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Author/Reader Discussions > Above All Men Author/Reader Discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
I'm super excited about this giveaway. This is my all time favorite book of 2014, and if you know me, you know I don't say that lightly!


Next month, we'll be discussing Above All Men with author Eric Shonkwiler...

He and his publisher Midwestern Gothic have given us a total of 10 copies to give away (a mix of print - limited to US resident, and digital - open internationally).

I'm excited to be sharing this book with you. I fell so hard for it when I first read it and I know you will too!

In order to be considered, you must comment here or on the blog for a shot at winning one and secure a spot in the discussion that kicks off August 18th:


http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.c...


This giveaway will run through July 8th.

Winners will be announced here and via email (if you provide one) on July 9th.


Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads, stating why you'd like to receive a copy of the book, what format you prefer, and where you reside remember, only US residents can win a paper copy!. If you are a US resident, and prefer paper, please also list your consolation digital format (because there are only 3 paper copies available).

ONLY COMMENT ONCE. MULTIPLE COMMENTS DO NOT GAIN YOU ADDITIONAL CHANCES TO WIN.

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from August 18th through August 24th. Eric Shonkwiler has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for him.

*If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion right here in this thread next month.

3 - If your goodreads profile is blocked (set on private), please leave me another way to contact you.


message 2: by Angel (last edited Jul 01, 2014 07:19AM) (new)

Angel (gbelladauna) | 14 comments Your description makes it sound just like my kind of book.
Digital. (Kindle)
Pennsylvania.
I agree to participate in the group read book discussion.


message 3: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Farrell (vanaef) | 46 comments I would love to win a copy of this because it comes highly recommended and it is a new to me author. Also I really love this genre and it sounds intriguing! To participate in the group discussion would be fun. My format of choice would be a mobi copy. I am in the state of Texas.


message 4: by Xian Xian (new)

Xian Xian (XianXian) | 94 comments I have seen Above All Men in plenty of blogs and online zines talking about it. it sounds pretty cool and different from most apocalyptic books. The cover itself shows how cool it is. Since, I live in Jackson, New Jersey, then my format of choice is paperback, but I will be okay with mobi format if the paperback copies run out. I will agree to participate in the group read discussion.


message 5: by Tia (new)

Tia (proceedcyclone) | 8 comments I'd like to win a copy of this book because you called it post-apocalyptic in your description in the message and other reviewers have called it a mix of Steinbeck and McCarthy, which makes it irresistible. Also, my library doesn't have a copy yet, sadly.

I reside in the US and don't have a preference between paper or digital, though I would prefer epub as opposed to mobi, if possible. I also agree, of course, to participate in the discussion with the author in August.

-Tia


message 6: by Megan (new)

Megan (mmmega) | 12 comments I absolutely love apocalyptic books. The reviews for Above All Men give high praise for what sounds like an incredible story and one that I would not want to miss. I would, of course, participate in the discussion with the author. I'm up in Canada, so a digital copy compatible with my Kindle would be perfect.


message 7: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I would like to win a copy of this book because I LOVE post-apocalyptic books and I also love to discover and read books by new and upcoming authors. I am a resident of the US and will take either a print or digital copy (Kindle). I will also gladly participate in the book discussion next month.


message 8: by Lori (new)

Lori | 34 comments I would love to win a copy of this book because my son and I both love post-apocalyptic books, and I particulary trust Lori's recommendations in this regard. It's an extra bonus that the reviews state how beautifully written it is, despite the dark subject matter. So sign me up! I live in California (where the authoer got his Masters), prefer digital but will take paper, and will happily particpate in the discussion.


message 9: by Kate (new)

Kate | 10 comments Post-apocalyptic books are my favorite! I'd prefer a paper copy (I'm rather old school), and I live in Missouri. I've struggled to find a good book club here, so I will definitely participate in the discussion.


message 10: by Jane (new)

Jane | 11 comments Ooh sounds like an interesting read! I'm in Canada so digital copy for me please. I will also participate in the discussion should I win.


message 11: by Laura (new)

Laura O | 11 comments Hi,
Native Texan here, love the old traditional westerns, but I am most recently a big fan of 'The Walking Dead' series, which in reading the summary of 'Above All Men', sounds reminiscent or somewhat similar to TWD storyline. Have family from New Orleans area and during Katrina, they were forced to draw weapons to protect themselves in a desperate situation...I am most fascinated by survivalist stories at heart, because I wonder what I would do, what my family would do....
Love to participate in a discussion!!!


message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura O | 11 comments Oh sorry paper please!


message 13: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Bihlmayer | 81 comments love post apocalyptic books they are one of my favorite reads especially in the summer, would love to receive this book I would like a paper copy if possible, I'm in Chicago and I love doing these author discussion


message 14: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 125 comments I'd love to read this book and participate in the group discussion. I'm very curious to read Above All Men especially since Lori gave it such high praise. I live in the US and would like a print copy. If digital, I prefer the kindle copy.


message 15: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 112 comments I would love a paper copy and am a U.S. resident.


message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma | 8 comments Sounds like a good read! I'm based in New Zealand and would love an electronic (kindle) copy.


message 17: by Emma (new)

Emma | 8 comments Oh and I would look forward to participating in the group discussion.


