I’d like to welcome fellow Desert Breeze Publishing author, Shawna Williams, to my blog today. Please don’t hesitate to comment on her post — she’ll be giving away a signed postcard and a pair of freshwater pearl earrings to one lucky person who has something to say about her interview. Shawna, please tell us a little about yourself and your books.
Hi! I’m a wife, mom and jewelry designer who lives on a ranch and happens to write. Technically I write 20th Century Historical/Inspirational Romance. However, I know one of the main complaints about inspirational fiction is that the characters are often too “perfect” for anyone to relate to. I don’t write that. People aren’t that way in real life, and I don’t want the characters in my stories to be either. I prefer to think of my stories as true to life stories in which one or both of the main characters happen to be a Christian. In many ways the character’s faults are highlighted because of his or her faith, because the standards they hold themselves to are dictated by their beliefs. Hope that makes sense.
(No Other) is your newest release. Can you give us a glimpse into the book?
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.
Click here for a link to the blurb and excerpt on my publisher’s site.
What inspired you to write the novel?
The inspiration for No Other actually came from a dream I had eight years ago. It was bizarre, like watching a movie almost. And for the next six months I kept thinking about it, trying to fill in all the gaps between scenes. It eventually grew to be so complicated that I had to write it down. After playing with it off and on for six years, I finally decided to try and turn it into something publishable, and began studying the craft of writing, joining critique groups, and submitting short stories to rack up a few publishing credits. No Other was inspired from the first part of that dream, when the characters were young. All the details came later as I researched and got to know them better.
Is Historical/Inspirational romance the only genre you write? If so why?
To date, all of my books published or under contract are in this genre, but I intend to branch out. I’ve always loved scifi, and I have a very loose idea of a story that’s been brewing for about six months. I haven’t had a chance to ponder enough yet to get a full grasp on it, but eventually I will. I actually read about every genre out there, so I’d love to write a book in each.
Do you have anything new in the works?
Currently I’m finishing up the sequel to No Other. Its title is In All Things, and it picks up with the same characters ten years later. Even though No Other reads pretty much as a stand alone, there are a couple of little unresolved things. One of them stems from a promise Jakob makes to his rival at the end of the book. I’m also working on expanding a novella into a full length book, called Orphaned Hearts. It’s set in the 1930s, and was inspired by my granddad, who was raised in an orphanage during that period.
What advice would you give unpublished writers?
Be true to yourself. You need to learn the craft, but don’t lose your voice in the process. There’s a balance between what you can take away from a critique group in order to hone your skills, and trying to heed so much advice that you end up losing what makes you unique. Rules are good, but in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, “They’re more like guidelines anyway.”
What is your writing process like?
I have to ponder on an idea for awhile. Usually then I can write a general summary, like a really loose synopsis. After that I have to start giving my characters a lot of thought, and letting them develop in my mind. That’s when I write out character sketches. For me this isn’t about how they look and what they do. It’s more of an emotional sketch. It will include a lot of history that never makes it into the book because so much of who we are is framed by our experiences, so why should it be any different for a fictional character?
Once I’ve done that I start writing. This is when I allow myself to go with the flow. All kinds of unexpected things insert themselves into a story at this point, and as long as I keep in mind where my ultimate goal is, and the scene somehow advances me toward that goal, then I’m good.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I love hearing stories about memorable moments in people’s lives, and how they met. Sometimes I just take that and run. Old photos are great. I could muse over those all day, and abandoned houses are the best. I take pictures of the worst of them, knowing they won’t be there for long. I mean, think about it, human hands built those houses. Families raised children, celebrated Christmases. I always wonder about the memories created inside. It makes me sad to see a place like that as a ruin, so I want to always have something that shows it existed. I guess I’m just way too nostalgic.
Also, just people, observing the way we process things and interact with each other. I actually did a study on Carl Jung’s personality theory to help me understand this. It’s amazing how much conflict can be created through this alone. And then you throw in a few insecurities, bad memories, etc., the possibilities are endless.
When you set aside your work in progress for the day, what sort of books do you like to read?
I read just about every genre out there. I’m not a big fan of horror because I don’t like being scared, and I don’t read erotica, but that’s just my personal preference. I take my Kindle with me everywhere, and I have romance, time travel, paranormal, scifi, suspense, political thrillers, and my book, which I lovingly think of as nostalgic romance.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
I’ve asked a few senior citizens if I can look through their photo albums, and I’ve explored abandoned building, but these things were to jump start my muse, more than they were for research. I haven’t done anything too strange, yet. But oddly enough, now I’m feeling kind of challenged, and you’ve sparked my mischievous streak with that question, so give me a few months and I’ll come back with a story or two.
Where can we find you on the net?
You can find out about me and my books at http://shawnakwilliams.com/
Or my blog at http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/ I have a fantastic contest going on there right now with some great prizes to give away at the end of the month.
I’m also on twitter and facebook, just look for Shawna K Williams.
Where can we find out more about your books?
My books are available on Amazon Kindle, Books on Board, Allromance ebooks, and Desert Breeze Publishing’s storefront. Very shortly, maybe as soon as a week or two, My book will also be sold through Barnes&Noble for Nook, Borders at The Sony Reader Store, Fictionwise, and iBookstore.