It's GCC Time Again! Welcome, Shanna Swedson!
I am often asked why I belong to a blog co-op with so many women who write chicklit when my first novel, THE BITCH POSSE, was presented as "the anti-chicklit." That's an interesting question, and I'll try to shine a light on that this week. The condensed version is... we're all in this together. Boy, it took me a long time to learn that! I am one of life's classic slow learners. But y'all already knew THAT! Besides, I am not always in the mood for the next Don Delillo tome. Sometimes you want a fun novel to entertain you, something that will make you laugh out loud. And if that's the case, check out Shanna's latest book, DAMSEL UNDER STRESS, a book that comes out tomorrow and is already attracting a bunch of praise.
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.
At last, Owen Palmer, the dreamboat wizard at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., has conjured up the courage to get Katie Chandler under the mistletoe at the office holiday party. But just when it looks like Katie has found her prince, in pops her inept fairy godmother, Ethelinda, to throw a wand into the works. Ehtelinda’s timing couldn’t be worse. A plot hatched by MSI’s rogue ex-employees, Idris and his evil fairy gal pal Ari, threatens to expose the company’s secrets and the very existence of magic itself. Even worse, it could also mean the end of Katie’s happily-ever-after.
Now Katie and Owen must work side by side (but alas, not cheek to cheek) to thwart the villains’ plans. Braving black-magic-wielding sorceresses, subway-dwelling dragons, lovelorn frog princes, and even the dreaded trip to meet Owen’s parents at Christmas, Katie and her beau are in a battle to beat Idris at his own sinister game. All mischief and matters of the heart will come to a head at a big New Year’s Eve gala, when the crystal ball will drop, champagne will pour, and Katie will find herself truly spellbound.
Mayhem at its most enchanting. **** -- Romantic Times Book Reviews
Fans of both chick-lit and Harry Potter should not miss out on this series set in magical modern-day Manhattan. -- Fresh Fiction
Great fun, an amusing romp of a romantic read -- Book Loons
Part of the main plot of the book (which I won't give away here as it's a major spoiler) came from brainstorming lists of things that would be utterly impossible to make happen to my main character, and then trying to think of ways to make that happen.
Then the comic subplot, with the wacky fairy godmother, came from my occasional lament about my lack of a love life, in which I claim that it would be so much easier if I had a fairy godmother. I realized that I was writing in a universe in which I could make that happen literally and thought it would be fun to play with.
2. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep trying. Be persistent. But also know when to give up on a particular project and move on rather than getting stuck in the rut of something that isn't working.
3. What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
Most of my writing day involves checking e-mail, posting at Television Without Pity, and reading blogs. And then the guilt kicks in and I write about twenty pages. I am the world's least organized person, and every effort I've made to organize myself has failed, so I should not be allowed to give advice on this topic.
4. What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?
The most exciting thing is hearing from readers who love my books. It's so cool to realize that I've affected someone in some way. The most frustrating thing is how little control I really have over what happens to my book -- things like distribution, print run, publicity, store placement and all that have such a huge impact on a book's prospects, and I have only the teeniest amount of control over that. I have to try not to cringe when I meet someone, tell them about my books, and they say that's exactly the kind of book they're looking for, and they wonder why they never heard of them before.
5. 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 next book in the series, and it should be coming out in January. I've got a proposal written for the fifth book, but I don't know yet if I'll get a contract for it. I really want to write it because it closes out the series (for now) in a nice way.
6. Has it been easier or more difficult to write the third book in a series?
This book was the most difficult so far. I had the world so well-established that I was stuck with what I'd already built, even if it did turn out to be inconvenient. I also had a huge cast of characters that had built up since the first book, and I needed to give each of them a role in the story. Meanwhile, I have a lot more voices in my head trying to influence me than I did with that first book. I find myself anticipating what my agent will say, what my editor will say, what the copy-editor will say, what reviewers will say and what readers will think about everything I write. It takes a conscious effort to shut that off and just write.
7. What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I've been known to say that I like the kind of books that have words in them. To narrow it down a little, I really like chick lit, fantasy, science fiction and mystery, and I've also got a fascination for books set during World War II. Not really the battle and strategy parts of the war, but rather the effect on ordinary people.
8. When you're not writing, what do you do?
I love to sing, and I've been taking a voice class at the community college this spring. That was a real experience because I have terrible stage fright, and the teacher assigned me some pretty difficult opera arias to perform, one in Italian. But I survived, and by the end I'd quit having severe panic attacks about singing. I also had to learn to really dig for the emotion to express it in the song, and I think that's something I can apply to my writing.
Otherwise, I mostly do quiet things like reading, watching TV, and discussing TV on the Internet.
Thank you, Shanna! Check out the new book online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or further that "we're all in this together" idea a bit more by stopping in at your LOCAL INDY BOOKSELLER!