Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shannon Vannatter

Welcome Shannon Vannatter!

I'm excited to introduce Shannon to my readers. You may want to add her new book to your to-be-read list.

Shannon, we have some things in common other than being Christian authors. You are a stay-at-home mom and a pastor’s wife.

How did you start writing and has your role as pastor’s wife contributed to your writing?

My first published book was written when my husband had answered the call to preach. We’d been married sixteen and a half years and I had that deer caught in the headlights feeling.

So I wrote a book about it, sort of. The tale of a florist in love with a widowed pastor. She overhears people saying she’s trying to step into the pator’s first wife shoes and feels unworthy.

Why do you write Christian romance?

I fell in love with clean romance novels in my teens. Over the years, clean romance became difficult to find. At the same time, I’d had a story in my head since my teens. In my thirties, my work hours changed giving me more time to read. I went to the library to find clean romance and ended up empty handed.

I decided that story in my head could be a book. But as I began writing, my characters started talking to God, so I went with it. Back in 1999, Christian romance was in still in its infancy. I had no idea there was a market for what I was writing. Until the finished the book and went to the library to find out how to get it published.

Over two hundred rejections on 6 books later, that story I wrote back in 1999 will release in November as the fifth book in my rodeo series. It’s a totally different version and originally didn’t have anything to do with rodeos or Texas.

You have a new release coming out in July called Rodeo Regrets. This is part of a series which has already released three other titles. Why rodeo? Where did this idea come from?

When I was fourteen, my dad became the announcer at our very small town rodeo and I worked in the concession stand. So, I knew a little about the sport. Decades later, my husband and I took our son to the Arkansas State Fair. I saw a cowboy to the bone guy wearing his wranglers, hat, and books holding hands with a city girl dressed in a pin-striped suit and suede boots. I wondered how they met and what they had in common. That became book one.

I needed an indoor, year round, weekly rodeo to fit my story. That’s when I found the Fort Worth Stockyards. I also needed a small town close to Fort Worth and Dallas for the setting for my hero’s horse ranch. I found Aubrey known as Horse Country USA. Once the book was contracted, we planned a trip to see family near San Antonio, and made a side trip to Fort Worth and Aubrey for research.

Being a mother and a pastor’s wife, when and where do you write?

During the school year, I write while my son’s at school. My husband spend his days at church or visiting, so I have a quiet house to myself. In the summer, I write in snatches. I start writing when everyone else goes to bed and I stay up until 2:00 am then sleep until 10:00. When I’m on deadline, my son goes to church with my husband. I also get some writing in when my son has a friend over or goes to a friend’s house. When my son is home, I focus on him.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to publish Christian romance?

1.  Read the genre.
2.  Join ACFW.
3.  Read the archives of Seekerville. The blog started six years ago with 13 unpublished                              authors encouraging each other. Over the years, they’ve all gotten published. 13 authors blogging daily about getting published, there’s a lot of wisdom there.
4.  Enter writing contests that offer feedback. Seekerville has monthly contest lists.

What wisdom have you gained the you can pass on?

1.  It gets easier. Trying to get published is so frustrating. Shortly before my first contract, I was at my most frustrated and imagined that when editors saw my name on a submission, it went straight in the trash. But that’s not how it is. Editors are looking, hoping, and dreaming of finding great writers.

It’s a journey. Rejection is part of the process. Getting rejected often means your writing isn’t at publishable level yet. If you keep learning, studying the craft, and find a unique hook for your manuscripts, an editor will eventually notice you.

2.  Once you get published, deadlines can stress you out. But that gets easier too. By the second content edit, I realized I could do this without pulling my hair out. And by the sixth book, I’d hit my stride. I realized I can write a book in four months. I don’t worry about the character journey, spiritual arc, or emotional payload. It just happens naturally.

3.  Be careful what you name your secondary characters and just how quirky they are. They might end up with their own book. I’ve renamed and de-quirked many characters to refine them into hero and heroine material.

4.  Don’t worry so much about getting an agent. When a publisher’s guidelines say no unagented submissions, you can still send them a query. And you can still pitch to them at large conferences. I know several authors who got an offer and then an agent, including me.

Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.
Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie's forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. Her debut novel won the 2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, their son, and church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch.


Victoria Pitts-Caine said...

Nice interview. I like the rodeo exeriences linked into the story.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Victoria,
Parts if my real life experiences often go in books. I always tell my friends and family, be careful this could end up in a book.

Mary L. Ball said...

Great interview. You're so brave I'm afraid to put Anything in my books that relate to my real life friends.

Paula Mowery said...

With a hubby who is a pastor, you never know if you'll end up as a sermon illustration or in one of my books. LOL As a writer, if I am going to use something in a story that is really recognizable to the person, I will ask.

J.P. Lane said...

Very interesting interview, Shannon. Your story is a huge inspiration. You also provided some very useful information about being published. I had no idea you could query publishers. On the subject of "clean" romances. They can be the sexiest romances in the world. Jane Austen succeeded in whipping up a whirlwind of passion without her characters so much as holding hands. Takes a talented author to do that.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Mary and Paula,
I don't put things in that would cast anyone in a bad light. So I figure I'm safe. And I usually warn them ahead of time.

Hey J.P.,
A lot of writers don't know about the querying. I have no problem with married characters going to the bedroom. But shut the door and leave the reader out of it, please.

CH said...

Great Interview! Thank you for the tips. They are helpful. Carlene

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Carlene, Keep writing. Even when you want to quit. I stopped counting at 200 rejections. That was on five different books. And it took 9 1/2 years for me to get published. I always hear writers say they have their original manuscripts that are so bad they'll never see the light of day. All but two of those original books I wrote are published or in the process except two. Those two, I just haven't had time to rework them with everything I know now.

Gay Lewis said...

From the time I was eight years old, I knew I'd be in God's service. So when I married a minister, I wasn't surprised. I can't imagine the shock that you must have experienced with the change in lifestyle. Good tips. Good interview. Nice blog.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Good post. Hey, I want Alice at my house too. :-)

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Gay,
He had flirted with the ministry back when we were dating, but didn't follow through. I guess he was in the running faze. It wasn't that big a lifestyle change in the end. We were already strong Christians and faithful church goers and workers. But I still didn't think I was worthy. It took me a while to realize I didn't need a pedestal. Just be myself and support my husband's calling.

I love Alice. One of these days maybe my book will come in and I'll hire her.