Fort Thomas native and Veterinarian Lydia Staggs can now add author to her resume with the publication of her novel Shamar.
Lydia, who now lives in Panama City Beach, works as an aquatic veterinarian at the largest marine rehabilitation center in the Florida panhandle and is an affiliate professor at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She has rescued dolphins stranded in swimming pools during Hurricane Katrina and has de-oiled hundreds of animals affected by the BP oil spill.
1- What inspired you to write a novel? Was there a person or event that inspired this particular story?
If you had told me when I was younger I had written a novel, I would have laughed at you. I never thought about being a writer. I have always been an avid reader. A few years ago, I was still in my "resist the e-books" phase. I wanted that physical book in my hands. I went to a book store looking for a new book to read.
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I then decided to walk around to just see if something caught my eye. I walked by the "Young Adults" section, and happened to notice some of my favorite titles in this area. When I saw Jane Austin and Shakespeare had been placed here, I got very angry for some reason. It seemed to me, the impression was women only wanted to read romance novels, and some of the classic authors were now considered teenage literature.
This lead me to whining about this situation to some friends of mine at work, and we joked around that maybe I should write something. I started writing a few days later, and it took off.
2 - The title, Shamar, and the book cover seem ominous. What's the story about?
Shamar is Hebrew for protector, which is explained in the book. As for the cover, I like the color black. To me, it is a classic, clean color. Throughout this book there is a theme [developed] with colors. The animal eyes are those of a wolf, which is the animal our main character, Juliet, rescues at the beginning of the book.
The story is about Juliet Greene, a veterinarian, who goes back to Kentucky to work. She is involved in an anti-poaching program in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. She thinks she is saving the life of an ordinary wolf, but soon some rather interesting things start taking place in her life, and her patient mysteriously vanishes. In this small Kentucky town, Juliet meets a wide cast of characters, and they seem to all be hiding something from her. She struggles to find the truth, but when she does, it comes with a price.
3 - Who is your intended audience?
Anyone who likes fantasy fiction, should like this book, but I mostly geared it towards female readers.
4- How long did it take to write? Did you establish a writing routine? Was it easier or harder than you think?
Since I am a full time veterinarian, it took me 3 months to write the first draft, and then almost a year of revisions. I had someone help me edit the book and give me feedback the entire way. I then let five people read it to get their thoughts on it. My parents didn't even know about this until I got my first acceptance letter from a publisher.
I decided to write every night after I tucked my child into bed. I would write between thirty minutes to an hour. The writing was easier than I expected, but getting it published was harder. There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through.
5 - How can people buy your book? Will you ever do a book signing in Fort Thomas?
My book can be purchased either directly from my publisher, A-Argus Better Book Publishers, or any of the major book sellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It is also available electronically.
I would love to do a book signing in Fort Thomas. The book is set in a town in Kentucky, and I wanted to highlight my home state. It would mean a lot to me to be able to come back home, and have a book signing.