Frau Sorge (Yuki) | 1 comments I'd love to read this book and I'd love to participate in the discussion. Since I'm not a US resident, I prefer the digital copy.


message 19: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Jul 09, 2014 08:01AM) (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
It's time to announce the winners!

Sadly, not everyone can win, since we had 20 total entries and only 10 copies to giveaway! I want to thank everyone for their interest, and for you non-winners, there's always next month!!!

Winners (who were pulled randomly) are:

Angel
Rhonda
Tia
Megan
Kelly
Lori
Jane
Emma
Yuki
(and dogboijoe, who entered over at the blog)

Check your goodreads inbox... messages are headed your way!


message 20: by Kandi (last edited Jul 14, 2014 10:56AM) (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments Thankfully, I bought this in Kindle format before reading about a "give away" event. I just finished reading it and had to say that I am so awed by this author! For the story, the issues it addresses and for his mastery in bringing it alive so vividly. I'm waiting anxiously for the book discussion and wanted to add that if you haven't read this yet, please start - it's amazing!


message 21: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
Cool, thanks Kandi! Looking forward to seeing you in the discussion.


message 22: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
Good morning everyone! Today's the day we kick off our discussion of ABOVE ALL MEN. Eric Shonkwiler should be joining soon, so I wanted to hop over and welcome him with a big ole bear hug....

Thanks so much for spending time with us this week, Eric! We're thrilled to have you, and I'm really excited to hear what the group thought of your book.

Let me start things off with a question...

Where did ABOVE ALL MEN come from? What was the inspiration behind it?


message 23: by Tia (new)

Tia (proceedcyclone) | 8 comments Eric, why did you choose to not use quotation marks when writing dialogue? While not necessarily a new technique, I've always found it an interesting choice but never really understood the reasoning behind it.

I'm trying really hard to finish it, but the life of a first-year-teacher (with three preps!) is crazy!

-Tia


message 24: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
What do you think of the parts you've read already, Tia?


message 25: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Lori wrote: "Good morning everyone! Today's the day we kick off our discussion of ABOVE ALL MEN. Eric Shonkwiler should be joining soon, so I wanted to hop over and welcome him with a big ole bear hug....

Than..."


Hi, Lori. Thanks so much for having me here at The Next Best Book Club. I've been looking forward to this for a while.

The origin story of Above All Men is a long one, and is caught up in a number of other projects going back about ten years. AAM emerged out of the deaths of my first two novels, with David and other characters already established to some extent in my mind. Though AAM has changed vastly from the first days of writing it in 2009, that's where it came from.

The world of AAM came from a frustration with politics and the way I saw our world leaning around 2008-2009. I wanted to create a landscape that was ruined by inaction and overreaction, by ignorance and greed. The burned-out dustbowl of the Midwest is what I came up with. The characters were seeded on a single, particular day; I was asking my uncle about Vietnam. He wouldn't tell me very much, but I got enough out of the raw edges of what he said. Surrounded, at one point, he told me a friend of his gripped his arm, said, "kill as many as you can," and disappeared. The dynamic of David and Red got its start from that sentence--the man who sees that situation and says that, and the man who hears it.


message 26: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Tia wrote: "Eric, why did you choose to not use quotation marks when writing dialogue? While not necessarily a new technique, I've always found it an interesting choice but never really understood the reasonin..."


Thank you for your question, Tia. It's becoming a popular stylistic choice, isn't it? I'd be fibbing if I said I didn't get the idea from Cormac McCarthy, but sticking to that style in my book goes beyond admiration. Simply put, quotation marks felt like a decoration to me. Seeing them on the page in Above All Men felt wrong. If I worked hard enough (and if the reader did, too), I felt the reader could come to understand their lack, and that the absence of quotation marks would add more to the experience of reading than their presence would ease. Does that make sense?


message 27: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments I, personally, thought the writing style fit perfectly with the dialogue of the characters. It took just a while to get used to it, but in the end, I really enjoyed the impact of writing this way.

