Jimbo Fisher family, Fanconi anemia inspire character in alumna’s novel

Shannon O'Neil.

As Florida State University School of Communication alumna Shannon O’Neil developed the plot for her latest novel, “Killer Shine,” she decided to add an unexpected twist to the story by creating a character with the rare disorder of Fanconi anemia.

Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher and wife Candi’s son Ethan, who was diagnosed with the uncommon blood disease in 2011, served as inspiration for the character.

Fanconi anemia (FA) affects one in 131,000 people and currently has no cure.

Upon hearing the news, O’Neil, who worked in the FSU athletics department as a student, registered for the National Bone Marrow Registry and donated to Kidz1stFund, which the family set up to raise awareness and funds in support of research to fight FA.

Touched by Ethan Fisher’s battle with the disease, O’Neil wanted to do something more to help, so she weaved FA into the story of “Killer Shine,” a colorful murder mystery that takes place on the fictional stretch of paradise Crab Island.

“I thought it was a great platform to talk about it because a lot of people had not heard of Fanconi anemia before Ethan was diagnosed,” O’Neil said. “I wanted to get it out there in another way and to a different audience.”

O’Neil, who also works as a public relations coordinator for the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, reached out to Cameron Ulrich, director of operations for Kidz1stFund, before publishing and asked for permission to use the foundation’s logo and information to publicize the little-known disease via her novel.

Candi Fisher read O’Neil’s manuscript and consulted her on some of the more technical aspects of FA, and she generously offered to write the forward for the novel.

Candi and Jimbo Fisher with sons Ethan and Trey.
Candi and Jimbo Fisher with sons Ethan and Trey.

“Jimbo and I have been blessed over the years to have so many Florida State students and alumni supporting our nonprofit, Kidz1stFund,” Candi Fisher said. “We are incredibly grateful to Shannon for offering her talents and expertise crafted at FSU to raise awareness for Fanconi anemia. We are honored that Shannon chose to highlight FA in her novel, ‘Killer Shine,’ and we truly believe she has made a significant difference in helping us fight this rare, genetic disease, not only for our son, Ethan, but the many other FA families across the country.”

O’Neil decided to become a writer and attend Florida State as a third-grader at the same time the Seminoles’ football team won its second National Championship in 1999. The dual decision worked out well for O’Neil, who also earned a master’s degree in sport administration from FSU in 2008.

“The School of Communication definitely helped hone my writing skills,” O’Neil said. “Even though writing for public relations is different than creative writing, there are still a lot of skills you learn about how to use language in a way that’s interesting to people.”

O’Neil said her experience at Florida State, and the many different people she met during the journey, gives her more fodder for her writing. And, her public relations skills learned at FSU bolster promotion of her books.

“A lot of writers self-publish a book and then don’t know how to make it sell,” O’Neil said. “Having a PR background has helped me advertise the book and myself, and Kidz1stFund in this case.”

The self-published novel isavailable on Amazon.comin both Kindle and paperback formats. O’Neil also sells signed copies of the book on her website and the novel can be purchased at Garnet & Gold in Tallahassee. A portion of the proceeds will go to Kidz1stFund.