Interview with Shawna Williams

» Posted on Apr 14, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Shawna Williams

This week I’m hosting Alison Strobel with The Heart of Memory and Shawna Williams with In All Things, and Roxanne Rustand with Murder at Granite Falls. If you want to enter the drawings, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (April 17th) evening.

Interview with Shawna Williams:

What made you start writing?
I started writing because of a dream. I hadn’t intended to be a writer when I was younger. My major was college was fashion merchandising, of all things. About nine years ago I had this really interesting dream. It was in scenes, like a play. Sometimes I was one of the characters and sometimes I watched, but I could always feel what the characters felt. When I awoke the next day I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, and what it meant. As a matter-of-fact, I thought about it continuously for close to six months, pondering its message and trying to fit the pieces together. The story kept growing in my head so I eventually started writing just to satisfy my own curiosity. As I wrote I grew to love the characters and their story. It’s been the same experience with each new story, so I guess that why I write: because God’s given me stories to tell.

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I started with that dream, which I toyed with off and on for five or six years. At one point I put it away and didn’t look at it for well over a year. About 3 and a half years ago I had this feeling that God wanted me to get serious about writing and try to actually do something with the original story He’d given me. I felt like it was a good story, but I knew that my story-telling skills were seriously lacking. Thus I began researching online writing groups, buying every book I came across about the craft, and I also joined several critique groups. While doing this I started trying my hand at short stories in an effort to gain some writing credits and was blessed to have some success fairly quick.

When I got to a point where I felt that my first book, NO OTHER –which is based on part of that dream I had — was ready, I was a little unsure of where to submit. NO OTHER isn’t edgy, I don’t think so anyway, but it does contain material that makes one raise an eyebrow, especially if you just read the synopsis. Here, I’ll just say it: There’s a student/teacher romance and an out of wedlock pregnancy. With that bombshell out of the way, I’d like to add that the circumstances surrounding the romance were highly plausible right after WWII because so many young men’s lives had been interrupted. The story isn’t about almost falling into temptation, but about getting back up after.

I felt pretty sure that the book would be a hard sell to most CBA publishers, and that’s nothing against them. I intend to try other books. NO OTHER just likely wasn’t a good fit. So instead I focused on small presses. Desert Breeze and one other were actually the only ones that I found actively seeking 20th Century historical romances at that time. I did submit to several agents during this period, too. I even had a couple ask for partials. One rejected it after upon reviewing the partial, and one asked for the partial six months after I’d submitted. Since I hadn’t heard back I had assumed they’d rejected it, and when I did hear from them, I had already signed the contract with Desert Breeze.

How do you handle rejections?
Well, I’d love to say that I always handle them like a professional, and after a brief bout of disappointment, I shrug and move on. But…

A good percentage of the time, the above is true. However, there are days when I lend too much of an ear to my insecure side, and I sort of throw a big pity party and wonder if my time wouldn’t be better spent cleaning house. It’s not pretty – neither my house nor my attitude.

Why do you write?
There’s stuff inside me that I gotta get out!

What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
I should say cleaning my house, but that would be a lie. I like making jewelry, and I actually do that, too. But the good thing about writing is that I don’t have to buy supplies to do it, and I don’t end up with an overabundance of sparkly things.

What I would most likely do is spend more time outside with our critters. We live on a ranch so we have more than a few. As a matter-of-fact, when I finish this interview I’m going to go outside and pet a baby goat, and then go check on my the cow Hubby gave me that I’ve officially designated as my “conference cow”. (I plan to use money produced from her to attend)
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a book titled THE GOOD FIGHT. It’s a spin-off from NO OTHER and IN ALL THINGS, and is about Roger, who had been Jakob’s nemesis in the first book. We get to see his side of things and how the climatic events in NO OTHER affected the course of his life.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Yes. Not always intentionally. I try very hard to develop distinct personalities with their own unique backgrounds. But, I’m still the one doing the writing and interpreting the character’s situation through my eyes, so I’m sure that I’m in there to a degree. I don’t really think it’s possible to not be.

Tell us about the book you have out right now.
I had two come out very close to each other, ORPHANED HEARTS and IN ALL THINGS. ORPHANED HEARTS is a stand alone, and IN ALL THINGS is the sequel to my debut release, NO OTHER. Since it’s up for discussion in the bookclub in May, I’ll tell a little about it.

IN ALL THINGS continues the story of Jakob and Meri. In the first book, NO OTHER, they fell in love under less than ideal circumstances. Fear led them to succumb to temptation, and while things worked out in their favor, it was clear that a hard road lay ahead of them. At the end of the first book Jakob had made a promise to his rival, and on the surface it sounded good, but there was a lot of pride involved in keeping it.

In the sequel we meet up with Jakob and Meri ten years later, and Jakob has kept this promise. While the couple is the picture of ultimate success though, their marriage and faith have suffered greatly for it. It all boils down to what, or who, has been the focus of their lives.

This book is romantic at times, but it’s more about the short-comings of romance – and any other thing, be it career, status, substance abuse…, that people use to try and satisfy the yearning in our hearts meant only for God. It’s His calling to us, but so often we try to fulfill it through our human nature. This book explores that path, while also carrying on the theme of God’s faithfulness in all things (hence title).

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Honestly, I’m not really sure that I have enough experience to offer much advice. There is something that I feel rather strongly about, though. And that is, I think a writer needs to be true to themselves and what God has placed on their hearts when it comes to their stories. I know there are trends, and I’m not saying don’t pay attention to them. I guess I’m just saying don’t be ruled by them. I think when we get away from the messages we feel passionate about our stories tend to lose sincerity.

10. How important is faith in your books?
In an earlier question you’d asked if I put myself into my characters, and when it comes to faith this is where I can’t leave myself out. I don’t really know how to answer this question, other than to say that without faith I’d have no stories to tell. Writing is an expression of my faith on a personal level, and also a means of sharing it with others. God has done so much for me, and taught me so much. I’m still an idiot, of course, but a joyful one — and a forgiven one.
What themes do you like to write about?
Grace is the most prevalent theme – the recognition that there’s no such thing as earning our way or being good enough. The gift of Grace came through Christ’s sacrifice, and it’s the ultimate expression of love to any and all who will accept it. It’s free, and it’s freedom.

I also find that Romans 8:28 seems to come up in a continually. There is tremendous Peace in knowing that there’s nothing God can’t use to His glory for those who love Him.

What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
IN ALL THINGS is my favorite. I love NO OTHER too. It’s just that IN ALL THINGS completed a lot of things left undone from the first story. It’s a gruffer book than NO OTHER and not for everyone. I just feel that there’s an important message there. I know it’s something I had to learn, so I hold it very dear. I figure there are others like me who might relate to it also. Some might even be in the midst of struggling with something similar.

What is your writing schedule like?
Terrible. I’m spread thin at the moment so it seems like it usually around 2 a.m. before I’m able to look at my own stuff. I try to work for a couple of hours, at least. I do better when I’m able to devote big chunks of time. I also have to be alone to write, without distractions. I can’t stay connected to my characters when I’m not, and I can’t write until I feel that connection. That probably sounds weird. Probably is, but that wouldn’t be new for me. So basically, my writing schedule is to wait until everyone else is asleep and then get busy.