Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s promise to her readers is to produce stories about “ordinary lives, extraordinary romance,” one she makes good on in her inspirational contemporary romances. Her debut novel is the first of three such tales for which she received a three-book contract from Heartsongs Presents. White Roses was released to the HP book club’s members in May and will be in stores in November.
Shannon often lives her scenes vicariously through her fictional characters and is always glad to land safely back in her office. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her pastor/dental technician husband, Grant, their eight-year-old son, and their church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, a dragonfish, 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.
Before becoming a stay-at-home mom balancing caring for others and creating stories, Shannon was a hairdresser for ten years, a bank clerk for two (“very stressful”), and an accounts receivable clerk for seven. Although she keeps her hairstylist license up-to-date, these days she’s more likely to trim words from her stories than cut hair. She loves to sew, but only home décor, having made all the curtains, toppers, bedspreads, and comforters in their house. She enjoys swimming and loves high-heeled shoes. “I have at least forty pair in a variety of styles and colors, but I rarely pay more than $15.00 a pair.”
Shannon has been known to indulge in a Crème Brulee Frappacino, so I invite you to gather at the cyber coffee house. Grab your virtual beverage of choice, take a peek at Shannon’s shoes, and enjoy the story of her journey to publication.
The First Steps on Shannon’s Journey
When did you fall in love with romance novels and decide to write your own?
I started reading romance when I was thirteen and decided to write them when I couldn’t find clean ones anymore. I had ideas flitting for years, realized my stories were books at thirty, but I didn’t get a computer until I was thirty-three. As soon as it was up and running, I was writing. I set out to write a clean romance, but my characters kept talking to God and I learned about inspirational romances.
Shannon’s Long and Winding Road to Publication
Two years into your journey, you saw your name on the cover of a book—but you paid a high price for that thrill. Why did you choose to publish your story using a Print on Demand service at that point, and what did that experience teach you?
I didn’t know what Print on Demand meant at the time. I thought it was the new wave in publishing. I learned POD is not the way to go if you want a career in writing. My book was overpriced, and never made it into stores, which resulted in low sales. The publisher rejected the sequel due to low sales, even though the book had a cliff-hanger ending. A traditional publisher would have bought both in the initial contract or asked me to wrap up the ending. Since I don’t have the rights to the book, it’s my book with no end.
Several years passed. You joined American Christian Fiction Writers and began entering contests sponsored by ACFW and Romance Writers of America®. And you met with success. How did you react when you received news of your finals, and what did your placements mean to you?
I cried and thanked God. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and validation that I was doing something right.
And then, at long last, came a call that changed your life forever: The Call. OK, these days it may have been The Email. Whichever it was, I know you must have been thrilled. Please tell us about the experience, what thoughts ran through your mind, and if you screamed so loudly the neighbors wondered if they should come to your rescue.
It was an e-mail. I cried, my heart raced, and I lay down prostrate on the floor thanking God.
Nine years + eight manuscripts + over one hundred rejections = perseverance.
Who or what sustained you during that time?
God gave me little victories to keep me going through all those years. First it was contest wins at local conferences. Then it was a few magazine contest wins. Then the RWA wins and finally a short story published in Mature Living.
Also, I never said, “If I get published. . .” I always said, “When I get published. . .”
What lessons did you learn as you kept moving toward your goal of a contract with a traditional publisher?
That writing is a part of me. A few times I was so frustrated, I tried to quit. That’s when I’d win a contest, or a dozen stories would start spinning in my head.
I was at my most frustrated, bitter, and disgusted when I finally met my editor at the 2008 ACFW conference and her eyes sparkled over my story. Seven months later, I had a three book deal.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give writers awaiting their first contract?
Join local writer’s groups, attend conferences, and join a national group geared to your genre. I’ve said it many times: I learned everything that got me to a publishable level through ACFW.
Shannon’s Blogging Fun
You are part of a group blog have a successful personal blog with an ever-increasing number of followers. What prompted you to begin blogging?
For a long time, I couldn’t figure out what to blog about. Last year, I joined nine writer friends on Inkspirational Messages. I blog there once every two weeks. We cover a variety of topics and it’s been fun.
With my own blog, The Inkslinger, I wanted to do something different. I took an online course on publicity given by Rusty Shelton. He shared ideas on finding a unique angle that fits with you and your books. The idea to share real life romances popped in my head and I ran with it. It’s been a lot of fun.
Partners on Shannon’s Journey
After you opened The Email with the news that you’d sold and finished shrieking, shaking, and/or sobbing, who were some of the first people with whom you shared your BIG news, and why?
First: I thanked God. Without Him, I wouldn’t be here.
Second: My husband, because he’s put up with a not-so-clean, disorganized house, telling me things I didn’t hear because my brain was in my fictional world, believed in me enough to finance my conferences, contests, and hotel stays, driven me to conferences and babysat while I attended.
