23 July 2010

Getting to Know you Thursdays with Shawna K Williams with contest.

Please join me in welcoming Shawna K Williams to my blog today. Its been fun getting to know Shawna in the ACFW bookclub and Shawna's book will be the read of the month in September.



1. Can you tell us 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, homeschool, 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. I'm also a dog lover.

2. When you were a child did you have a favourite book or books?

I'm about to make a huge confession. My mother is a big Star Trek fan, and for years the franchise has put out books. Well, when I was a kid she had this closet with stacks of them. Seriously, shelves packed three books deep and three feet high. And...I used to sneak them out to read. They were actually a lot of fun; great adventures, fascinating characters -- for the most part. I really enjoyed them, but I was totally embarrassed and didn't want anyone to know I liked them. I'm guess I'm over that now. (I like star Trek but am a bigger stargate fan)

3. Do you have a favourite Genre to both read and right write?
Everything I've written thus far has been 20th Century Historical, from the Great Depression through the late 1950s. There's just something about that era that appeals to me. But I read just about every genre, with the exception of erotica and horror. I'd like to try my hand at science fiction at some point, as well as suspense. I'd also like to write a story that takes place in an ancient setting.

4. Did you have favourite authors growing up who have influenced you?

Not when I was growing up, but my favorite author now is Francine Rivers. I just think she's amazing! She understands people, and she allows Christ's compassion to shine through her writing. The Mark of the Lion trilogy is my favorite set of books.

5. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Not until about 8 years ago, and not exactly then even. I just knew I had to write this story I'd had a dream about, so I would quit obsessing over it. It sort of turned into a passion, and here I am. Sometimes I wonder what I'd be doing right now if I hadn't gone to sleep that night. It's funny how something as insignificant as a dream can change the course of your life. I suppose that's a contradiction though, the fact that the dream had that much of an impact indicates it was anything but insignificant.

6. How did you go about becoming an author?
Once I decided to become serious about getting published, I began researching books in order to find the ones that were most helpful. I also joined several critique groups. I rewrote the first part of my book and submitted it to one of these groups, and of course it got torn to shreds, which was a good thing because it challenged me. I also started writing short stories, and did pretty well getting three published within about four months. I joined writer's networking groups too. The most helpful was Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers.

I discovered ECFL after hitting a point of discouragement. I had a heart for God, and wanted to bring a message of hope to readers through my writing, but apart from several very well established Christian authors I'd not read many books in the market. I decided to broaden my knowledge, and what I found – and this was just my experience – was that I couldn't relate to the characters within many of the books. That doesn't mean the authors were bad writers or anything. I'm just... difficult, I guess.

To further my discouragement, everything I read about getting published in the Christian market said that if your book had premarital sex, out of wedlock pregnancy or any of the other "major" sins written into the story – and it's your first attempt to get published -- you need to set it aside and write another book without all that stuff. The problem was that wasn't the type of story God had given me, and I didn't want to write something solely for the sake of getting published. It wouldn't have come from my heart. So it was at that point I decided to focus on small presses.

I also met a dear friend through ECFL, and she and I have been critique partners and sisters in encouragement for over a year and a half. It's funny because she writes speculative fiction and detests romance, but she liked my writing anyway. I felt like I might actually have something if I could win her over.

Not long after "No Other" was finished I saw the banner for Desert Breeze on ECFL. I knew that Michelle Sutton had several books with them, so I talked to her, and then I also contacted several other authors published by Desert Breeze. Even though it was a young company -- less than a year old at that point -- they all seemed very happy with their experience, so I decided to submit.

During that time I had also sent query letters to about 17 agents. They all came back with rejections, but not all negative. Two wrote personal responses that I found encouraging and one asked for a partial, though she later rejected it. After DB accepted "No Other" another agent asked to see it and I had to tell her it was already sold. I still feel like DB is where God wanted this book though, so no regrets. (Jenny again wow what an experience but Im glad you got your story out. What I love about christian fiction is the fact they are now showing we are not perfect and we do fail like normal people but that God can use these situations)

7. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?

