And now, onto the interview!
First, Shawna, could tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I'm pretty ordinary. I'm a mom of three wonderful kids, and I've been married to their dad for 18 and a half yrs. We live on a ranch in Mena, AR, where we raise cattle, horses, goats and rabbits. My interests vary a bit. Apart from writing I also design jewelry, review books, try to keep up with a blog, and look after my family. I'm nerdy in that I think it's fun to study geology and ancient cultures. I'm sentimental in that I can never pass up an abandoned ruin of a house without snapping a picture, and at least trying to convince my family that I'll only be a minute in exploring if they want to wait in the car. My sense of adventure is motivated by curiosity as opposed to the adrenaline rush, and while I love people, I'm an introvert who needs her alone time to recharge. This is when my muse gets a hold of me and fills my head with ideas. I'm also a dog lover. LOVE DOGS!
You make awesome jewelry that I've won in prizes. I love the earrings! And I tend to be an introvert too, although I'm try hard at conferences to put myself out there and establish connections. What us writers will do for our craft! When did you start writing? And why?
I started writing eight years ago after I had a really bizarre dream. The dream was like a story, and it came in "scenes," if you will, with me sometimes observing and sometimes as one of the characters (that's how I've come to think of the people in this dream). The whole thing made so much sense that I found myself thinking about it, all of the time, for about six months as I tried to fill in the periods between "scenes". It finally became so complicated that I had to start writing it out. It eventually turned into a very long and horrible book that sat as a file in my computer for a few years. Every so often I'd get the urge to revise it and attempt to make it better, and while doing that I'd think, "Maybe I'll try to get it published," but then I'd chicken out. This went on for six years, and then two years ago I decided to get serious. I started with books about writing, and then critique groups (Yeouch!), more books, more critiques. Finally, I started submitting short stories and did pretty well with the few I wrote, getting published fairly quick. This gave me the encouragement to keep after the book.
In essence, that dream is now two books. The first, No Other, has just released, and In All Things comes out in November of this year.
While my writing started because of that dream, I now have a head full of ideas. I also have a third book, not related to the dream, which will be published in December of this year.
I get story ideas from dreams all the times. And I write a lot of fantasy so that tells you something about my dreams, lol Where else do you find inspiration? And in particular, No Other?
I'm inspired by those moments we all have in life, in which something profound hits us and we're changed forever. It might be something totally obvious, like finding love, but sometimes it's something so simple, and I like to try and draw that out, define it and give it meaning, and hopefully touch the reader in an unexpected way.
I've already said quite a bit about how and why I wrote No Other. The inspiration for it morphed over the years. Initially it was like a puzzle, piecing things together until they made sense. Over the course of the years though, the characters in this book and its sequel, have themselves become the inspiration. I know them intimately, and I feel compelled to share their journey. I'm just so grateful to have the opportunity.
Taking inspiration from our own lives makes our writing more real, at least I think so.
I love the title, No Other. It's so sweet. How did you come up with it?
The title came from the Bible verse, Isaiah 45:6 "So that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other."
The underlying theme of the book is God's sovereignty. But I wanted to write a book that had a good story with complex characters to capture a reader's attention whether they enjoyed reading Christian fiction or not. Weaving in the faith element was easy once I knew the story and characters. What I wanted to avoid was preachiness. Nothing turns a reader off faster, and I didn't want to preach anyway. This was meant to be Jakob's story, about a young man who is a Christian, and how he views his faith and his choices in light of that faith. He's not perfect -- far from it actually, which is where -- to me -- the heart of the story is. Stories with perfect people are boring. I can't relate to any of them so I never feel engaged.
I can't stand stories about perfect characters! You're completely right, they're boring. And don't get me started on Mary Sues. I have a tendency to not finish those kinds of books.
Speaking of books, what books are you currently reading?
I read just about every genre. I love fantasy (ahem...your books). I love suspense and scifi. I haven't read many paranormals, but that's just because my 'to read' list is so long. I've got quite a few waiting on my Kindle. I, of course, love romance, but it has to have a strong, character-driven story. Romance is the story of emotion, and it doesn't mean much to me if I'm not attached to the characters.
Recently I've read K. Dawn Byrd's suspense, Queen of Hearts (very good). I'm currently reading a contemporary romance called The Heart's Journey Home. It's by Jen Stevens, and is her debut novel, and so far it's very touching. I love Francine Rivers, Nicholas Sparks, and Tess Gerritsen. I also enjoy Tom Clancy and his political thrillers. Read most of the books, and saw all the movies, and Harrison Ford is the best Jack Ryan in my opinion. And yes, Love me some J.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.
You sound like me, I'll read anything! :)
Do you have any advice to offer writers?
Persistence! Be true to yourself. Study, study more, critiques, more study, repeat this process forever. Last, chin up, it'll happen.
Sage advice! Now for some more fun questions: how would you describe yourself in three words?
I. Don't. Know.
In you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Oooo...now we're talking! Okay, any super power I want. I want to read minds. Do you know how many heartaches I could've saved myself if only I could read minds? Communication would be so much more efficient.
If you could be a paranormal creature, which would you be and why?
A paranormal critter, huh? Hmm...well, since I'm a dog lover, I guess I'll go with werewolf, as long as I don't have to shave in between full moons.
LOL I love the responses to that question, but yours was definitely one of the funnier answers.
Anything else you would like to add, Shawna?
Nicole, I'd like to give away a pair of freshwater pearl earrings, a pdf copy of my book, and signed postcards today on your blog.
Wow, that's some wonderful prizes. Blog readers, be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win.
Also, on the last day of May I'm doing a drawing for three prizes. The first includes:
- Grand prize
- Book, Poster, Notebook, Sterling silver-gold overlay Locket, Goat's milk Soap & lotion, Postcards, $10 Amazon Gift certificate, Pearl bracelet and earrings.
- 2nd Place
- Book, Poster, Notebook, Postcards, Pearl bracelet and earrings, Honey Soap. $5 Amazon Gift certificate
- 3rd Place
- Book, Notebook, Postcards, Pearl bracelet and earrings, $5 Amazon Gift Certificate
The question for the extra entry today is, "What is Jakob burning in the first chapter of the book?" You can read the first chapter on my blog, click the coverart and it will take you there. A sample can be downloaded for free on Kindle and you can also read the first 4 chapters on Freado.
Nicole, Thank you for hosting me today. I enjoyed this very much.
For more about me
Thank you so much for joining us today, Shawna, I had a great time. And your contests are lovely. Be sure to leave a comment, guys!