Monday, June 05, 2006

Once Upon Stilettos!

Hello, dear readers, and please welcome the lovely Shanna Swendson to the blog! Shanna is the author of the successful novel, ENCHANTED INC, and now she has a new book out! I hope everyone will be patient with my formatting, as I’m still on this funky dialup connection and can’t edit properly!

First, take a look at this adorable cover!

Click your heels three times and say,
“There’s no place like Bloomies!”
Katie Chandler’s life is pure magic¬~literally. As an executive assistant at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., she’s seen more than her share of fantastical occurrences. A mere Manhattan mortal, Katie is no wizard, but she’s a wiz at exposing “hokum” pocus, cloaked lies, and deceptive enchantments. And she’s fallen under the all-too-human spell of attraction to Owen, a hunky wizard and coworker. Owen, however, is preoccupied. Someone has broken into his office and disrupted top-secret files, and it reeks of an inside job. CEO Merlin (yes, the Merlin) and taps Katie and her special ability to uncover the magical mole.
Keeping her feelings in check while sleuthing alongside Owen, Katie is shocked to discover that her immunity to magic is waning, putting her in grave danger. Soon she’s surrendering to the charms and enchantments of everyone and everything around her, including a killer pair of red stilettos. Katie must now conjure up her natural instincts to get to the bottom of the break-in, regain her power, and win the wizard of her dreams.

"Once Upon Stilettos is not to be missed if you're in the mood for a fast and funny read where chicklit meets urban fantasy." -- Mary Jo Putney, author of A Kiss of Fate
"A princely wizard, Cinderella red stilettos, and a megalomaniac--what more could a girl ask for? ONCE UPON STILETTOS is a delightful urban fairytale with a dreamy hero and a country-wise Texas heroine who use their magical and non-magical charms to seek justice and unmask the villain. Just a few weeks in the life of a simple single girl..." -- bestselling author Patricia Rice

Once upon a time ...
A little girl learned to amuse herself by making up stories in her head. She turned everyday activities into exciting adventures, and she made up new adventures for characters from her favorite movies, TV shows and books. Then one day she realized that if she wrote down those stories, she'd have a book! But that was crazy, she thought. Real people don't become novelists. That was like deciding you were going to be a movie star. You couldn't just go and do it.
But, it turns out, you can, and she did. She realized her dream of becoming a novelist and seeing her stories in bookstores.
And then she started to wig herself out by writing about herself in the third-person.
This is her story.
The Novelist's Journey
As I said above in that bit of silliness, I've always been a writer at heart. My favorite way to play was to create stories and act them out with my Fisher-Price people, my Barbie dolls or myself and a box of play clothes. If none of those things were available, I could just sit and make up stories in my head. I occasionally got into trouble for being a little too creative, such as the time when I embellished a bit on my kindergarten experiences (where's the dramatic hook in coloring, cutting out and pasting?).
When I was in seventh grade and a bit old for Fisher-Price people, Barbie dolls or the dress-up box, I started writing these stories down in spiral notebooks. Later, I found an old manual typewriter, taught myself to type, then wrote a lot of first chapters of novels on it. I still hadn't figured out how to actually be a working novelist who gets paid for writing (finishing a book instead of writing a lot of first chapters might have been a good start), so when it came time to go to college, I went to journalism school at the University of Texas. While getting my degree in broadcast news, I managed to structure a curriculum that might also help me in my real career plans. I took fencing (which I thought would be useful for writing fantasy novels), an astronomy course on the search for extraterrestrial life (in case I wanted to write science fiction), psychology, interpersonal communication, and parageography (the geography of imaginary lands).
I got serious about pursuing my novel-writing ambitions soon after I got my first job in public relations (TV reporting, it turns out, would have taken away from my writing time) when I started joining local writing organizations and reading books on how to write a novel. Then I took the big step of registering for a writing conference. With the registration fee, you could enter two manuscripts in a contest that went with the conference. I figured if I was paying that much money, I'd get the most out of it, so I wrote two entries. At the conference, I met a real, live editor, who encouraged me to submit, and one of my entries won the science fiction/fantasy category of the contest. I hurried to finish the novel the editor had asked for, then mailed a proposal.
She ended up rejecting the book, but encouraged me to keep trying. I ended up selling that novel elsewhere, then sold two more books to that publisher before I had another idea for that original editor. That book ended up selling, and then one more.
And then I hit the wall. Due to a number of circumstances, some of which weren't my fault and some of which were, I didn't sell anything else for eight years. But then I had the idea that became Enchanted, Inc., I wrote it, sold it, and here I am.
Other Life Stuff
I think I need to get a few more hobbies or something else going on in my life that isn't related to reading or writing because currently my bio in my books is shorter than the "about the typeface" section. Yes, a typeface has a more interesting life than I do.
When I'm not writing, I'm most often reading. Otherwise, I enjoy watching science fiction TV shows and then discussing them on the Internet, working crossword puzzles, baking, singing in the church choir, and, when I have the time and money, traveling.
I haven't yet found my prince charming, and I live with a collection of predatory houseplants, including a trained attack bougainvillea, the hibiscus that shares my office, and a Christmas cactus that's stuck with me through four jobs, three homes, and several boyfriends and men who didn't quite make it to boyfriend status.