My favorite part of this novel is how the author let the story unfold, slowly - the characters and their backgrounds; the slowly creeping climate changes and how it affected the community; the descriptions of how various townspeople coped with each new change. As fuel and telecommunications became sporadic, I felt the author described it in a very authentic, realistic way.


message 28: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
Kandi,

That's one of things I loved the most about the book too. The tempered unfolding of the story. It took this slow, deliberate path that forced you to savor every second.... You didn't want to miss a word.


message 29: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments "The world of AAM came from a frustration with politics and the way I saw our world leaning around 2008-2009. I wanted to create a landscape that was ruined by inaction and overreaction, by ignorance and greed. The burned-out dustbowl of the Midwest is what I came up with. The characters were seeded on a single, particular day; I was asking my uncle about Vietnam. He wouldn't tell me very much, but I got enough out of the raw edges of what he said. Surrounded, at one point, he told me a friend of his gripped his arm, said, "kill as many as you can," and disappeared. The dynamic of David and Red got its start from that sentence--the man who sees that situation and says that, and the man who hears it."

This is exactly what I got from reading this, Eric! I grew up in the Vietnam era - knew quite a few guys who served over there - and I kept remembering my own short conversations with them when they got back. No one wanted to talk about it - just like in your novel.

I felt this book was right on target and that 2008-2009 is when I, myself, began getting more and more concerned about the politics of climate change. Thank you for adding that bit of background!


message 30: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments Totally agree, Lori. In fact, I haven't stopped thinking about AAM to this day. Even now, I find myself sitting quietly and pondering the impact to every single chapter. I, frankly, thought Eric's work was amazing in so many ways, I can't even comment on them all! I wanted, and yet didn't - the book never to end...


message 31: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments Eric, do you personally know someone, or have you interviewed war veterans to gain insight in PTSD? From my personal experience with those who suffer from it, you were so on-target in your description of David Parrish's fight with it. I feel that publishing this work now has been perfectly timed - hopefully it will give insight as to the many struggles our soldiers come home with.

Like I said, there are just so many issues that you included in AAM that are relevant today. It is truly a brilliantly constructed story.


message 32: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book, Kandi, and it tickles me to see that my influences match those moments in your life.


message 33: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Kandi wrote: "Eric, do you personally know someone, or have you interviewed war veterans to gain insight in PTSD? From my personal experience with those who suffer from it, you were so on-target in your descript..."

Aside from my uncle, who suffered from PTSD long before it had that name, one of my best friends is an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran who struggles with a pretty low-key PTSD every now and then. I've been around him enough to know when he's about to boil over, and how to deal with it. Some of those experiences, surely, fed into David.


message 34: by Woogie! Kristin! (new)

Woogie! Kristin! (Woogie) | 1 comments Eric, I don't have a true question, but I want to reiterate Kandi's comment that you have portrayed PTSD very, very well. My personal experience is not related to war, but the message is transferable. You've also done an excellent job of really capturing life in the rural Midwest. I was born in Missouri, and while I lived in the 'burbs, I had family and friends in rural parts of MO, KS and NB. Great job.


message 35: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Page Whether or not someone uses quotes for dialogue is interesting to me. I find it difficult to follow along with who is speaking vs. what's going on in a person's mind, and I don't know that I've ever gotten used to it. Irish author Roddy Doyle always starts dialogue with a dash and a new paragraph. His books seem long, but they are super-fast reads. If I remember correctly, there was a trend during which very few authors used quote marks, and I've always wondered why that was a trend. It's tending to go away, now. In a novel like AAM, I can see how leaving out the quote marks adds to the slippage between reality and memory and thoughts and words. I'm getting the impression that it doesn't matter if I'm 100% sure if David speaks or thinks what's on the page. When you were writing, Eric, did you wish to create that sense of slippage?


message 36: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Melanie wrote: "Whether or not someone uses quotes for dialogue is interesting to me. I find it difficult to follow along with who is speaking vs. what's going on in a person's mind, and I don't know that I've eve..."

Probably the most interesting thing that readers have come to me with is that idea of slippage. I'm almost embarrassed to say that it was entirely unintentional, and so I'm a little bewildered when confronted with it. All I can really say to that is that I'm glad it wasn't a mistake--no one has said that it detracts from the experience, and so I'll just chalk it up to my subconscious working a little unintended magic.

