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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome Shawna K Williams

Due to being a day ahead of most people, I have to think carefully about when to post interviews and articles on my blog. Hopefully I've got it right. I'd like to share an article by Shawna K Williams where she talks about writing, her latest novel "No Other" and gives everyone a chance to win a copy of the book (read to the end to find out how). Welcome Shawna and off we go!

I love a book with an intricate plot, but for merit it's always been the characters that hold my attention. When I find a book with a great plot lead by strong characters, that just does it. I'm sold!
One of the most amusing comments I've read (more than once from multiple authors, including myself) is along the lines of, "I had my book all plotted out and then my character took off and did something crazy." Well, maybe not crazy, but unexpected. This may throw an author for a loop, but it's actually a great sign. It means your character has come to life. With life comes choice; choice, unpredictability -- and with unpredictability comes realism. And no matter the genre; suspense, historical, paranormal, fantasy or scifi, we (speaking as a reader here) want to be caught up in an experience that feels real. Otherwise, we're bored.
When developing a character, I always like to consider that he or she wants the same thing in life as the rest of us, and that's to be happy. So one of the first things I consider is what stands between my character and this goal. If I were writing science fiction, that obstacle might be the armada of intergalactic warships parked in orbit with laser guns aimed at every major city on the planet. How can my character be happy if he/she is reduced to space dust? If it's suspense we're talking about, maybe a stalker is impeding my character's quest for happiness. I mean, fear , joy -- two ends of the emotional spectrum -- it's hard to be one while also being the other. Paranormal? My character doesn't like turning into a werewolf every full moon. It's inconvenient! Most women aren't attracted to hirsute men with fangs, and shedding clogs the drain. Okay... okay...I'll quit messing around. This is too much fun and I have a word count to adhere to.
Sometimes the obstacle in the way of happiness isn't something so obvious. Sometimes it's something within the character (s) themselves. This may come in the form of old wounds (emotional or physical, likely both), unmet needs and personality traits molded by upbringing (back story). Perhaps even mental illness? There's a doozy!
Character flaws are something that should evolve naturally. Just like a flesh and blood person, a character has a history, and his flaws are rooted in that history. In my novel, No Other, the foundation for the character of Jakob starts with his strong sense of family and community. His parents were German immigrants, and his family is tightly unified by that heritage, but he also feels a strong sense of community toward the town he grew up in. He's a child of two worlds, and very happy in that. 
This happiness is wrecked when his family is ripped apart through forced internment during WWII. Jakob feels betrayed by his community and his country, filling him with tremendous bitterness. He is also laden with guilt because of an incident prior to his parents' arrest for which he is responsible. The guilt plays heavily on Jakob's deeply ingrained sense of responsibility toward his family, which fuels his anger further. 
Thus, the story opens with a complex character, and a major point of interest is just getting to know him, understand why he needs what he needs and thinks the way he does. The idea is to get my readers emotionally involved with my character so as the story progresses they feel what he feels, at least to a degree, whether it be pain or joy, and can see why he makes certain choices, leading the story according to his character.
Character flaws add depth, complexity and intrigue. Some create endearing qualities, others depraved -- either way, flaws give a character motivation for their actions. Actions produce consequences. Consequences create dilemma. Dilemmas need solutions. A solution requires a decision (or choice), which will be made in accordance with the character's personality. Decisions mandate action -- and if a story is true to life -- this cycle is likely to repeat itself a few times until the desired result, happiness, is achieved. Unless it can't be. But hey, this is fiction and as authors we are allowed to manipulate a few things, so let's concede that this is where our vision trumps reality.
As an author, the joy of writing a story led by characters is that it's a process of discovery. Even we aren't sure what we'll find -- learn. A character starts whispering in our ear and we're just trying to type fast enough to get it all down.

