Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Interview with Shawna K. Williams -- author of 'No Other.'

Today, I am honored to welcome Shawna K. Williams. She has been busy lately on several blogs and has graceously found the time to stop in and tell us about her new ebook release ... 'No Other.'  Now Available through Desert Breeze Publishing

How long have you been writing? What's the most rewarding aspect of it?

I've been writing off and on for about eight years, but I didn't start writing for the purpose of seeking publication until a little over two years ago. I had thought about it before then, but always chickened out.

The most rewarding aspect is being able to share the story of these characters – Jakob and Meri. They've been with me so long, and I've kinda come to love them. It thrills me to think this 'thing' that was locked in my head for years is now something anyone can read. I feel really passionate about the characters and their stories (there's a sequel) and I hope that others are touched by them in the way I was. I honestly don't really feel like I made their story up so much as it was given to me.

You have a new release from Desert Breeze Publishing entitled "No Other." For those who haven't read the book yet, can you tell us a little about it?

"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.

And then there's that nagging Bible verse his Grandma made him memorize all those years ago. "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."

Is Jakob what Meri needs, or is he getting in the way?

What was the inspiration behind "No Other?"

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.

What made you choose this time period as the setting for your novel?

I love this time period, but the way the story came to me was really what determined the time period. I just always knew that it was set around this era.

Is there a particular reason you chose a German family? Are you from German ancestry yourself?

Actually, yes. My grandfather was of German descent. I don't know how much of the German culture was prevalent in his family, but he was orphaned at a very young age, so any customs that may have been in keeping with the culture were lost.

After writing "No Other" I find myself very curious about my roots. I've done some minor research into the Kail lineage, and would love to visit Germany someday. My kids and I have been looking into language lessons too.

Do you draw on people from real life when you come up with characters?

Yes and no. I don't have any characters representative of anyone I know in real life. My characters are their own thing. But sometimes certain personality traits that remind me of someone I know sneak in.

Do you have a favorite character in No Other? What makes him/her so dear to your heart?

I like both Jakob and Meri a great deal. It's hard to say that I have a favorite between them. I think I relate a little more to Jakob. He's introverted and tends to over think, not unlike myself. But Meri questions herself on everything, also not unlike myself. I just like these two together, and I love the their story.

Do you plot things out, or do you write "by the seat of your pants"?

A little of both. I have to have an idea of the story, including its conclusion. I write out a summary just to get an idea of the story's framework. Then I write my first draft, which is horrible. I'm a character writer, so my stories focus a great deal on the hero and heroine's internal journey. My first drafts tend to ramble and meander with all sorts of emotional pondering, not unlike a therapy session. This helps me to nail down what my character's struggles are. It gives me an idea of what they need, and how to get them there.

Once I've done this I go back and start the rewrite. I take this on a chapter by chapter basis, writing out the goals I need to achieve to keep the story progressing. Then I go back and edit. During this process I try to weave everything together as tight as possible, and also look for any missed opportunities to strengthen the overall theme.

How do you develop your characters?

To me, characters are what make or break a story. Characters are who we experience a story through and if they aren't interesting and relatable, then no matter how intriguing the plot, a huge facet to the story is lost.

Now, I know some authors do character sketches involving the looks and profession of their characters. While this works for some, I don't do this. To me this is surface stuff and it has little to do with the person I want to convey. These details actually fill in themselves as the character evolves anyway. I like to focus on my characters history. This sometimes, as with Jakob, necessitated me going to great depths to uncover his family's history. Most of this stuff never makes it into the book in the form of information, but it does make it into the book in the way it frames my character's mind set, mannerisms, insecurities.

I'll use Jakob as an example again. One of the things I found interesting about him was his duel culture. He grew up in a family that was thoroughly German, in a town that was thoroughly Texan, and he's thoroughly both. The clash of these two cultures cause a bit of an identity crises in him in the sense that the betrayal he feels over his family's internement because of their German heritage is harder for him to fathom when he's American, and Texan to boot. Yet, when he speaks to his parents its perfect German, and many of his fondest childhood memories involve the culture. In the midst of war he wonders if that's something to be ashamed of. So...you can imagine, this story begins with a character already caught up in a whirlwind of internal struggle.

Now Meri...This girl's got issues, and quite a backstory of her own! I'm not giving that away though. Hopefully a few people will be curious enough to read the book.

There's a sequel to "No Other". Care to tell us about it?

