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Interview With Shawna K. Williams

In All Things is your second published book. It’s also a continuance of your debut book, No Other. The lead characters are the same and the love story continues with their hardships and joys.

Was Jakob and Meri’s story written as one book and then divided, or did you feel their story wasn’t finished and then wrote In All Things?

Originally the story this was inspired from was one book. I say "inspired" because it changed a great deal during the rewrites. In All Things changed much more than No Other. There is a character in this story that represents what Meri could become, and in the original, it's what she did become. I don't want to give away more than that, but I really think the way this story finished, after it's many rewrites, is how it's supposed to be told. It felt very peaceful and complete to type the last words.

Do you consider the books stand-alone or a two-book series? In that, I mean, can one be read on its own merit without the reader thinking they’ve missed something?
I consider it a two-book series, but the story always had a natural break, which made telling it as two stand-alones pretty easy also. No Other reads as a complete story, but I did leave some clues – the main one being a misguided promise Jakob makes at the end.

In All Things is a bit longer. It revisits many of the same issues when the characters make a return trip home, but they're ten years older and their perspective is different. Some things have lost their gloss and disillusion has set in. I've written it in such a way that it's not necessary to have read the first, but I think it will mean more to the reader, especially in regard to the characters' personal journeys, if the reader has read No Other. In All Things explores Meri's background in greater detail, the dysfunctional nature of her and Jakob's relationship and how its hindered her growth as a Christian, and the couple's struggle to grow beyond this.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I would have to say that the most significant thing has been the relationships I've formed with like-minded authors.

I had gotten to a point where I was feeling rather dejected and wondering if there was any place for what I write in the Christian fiction market. I mean, No Other has a student/teacher affair and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in it – in 1947! I can only imagine agents' eyes bugging out of their heads when they read the synopsis. Even though those two issues aren't quite as shocking in the context of the story – the characters are of the same age -- they're still not exactly conventional topics to find in Christian fiction, and I knew that.

I met several authors through Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (ECFL) and they gave me the encouragement to keep on; otherwise I think I might have decided that something was wrong with me for wanting to write No Other and In All Things and more stories like them. Since being a little messed-up is so much of who I am/was I couldn't just 'write something else.' Coming from me it wouldn't have been honest. I needed to write stories for people like myself. My aim has always been to focus on Grace.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Sleeping. I write after everyone else has gone to bed. I get about five hours per night, but it's been a little better lately with all of my deadlines met. During the day I try to take care of my family. We have a ranch and we also home school. I try to handle all the promotion stuff that comes along with writing while it's light out, and I edit and review, too. I stink at balance, though. I'm so bad at it I shouldn't even try to answer this question. My house is messy, which drives me nuts. Tonight we ate frozen pizza for dinner – not DiGiorno – and poor hubby has been forced to take over the laundry. I really hope to get a lot better at this balance thing because it would be nice to have company again.

Your tagline is ‘Grace-Inspired Fiction’. How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
The greatest gift God has given us is Grace through Christ's death and resurrection. This gift is on greatest display during life's struggles. In the words of Paul, "Shall we go on sinning so that Grace may increase? By no means!" But I don't think that anyone can deny that God uses our struggles to teach us – if we're willing to listen; and He never denies His Grace in the face of repentance.

There are so many people out there who don't know this. Maybe they hear it, but they've never felt it in their lives. They believe that it's for other people; they are beyond God's Grace. The beauty of writing Christian fiction is to tell a story that says otherwise. Just because the story is fiction doesn't mean it holds no truth. We draw on experience, conviction and faith when we write. I guess what I hope beyond anything is that a person can see a bit of themselves through the characters in my stories and know that Grace is for them too.

Your first book was the result of a dream. What is the inspiration for the others?
In All Things is the result of that same dream. I also have a third book releasing in December that was inspired by my grandparents. The story is fictional, but I did weave in some of my grandparents' memories. My current work in progress is a spin off from No Other and In All Things. I don't have a title yet.

People's stories are what inspire me most. I'm always people watching and asking questions. Abandoned houses also inspire me because I wonder a great deal about who lived there and what happened during their lives.

I tend to focus on the emotional journey in my writing, so I spend a lot of time pondering how historical events, or just life stuff, play out in my characters' psyches. To do this, I type my characters on the Myers-Briggs scale after I feel I've got a grasp for what makes them tick. This is really useful in producing inner conflict – my favorite kind – that's both complex and consistent according to each character. It also helps me to understand how my characters are likely to interact with one another, and I derive all kinds of inspiration from that!

Your first two books are set in post-WWII US. Is this your preferred setting? What about your next project?

No Other is set in a small coastal town in Texas, 1947-48, but In All Things is actually set in Hollywood, 1958-59, and that same coastal town in Texas. Orphaned Hearts is set in Northwest Arkansas, 1932.

I like the era between 1920 and 1950, give or take a few. It's hard to say why. I just find myself drawn to "simpler" times. Though, the more I research, the more I see that every generation has had their struggles.

I'm currently working on a story for one of the characters from No Other and In All Things. This wasn't something I had expected to write, but following No Other I had about half a dozen people ask me about Roger. Given that No Other is only available as an ebook at this time, this number represents a significant response from my readership. So... I've got some good ideas working, and this new story, which is yet untitled, will be set right after In All Things – around 1960.

I've always been a fan of science fiction, so I'd like to write that at some point too. I have an overall idea for a series, but it's still vague at the moment and would sound silly if I tried to explain. I'm saving this one for a surprise someday.

Your website lists you as a rock hound. Finish this sentence... If I were a rock or mineral, I’d want to be a __________________ because _____________________.
Lol! I just read this question to my husband and he said he'd be a diamond because he's a stud. (Sorry, but that was too good not to include)

As for me... I'm going to have to deduce to find an answer. I'm not exquisite so no diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire. I guess I could be a semi-precious stone, but it would have to be a grade C or so because I have way too many flaws. I'm hard-headed, so let me check on the Mohs Hardness Scale, b/c I'm sure I'm at least a seven. I'm a bit varied in interest, for example, the historical/scifi thing.

I've got it! I'm a grade C watermelon tourmaline. Isomorphous mineral -- which means it's made up of mineral formations containing different elements but they have the same crystal structure therefore for they can coexist as one. Now's probably a good time to mention that not only do I like science, my mother was a Trekkie.

Any parting words?
We've all heard the phrase, 'write what you know.' I think it's equally important, if not more-so, that an author writes who they are. Yes, we have to learn the craft, pay attention to trends and whatnot. Those things are important. Just be sure that in doing so you don't lose yourself. God gave you this calling because of who you are, and the best stories come from the heart.

You can find me at
Or my blog, My Father's Oldsmobile.
Or twitter.
I also have a Facebook fan page for Shawna K. Williams.

Thanks for sharing with us, Shawna!

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