Hi Shawna! Tell us a little bit about your story.
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 he feels he 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 but she’s conflicted. On the one hand she desperately wants her parents’ approval, and on the other, 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. Jakob, seeing the pain her family has caused her, wants to shelter her from more. But since she’s his teacher, any type of romantic relationship is unethical, and then there are also the social issues to consider. Meri and Jakob decide to pursue a secret romance which leads them to trouble in more ways than one. And I’ll leave the rest as a mystery.
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.
Would you consider this an edgy inspirational romance? Why?
Very much so! The story of No Other isn't about a lost kid finding God and straightening out his life.
It's about a good kid, who knows God but still struggles -- as we all do. Jakob has good intentions, but at some point he begins to justify small infractions in his faith by telling himself that he knows how best to help Meri.
These small things eventually lead to something big, with major consequences, and not just to him. (As a matter of fact, some of the consequences aren't fully known until the sequel, but that's another interview.)
The story of No Other continues past the consequences of Jakob's mistake. The heart of the story is his journey to redemption.
That's a general answer, I realize. So specifically, the story deals with bitterness, deceit, sexual temptation, pregnancy out of wedlock, and how sin can affect a Christian's witness.
I've refrained from physical description in certain scenes, and kept the reader within the character's head as the character wrestles with right and wrong. Sometimes it's not just the physical that tempts us. Emotional needs can be just as strong, if not stronger. I really wanted to deal with that, and mainly from the male perspective. We don't see that very often.
How did you choose the title for your book?
I chose the title from a series of Bible verses in Isaiah 45 which declare God's sovereignty. At the very end of No Other Jakob marvels over mistakes turned into miracles, and he thinks in his southern way, "How'd this mess come together?" And the answer he receives is...
"Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me."
We see the little picture. God sees the big one. The wonderful thing is that even when we get in the way of God’s plan, He always provides a way back, and when we turn to Him, He has a way of working absolute wonders from our mistakes. But it’s Him, not us.
Another topic I wanted to weave into the story was the idealization of romance. I see young girls who seem to think all they need in life is a boyfriend – future husband – to make them complete and carry them off into blissful happiness. And adding to that, I think many young men see this as their role to fulfill.
This kind of expectation, whether it comes from someone else, or is something you place upon yourself, is a set up for failure. Men and women are created to complement one another, but there is only one Savior. The rest of us need grace. This book deals a lot with human failings. It's something we all have in common.
I've got some readers who have never tried an ebook before. Let's break it down for them. Where can they buy your book? What can they do if they don't own an e-reader?
Yay! It makes me really happy to share this information because so much is happening within the publishing industry concerning this venue. First of all, my book, No Other, can be bought at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader Store, Books on Board, Allromance Ebooks, and the Desert Breeze storefront.
Very soon it will be available at the iBookstore for iPad, and Borders’ new ebooks store. Christianbooks.com plans to sell ebooks by the end of the year, and my publisher has contacted them about getting Desert Breeze’s books in there too. Basically, every major book seller now has, or will have, an ebook division.
There are many options available for those who want to read an ebook, but don't own an ereader. Kindle, Nook, and The Sony Store, all offer free apps that can be downloaded to your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, iPad, and Android.
I own a Kindle, but I also have apps from B&N, Kindle and the Sony Reader on my PC. The apps adjust the contrast on the screen for less eye strain, they save to the last page read, and turn the page with a click. Also, if I've been reading on my Kindle, and then later pick up the same book on my PC, it syncs to the last page read.
Something many people don't realize about ebooks is that when you purchase one, you're purchasing the content, not a one time download. If something were to happen to the device the book is stored on, the purchase is recorded in your order history and you can download the book at no extra charge.
Ereaders are wonderful devices. Reading is comfortable, convenient and economical, and contrary to what people might think, they're quite cozy to curl up with and read from by the warmth of a fire.
They're also rapidly dropping in price. Just this week the Kindle dropped from $259 to $189, and B&N Nook dropped from $259 to $149 with wifi, and $199 with wifi and 3G. The Kobo, from Borders, is advertised at $149. It's a lower tech device, designed to appeal to a broader market. I wouldn't be surprised to see this price lowered soon. I'm guessing $119.
What kinds of stories and which authors do you read in your spare time?
I read pretty much ever genre out there, with the exception of erotica and horror. I love historicals. I'm also a fan of scifi – my mother is a Trekkie, so I grew up with science fiction. I enjoy suspense, political thrillers, romance -- if it's supported by a strong underlying story, literary fiction (though some have left me wondering, 'what exactly did I just read?') and non-fiction too.
My favorite secular authors are Tess Gerrison, Tom Clancy and Nicholas Sparks. For non-fiction it would be Stephen Ambrose. My favorite Inspirational authors are Karen Kingsbury, Deeanne Gist, and Francine Rivers. Francine Rivers is my all time favorite author period! I love her! I also love Beth Moore.
What advice would you give to pre-published writers?
Critique groups and writing classes are essential for a writer. We need them, there's no question about it. But there is a balance between absorbing useful information, and trying to heed so much advice that you end up losing your unique voice. You don't want to sound like everyone else.
So learn how to incorporate the instruction into your own style. On occasion, that might mean ignore it. At some point, you have to trust your instincts. God made you unique, and gave you this passion for a reason. There's something special you bring to the mix. So, pay close attention to the rules, but remember, in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow – and don't forget the accent, "They're more like guidelines anyway." (Yes, I say this in every interview.)
What are you working on next?
Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on the sequel to No Other. Its title is In All Things, and while it expands on a similar theme, it approaches it from a different stage in life, when Jakob and Meri are ten years older and have accomplished everything they ever dreamed. Where do you go from there, right?
The story is also quite different. No Other is all about Jakob and Meri, and In All Things pulls in a lot of side stories that weave into the main one.
I'm also working on a novella length book that will release in December called Orphaned Hearts. This story is inspired by my granddad, who grew up in an orphanage during The Great Depression. It is near and dear to my heart, and I'm very excited to share it.
This was so much fun! I appreciate you having me, Joy. Thank you and God bless!
Shawna, thank you so much for stopping by today. We’d love to see you again when Orphaned Hearts releases.
Want more information? Here’s where you can find Shawna online:
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Shawna is giving away a free copy of her book, No Other, as either a pdf file or a download and a fresh water pearl bracelet to one lucky reader (the story behind the bracelet is here). Simply wave at Shawna and leave a comment with your email address below.