Either a geologist or an archeologist. I'm very fascinated by the processes taking place within the earth, as well as ancient history. The geology of the area we live in is actually quite interesting. Arkansas is known for its numerous quartz deposits, its diamond field around Murfreesboro, and the natural hot springs -- which btw, are formed from a completely different process then say, that of Yellowstone, where the water is heated by magma under the earth's crust. Our hot springs are made through a type of porous rock the runs very deep. Rain water seeps through this rock and heat is generated from the breakdown of isotopes during its several thousand+ year journey. Then the heated water hits a vent and jets upward. That's the short explanation anyway. For the sake of brevity, I'll skip the lecture on the Peloponnesian wars.

My inner geek is feisty today. I suppose it's a little more obvious as to why Star Trek books appealed to me as a kid, huh?


8. Outside reading and writing what do you like to do?
Sheesh...it's been so long, let me see if I can remember. Just kidding! I'm working under deadlines right now, and have hardly left the house for several weeks. Umm...I have a few hobbies, such as jewelry making, and painting. I'm an artsy geek writer, I suppose. We also have our ranch with all of our critters which I enjoy very much. I'm a bit of a rock hound, and I love hiking. I also like exploring abandoned places, if I get the chance. Caves are cool too. (Jenny again we have caves where I live they are heritage listed and good for exploring)

9. Do you have a place you love to visit or would love to visit?
Yes! I'd love to visit the Island of Santorini and Pompeii. There's an ancient Minoan site on Santorini which evidence suggest was destroyed by a volcano. I'm really curious about links between that site and an ancient Egyptian story of a place called Keftu (I'm probably butchering the spelling) Anyhow, the physical description of Keftu matches much of the evidence uncovered during excavations on Santorini, and the translation of the word means "pillars that hold up the sky." If you're familiar with Minoan architecture, this interpretation makes sense.

There were many stories that circulated amongst Ancient Egyptians about this place, including one that told of it being wiped out in a single day and night. There's also archeological evidence that suggests that Egyptians traded with Minoans, so that's likely how they knew of this place.

Centuries after Keftu's destruction, a relative of Plato's (I'll call him Uncle Joe since I can't remember his name) went to Egypt. Uncle Joe spent many years there, about twenty I think, and returned with all kinds of tales. Interestingly enough,"Keftu," (Pillars that hold up the sky) is a close translation to "Atlas". In Greek mythology Atlas was condemned by Zeus to hold up the sky up on his back. So sometimes I wonder if this is where Plato's story of Atlantis originated.

And then there's Pompeii. Well, it's another fascinating civilization that was destroyed by a volcano. Geology and history, my two favorite things! I'll skip' the history lesson though because I've already strayed off topic enough. My goodness! I should have put on Spock ears before this interview.

10. If you could have a meal with 3 living people who would you choose and why?
This question stumps me. I honestly don't know. All that blabber on geology and history and now I can't think of a thing to write. I guess I'd be more comfortable just sharing meals with my family and friends. If I had to choose one, my ninety year old grandmother is at the top of the list. She's an amazing woman, so full of wisdom -- and she tells the best stories!

I'm sure sometime next week I'll wake up in the middle of the night with an answer, but honestly, the people coming to mind right now are those I already have personal relationships with,

Finally can you tell us about your current books and/or any that will
be coming out soon. Also where we can find you on the web.

Sure!

No Other is a 20th Century Historical, Inspirational Romance. It’s set in a coastal Texas town during 1947, a couple of years after WWII. I really enjoyed writing a story set in this time period because, instead of focusing on how the nation recovered in broad terms, I was able to focus on how individuals set about recovering emotionally from such an event.

Jakob is trying to resume life and deal with his anger over the events of the past five years. His parents are German immigrants who were interned at a camp known as Crystal City during the war. As an American born child he feels betrayed and angry, not just at his community, but at himself because of an incident that he was involved in which he feels may have contributed to their arrest.

Jakob was forced to quit school in order to care for his younger sibling during the war. With the war ended and life beginning to settle, he decides to go back to school and get his diploma so he can move on to bigger and better dreams. It’s immediately awkward though because one of his teachers is a girl he previously went to high school with.
Meri comes from an affluent and socially elite family. She’s a dutiful daughter but also conflicted. On the one hand she desperately wants her parents approval — that’s the only time they offer her their love — on the other hand, she wants to be free of the control they exert over her life.

As friendship blooms and feelings develop Meri begins to understand what real love is supposed to be, and Jakob, seeing the pain her family has caused her, wants to shelter her from more. Of course, the first big obstacle is that because of the nature of their situation (her being his teacher) any type of romantic relationship is unethical, and then there’s also the social issues to consider. Meri and Jakob decide to pursue a secret romance, in which lies lead them to trouble in more ways than one. And I’ll leave the rest as a mystery.

