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Interview With Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Like many authors, Shannon Taylor Vannatter persevered for years until she finally broke into the traditional publishing market. Recently her diligence paid off with a three-book Heartsong contract, offering hope to many other tireless authors to keep pressing on!

First of all, Shannon, congratulations! We’re thrilled with your success. So tell us … where does your passion for telling stories of romance come from? And what is it you hope to accomplish through those stories?

I’ve loved reading romance since I was thirteen years old. As it became increasingly difficult to find a clean romance, I decided to write one. But my characters kept talking to God and I discovered the Christian market.

My hope is to get the message across that love doesn’t conquer all, God does. I don’t see how a marriage can work without God in the center. Men and women are so different, only God can smooth out the rough edges for us.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
ACFW. I’d attended numerous local conferences and learned the basics. Looking for more, I went to the ACFW conference in 2005 and realized I knew nothing about writing. In 2008, I finally joined and applied for my awesome critique group. A year later, I had a contract offer.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
An eight year-old son with boundless energy, who doesn’t get the concept that mom has to work now. I work around his schedule, which means I’m pretty unproductive in the summer.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
That first book I wrote was supposed to be just a clean romance, but I couldn’t do it. My characters kept praying and depending on God instead of each other. He’s such a part of my life, I realized I couldn’t write a romance without Him in it. I didn’t know there was an inspirational romance market and was delighted to discover publishers were looking for the type of book I’d written.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Just one. Sorry, can’t do it. The first time I finaled in an RWA contest. When I sold my first short story to Mature Living. When I got to meet my ACFW critters in person. When JoAnne Simmons eyes lit up over my story. The contract offer. When Heartsong asked if this book could be a series and wanted two more books. When I got my box of author copies and holding my baby in my hands. When the content edit on the third book was so much shorter than the first two and Heartsong officially accepted the book before I’d turned in the edits.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
It’s a driving need inside. I can’t not write. I tried a few times when the early rejections kept pouring in. When I try to take a break is when the most ideas start flowing.

I get a lot of ideas from headlines. I’ll hear about something horrible that’s happened and wonder how the survivors survived, especially if they’re not Christians. Something I see or that happens to me, only I expand on it and start asking what if and pretty soon I’ve got a story.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I love piling on the emotional baggage and showing the character that God can get us through anything. My editor recently suggested that I lighten up. But even with seemingly insurmountable odds, I’m an optimist and I think it shows in my voice. I love happily-ever-afters, am thankful for mine, and wish everyone could have one.

Finish this question. The best writing advice I’ve ever received is …
My first agent, back in 2002 told me to read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King. I did and it improved my craft. She also told me to read GMC by Debra Dixon. We were on a tight budget and I couldn’t bring myself to pay $20 for an out of print book.

At the 2008 ACFW Conference, Margaret Daley did my paid critique and told me to read GMC. I finally caved and ended up wishing I’d listened back in 2002. I might have gotten published sooner, but it was all in God’s timing.

Any parting words?
I’m honored and humbled to know people are reading my books. It’s still all very surreal.

Thanks for sharing with us, Shannon!
Thanks for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Second only to writing, I love talking about writing.

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