I had considered alternative marks to set off dialogue. Dashes, single quotes, etc. Ultimately, they all seemed like interference, instances in which the author was clearly trying to tell the reader something, or to guide them along. For Above All Men, at least, it felt right to keep the reader alone and self-reliant.


message 37: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Aug 18, 2014 08:05AM) (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9639 comments Mod
Most of my favorite authors play with the way their characters speak, and the way they denote speech. I find it very comfortable and easy to slip into, if the author does it right.

I also loved how you took your characters down some very difficult roads. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Was there a moment when you saw where you had to take the story and thought "man, I really don't want to do that..."?


message 38: by Lori (new)

Lori | 34 comments Hi Eric,

AAM was amazing. It was particularly gut-wrenching for me because I have a 13 yr old boy and I kept imagining how he would react and how I as a parent would help him navigate such a bleak world. I thought you did an amazing job of of portraying how the relentless march of events impacted Samuel and his parents. Bad things kept happening and there was nowhere to hide, no way to say "oh that's happening to other people somewhere else in the world, we don't have to worry." I really felt for Helene, the mom who had to help her son deal with the fallout because David kept leaving to fulfill his need to make things right. My question is, how did you determine how these family relationships would evolve and play out, and was the ending *** SPOILER*** Samuel's departure, inevitable?


message 39: by Jane (new)

Jane | 11 comments The main aspect I liked about David's PTSD was how it affected his relationship with his wife. I found their relationship so fragile that I almost questioned if they were really "together." It seemed like the mother was more Samuel's other caregiver rather than someone David considers family. I think this was because we don't get to hear much from her point of view, and David's always got one foot out the door. I wondered if in addition to David's PTSD, he feels guilty for leaving his wife and baby for a war, and has spent the rest of his life avoiding that guilt by avoiding her emotionally.

So it was interesting to see how David was very concerned about Samuel's well being, how he tried to ensure that his son didn't think war and fighting were great things, but at the same time he didn't give his wife the same amount of thought. There was always this gap between them that isn't going anywhere. David can't function properly in this relationship because he's dealing with war trauma, and his wife can't (I'm sorry I can't remember her name - I read it a month ago and I didn't write the name in my notes) because she always fears David will leave them again and she is never really reassured that he won't.


message 40: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Woogie! Kristin! wrote: "Eric, I don't have a true question, but I want to reiterate Kandi's comment that you have portrayed PTSD very, very well. My personal experience is not related to war, but the message is transferab..."

Thanks, Kristin. PTSD is an important, and sometimes delicate, issue. Hearing that I got it right is one of the best compliments I can receive.


message 41: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Lori wrote: "Most of my favorite authors play with the way their characters speak, and the way they denote speech. I find it very comfortable and easy to slip into, if the author does it right.

I also loved h..."


The last big revision I made to AAM contained the hard stuff. The treehouse scene was a difficult one, and the scene in the church. The "bigger" plot elements I had lived with a long time, but a lot of the David-on-the-hunt scenes were relatively new, and part of a darker David than I was used to. Putting him there in that church was pretty hard.


message 42: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Lori wrote: "Hi Eric,

AAM was amazing. It was particularly gut-wrenching for me because I have a 13 yr old boy and I kept imagining how he would react and how I as a parent would help him navigate such a bleak..."


Thanks, Lori. Helene is the unsung hero of AAM. You get to see David run around fighting for what he believes in, but there's not a whole lot of time devoted to Helene continually holding David (and Sam, and O H, and Delia, and Mel)up while the world crumbles.

I don't think I did too much deciding. I did my best to let the reactions to events, and the fallout thereof, be natural. There was a time or two that I was so blinded by other parts of the book that some things had to be pointed out to me, I'll admit, but when that happened I always corrected the scenes or reactions toward the natural. As such, I think Sam's departure was inevitable, though I might not have known it the whole time writing. I wanted, from the outset, for this to be a novel of Grecian defeat. Everything David puts his hand toward gets reversed--that was my goal. So, even while the death of Samuel or David at the end might have been more dramatic, it wouldn't have been quite as tragic. If Sam died, David could hide in his rage. If David died, likely he died protecting his son. But Sam leaving? David has a lot more to wrestle with, there.


message 43: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Jane wrote: "The main aspect I liked about David's PTSD was how it affected his relationship with his wife. I found their relationship so fragile that I almost questioned if they were really "together." It seem..."

