FQ: Have you traveled to or maintained any personal ties to the countries of your heritage; how do their histories and current events affect your creative processes?
SHAW: I have never been to either Sicily or Africa (to stretch a point!). A Gathering of Broken Mirrors is focused on New York City, in which I was born and where I lived for the first 33 years of my life. Within New York, and its surrounding communities, I met and have been privileged to know scores of people, many of whom are my family and friends. In my business life, I’ve traveled to Europe and Asia. Moreover, I’ve spent time in China, and my wife and I own a home there (the southern part). I studied Mandarin Chinese in college, and my family is bi-lingual. My wife and youngest son are fluent: I cannot keep up with them! My exposure to Chinese culture has been and is extensive.
I have immersed myself in the Italian and Sicilian cultures as well – taking much pride in the heritage of my birth father. My fascination with the American experiences of Chinese and Italian/Sicilian immigrants to America is a reflection of my deep interest. From both my African-American and Sicilian ancestors, I’ve fostered a love for story-telling; and that’s how I regard myself, as a storyteller. The allure of a good story, the attraction of re-constructing lives through memories, and my devotion to the beauty of the American English language, inform my writing.
I am an observer of my environment and a listener to the cohabitants in my world. I’m open to how others think and speak – I read and hear, and I write.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work with little previous knowledge of the setting and its history?
SHAW: I advise readers to set aside all of their potential set notions about the characters, including the settings and the time periods, and be open to hearing about a fellow human being, including warts and all. Every story about a person is a unique human story.
FQ: Do you have a favorite character - apart from yourself - among the ones you depict here?
SHAW: I am particularly fond of Uncle Del in the opening story, because he is based entirely on one of my dear friends, who was an uncle to me. I hope I did him justice in the tale told.
FQ: Is writing now your primary profession or are you exploring other areas of endeavor?
SHAW: I retired a few years ago to dedicate myself to my faith, my family, and my writing, after 30 years of senior management and human resources leadership in government, non-profit organizations, logistics, international banking, and management consulting. A Gathering of Broken Mirrors is my fourth published book, and my first short story anthology.
FQ: How long did it take to write this work, considering all the fact gathering that must have been involved?
SHAW: A handful of the stories first saw the light of day about four years ago as chapters of a book I wrote titled From the Inside Out: It was a fictional biography of a Brooklyn young man, of Italian heritage, who found his way into organized crime. A Hollywood producer read it but didn’t subsequently express interest in film development of the work. I put the manuscript aside for two years, then decided it wasn’t a great novel but some of the themes and stories would make better telling as a variety of short stories. I wrote for about 12 months and went through editing for another eight months. An incredibly sensitive and talented editor convinced me that the short stories were worth publishing. So, I eventually did! Thank God!
FQ: What writer influenced you most in the creation of this collection?
SHAW: I will name three: Edith Wharton, as one of the most perceptive and emotionally fine-tuned writers in American literature; Rex Stout, whose works I have been reading and re-reading for over 50 years, a storyteller par excellence; and William Faulkner, author of stunning short stories and novels, and a master of the art of telling stories. Strangely, I’m often compared by my readers to Shirley Jackson, though I in no way approach her artistry.
FQ: Did you conceive this book, with its symbolic title, as a collection of short stories, or more as a collection of philosophical parables?
SHAW: Yes, I conceived it as both simultaneously. This was first and always a collection of short stories about individuals facing moral, ethical, and life-changing events, within the times and places of New York City.
FQ: Could you envision these stories as a serial made for TV?
SHAW: I can envision adaptions of these stories in a visual medium, likely on broadcast platforms. The characters are strong enough and the situations compact enough to underscore sound dialogue and storytelling through images.