"No Other" is a 20th Century Historical, Inspirational Romance. It’s set in a coastal Texas town during 1947, a couple of years after WWII. I really enjoyed writing a story set in this time period because, instead of focusing on how the nation recovered in broad terms, I was able to focus on how individuals set about recovering emotionally from such an event.
Jakob is trying to resume life and deal with his anger over the events of the past five years. His parents are German immigrants who were interned at a camp known as Crystal City during the war. As an American born child he feels betrayed and angry, not just at his community, but at himself because of an incident that he was involved in which he feels may have contributed to their arrest. 
Jakob was forced to quit school in order to care for his younger sibling during the war. With the war ended and life beginning to settle, he decides to go back to school and get his diploma so he can move on to bigger and better dreams. It’s immediately awkward though because one of his teachers is a girl he previously went to high school with.
Meri comes from an affluent and socially elite family. She’s a dutiful daughter but also conflicted. On the one hand she desperately wants her parents' approval — that’s the only time they offer her their love — on the other hand, she wants to be free of the control they exert over her life.
As friendship blooms and feelings develop Meri begins to understand what real love is supposed to be, and Jakob, seeing the pain her family has caused her, wants to shelter her from more. Of course, the first big obstacle is that because of the nature of their situation (her being his teacher) any type of romantic relationship is unethical, and then there are also the social differences to consider. Meri and Jakob decide to pursue a secret romance, in which lies lead them to trouble in more ways than one. And I’ll leave the rest as a mystery.
But I do want to add; "No Other" is an inspirational story about getting up after you fall. About how Christians don't just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn't abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail, He's still in control. Him, and No Other.
Here's a link to the blurb and excerpt on my publisher's site.
"This debut novel by author Shawna Williams took my breath away. It sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe the emotions that moved through me as I read this book... I loved how true to life this story seemed and it was edgy enough to make me want to cheer Shawna on. This story felt real to me because the characters were complex and three dimentional. There were a few shifts in plot that were delightful as well. I love it when the author does something you aren't expecting. Nice job! I can't wait for the next book. This is making my "favorites" list for fiction for this year - 2010."
Michelle Sutton, Author of First Impressions
, Posted at Amazon
Rating = 5 Stars
"Shawna's mastery of characterization infused the story with such believability, and I fell in love with Jakob and Meri. No sappy scenes, no corny lines--this book is about story. Yes, it's a love story, but it is so much more... No Other is beautifully written. If you love romance, you will love No Other. And if you don't like matter. You'll still love it."
Kate Heckenbach - Reader - Posted at Amazon

Rating = 5 Stars
Shawna K. Williams is an inspirational novelist who loves telling a story through flawed characters – the only kind she can relate to. She also likes a good dose of nostalgia, which is why many of her stories are set in rural America during the first half of the 20th Century. However, being a fan of other genres, including Science Fiction and Suspense, she has a few surprises planned for future works.
When not writing, Shawna spends time with her husband and three children enjoying life on their ranch. She's also an avid reader, book reviewer, blogger and jewelry designer.
The inspiration for "No Other" actually came from a dream I had eight years ago. It was bizarre, like watching a movie almost. And for the next six months I kept thinking about it, trying to fill in all the gaps between scenes. It eventually grew to be so complicated that I had to write it down. After playing with it off and on for six years, I finally decided to try and turn it into something publishable, and began studying the craft of writing, joining critique groups, and submitting short stories to rack up a few publishing credits. "No Other" was inspired from the first part of that dream, when the characters were young. All the details came later as I researched and got to know them better. 
If you'd like to win a pdf copy of "No Other" please leave a comment and we'll put you in the draw - remember you have to be in to win.


LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Shawna and Sue!

This sounds very intriguing and I may have to look into it. :-)

Robin Prater said...

Yay for Shawna!! Great review! I would love to have a copy placed in hands to read this amazing story. It sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing=)
Blessings, Robin Prater

StephB said...

Shawna, I kinda like a little fur and and fangs. *smiles*

Great interview about characters and where they can take us if we let them!


Celia Yeary said...

SHAWNA--the way you write in this article makes me believe you are indeed, a very good author. I did read every word, and right to the end. You caught the drama very well of soldiers returning home to all kinds of conflicts and troubles. I'm writing one now about a soldier who comes home from The Great War (called WWI in later years)in 1918, and learns all his family has died from the Spanish flu which killed far more people worldwide than did the war. I appreciate your plot line and wish you the very best in sales and future writing. You have a great future. Celia

Shawna Williams said...

Thanks so much all! I'm sorry about getting over here so late. It's been one of those days where I've needed to be in two places at once all day long. It was nice to click over here and see such lovely comments.

Hey Steph, Nicole asked me in my interview with her which paranormal critter I would be if I could choose, and since I'm such a doglover, I had to go with werewolf.

Danielle Thorne said...

Well said!