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Interview with Chawna Schroeder

Chawna Schroeder is a boundary stretcher. She uses the boundaries set out by God as a guide to challenges readers to go beyond their comfort zones to explore the vast space God has provided for us to investigate. Chawna dares us to live UNBOXED and does this through her blog Imagination Investigation and through both her nonfiction and fiction writing. Her latest fiction novel, The Vault Between Spaces, is a YA fantasy that takes us on a journey within a space thought to be impenetrable. But one girl who does not fit into the usual boxes defies this myth.

Welcome Chawna!

What an amazing premise for a novel. Can you share with us how you came up with the idea for The Vault Between Spaces?

It probably sounds a bit cliché and cheesy, but it came from something I dreamed—a girl intentionally getting herself arrested in order to escape, and the impact she had on the people around her because she wasn’t quite like anyone else. (Yes, I have very vivid and strange dreams!) That then combined with what I was mulling at the time, about what happens when you do what God wants and yet things don’t turn out the way expected.

Of course, the final story looks little like the original dream, but that was where the root premise sprang from.

Oriel is such a captivating character. What or who inspired her?
I am not aware of a single inspiration or even the major influences on the creation of Oriel, but she was probably a conglomeration of ideas and characters from stories I was enjoying during her early development. Linette from Sharon Hinck’s The Deliverer was on my mind, so that probably influenced her appearance. I was also watching the television show Person of Interest at the time, so it wouldn’t surprise me if I borrowed from Reese’s and Finch’s characters as well. I do know Scripture later influenced other aspects of her nature, about which I cannot say too much. But overall, Oriel was one of those characters walked onto the page pretty well developed, without me knowing really where she came from.

Your other fiction novel, Beast is also fantasy. What led you to write YA Fantasy?
I never set out to consciously write either young adult or fantasy, especially since I never read much of either until after becoming an adult. But I have a deep passion for seeing things reach their full potential, which is a theme that naturally works well with young adult characters. The fantasy probably came out of my love of all things Disney and my enjoyment of stretching the boundaries of “what if?”

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling? In particular, you have a nonfiction focus on discernment. Do you highlight this spiritual practice in your writing?
I’m not sure that I can completely separate my faith from my writing. In many ways, story is one of the ways I process life and grapple with faith issues. As a result, story is a natural outflow of my faith. Story, in turn, often becomes an act of worship and a way to spend time with God.

Because of that close bond, it is important that I keep growing spiritually and stay connected with God. Therefore, prayer and Bible study, among other things, are important to keep me going as a writer.

As for discernment specifically, I haven’t consciously implemented into a story, although I’m sure it surfaces in different ways as characters make choice and such. But I’m sure it will show one of these days. I’m too passionate about the topic for it not to.

Does your knowledge of Greek and Hebrew get used within your fictional writing?
They are often used to one extent or another. Names are the most likely to be obviously influenced. For example, Oriel’s name literally means in Hebrew “my light (is) God.” But there are subtle influences as well—sometimes a translation will bring out a different nuance which will spark idea that I end up using in a story.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Patience and education. I spent the first few years of my writing career taking correspondence writing courses, reading books on writing, and studying trade magazines. That provided me a solid foundation on which to build without having to worry about things like marketing and pitching books.

As for patience, I started pursuing writing with the grand idea that I would have my first book published within a decade of when I started pursing writing. It seemed like a reasonable goal based on what I had been told. Instead sixteen years passed before that first publication, and twenty with this second novel. Much of that time God worked on teaching me patience and to wait on Him. I can’t say that I’ve learned the lesson perfectly or even well, but without patience and the willingness to wait on God (albeit at times forced), I would have given up on this journey long before I reached publication!

What is your writing routine? Do you work outside of writing? If not, how have you made writing a sustainable career?
On a day that is completely open, I have the general following routine:

Bible study and prayer, outlining goals for the day, reading a little on a writing book or magazine to get my mind going, and a couple hours of writing fills my mornings.

Afternoons are for reading fiction or other nonfiction, catching up on internet/email/social media, and other business aspects of writing. Evenings, if they are free, might see some additional writing, extra business work, reading, or working on things like this interview.

Of course, that can be a big if. Many days I have other things scheduled which I have to work around, like the various part-time jobs I’ve worked alongside my writing. Currently, that includes a mobile bookstore I take to home school conferences, some secretarial work for a family business, and house & pet sitting for those wishing to take vacations without the need to kennel their pets. I also am able to write as much as I do because of the generous support of my parents, who very much act as my patrons.

What have you seen change in the twenty years since you started writing?
There have been so many changes. Some good. Some bad. Some just neutral, being simply different. But I think the biggest shifts have been in expansion.

Twenty years ago, romantic suspense didn’t really exist as a separate genre in the Christian market, science fiction and fantasy barely registered with only a couple of names like Kathy Tyers and Karen Hancock. Now we have subgenres of subgenres, it seems, covering everything from the sweet romance with the happily-ever-after to penetrating books with tough topics like sex trafficking!

Twenty years ago, social media barely existed. Now we have so many options for marketing and connecting with our readers, it can seem utterly overwhelming.

Twenty years ago, printed books were the primary way to sell a story. Now we have many different formats with which to share our books, from hard covers to digital audiobooks!

Twenty years ago, royalty publishing was the way to publish. Self-publishing was expensive, difficult, and generally seen as the outlet of the egoistical wannabe writer who didn’t want to take the time to learn the craft. Now self-publishing has become a viable way for authors to share their work, alongside small house publishers and larger traditional houses.
In short, I am amazed at all the options we now have as writers, from what we write to how we publish to how we sell our books. We are truly living in an age of great challenges, yes, but also amazing opportunities.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I have a strong interest in fiberarts—weaving, spinning, crochet, cross-stitch, sewing, machine embroidery—so doing one of those while watching a movie a common free time activity. I also spend fair amount of time practicing piano, studying Scripture, and on the phone chatting friends and family who live far away.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Way too many! Especially since I’m trying to read extra books in preparation for homeschool conferences (I try to vet the majority of the stock I sell). For fiction, I have The Children of the Blood Moon by S.D. Grimm, Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser, Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson, and Romanov by Nadine Brandes, to name a few. On the nonfiction side, I am currently finishing up Leland Ryken’s The Liberated Imagination, just started G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and reading a series of books about Israel, in preparation for a trip there.

Finish this statement: If I were not an author, I would be ____________.
I would be in serious trouble! Really. Because I fully believe I am where God wants me to be, which means to do anything else would be an act of disobedience.

But if I had to imagine a different career path, I could think a couple of ways it could have gone. I know in high school, I considered doing something with textiles or fashion because of my love for fiberarts, and if I had pursued that path I think I might have headed for costume design. But the pull of story is so strong on my heart, it is more likely I would have ended up working in a bookstore or as a librarian in the end.

What do you hope readers with take away from The Vault Between Spaces?
In a single word, hope. Hope that where they are is not where they will always be. Hope that what appears to be may not be what is. Hope that although things make no sense, God is in control and has a purpose. Hope that we all have something to contribute. Hope that we can be redeemed and have purpose again, even when we've messed up royally. Hope that the end of the story is truly better than the messy middle we're living in.


As a teen, Tara Ross first discovered how hope-filled prose can change the entire trajectory of a person's life. Case in point: her life. She now has the joy of sharing this truth with youth every day - as a Speech-Language Pathologist, youth ministry worker and YA author.

Her soon to be released debut novel and blog, were created to ignite sparks of faith for Generation Z. You can follow Tara on instagram (tara.k.ross) or twitter (tara_k_ross) for more book reviews, tattoo worthy quotes and updates on her publishing journey.

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