Monday, May 17, 2010

Shawna K. Williams Interview & Book/Bracelet Giveaway!

Shawna K. Williams is an inspirational novelist who loves telling a story through flawed characters – the only kind she can relate to. She also likes a good dose of nostalgia, which is why many of her stories are set in rural America during the first half of the 20th Century. However, being a fan of other genres, including Science Fiction and Suspense, she has a few surprises planned for future works.

When not writing, Shawna spends time with her husband and three children enjoying life on their ranch. She's also an avid reader, book reviewer, blogger and jewelry designer.

[Anne] Thank you for joining us today, Shawna.  And congratulations on your new book!  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

[Shawna] After a dream I had that compelled me to turn it into a story. This was about eight years ago.  I had never considered even being a writer, before that. But this dream was bizarre, like watching the stages of someone's life. The setting, the characters – including their names, the circumstance with Meri being a teacher and Jakob going back to school, and Jakob's family having endured hardship all originated with that dream -- though I didn't know about the internment camp. I discovered that through research later on. Very interesting! I thought about this dream obsessively for about six months trying to fill in details, and finally it became so complicated I had to start writing. "No Other," and its sequel, "In All Things," are both based on that dream.

[Anne] I love dreams like that.  Will you tell us more about the story?

[Shawna] "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.

[Anne] How did you go about researching your book?

[Shawna] I wrote the story first, and did some basic research as I went. Then before I went back to rewrite "No Other" – it went through several rewrites – I did extensive research into the period, but especially my family's culture, going back to when they would have immigrated from Germany and why. This didn't make it into the story, but it helped me to feel better connected to them. I also heavily researched the history of the internment camps, finding the one that my family most likely would have been sent to, and then looking into its history.

I did a lot of investigation into everyday things, like appliances, toiletries, clothing styles, common phrases and things like that too. When I completed my "almost" final draft, I sought out several beta-readers of German heritage to point out things that might not be in custom with the culture, or suggest little details I could write in to add authenticity. The spelling of Jakob's name was one of those. I had originally spelled it with a 'c'.

[Anne] Do you have anything new in the works?

[Shawna] I'm currently putting the finishing touches on "In All Things." It takes place 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.

[Anne] What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantster?

[Shawna] 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. However, sometimes the characters dictate unexpected things, and I like to leave freedom to explore this because I feel like it gives the story more realism. It's also more fun!

Once the story is finished 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.

[Anne] If you could be anyone of your characters, which one would you chose to be and why?

[Shawna] I have absolutely no idea. I don't really know that I have a favorite. They're all a part of a whole. Of course, I love both Jakob and Meri. David and Sadie, I don't know quite as well yet, but I'm looking forward to learning about them.

Jakob's sister, Ruth is very endearing, and I enjoy her character a lot. I don't know about wanting to be her, but I think she'd make a great friend.

[Anne] Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go? (Okay so maybe this isn’t very likely to happen but since I’m asking the questions…)

[Shawna] Hmm...another good question. I would love to go on an archeological dig on the Island of Santorini. I'm really fascinated by ancient cultures, namely the Minoan and Greek. Wouldn't mind poking around the ruins of a Medieval castle either. I have no idea what the book I'd write would be about, but maybe going to such places would spark my muse. That's research, right?

[Anne] You’ve just been informed that your latest release was a NY Times bestseller and Hollywood wants to turn it into a movie. What actors would you choose to play your main characters?

[Shawna] The story for "No Other" and its sequel "In All Things" came to me so long ago that the cast has changed a bit. In the early days, the movie Pearl Harbor was only a couple of yrs old, and Josh Harnett had that shy farm-boy thing going on, so I kept seeing him as Jakob. Amy Smart reminded me of Meri.

Now this is kind of funny. When last year's season of American Idol started I was working on "No Other" and critiquing back and forth with a friend. She'd look my stuff over, and I'd do the same for her. Well, this one night after one of the early episodes of AI, I get this email from her, and she says "OMGoodnes, Kris Allen is Jakob!" The funny thing was, that night as I had watched, I'd been thinking the very same thing. He fit the physical description fairly well, and his mannerisms were spot on. Then in a later episode I saw Kris Allen's wife, Katy, and she fit Meri's description perfectly! So ever since last year's AI, that is who I see Jakob and Meri as, except taller.

[Anne] What type of books do you like to read when you’re not writing?

[Shawna] 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. 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.

[Anne] Name three things you can’t live without (excluding spouses and family because that’s a given).

[Shawna] My dog, my Kindle and my computer.

[Anne] What advice would you give to any aspiring writers out there?

[Shawna] Be true to yourself. Learn all you can through classes, books, critiques and submissions, but don't lose your voice in the process. There's a balance between what you can take away from these things 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."

[Anne] LOL.  Great advice, Shawna!  Where can we find you on the web?

[Shawna] You can find me here.!/pages/Shawna-K-Williams/236629884245?ref=ts

[Anne] Where can we purchase your book(s)?

No Other is also available at B&N Nook, The Sony Reader Store, Books on Board, and Allromance ebooks.

[Anne] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Shawna] Anne, 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. Here's why I give away the freshwater pearl bracelets and how they relate to my writing.

[Anne] Drawing will take place Sunday afternoon.  To enter, just leave a comment and some form of contact info.

[Shawna] 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.

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 three extra entries.

What type car does Meri's mother drive?

The answer can be found in the second chapter, viewable through Freado, where you can also read the first four chapters.

Or through the free sample available as a Kindle download.


bookwurm70 said...

Sounds like a good book. And I LOVE ebooks. please enter me.

bookwurm70 at gmail dot com

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Anne -
Thanks for the interview. I think I'd like to read this one.

I love the story behind the freshwater pearls!

And for three extra entries - Meri's mom drives a white Cadillac.

Blessings -

Please come visit my blog for book reviews and giveaways (there's a current one now) plus various other sundries!

Ponderings by Andrea


Shawna Williams said...

I've got you both entered, Gail and Andrea.

Anne, the interview looks great. Thank you so much for hosting me!

Buukluvr81 said...

I have heard good things about this book! Please enter me!

Mollydawn1981 AT aol DOT com

Buukluvr81 said...

+3 extra entries- a Cadillac (white)

Mollydawn1981 AT aol DOT com

P.S. My son's name is Jakob =) And my name is Molly---thought it was cool that two characters in the sample chapters were the same! Now just need Jonah (my other son) =)

Gail Pallotta said...

A great interview, Shawna. Congratulations on your writing.

Nicole Zoltack said...

You do awesome interviews, Shawna!

And for three extra entries - Meri's mom drives a white Cadillac.


Shawna Williams said...

Already ladies! Gotcha all down for the white Caddy and your comments here.

CarolNWong said...

Sounds like a great book. I just moved to Texas last year so I am curious.
Please enter me.

ChrisB said...

Please enter me. +3 for a White Cadillac.

Anne Patrick said...

I want to thank you, Shawna for allowing me to interview you. I've been hearing wonderful things about 'No Other'. I wish you great success with it.