Shannon Taylor Vannatter married her high school sweetheart. Since then her husband answered the call to preach and they became first-time parents 16 ½ years into their marriage. She is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. Her first series with Heartsong Presents is 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. The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards named her #3 Favorite New Author, White Roses as #1 Contemporary Novel and #2 Favorite Contemporary Cover, and White Doves as #8 Contemporary Novel and #1 Favorite Contemporary Cover.
Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com/. Her blog, The Inkslinger, features true love stories, inspirational author’s real-life romances, insight into the love lives of their fictional characters, book excerpts, romantic destinations, and weekly book giveaways at http://www.shannonvannatter.com/blog. Her group blog: http://www.inkspirationalmessage.com/ features ten writers on life and writing. She’s active on Facebook: facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter and Twitter: @stvauthor.
Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
I had a creative writing class in the 3rd grade and loved it, but nothing else to encourage me in the direction of writing. I lived close to Six Flags over GA and wanted to be one of those girls on skates who swept there.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
9 ½ frustrating years with over 200 rejections.
Wow! Sounds like the definition of perserverance. Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Join ACFW, go to as many conferences as you can afford, take any online classes ACFW offers, and find a critique group. The class that made all the pieces of the writing puzzle fit for me was Margie Lawson’s EDITs System. I had the opportunity to take it as an early bird at the Denver ACFW Conference, but you can get the lecture packet on Margie’s website.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
I take my 9 year old son to school in the morning, straighten the house, do a few loads of laundry. By 10:00 at the latest, I’m at the computer. I read whatever I wrote yesterday to get me back in the flow of the story and start writing. At 2:45, I stop and go pick up my son. The rest of the day is his and my husband’s after he comes home. In the summer, my son and I spend a lot of our time in our blue WalMart pool. I write at night after everyone else is in bed. Summers aren’t as productive and I try to work my deadlines around them.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
My editor initially rejected the series I’m working on now. She told me exactly what she didn’t like about it. I thought about what I could change and came up with an alternate storyline. She liked it and we signed the contract. I can take constructive criticism and she was right. I like the book much better now. Now, if I get rejected, I know if I’m flexible and I work hard, there will be another book in the future. That knowledge makes rejection easier to take.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Romance wasn’t what Laken had in mind.
Laken Kroft left home eight years ago and never looked back. Who knew when she applied for the promotion to postmaster that she'd end up in Romance, Arkansas, and much too close to her parents, the town drunk and the local gossip maven?
Hayden Winters has his hands full raising his paraplegic nephew, Brady, and wrestling with his guilt over having caused the child's injury. When the boy's father, Laken's brother, turns up and starts talking custody, Laken's influence is Hayden's only hope. But whose side is she really on?
Will their mutual bond with their seven-year-old nephew draw them closer or rip them asunder? Will Laken accept Hayden “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” or be forced to turn her back on him and “Return to Sender”?
If you could only share one line from White Doves, which one would you choose and why?
Wow, that’s a great question. When Hayden convinces Laken to go to church for the first time since she was a kid, she’s convicted, but doesn’t do anything about it. The fifteen feet to the altar stretched into miles. I hope that line resonates. People walk away from church every week without making a decision about what to do with Jesus. And some never get another chance.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in White Doves that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
Laken isn’t outdoorsy and is very allergic to poison ivy. I like being outside, but I like wide trails. If I have to pick my way through the woods, or a narrow trail, I’m always afraid some of those vines grabbing at me are poison ivy. I’m so allergic, I don’t even have to go out in the woods, I get it from my cats.
When I was nine, my parents and I lived in Georgia. We were traveling in the summer to see my grandparents in Arkansas. We stopped at a motel in Mississippi for the night. It had a pool, but it was jam-packed with people. I was mad and wishing they’d all leave, so I could swim. A certain form of wildlife made its very distinct noise. Very creepy sounding, but my parents knew what it was. The other people didn’t and we soon had the pool to ourselves. The experience inspired a scene in White Doves.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
Collin, Laken’s brother, is the villain. He’s back to claim Hayden’s nephew, Brady, who is Collin’s son. Collin’s redeeming quality is that he truly believes he’s doing the right thing and wants what is best for Brady.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
I researched the inner workings of the post office. I went to my post office and got generic details and visited the Romance Post Office for the particulars. I found a website with postal slang that was fun. The printout is somewhere in my research bin.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I recently turned in the first book in a Texas rodeo series and will be starting book two soon.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
Join a local writers’ group and attend conferences. If you’re interested in the inspirational market, join ACFW. I learned the basics through local groups and conferences. I learned how to write at a publishable level through ACFW.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
How old I am and why I only have a nine year old son. I’d be honest. I’m forty-five and we waited until we thought we could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Then it took a while for me to get pregnant. We’d almost given up by the time it happened. I like to think, while I hang out with the twenty-something moms at all the school events, that I’m the wisest.
Shannon is giving away a copy of her book White Roses. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!