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Interview with Shannon McNear

Nearly twenty years ago, I had the delightful fortune of meeting this week’s featured author. Ironically, we met in Nashville at a writer’s conference. This was the one thing Shannon McNear considers to be the best investment she ever made in her writing career.

“I cannot emphasize enough how vital those were to learning the writing craft and making connections in the industry. As well as making lifelong friends!” she says.

Conferences are an invaluable asset to your growth as a writer.

Shannon was one of the writers in the critique group that encouraged my now-husband to attend the conference where he and I met. She was even one of the matchmaking mamas responsible for manipulation tactics that paired up my husband and me on the way toward our trip down the aisle. She also brought her youngest daughter to that conference, a girl who is now in her final year of high school. Hard to believe so much time has passed, and Shannon hasn’t wasted a second of it!

She began writing novels at age 15, several years before she married and started a family. When I asked her if there was anything she’d change from when she was younger to become a better writer as an adult, she said, “My childhood and teen years were already filled with so much that even now feeds my stories—reading, music, rambling in the timber, horseback riding, all while constantly spinning adventures in my own head.”

That overflow of real life into her writing isn’t limited to just her childhood experiences. Not only do her eight children provide abundant fodder for anecdotal inserts, but Shannon has also served for many years in worship and youth ministry.

“Worship and teaching Scripture have always, I believe, helped deepen the spiritual thread in my stories, and the relevance of whatever my characters are struggling with.” She says all those children help keep her young, and she’s been taking a lot of mental notes the last several weeks while preparing to write historical teen drama.

So, a writing career, eight kids of her own, a ministry full of youth, and a myriad of extra family members of the furry and feather variety. How does one attempt to strike a balance?

“Balance? What on earth is that?” Shannon says.

What is that, indeed? Sometimes, it’s a little less intensive, but “young adult dilemmas and heartbreak are just as immediate and weighty as squabbles between toddlers,” she says. Nevertheless, it does help having older kids to run errands, cook, or do the grocery shopping.

With all but two children out of the house, Shannon has learned to adapt to the new routine. She has had to compartmentalize and be very intentional about writing time during the day. In the past, she had to stay up late to fit in writing time, but that no longer works.

“I’m at the point where I need to peel myself out of bed when my husband leaves for work and use those first hours in the day to focus and dig into my story. I’m so not a morning person, but I can be much more productive in that sliver of time before anyone else is up.”

Those early morning hours can be quite a precious commodity. The time can be spent writing, researching, plotting, planning, or even editing. Shannon spends as much time as possible researching before even starting a book. It could be several weeks or several months.

“I wish I had longer. And while I do have a rough sketch of the storyline ahead of time, I almost always have to trust the process of discovery as I go. Things always change!”

So, that makes her an intuitive plotter! While that blend might seem fun, writing a series as this type of writer can be difficult.

“I wish I had the luxury of writing the whole thing before having to release the first, for continuity’s sake!”

When writing across multiple books, there are bound to be details that aren’t discovered or connections not made until the second, third, or even fourth book. Shannon agrees.

“I have to let go of my need to have everything perfect, and just keep going.”

Sometimes, that letting go means parts of what you write end up on the cutting block. For example, in her current release, Shannon had to cut out parts of Manteo’s baptismal service and at least one other church service, “because it just dragged on too long for the average reader.” Although everything is included to start, as the story progresses, some parts don’t make the final cut.

That usually connects to the big picture purpose of each novel. For this Daughters of the Lost Colony series, Shannon sees that purpose as showcasing to readers “that history is far more complex and nuanced than people tend to believe, and that God’s grace truly can sustain us through anything.”

Shannon has taken dozens of literary pilgrimages as she has begun formulating her stories, but Hatteras Island might just be her favorite.

“Sometimes the value of research for me isn’t so much in hard, cold facts but in getting the feel of a place, so I can better write about a particular setting. For the Outer Banks, it was learning how a maritime forest looks and smells. It was also walking around a community located on what is basically a sandbar on the edge of a wild ocean. Experiencing the scent of a place is a good part of why I prefer onsite research.”

Back home, though, after a good bit of the research is done, Shannon is hard at work on a March deadline. She hopes to finish this series and carve out wider slices of writing time as her youngest goes off to college. There are also plans to release her first three novellas, now out of print.

In parting, Shannon shares, “If God has put the vision in your heart, don’t give up, no matter how long it takes. And if He tells you to wait on Him—you better do that as well! But when He says MOVE, well then, don’t hesitate.”
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works as a homeschool mom and independent contractor, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Kentucky. They have a daughter and son, and 2 cats. She has sold over 25 books so far, three of which have won annual reader's choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. (

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