Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/writer. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband Grant, their eight-year-old son, and their church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, a dragonfish, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch.
Her series with Heartsong Presents launched in May with White Roses. White Doves follows in October, and White Pearls in January. Each book ships to a 10,000 member bookclub, then to stores six months later. All three books are set in Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas. Brides and lovebirds take advantage of the re-mailing program to have wedding invitations and Valentines cards mailed from Romance with a unique postmark. Romance also hosts several annual weddings with Valentine’s Day the most popular date.
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Hi, Shannon. Welcome to The Borrowed Book! When did you decide to be a writer?
In 1995, I decided that the story that had been in my head for at least 15 years could be a book. In September 1999, my father-in-law gave me his old computer and I started writing.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
Slightly over nine years. In January 2009, I began talking with Heartsong about the series.
Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?
Attend conferences, join writer’s groups, and find a national organization geared toward your genre. For me, American Christian Fiction Writers got me to a publishable level.
Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?
I never got the call. Everything was done by e-mail.
I didn’t realize getting published would make writing a full-time job, or how much editing book one would take away from writing book two, or how time-consuming marketing is.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
I write whether I feel like it or not. During the school year, I write from 9:00 until 2:45. In the summer, I get in two or three hours each night after everyone else is in bed.
What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
I love swimming in the summer, walking in the woods or riding the fourwheeler with my son in spring and fall, and taking family vacations. Between deadlines, I usually try to read a couple of inspirational romances.
What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?
Gone With the Wind. It’s the only classic I’ve ever read. It’s special to me because Scarlet isn’t a likeable character and Rhett is a scoundrel, yet Margaret Mitchell managed to make us root for them.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer? By reading good books, a writer feels the ebb and flow, the rhythm of good story telling.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
White Roses is the story of a widowed pastor and the florist who did his wife’s flowers when she was alive. After her death, he continues his standing order and takes them to the cemetery. He and the florist meet in the first chapter, after his wife has been gone for two years. The re-mailing program and the weddings at Romance are woven into the storyline.
Where did you get your inspiration for White Roses?
Every Valentine’s Day, my dad gets me flowers or balloons. When he hit sixty, it hit me, that I wouldn’t have him forever. That next Valentine’s Day, I wondered how I’d feel the first time the gifts don’t come. Then I wondered what would happen if I die first and decided he’d probably send the flowers to the cemetery. Since my husband is a pastor, the story evolved into the widowed pastor and the florist. Ten years later, Daddy’s still going strong and still buying me gifts.
Which character is most like you?
The heroine, Adrea. Only she’s fiestier than I am. I stew and never say a word when someone does me wrong.
Who is your favorite character and why?
The hero, Grayson. His looks and caring attitude are based on my husband.
Did you know how White Roses would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I always know the ending of my books before I start writing. When that final piece of the puzzle fell into place, the story came alive. It had to do with Adrea’s ex-fiance. That’s all I can say without a spoiler.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
Turn your fears over to God and let Him handle your future.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
I finally entered the world of Facebook and Twitter. I’ve found a lot of inspirational romance readers on Facebook and garnered some interest. My website and weekly book giveaways on my blog have helped also. I’ve done several interviews on other blogs and given several copies of White Roses away. It seems like if a reader is one of your first readers, then you have a fan for your next books. Once the book hits stores, I plan to connect with book clubs who meet monthly to discuss books.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I have a rodeo series set in Texas that I plan to polish up and pitch soon. After that, I think it will be another Arkansas setting that I recently had the opportunity to research on a family trip.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Find something unique that will make your book stand out among all the other books out there. For me, it was setting. I rattled off the storyline to s bored-looking editor at ACFW in 2009. When I told her about the setting, her eyes lit up.