Utah?

Laura: There is no other place on earth like southern Utah. Destroying this spectacular landscape with dirty energy production to primarily benefit multi-national corporations makes no sense at all, and ultimately fails to benefit local economies.

Shannon: What else would you like readers to know about Canyonlands and/or Moab and the area? 

Laura: It’s an astonishing place and worth a visit once in your life. For anyone wanting information about the unfolding story of Greater Canyonlands see or check out Protect Greater Canyonlands on Facebook. 

For a chance to win a copy of TATTERED LEGACY, ask me or Laura anything, or just leave a comment. (U.S. residents only).

Shannon, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at how TATTERED LEGACY came to be. It seems both you and Laura have interesting stories to tell about a beautiful area of our nation.

For those who aren’t familiar with Shannon, here’s a brief bit of background.

Shannon Baker, author of the Nora Abbott Mystery series involving murder, environment and Hopi Indians, can often be found backpacking, skiing, kayaking, cycling, or just playing lizard in the desert. From the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson, landscapes play an important role in her books.  

TAINTED MOUNTAIN, the first in her Nora Abbott Mystery Series, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder. She lived twenty years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1. 

When Shannon moved to Boulder, CO, Nora followed her and BROKEN TRUST is set in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. Shannon now makes her temporary home in Nebraska and believes her job description is now itinerate writer.

For more on Shannon and her writing, visit her website.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Shannon’s visit. If you have any questions for Shannon (or Laura), just sound off in the comments. If you don’t want to enter the giveaway, just say so in your comments. Do you enjoy learning where a story idea comes from?

*This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Sadly, far too many people would kill to stop parks being expanded. Particularly if oil/gas/coal rights were involved.
    Too much protected land is barely enough.
    Love this premise, and will track the book down. Thank you.

    1. So many see the vast landscapes of the west and think there's land to spare! They also see those $$ just waiting!

  2. What a unique way to get a story idea. Funny how it didn't throw Laura when asked who would kill her. And shame her movie never got finished.
    Congratulations, Shannon.

    1. Thanks. Laura is an avid reader and loves mysteries so this was right up her alley. I'm sure it was a much different book than she'd anticipated, though. She's a good sport!

  3. I hope that we Americans together can stop this pillage of our National

    1. I think there's real hope. Americans have set aside lots of lands. We just need to take care of it!

  4. Mason - Thanks for hosting Shannon.

    Shannon - Thanks for sharing the background of Tattered Legacy. National Parks are such good contexts for stories, and it's good to know something about the real Canyonlands. I wish you success.

  5. I've never stopped at Flagstaff but love the area - I've driven through there many times on trips between California and Texas. We need to protect our areas - so much devastation because of greed. The common people rarely benefit from it.

  6. I DO enjoy knowing where a storyline comes from. It makes the novel so much more interesting.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  7. This post was thought provoking and fascinating. I enjoyed learning about the author. The storyline in a book is important and thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(t)gmail(dot)com

  8. Great to see this new book has released. I have a signed copy of Broken Trust so Tattered Legacy would fit right in on my shelves, just sayin'. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  9. Great interview! I've never been to Utah but she makes it sound like a place I HAVE to visit!

  10. Shannon, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at how TATTERED LEGACY came to be. I always enjoy knowing the back story behind a book. Wishing you much success.

    Hi all, thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Sorry about being absent. Today was a travel day. But thanks so much Mason! Thanks all for stopping by.

  12. I loved this interview, and I'm in agreement that far too many people want to destroy land for developments, etc. It's cool you can incorporate that in a book


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.