Kieran Shields Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Kieran Shields

Kieran Shields

How to pronounce Kieran Shields: KEER-an (first syllable rhymes with "here")

An interview with Kieran Shields

In an article entitled "Literary Grave Robbing in The Truth of All Things," Kieran Shields talks about the real-life mysterious events that stirred his creativity and served as inspiration for his debut novel.

In an article entitled "Literary Grave Robbing in The Truth of All Things," Kieran Shields talks about the real-life mysterious events that stirred his creativity and served as inspiration for his debut novel.

"Literary Grave Robbing in The Truth of All Things" by Kieran Shields

The past, once it slips beyond living memory, becomes a sort of graveyard. It's easy to see no more than a collection of names and dates, etched in stone, receding into obscurity. I've always relished the look and feel of graveyards: the solitude, the grim elegance, and a hint of something more. A glance across rows of headstones and the eyes land on a freestanding tomb. Then comes that morbid, gleeful little voice, a curious whispering faint among the rustling leaves: "What do you suppose is in there?"

It always seemed natural to wonder about those now silent lives. So many forgotten tales. In writing historical novels, I've come to feel that I've jumped the fence, so to speak, taking on the role of literary tomb raider. Less gruesome than actual grave robbing, sure, but the same idea. Sneaking across hallowed ground, rummaging about for earthly remains and lost treasures - even if here those amount to no more than bits and pieces of what made these vanished lives real. It's finding those bits and shining a long absent light on them that's such an enjoyable challenge for me as a writer.

That feeling, of standing crowbar in hand at the tomb door while the intrepid reader peers over one shoulder, lamp held high against the night, came to life for me in writing The Truth of All Things. In one scene, the detectives, Perceval Grey and Archie Lean, break into a tomb in the old Western Cemetery of Portland, Maine. They're looking for a murder victim's missing body. While the particular family tomb used in the book is entirely fictional, the setting is real and the idea for that chapter actually originated from a strange-but-true news story I recalled from years earlier.

A few doors down from the one in my novel is the real-life family tomb of Portland's celebrated poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He wasn't buried there, but his parents and siblings were. In 1986, workers restoring the tomb's entrance discovered that the six bodies recorded as buried in the tomb were missing. Apparently, in the late 1800s, some wealthy Portland families transferred their relatives' remains from the older graveyards to newer, more picturesque cemeteries. It sounds odd to me, but probably a good idea judging by the amount of neglect and vandalism the Western Cemetery later endured. (It even served an inglorious stint as an off-leash dog park.)

Thorough records searches found no evidence that the Longfellows had ever been removed. No explanations, and none of their remains, were ever found. In all likelihood, it was the Longfellow family that long ago moved the bones. Still... what if it wasn't? The imagination begins to stir. There's that inviting voice again: "I wonder what's in the next tomb." What do you think, care to grab a lamp? I think I've got a crowbar in the trunk. Don't ask.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Daisy Jones & The Six
    Daisy Jones & The Six
    by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    In this evocative novel written in the format of an interview with members of a fictional music ...
  • Book Jacket: The Age of Living Machines
    The Age of Living Machines
    by Susan Hockfield
    In the face of looming global challenges, such as overpopulation, resource depletion and disease, Dr...
  • Book Jacket
    The Mars Room
    by Rachel Kushner
    There is palpable tension between expectation and reality in Rachel Kushner's third novel. The ...
  • Book Jacket: The Guest Book
    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake
    Sarah Blake's critically-acclaimed third novel The Guest Book was a hit with our First Impressions ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    More News Tomorrow
    by Susan Richards Shreve

    An irresistible portrait of a family drawn together in search of truth.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Guest Book

The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense."
—Entertainment Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

M I Haste, R A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.