Science Fiction and Fantasy
Read an Essay and an Excerpt from Shape of Desire from Sharon Shinn

On its surface, Shape of Desire is a fantasy novel about shape–shifters, but it’s really a book about secrets.

So many people, at some point or another, are living a lie. They pad their resumes, they cheat on their taxes, they have affairs with their neighbors. When disasters happen and truths are revealed, friends and neighbors are shocked. But friends and neighbors often have secrets of their own.

In Shape of Desire, Maria is one of those ordinary people who’s kept a secret for a long time. But she’s not embezzling money from her company or dating an international spy. She’s in love with a shape–shifter named Dante, and she’s desperately afraid of what might happen if anyone finds out. Maybe there will be a public outcry—maybe the government will lock him away—she’s convinced he’ll be in great danger. And so for fifteen years, she doesn’t tell any of her friends or family members about the one thing that is central to her existence.

The fact that she can so successfully conceal this powerful truth makes her wonder what other people might be hiding. She’s convinced a co–worker is being beaten by her husband. She thinks another friend is involved with his boss. And eventually she becomes afraid that even Dante has a secret, a dreadful one: He might be a murderer.

Most of the books I’ve written take place in elaborately constructed fantasy worlds, but Shape of Desire is set in modern–day middle America. I wanted to create a sense of familiar reality for readers, tell the story as if it might be true. I wanted them to wonder how they might handle the same kind of situation—loving someone they shouldn’t love—even when their own lives might be at risk.

But because I’m a fantasy writer, I had to imbue the situation with a supernatural edge! I’ve written about shape–shifters in a number of my previous books—including The Shape–Changer’s Wife and the Twelve Houses series—but I found it a compelling twist to imagine how they might live in the real world in contemporary times. I figured certain technological advancements might make their lives easier, but the encroachments of civilization would simultaneously make their lives more difficult. And that’s even before the secrets start to unravel…

Read an Excerpt »