Friday, May 7, 2010
Welcome Guest Author - Shawna Williams
Today, I want to welcome fellow Desert Breeze Author, Shawna Williams. Shawna's book, "No Other," an inspirational romance that takes place after World War II released on 1 May. Welcome Shawna!
Can you tell us a little about "No Other?" What's the plot?
SHAWNA: Sure Steph! "No Other" is set in the aftermath of WWII when the nation was trying to heal. That's what Jakob Wilheimer wants too. He wants to get past the pain of his family's internment, get on with his life, and if possible, forgive those who've wronged his family -- including himself.
Having quit school three years earlier to look after the family business and care for his younger siblings, Jakob knows his first step back into normalcy must be to return and get his diploma. And after enduring the stigma and isolation associated with the internment camp, the awkwardness of being a twenty year old amidst a bunch of teen aged high school students shouldn't have been a bother. What Jakob hadn't counted on was his former schoolmate, Meri Parker, being one of his teachers.
Seeing her every day, with her life on track, uninterrupted by the war, only serves as a reminder of Jakob's hardship. However, a school assignment brings these two in closer contact, and soon Jakob begins to see little hints of a not-so-perfect life behind the facade that is Meri Parker.
As a friendship deepens into feelings of something more, these two are faced with the dilemma of their situation. To be together, means they'd have to lie to everyone around them in order to keep their relationship a secret. But Jakob also fears for Meri, and the pressure from her family who wants her to marry someone else. He's aware of their cruelty and how they use Meri's yearning for their affection as a means of control. Jakob is afraid that without him at her side, she'll succumb and be lost to him forever.
Choices made out of desperation take them down a treacherous path.
STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the plot?
SHAWNA: 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.
STEPH: Why did you set the story just after World War II?
SHAWNA: I just knew that's when this story took place. From the very beginning this made sense to me. I didn't realize how interesting I'd find this time period though, or all the complexities it would bring to mind in consideration of the events during the war.
STEPH: Did you do any research for the novel, if so, what?
SHAWNA: Oh yes! Researched and researched some more. I actually researched Jakob's family history all the way back to the early 1900's and the seeds that eventually led his family to immigrate from Germany to America. I have on a file somewhere the name of the boat they came over on, and the city the left from. I chose a real boat that docked at Pelican Island in Galveston, TX because this is where I wanted them to arrive at. None of this made it into the book, but it helped me to understand his family. I like to try and make as much of a story plausible as possible, so any place I can incorporate a real event or place I do.
The most fascinating thing I researched for this story was the internment of German American citizens during WWII. In the initial story Jakob's family had faced discrimination at the hands of the community, but I wasn't satisfied with that explanation for his anger. I always felt there was more to it. One night my husband and I were watching a documentary on Japanese American internment, and I suddenly wondered if anything similar had happened to German American citizens. I'd never heard of it, but it seemed likely. When I started researching I was shocked at what I found. The camp, Crystal City, was a real place. The censored mail and seizing of property was all something that really happened to people. Some of the stories I read were absolutely heartbreaking.
STEPH: What's your muse like? A girl or a boy? When do they annoy you the most?
SHAWNA: Can't say. It's just another facet of me, so I guess it's a girl. But my characters come to life so that they end up telling me the stories. For some reason though, I always seem to identify with the male characters perspective slightly more. My husband once said that I'm a girly girl who thinks like a guy, so maybe that explains it.
STEPH What was the road to publication like?
SHAWNA: I played with this story off and on for nearly six years before I decided to try and get it published. Once I decided to get past my fear of rejection and start working toward publication it took me about a year and a half. I knew I had a lot to learn, so I started studying the craft through books, and critique groups. I also began submitting short stories to journals for writing credits. I received both rejections and acceptances on those. When I started submitting to agents I received mostly rejections, but several came with some pleasant words of encouragement. I did have two ask to see partials. One of them rejected "No Other" after reviewing it, the other took six months to ask for a partial. At that time I had already signed with DBP so I told her "thank you," but the story was sold. I wasn't upset by that because I honestly feel that DBP was the best place for this story. It was actually the first publisher I submitted to.
STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
SHAWNA: Sure. Be true to yourself. You need to learn the craft, but don't lose your voice in the process. There's a balance between what you can take away from a critique group in order to hone your skills, and trying to heed so much advice that you end up losing what makes you unique. Rules are good, but in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, "They're more like guidelines anyway."
STEPH: Do you cast your characters? If so, who is Meri? Jakob?
STEPH: Kind of, but really I'd say they cast themselves. The story for "No Other" and its sequel "In All Things" came to me so long ago that the cast has changed a bit. In the early day, the movie Pearl Harbor was only a few yrs old, and Josh Harnett had that shy farm-boy thing going on, so I kept seeing him as Jakob. Amy Smart reminded me of Meri.
Now this is kind of funny. When last year's season of American Idol started I was working on "No Other" and critiquing back and forth with a friend. She'd look my stuff over, and I'd do the same for her. Well, this one night after one of the early episodes of AI, I get this email from her, and she says "OMG, Kris Allen is Jakob!" The funny thing was, that night as I had watched, I'd been thinking the very same thing. He fit the physical description fairly well, and his mannerisms were spot on. Then in a later episode I saw Kris Allen's wife, Katy, and she fit Meri's description perfectly! So ever since last year's AI, that is who I see Jakob and Meri as, except taller.
STEPH: How did the cover come to be? What does the locket represent?
SHAWNA: Jenifer Raneiri, Desert Breeze's cover artist did such a beautiful job. I can't even begin to explain how much I love the cover. The locket is something that actually endured from the original story long, long ago. It's a family heirloom, having belonged to Jakob's grandmother. He gives it to Meri, but he doesn't have pictures of them, so he writes their names in it instead. The farmhouse is Jakob's childhood home that was taken from them when his parents were interned. It ends up being abandoned, and my favorite scene in the whole story takes place there.
STEPH: Is there a sequel?
SHAWNA: Yep! It's called "In All Things." It picks up with Jakob and Meri ten years later, in 1950s Hollywood. It's an inspirational romance, like "No Other" and the theme is similar, but with a different perspective from a different phase in life. It gets to tackle some unresolved issues that have festered for a decade. "No Other" is very much about just Jakob and Meri, but "In All Things" includes a lot of Jakob's family. So many surprising things have crept up while writing it. It makes me think of how life is like a mosaic, and many good things wouldn't be if not for the bad that proceeded them.
STEPH: Can you share a book trailer and buy links with us?
You can purchase "No Other" here http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-86/No-Other/Detail.bok
Or the Kindle download http://www.amazon.com/No-Other-ebook/dp/B003K15MY0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1273031737&sr=1-1
Stephanie, I'd like to give away a pair of freshwater pearl earring and a signed postcard. There's a contest I'm running throughout the month of May where you can enter as many times as you want in accordance with the rules, which are posted on my blog, http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/p/no-other-prize-drawing-details.html.
There are three prizes; Good, Great and Grand, and they include things like Amazon gift certificates, a sterling silver-gold overlay locket, more freshwater pearl jewelry, "No Other" coverart posters and notebooks, goatsmilk soap and lotion (we live on a ranch, remember) honey soap, and postcards, not just of the book's cover, but of my daughter's beautiful photography work. You'll also receive a copy of the short story, "What Happened Next" which was derived from a funny childhood experience of my character, Jakob, one afternoon as his family spiffed up for a photo on their front porch. This story has been published in two journals, and I delight in being able to share it.
Everyone who comments today gets an entry, and if you can answer this question, you get another.
"What's Jakob's sister's name?"
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The answer can be found in the first chapter of my book, viewable at http://noother-shawnawilliams.blogspot.com/,
or http://www.freado.com/read/6928/no-other-by-shawna-k-williams or in the free sample download from Kindle .
More about Shawna K. Williams at
Thanks for popping in, Shawna. Good luck with sales.