Author Feature: Shane Arbuthnott

Author Feature: Shane Arbuthnott

Molly grew up hearing the tales of Haviland Stout, her ancestor who discovered the dangerous magical spirits that inhabit the far corners of the world. Now, on the edge of the New World, in the British Dominion of Terra Nova, Molly and her family collect spirits aboard their airship, the Legerdemain. But when Molly captures a spirit that can speak and claims to have been Haviland’s friend, her entire life is upended. What if everything she knows about the spirits, and her own history, is a lie? In her hunt for the truth, Molly will have to challenge the most powerful company in Terra Nova and find the courage to reshape her world.

What was the hardest scene to write in your new book?

It depends on what you mean by “hard.” The first chapter was by far the trickiest. I had to balance the action, character introductions and getting in some information about the world of Dominion without dragging the whole thing down with exposition, not to mention bringing in some snippets of the characters’ backstory… Lots of moving parts. But the scene I found hardest emotionally was actually a small scene where Molly is preparing lifeboats. She’s making some hard choices at that moment, and I wrestled with that scene just as hard as she wrestled with her decisions.

What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Neither, actually. I start with world-buildinghow is it like our world, how is it different? What are the fantasy elements (because there always are always fantasy elements in my stories)? From there I start to see where the problems in this fictitious world are, the things that need fixing, and the plot comes out of that. The characters arrive last, but once they show up they inevitably bend the plot and world around themselves. I have to spend a lot of time adjusting my outlines, to accommodate the surprises my characters give me.

Dominion by Shane ArbuthnottWhat’s your favorite part of a book to write?

The climax. Everything in the story is coming to a head, and the emotions are so high, and the characters have traveled so far and the end is in sight… I just hope it’s as exciting to read as it is to write!

Which author, living or dead, would you want to have coffee with?

Can I pick more than one? Charles de Lint wrote some of the books that influenced me most when I was young, and I’d love to pick his brain on his process. But I’d also love to buy Ursula Vernon a coffee some time, to thank her for all the joy her books have brought me and my children.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled for book research?

Oh gosh, this could be a long list… The strangest thing for my most recent book was how it feels to be struck by lightning. Not something I want to learn about first-hand.

What’s the most interesting  job you’ve had (besides writing)?

I was an actor for a while, which sounds much more interesting than it is. (At least, that was the case for me, but I was never that good of an actor.) But for most interesting, I’d pick the few months I worked in a small whisky shop in Pitlochry, Scotland. It was an amazing job, but an odd one for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol. I had to do a lot of extra research so I knew what I was talking about when recommending whiskies to people.

What do you do to combat writers block?

Long walks are the best cure I’ve found. Other than that, I just keep banging at the keyboard until I find a way through.

Dominion is available now.

Shane Arbuthnott
Shane Arbuthnott grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and now lives in Guelph, Ontario, with his family. When he is not writing, he can be seen chasing his three adventurous children, trying to convince them to occasionally eat green things. His short fiction has previously appeared in On Spec and Open Spaces. For more information, visit

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