I like that interpretation, Jane. And it's pretty close to how I feel about them, too. You can make chasms in a relationship that seem impossible to cross, and yet they don't end the feelings you have for that person. I think (and I don't subscribe to the idea that I'm the authority on interpreting my own book) David and Helene still love each other, and are together, but I think David has opened this chasm that will likely never be healed. His leaving, ironically, traumatized Helene, and made her vulnerable and volatile in a way not unlike himself. You put two people like that together, and it's understandable you might prefer going out the door to confrontation.


message 44: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Farrell (vanaef) | 46 comments Hi Eric! I am finishing the last twenty percent of your book right now but I did want to comment that I really like your writing style with this story. Instead of feeling like I am reading a story that someone is telling me without the quotations I feel like I am experiencing the story as it is unfolding.
Also sometimes the weirdest things will stick with me and one of those is the explanation of how O. H. Reckard got his name!


message 45: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Rhonda wrote: "Hi Eric! I am finishing the last twenty percent of your book right now but I did want to comment that I really like your writing style with this story. Instead of feeling like I am reading a story..."

Hi, Rhonda. I like your way of reading the book. That's probably the best side-effect of the no-quotes approach I've heard so far.

I love O H. Finally bringing him into the novel was a lot of fun, for me. He's a great foil for David, isn't he?


message 46: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Farrell (vanaef) | 46 comments Also while I am waiting to comment on the story more till I actually finish it I thought I would ask what is your typical routine or ritual for working on your wriitng? Like do you write at the same time everyday or are you like an avid reader who finds themselves unable to escape the world in which they are in, only to finally realize that the day has quickly slipped away.


message 47: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Rhonda wrote: "Also while I am waiting to comment on the story more till I actually finish it I thought I would ask what is your typical routine or ritual for working on your wriitng? Like do you write at the sam..."

My typical routine is changing, as I have new responsibilities with promoting AAM. In the past, a good writing day involved at least five hours at a coffee shop (Donkey Coffee in Athens, Ohio, was my most productive venue) with my laptop. Any time I broke over 2,000 words, I was doing fine. The time of day doesn't matter too awful much, so long as I'm well-fed. The best writing days I've had were eight hour stretches after which I'd stumble home, exhausted, feeling almost drunk.


message 48: by Eric (new)

Eric | 59 comments Kandi wrote: "And I'd like to ask you, Eric, if you'll be releasing a new book in the near future? I'd probably be one of the first in line.

Another question I have is whether you've continued to have good feed..."


I've got a book ready to go to publishers, but it will likely be at least a year before anyone sees it--that's just how long the process takes. I'm eager to get it out into the world, though.

I've been lucky enough to get a lot of encouragement from my readers. The criticism I've received has been measured, and expected. AAM is, top to bottom, a rather chest-thumpy seeming book. Its cover is masculine, its title is masculine, its contents are stock in trade masculine. That said, I did what I could within the bounds of the story to reflect as broad and diverse a worldview as possible--and where I couldn't, I still tried to serve what I think is a realistic equality. I'm of the opinion that you can't, or shouldn't, bend a narrative to please critics. Above All Men is not a story that allowed for the expression of the feminist ideals I believe strongly in, and I would be doing the story a disservice to try and fit those ideals into the book. There are a great many causes I'd like to address in my writing, but I won't compromise the book I'm writing in order to do so. I can only address subjects that are germaine to the telling of the story itself, and to ask more of a book, I think, is a little silly.

If anyone here is up for it, try "Rene," a novella I wrote that is almost entirely about gender roles, race, and identity: https://fiddleblack.org/journal/issue...


message 49: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments Thank you for the link - I will definitely read "Rene" with interest and wait however long for your next novel.

I "deleted" my comment because I didn't want it to sound like a complaint. Nor did I want to open up the flood gates of political "rants". I, personally, felt you did a wonderful job with all of the characters, whether they were male or female, so it confused me when I got that type of feedback. I was confused by others interpretation of the characters as I didn't view them that way. It confused me to hear people still deny climate change but I know that there are a lot of differing viewpoints depending on political ideology. I felt that you did a wonderful job by NOT expressing an "in-your-face" political agenda - that's what attracted me to your book and why the topics drew me in. It's also why I can't seem to get this book off my mind.

Many of the issues featured in this story are currently being discussed every day in the U.S. Veteran's benefits and healthcare, PTSD, energy and fuel, involvement in global politics and war, climate change and even consumerism. Rural residents have long-held views, just as urban residents do - these opposing viewpoints seem to be very contentious in our current political landscape but I didn't expect the responses I, myself, received.

Again - I can't praise your work highly enough. You have a great future ahead of you, in my opinion!


message 50: by Kandi (new)

Kandi (KandiN) | 9 comments And also - just reviewing the names of people taking part in this discussion today? Women are definitely relating to your work, therefore my personal experience must be just an anomaly.


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