But I do want to add, No Other is an inspirational story about getting up after you fall. About how Christians don't just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn't abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail, He's still in control. Him, and No Other.

Here's a link to the blurb and excerpt on my publisher's site.
http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-86/No-Other/Detail.bok

Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on the sequel to No Other. Its title is In All Things, and while it expands on a similar theme, it approaches it from a different stage in life, when Jakob and Meri are ten years older and have accomplished everything they ever dreamed. Where do you go from there, right?

The story itself is also quite different. No Other is all about Jakob and Meri, and In All Things pulls in a lot of side stories that weave into the main one. If you happen to read No Other, you might pay attention to a few things: First, a promise that Jakob makes to his rival near the end. If it seems a little off to you, that's because it is. And what's up with Jakob's attitude toward this guy anyway? Second is Meri's salvation. I don't want to give away too much there. And last -- and this is just something to keep in mind -- how might Jakob's sudden marriage and departure from his family affect other family members, considering the role he has played within his family – especially Esther?

I'm also working on a novella length book that will release in December called Orphaned Hearts. This story is inspired by my granddad, who grew up as an orphan during The Great Depression. It is near and dear to my heart, and I'm very excited to share it.

Here's links to my website and blog
http://shawnakwilliams.com/
http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/

Contest:
Shawna is happy to giveaway a download or pdf copy of the book. If the winner lives state side she will also give away a freshwater pearl bracelet. Here's a link to a blog post about why I include those.
http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-i-like-freshwater-pearls.html
to enter please leave a comment (not just please enter me) about the interview or a note to encourage Shawna with a way to contact you if I don't already know. You have till Friday July 30 6pm Australian time to enter.

15 comments:

Sarah Sundin said...

Shawna - when you said you talked about geology & Star Trek, I had to come see. LOVE IT!!! Live long & prosper, fellow nerdy WWII writer :) I hope that wasn't too...sedimental...

Shawna Williams said...

Thanks, Sarah. In my next interview I plan to quote the entire movie of Galaxy Quest. (hilarious Star Trek parody, if you've never seen it). "Never give up. Never surrender."

Julia M. Reffner said...

Shawna,

You have such broad interests I can't wait to see what you come up with in future. "Artsy geek writer" I love it :) Blessings to you!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Shawna,

You have such broad interests I can't wait to see what you come up with in future. "Artsy geek writer" I love it :) Blessings to you!

Patsy said...

Sounds like a great read. Count me in on the giveaway.
plhouston(at)bellsouth(dot)net

Wyn said...

Sounds great, count me in.

wyndyc at gmail dot com
http://wynsbooks.blogspot.com

StephB said...

No Other is a great story, Shawna. I would call it "edgy" inspirational.

Who doesn't love Star Trek? My favorite Captian is Jean Luc Picard.

Yours?
Smiles
Steph

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Shawna,
A great interview. It was fun getting to know a little more about you. And, I can see you as an archeologist...as long as you could write about your digs! Congratulations on No Other!

Shawna Williams said...

Gail, yes I think an Indian Jones type story is up my alley.

Steph, I like the maturity of Picard, but I also like Kirk's impulsive side. My favorite character though is probably Worf.

Michelle Sutton said...

No Other made my top fiction of 2010 list. It was that good!

Shawna Williams said...

Love you, Michelle. :)

Merry said...

I've read a small excerpt of No Other and it was wonderful. I'd love a chance to win it!
worthy2bpraised[at]gmail[dot]com

LuAnn said...

This is a wonderful interview, with great questions and answers. I was particularly interested in reading about how most publishers said no to many issues being mentioned in Christian books, i.e. out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Unfortunately, that is what is happening to many today and don't they need our prayers and compassion and not for us to ignore them?

Please enter may name in the drawing. I'd love to read your book!

reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

dining room tables said...

Count me in. That is a great idea. I love the picture that post in your blog. She is so gorgeous. I was stunned when I saw that picture.

Laetitia :-) said...

Shawna,

I loved Spock's emotional control. :-)

Any idea whether DB considers Australian writers who don't have USA agents / ideas on Australian writers getting US publishers to consider their works? I ask on behalf of a friend.

Cheers,
Laetitia :-)

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