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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guset Post: Sherry Shahan

Hello everyone! Today we have the author Sherry Shahan stopping by for a visit! She wrote the book Purple Daze, which about the the war, love, and the 60's baby!

It’s 1965: Do You Know Where Your Country Is?
Sherry Shahan is the author of more than 30 books, including adventure novels
“Frozen Stiff” and “Death Mountain.” When not snorkeling with penguins in the
Galápagos, or riding horseback with zebras in Africa, she can be found studying
ballet at a local dance studio.

 (Ms. Shahan's yearbook photo!)

Purple Daze (Running Press Teens) is her first verse novel. Set in 1965, Purple
Daze is a story about a volatile cultural revolution -- war, riots, feminism, racism,
rock ‘n’ roll, love and friendship -- as experienced by six high school students.
The themes are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

“Talk About a Revolution” The Beatles
While cleaning out my office one day, I found an old shoe box filled with letters.
Most of them were written by a friend who was in Vietnam during the late 1960s.
I’d kept his letters nearly 50 years, carting them with me every time I moved.
I spent hours rereading Bill’s (Phil in the novel) gut-wrenching account of his
daily hell. I began to think about my wild high school days.

Like the character Cheryl, I used to sneak out at night to meet friends. There’s a
poem early on where the characters drive to downtown Los Angeles during the
Watts Riots. They’re looking for a break in the National Guard barrier, hoping to
experience things firsthand. We were such adrenaline junkies!

“A Change is Gonna Come” Sam Cooke
People ask my why I decided to tell this story in verse. I wanted to be inside the
heads of each character to explore their innermost thoughts and feelings, so I used
journal entries, letters, free verse and traditional poetry. To me, verse mirrors the
pulse of adolescent life. Condensed metaphoric language on a single page reflects
their dramatic, tightly-packed world.
Here’s a piece from the viewpoint of Ziggy.

Fat tits + quick wit
does not = stupidity
if that’s what you think.

I think this three line poem sums up her emotional state better than if I’d written a
full paragraph in margin-to-margin prose.

The following two-line poem is from Phil’s viewpoint. Here, he’s been in
Vietnam nearly a year:

Pages of the new testament fill my pillow,
gospels on a recon in search of a soul.

“California Dreamin’” Mamas & Papas
In one scene, Cheryl and Ziggy are piercing each other’s ears. They’re using
frozen potatoes to numb them, sort of like an earlobe sandwich. In the background
the Animals wail, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”

Once I began writing, memories assaulted me twenty-four-seven. It wasn't until a
later draft that I began adding descriptive accounts of historical events, such as the
Students for a Democratic Society’s (SDS) first antiwar demonstration and the
FBI’s all-out war to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These entries are
juxtaposed against narrative pieces about sixties rock music.

I wrote this poem during a particularly depressing time in high school. It went in
the book.

Graveyards and headstones
are merely a lie.
People never live
therefore they can’t die.


Praise for Purple Daze:
"Shahan's “Purple Daze” puts us on the front lines of funky times, from Los
Angeles to Da-Nang. A far out, implosive, psychedelic trip that ends in
indictment. This is spectacular." -- Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy
Summer, National Book Award Finalist, Newbery Honor, Scott O'Dell Historical
Award, Coretta Scott King Author

"A raw and stunning portrait of the 60’s. For those who lived them, Purple Daze
will bring your past to life. For those who didn't, this story will make you feel as
though you did." -- Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of 14 novels, including Pay It

Thank you Ms. Shahan for being here today! Be sure to go out and pick up her book!

Happy Reading!


  1. I haven't yet read a book written in verse, I'm kind of curious to do so and see how much it differs from what I normally read. Thanks for this guest post, this book is new to me so I'm glad I stopped by today!

  2. Hm... interesting. It certainly would be different. I'm curious now. Great guest post!!

  3. @Jenny, Thanks Jenny

    @Melissa, Very different.

  4. I had no idea this was a verse novel! I told my sister I wanted to read this awhile back and she thought I never would have wanted to read it...but I do! And now I need to make sure I have it added somewhere on Goodreads becuase I'm not sure!


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