> MO'C: How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how
> the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.
I got the initial idea for this book while I was writing the first book in
the series. I knew I'd be writing a sequel (if the first book sold), but I
didn't know what it would be about. Then in the fourth chapter of the first
book, a character makes an offhand remark about something that might happen.
As soon as I wrote it, I got shivers and knew it was something that would
have to happen, and that gave me the plot for the sequel.

Meanwhile, there was this pair of red shoes I saw at Nordstrom that caught
my eye. I'm a shoe fiend, but am usually pretty practical about it (which is
why I have dozens of pairs of black shoes that go with everything). These
had an incredible draw on me, even though I wasn't sure what I'd wear them
with or where I'd wear them. At the time, the first book in the series was
with an agent who was considering it, and I told the friend I was shopping
with that if the book sold, I'd buy the shoes. The day I got an offer on the
book and the still unwritten sequel, we went to the mall to buy those shoes,
and I got the last pair in my size. On the way home, I told my friend,
"They're magic shoes," and then I got the shivers again. That gave me a
motif for the book, as well as an opening line, and then the story just
clicked into place for me.

> MO'C: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
You can't let yourself get discouraged. If you do get discouraged enough to
be willing to quit, then maybe you're not cut out for this business. The
people who succeed are the ones who keep trying, keep learning and keep
growing as a writer -- and who can't bring themselves to quit trying, no
matter how many rejections they pile up.

> MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
My writing day tends to consist of about six hours of goofing off, checking
e-mail, surfing the net, blogging, reading blogs, etc., followed by about
three hours of intense writing. I think my subconscious has to play around a
bit before it's ready to cough up the story for me. I used to feel guilty
about all the time I feel like I'm wasting, but then I realized it was just
the way I happen to work, and I might as well go with it.

I am the LAST person anyone should ask about getting organized. My house
looks like a war zone! I guess I am organized in a way about my writing. I
keep all my notes and jottings about a book in a spiral notebook, so it's
all there and handy for reference, and I keep a calendar for charting events
in the book so I don't lose track of time.

> MO'C: What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most
> frustrating?
The most exciting thing for me is hearing from readers who love my books.
That never gets old, and I still squeal a little each time an e-mail from a
reader pops up in my in-box.

The most frustrating thing for me about publishing is that it doesn't seem
to follow any of the established rules of business that work in the rest of
the world. I used to do corporate public relations and marketing for huge,
multinational firms, and it seems like the publishing world does exactly the
opposite of everything I learned in the corporate world. When everything is
going smoothly in publishing terms, it feels to me like failure, and I'm
having to re-learn what I think of as normal before I go nuts.

> MO'C: Do you think you might write a follow-up to this book? If not,
> what else is in the works?
I've already written the follow-up to this book, and I'm about to get to
work on the fourth book in this series.

Now for three questions of my own (that's really hard to think of, and I
resisted the urge to ask myself if it's a burden being so beautiful and
talented) ...

How do you research your books, or do you just make everything up?

I research the "real world" parts and make up the magical parts. I've read a
lot of books on the business world, workplace dynamics, dealing with
difficult co-workers, women in the workplace, and that kind of thing. I also
try to visit New York before I write each book to do location research. That
sparks a lot of ideas.

My magical system in the books is entirely made-up and doesn't rely on any
established mythology or belief system. I have done some reading on mythical
creatures, and I take ideas from there that fit what I want in my stories,
and I like to draw names from Welsh mythology, but nothing I write is
mapping directly to any particular legend.

Are there any particular challenges to marketing a cross-genre book?

I think there are definite advantages and disadvantages to marketing a book
that straddles genres like mine does. On the plus side, there's a broader
market to target and more people who might be interested in reading the
book. My books are fantasy/chick lit, and while you don't get a lot of male
readers for chick lit, guys are open to reading fantasy, so I probably have
more male readers than most chick lit authors. On the down side, that means
you have to spread your promotional efforts over a broader range of
audiences, which may mean a lesser impact everywhere. To hit all of my
target audiences, I have to try to reach chick lit readers, fantasy readers,
paranormal romance fans and young adult readers.

Then there's the shelving dilemma. Most bookstores don't seem open to
shelving in two different areas, so they have to pick one. If my books are
shelved in fantasy, the chick lit readers might not ever find them. Shelved
in general fiction, fantasy readers have trouble finding them.

What do you do when you're not writing?

That's something I'm working on! I knew I was in trouble when the "about the
typeface" paragraph in the back of my book was longer than my author bio. It
seems like I've managed to turn just about everything I do for fun into
something that relates to my work. While it's great to be able to make a
living doing the stuff I do for fun, it now means that my life really
revolves around my work. I have a goal of finding a new hobby that has
nothing to do with my work and that will get me out of the house. But then
it will probably inspire a book and go on to become part of my "work."

Thank you so much, Shanna! Doesn’t this book sound DELICIOUS? You may buy it at Amazon, or your local indy bookseller. There are other places you can buy her book too—check out your local store!