I am so thrilled today to be able to interview my lovely friend Shawna Kail Williams.
I had the privilege of meeting Shawna through a critique group, and have been able to enjoy watching as she has gone through the rigors of the publishing world to have her novel published. It is a pleasure and a privilege to have her on my blog today.
Let's get started!
Welcome, Shawna! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I'm a Christian, a wife to a wonderful man and mom to three amazing kiddos. We live on a ranch in Mena, AR, and have an extended family of cattle, horses, goats, rabbits, cats, and dogs. I'm a writer (duh...), a homeschooling mom, and I design jewelry. I'm also interested in geology and history, and I love dogs and old houses.
When did you start writing? 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 (Youch!), 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. It's called Orphaned Hearts.
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.
Here's a link to the blurb and excerpt on my publisher's site.
Do you plot things out, or do you write "by the seat of your pants"?
A little of both. I have to have an idea of the story, including its conclusion. I write out a summary just to get an idea of the story's framework. Then I write my first draft, which is horrible. I'm a character writer, so my stories focus a great deal on the hero and heroine's internal journey. My first drafts tend to ramble and meander with all sorts of emotional pondering, not unlike a therapy session. This helps me to nail down what my character's struggles are. It gives me an idea of what they need, and how to get them there.
Once I've done this I go back and start the rewrite. I take this on a chapter by chapter basis, writing out the goals I need to achieve to keep the story progressing. Then I go back and edit. During this process I try to weave everything together as tight as possible, and also look for any missed opportunities to strengthen the overall theme.
How do you develop your characters?
To me, characters are what make or break a story. Characters are who we experience a story through and if they aren't interesting and relatable, then no matter how intriguing the plot, a huge facet to the story is lost.
Now, I know some authors do character sketches involving the looks and profession of their characters. While this works for some, I don't do this. To me this is surface stuff and it has little to do with the person I want to convey. These details actually fill in themselves as the character evolves anyway. I like to focus on my characters history. This sometimes, as with Jakob, necessitated me going to great depths to uncover his family's history. Most of this stuff never makes it into the book in the form of information, but it does make it into the book in the way it frames my character's mind set, mannerisms, insecurities.
I'll use Jakob as an example again. One of the things I found interesting about him was his duel culture. He grew up in a family that was thoroughly German, in a town that was thoroughly Texan, and he's thoroughly both. The clash of these two cultures cause a bit of an identity crises in him in the sense that the betrayal he feels over his family's internement because of their German heritage is harder for him to fathom when he's American, and Texan to boot. Yet, when he speaks to his parents its perfect German, and many of his fondest childhood memories involve the culture. In the midst of war he wonders if that's something to be ashamed of. So...you can imagine, this story begins with a character already caught up in a whirlwind of internal struggle.
Now Meri...This girl's got issues, and quite a backstory of her own! I'm not giving that away though. Hopefully a few people will be curious enough to read the book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Sure. 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."
The Mark of the Lion series. I can't really choose between the three.
Urr...I don't know. It depends on my mood. There are several movies I can practically quote though, and if I stumble upon them on tv I'm compelled to watch. They are Oh Brother Where Ar't Thou, Galaxy Quest, and Notting Hill. The line in Notting Hill, "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her," gets me every time. I also rather adore the movies Ever After, and Enchanted.
I love grilled Salmon!
Any parting words?
I'll use this opportunity to say one more thing about my book – what I feel makes it special. When I first started searching for publishers, I knew that the content in No Other would make it hard to place. In the story there are some major failings on the part of the main characters, but mostly I'd say Jakob, since he is a Christian and Meri isn't. But my reason for writing No Other was that I wanted to tell 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.
And if you read the book, and notice a couple of things left a little uncertain at the end, including a promise Jakob makes that might seem somewhat misguided, well, that's what the sequel is for.
Avily, I want to give away a Kindle download, or other ebook format depending on the winner's preference. Along with that I'd like to mail the winner a freshwater pearl/inspirational bracelet, and a signed postcard. (however you want to do the drawing for this is up to you)
Also, for the month of May I'm running a contest with three prizes – a Good one, a Great one, and a Grand one. You can enter multiple times, the details are here. http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/p/no-other-prize-drawing-details.html
Anyone leaving a comment today gets one entry (please leave your email. I promise these will all be destroyed after the drawing) And, if you can answer this question you get another entry.
What three letters were left on the envelope after Jakob burned it?
The answer can be found in the first chapter, viewable on my blog, here. http://noother-shawnawilliams.blogspot.com/
Or through Freado, where you can also read the first four chapters. http://www.freado.com/read/6928/no-other-by-shawna-k-williams
Or through the free sample available as a Kindle download.
Here are links where to find me.
And here is a link to the trailer
Thanks so much for being here today, Shawna! I look forward to reading your book. And Readers, don't forget to leave a comment with your email (I recommend a format such as avilyjerome[at]hotmail[dot]com to prevent spamming) for a chance to win a free copy of this book!
F, H & S Part Two Continued Again
4 years ago