Through writing, God has brought me some very special people. One of these: Shawna K Williams. We met in my first ACFW critique group. Her first publication NO OTHER broke out o the gate this past weekend. So I've interviewed her here. Make sure to enter the contest be for you go! Win a freshwater pearl braclet made by Shawna K Williams!
Shawna, tell us about yourself.
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 (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.
What inspires your writing? In particular your current book?
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.
How did you come up with the title?
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 have this blurb I've been using in interviews, but recently a mutual friend of ours, Kat Heckenbach, wrote a review that I just love, and I feel like she summarizes it so much better than me, so I'm going to borrow her words.
This is a romance novel that won my heart, even though I normally do not read romance. Shawna's mastery of characterization infused the story with such believability, and I fell in love with Jakob and Meri. No sappy scenes, no corny lines--this book is about story. Yes, it's a love story, but it is so much more.
Set in post WWII Texas, Jakob's German family faces discrimination while they try to rebuild their household. His parents have returned from an internment camp, and his brother has returned as a war hero. Jakob must now step down from his patriarchal role and make his own return--to the high school he had left three years earlier in order to care for his younger siblings in his parents' and older brother's absence.
Matters become even more complicated when he steps into his classroom and discovers his old classmate, Meri Parker, sitting behind the teacher's desk. Their worlds couldn't be more different--she'd had all the advantages Jakob had not. Wealth, college, no one to care for but herself. But Jakob saw what no one else could--how trapped Meri was by her so-called advantages. With his own family restored, Jakob's natural instinct to rescue shifts its attention to Meri.
No Other is beautifully written. If you love romance, you will love No Other. And if you don't like romance...no matter. You'll still love it.
Eh...I know the last few sentences aren't about the plot of the book, but I liked them too much to cut them out!
I see you have two other releases on 2010 from Desert Breeze. Congratulations on that. Would you like to tell us about them a bit? Are they parts of a series?
"In All Things" is the sequel to "No Other" -- ten years later. While "No Other" is a complete story, if you look, you'll see there are some loose ends that are left unclear. One has to do with a promise Jakob makes to his rival, and another has to do with Meri's salvation. You know she's headed that direction, but when the book ends she hasn't committed her life to Christ yet. The theme to "In All Things" is similar to "No Other" but it deals with unresolved issues from a different phase in life, and adds to them with the complexities of family and careers, and substitutes for God. "No Other" mainly focuses on Jakob and Meri -- primarily because much of their interaction is in secret – but "In All Things" involves Jakob's entire family a lot more.
It's been an emotionally taxing story to write because there's so much to grasp. I find myself praying daily, "Lord, help me tell this story." But I find that there's also so much to love about it, and things I never expected to explore – one of them being how events in the first book affected Jakob's youngest sister, Esther. See, I just gave you something to think about if you read the book.
My other book is called "Orphaned Hearts". I love this story. It started as a novella, but it was accepted for publication on the agreement that I would lengthen it – which I'm working on now -- and had wanted to do even before it was under contract. After writing the novella I saw that there was so much potential with the characters -- David, Sadie and Caleb -- and I, myself, wanted to know them better.
The story is set in Arkansas, my hometown state, in the 1930s. Though the character of David is not based on my granddad, the story was inspired by him. He grew up in an orphanage during this time and his experiences there affected him throughout his life. Orphanages of the day weren't warm and caring places. At least not the one my granddad grew up in.
David is a man who has severe burn scars from the same fire that left him orphaned. His scars are such that they're hidden under his clothes, but as a child he was ridiculed, and he believes his disfigurement was the reason no one ever adopted him.
As an adult, he's a minister who works closely with an orphanage, and he takes a special interest in Caleb, a child who lost his arm in the accident that left him orphaned.
Sadie, is a woman who lost her fiancé years earlier, and then devoted herself to her ailing father. Upon his death she finds that she's alone, and believes she will stay that way because she's too old to marry.
The story is mainly about Sadie and David, and how they both seek to find a home for themselves through Caleb. You'll see. Just thinking about this one warms my heart, so hopefully I can bring those same emotions to the reader through my words. Once again, I'm praying, "Lord, help me tell this story."
What is your next major writing goal?
Don't laugh, but I want to write science fiction. I know, it's quite a bit different than historical, but I've always loved scifi and have the workings of a story swirling about. While I'm at it, maybe I should try my hand at time travel, then I can have both genres in the same book. Not a bad idea actually!
I don't think that will be my next project though. I have another idea brewing along the lines of, "the right guy at the wrong time, and the wrong guy at the right time, and everything according to God's timing." Make sense? Lol! Not sure of the time period this will take place though.
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 crisis in him in the sense that the betrayal he feels over his family's internment because of their German heritage is harder for him to fathom since he's American, and Texan to boot. Yet, when he speaks to his parents it's 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 back story of her own! I'm not giving that away though. Hopefully a few people will be curious enough to read the book.
In closing, what might surprise people about you?
I love rocks. I don't know why. I just think they're fascinating. I'm really interested in crystal formations (for the record, I don't believe they have mystical properties) However, I can tell you that the molecular formula for quartz in SiO2. And Amethyst is quartz that gets it's coloration from manganese, and if it's heated to high temps within the earth's crust it changes to yellow, thus becoming citrine. I guess this make me a bit of a science geek. Since I also make jewelry with these types of rocks I guess I'm a girly geek too.
Now for the contests:
For the month of May Shawna is 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 happened when Ruth surprised Jakob by walking into his room?"
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, at KM Wilsher blog, the prize is a handmade freshwater pearl bracelet by our author: Shawna K Williams. and a pdf of NO OTHER.
Shawna says: "I like freshwater pearls because they're imperfect and each is unique. When strung together they become something beautiful, and that's how I feel about the way God has transformed me."
So leave a comment, all the names go in a basket, and a winner will be chosen!