Writers have genres, like Shannon Giglio and horror writing. But sometimes, you sit down and something else comes out. For Giglio, her just-published novel Short Bus Hero, a mix of young adults with Down Syndrome and professional wrestling, is a decidedly “weird book.”
“I usually write horror and this one came out kind of different,” laughed Giglio during an interview with SLAM! Wrestling.
With Idols & Cons and Revival House already published, Giglio wrote Short Bus Hero a few years back, in a three-week flurry. “And then I put it away,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with it, because it’s such a weird story. My agent was trying to sell it, but then I fired my agent. It just sat for a long time on my hard drive. My husband, who used to be an editor for a small press, said, ‘You have to do something with this book. This book is terrific'”
The encouragement of her husband, Peter Giglio, who is also an author (Lesser Creatures, When We Fall) was an important stage.
Another friend, also an editor, praised Short Bus Hero. “He said, ‘I really love this book. If you don’t take this to a New York publisher, can I publish it?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I wasn’t really that excited about publishing this book at the time. I was like, ‘Whatever.’ It’s been hanging around here for so long, let’s throw it out there and see what happens. But I’ve had such a good response to it, I’m very happy I finally did get it out there. People are really enjoying it.”
What is Short Bus Hero? Long story short, it’s about Ally Forman, who has Down Syndrome, and her relationships with her family and her friends. It’s also about her love of pro wrestling, especially Stryker Nash, her all-time favourite grappler. A massive lottery win sets things off in a major way. And there’s angels.
Both the experiences with Down Syndrome patients and pro wrestling ring true; as for the lottery, how many people really experience winning $250-million?
There’s a reason it seems legit.”My ex-sister-in-law has Down Syndrome, and she is the biggest wrestling fan that I have ever met in my life. She had the opportunity to meet some semi-pro wrestlers and it was like the best thing she ever had in her life,” said Giglio. “It just started me thinking about her. Her mom was thinking about trying her to get her on a list for her own apartment, living in a group situation. I just started thinking, ‘You know, that would really make a good story somehow. How can I make this into a story?'”
Giglio, who currently has a full-time job on the business side of a company that sells surgical equipment, has had an interesting career. That included time in Hollywood back around 2000, when WWE was at the peak of the Attitude Era.
“I had attended a luncheon with Vince McMahon, The Rock, and some of the other wrestling stars of that time — this was like 2000,” she recalled. “I’ve just always been intrigued by the way they spin their storylines. They have such heart and they tell these stories so passionately, and I wanted to do something with that too at some point. It just happened to be this perfect storm of things that I wanted to write about and they all kind of came together in this one book.”
There are many colourful personalities in the book, but the lead character, Ally, remains deep in Giglio’s heart. “She’s a real firecracker. She’s got this whole broad spectrum of emotions that she just goes through, and she shows a lot of change in her character, going from this kind of depressed, sad girl who has lost her favourite idol to this greatly-empowered head of a wrestling promotion. She goes through an arc, and she does so gracefully.”
With Short Bus Hero out there, Giglio is excited that her first novel, Idols & Cons will be republished by Eldritch Press (probably under a different title), and its sequel St. Jake, will follow. As well, she is working on a horror-fantasy book, Strange As Angels, that deals with suicide and those angels tasked with trying to encourage them.