"In All Things" is the sequel to "No Other" -- ten years later. While "No Other" is a complete story, if you look, you'll see there are some loose ends that are left unclear. One has to do with a promise Jakob makes to his rival, and another has to do with Meri's salvation. You know she's headed that direction, but when the book ends she hasn't committed her life to Christ yet. The theme to "In All Things" is similar to "No Other" but it deals with unresolved issues from a different phase in life, and adds to them with the complexities of family and careers, and substitutes for God. "No Other" mainly focuses on Jakob and Meri -- primarily because much of their interaction is in secret – but "In All Things" involves Jakob's entire family a lot more.

It's been an emotionally taxing story to write because there's so much to grasp. I find myself praying daily, "Lord, help me tell this story." But I find that there's also so much to love about it, and things I never expected to explore – one of them being how events in the first book affected Jakob's youngest sister, Esther. See, I just gave you something to think about if you read the book.

What do you want people to take from this story?

I wrote "No Other" because I wanted to tell 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.

Thank you for coming by Shawna, and for such a wonderful interview.

And thanks to everyone who stops by. Shawna is giving a way an ebook for Kindle or another ebook format depending on the winner's preference. To the winner of the ebook, she will also give a freshwater pearl/inspirational bracelet, and a signed postcard.

Anyone who leaves a comment through today and tomorrow (May 13th), will automatically be entered in the drawing for the prize. The winner will announced on Friday May 14th. (Please leave your email in your comment)

For another chance to win a book and other prizes, Shawna is running a contest throughout the month of May and offering the following three prizes – a Good one, a Great one, and a Grand one. You can enter multiple times, the details are here. http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/p/no-other-prize-drawing-details.html

Anyone leaving a comment today gets one entry (please leave your email. I promise these will all be destroyed after the drawing) And, if you can answer this question you get another entry.

What topic did Meri ask her students to write about?

The answer can be found in the second chapter, viewable through Freado, where you can also read the first four chapters. http://www.freado.com/read/6928/no-other-by-shawna-k-williams

Or through the free sample available as a Kindle download.


Here are links where to find me.





Link to trailer



StephB said...

Tina and Shawna,
What a great interview. It's amazing where we find inspiration, including dreams.

The Germans have a rich, proud culture. I loved the time I spent in Germany in the military. One of my favorite things to do was volksmarch. If you ever get a chance, Shawna, you should visit.


Tina Pinson said...


Thanks so much for coming by.

I loved the German culture. I lived in Zweibrucken for four years. Well, on one of the bases there. I would love the opportunity to return.

Shawna Williams said...

Thanks, Tina! It looks great!

Marianne Evans said...

What a lovely blog - and great post! Shawna, I look forward to reading "No Other!" I'm a newly minted Christian inspy author, transfering to the "light" side after four secular works - and I love the plots, characters and emotion to be found in the genre. No Other promises to be a great one!! Blessings!

Beverly Bender said...

I loved the portion of the book that I read and would like to win a copy. The answer to the question is: the class was asked "to write about your hero".

email: writerbev at aol dot com

Shawna Williams said...

I've got you guys entered, and Beverly, you get extra entries for answering today's question.

Steph, writing this really sparked an interest in discovering my heritage. My grandfather was of German descent, but he was orphaned at a very young age, so any customs his parents may have had in keeping with their heritage were lost. I would absolutely love to go to Germany someday!

Kathleen L. Maher said...

great interview, Tina and Shawna. I love how you saw the book like a movie in your dreams. I do that too! And I tend to write the character's journey, too, and revise after. Brilliant minds. . .! ;)

mahereenie (at) yahoo (dot) com

Gail Pallotta said...

An interesting interview. I too wondered if you had German ancestry. I have a good friend who is German, a German teacher, and has lived in Germany twice. I must tell her about No Other.

Shawna Williams said...

Gail, one of my concerns was portraying an authentic feel of German culture. I had the book beta read by several people who either were from Germany, or their parents were. Jakob's name was changed to be spelled with a 'k' because of one of their suggestions, and there were a few other little add-ins that came about through this too.

R. Ann Siracusa said...

Great blog. My husband is Italian and many of our friends were Italian prisoners of war in the San Bernardino, CA area. The ones we knew married American girls and returned to the US. I wasn't aware that WWII prisoners were sent to the states until I was grown and married, and now I find most Americans don't know that. They certainly didn't teach it in history class. Congratulations on your book. Sounds wonderful.
Ann Siracusa

R. Ann Siracusa said...

Oops. I meant to address my comment to both Tina and Shawna. Sorry.
Ann Siracusa

Danielle Thorne said...

Good luck with your book! Love the cover.

Tracy Krauss said...

I am enjoying all the buzz around your book release, Shawna. Way to go! This was a great interview, Yina - a lot of really thought provoking questions! Kudos to both of you!

Shawna Williams said...

Thank you Tracy!