Third: My parents, because they believed in me enough to fund part of those conferences, contests, and hotel stays, driven me to conferences, and babysat while I attended conferences.
Fourth: My critique partners I connected with through ACFW, because I truly believe I’d still be unpublished without them. And they get me. They hear voices too.
Shannon’s Debut Novel
.Please tell us about White Roses.
Pastor Grayson Sterling loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. Grayson knows he needs to move on, that the continuing depth of his grief is not healthy for him or his young son. Desperate, he convinces his church to hire Mark Welch as associate pastor to relieve him of some of his load. When Adrea Welch arrives at his church with her brother, Grayson cannot deny his attraction to her.
For years, florist Adrea Welch has been artfully arranging white roses for Sara Sterling. Now those flowers are carried to the cemetery by a faithful, grieving husband. How can Adrea be so attracted to a man still devoted to his dead wife? When secrets from Adrea’s past collide with their budding relationship, both she and Grayson must learn to lean on God’s abiding wisdom.
And may we have a sneak peek at the next two stories in your series?
Book 2: White Doves releases to the Heartsong Presents book club in October and to stores in April 2011.
Romance wasn’t exactly what Laken Kroft had in mind.
Laken Kroft, daughter of the town drunk and the local gossip maven, left home eight years ago and never looked back. Who knew when she applied for the promotion to postmaster, she’d end up too close to home at the Romance, Arkansas office?
Hayden Winters has his hands full raising his paraplegic nephew and wrestling his guilt over putting the child in a wheelchair. When the boy’s father, Laken’s brother, starts sniffing around, talking custody, only she can help. But whose side is she really on?
Torn between her brother and Hayden, will their mutual bond with their seven-year-old nephew draw them closer or rip them asunder. Will Laken be able accept Hayden “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” or be forced to turn her back on him and “Return to Sender”?
Book 3: White Pearls releases to the Heartsong Presents book club in January 2011 and to stores in July 2011.
Shell Evans. Bimbo. Floozy. Fiancé-stealer.
Well, even if that was how everyone in Rose Bud saw her, she was in town with a job to do. She’d just have to stick it out. Make the best of it. She didn’t care what people thought about her anyway. But why did Ryler have to be the landscaper on this project? She was just getting her heart back under control.
Ryler Grant has his own reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they certainly didn’t include Shell. Spying on his birth family was going to be hard enough. He didn’t have time to worry about a woman who’d dumped him…even if his heart said otherwise.
But God’s love can change the hardest heart. In the light of His presence, even the darkest past can be overcome. They may not know it, but the people of Rose Bud are about to change!
I understand the setting in the three stories is a real place. Please tell us about it.
All three stories are set in real towns, Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas. Brides and romantics send their wedding invitations and Valentine’s cards to the Romance post office to be re-mailed with a hand-stamped postmark from Romance, AR. Couples also come to Romance to get married. This local flavor is woven into each book.
The Romance Waterfalls is in each book. It’s real and gorgeous. The owners rent out their landscaped property for weddings.
Reactions and Reviews
I haven’t sold a book—yet!—but I hear the firsts can be amazing experiences. First look. First time to hold your novel in your hands. First time you read a review. What struck you the most during the months leading up to your release?
It takes forever to get an offer, forever to actually sign the contract, forever to receive the edits, forever to get the first glimpse of the cover, forever to receive your box of books, and another forever to see your book on shelves. Nothing in publishing moves fast.
My favorite memory so far was receiving my box of author copies while in the middle of an interview on a blog. I was answering questions and comments, so I got to share my elation on Seekerville.
White Roses has garnered some great reviews. Which of them has touched your heart, and why?
The first one by Cindy Wilson. Just because it was the first and it was good.
Shannon’s Journey Continues
.What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?
I already have the first book in a rodeo series finished, so I’ve been revising and trying to get it ready to submit. I also have the beginnings of another story set around a popular tourist attraction.
.Five Accomplishments That Have Meant the Most to Shannon
.~ Being married to the same man since I was nineteen and still loving him.
~ Being a mom.
~ Getting published.
~ Holding our congregation together while building a church.
~ Encouraging struggling writers.
Shannon’s Question for You
How do you keep the romance in your marriage or relationship?
Clean answers, please. 🙂
Shannon has generously offered to give away a copy of White Roses.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Shannon by midnight July 6 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On July 7, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to the winner of White Roses, Kerri Greenwell.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Shannon
Visit her website ~ www.shannonvannatter.com
Visit her personal blog ~ The Inkslinger
Visit her group blog ~ Inkspirational Messages
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Shannon Taylor Vannatter
Follow her on Twitter ~ @stvauthor