Interview with Shannon McKenna, our 7th author for LLC 2013!
Hi, we are Maia and Aurian from Boeklogboek, and today we have best selling author Shannon McKenna visiting us here in Utrecht, Holland.
Our guest is Shannon McKenna, author of numerous erotic/romantic suspense novels. To be honest, romantica or erotica is not my genre, so I have not read any of your books yet. But Maia has, and she enjoyed them very much.
Shannon McKenna was a guest author last year as well, and her interviews and workshops were a lot of fun!
Aurian: Welcome to Utrecht, the Netherlands, Shannon. Have some hot chocolate and some Dutch cookies.
Shannon: Thanks, Aurien! (Enthusiastic crunching sounds.) Delighted to be here, particularly since chocolate and cookies are involved. You clearly know my weaknesses.
Maia: Can you tell our readers who might not yet know you or your books, a little about yourself? Something that is not in your official bio (which is at the bottom of this post).
Shannon: Well, gee. Let’s see. I will confess that I have a secret, guilty passion for aspirational lit. That is to say, self-help books and blogs showing me how to become better at things which I, sadly, suck. For example, I love to sit on my butt in a comfy wingback chair, reading diet and exercise books. (gulping sound as I wash down my buttery cookies with a large swallow of hot chocolate.) I also adore procrastinating at my hopelessly piled and messy desk, reading zen-like blog posts from mellow bloggers exhorting me to try the benefits of de-cluttering, minimalism, savouring an austere cup of green tea in a soothing, completely empty room, sun streaming through the curtainless windows. My two little kids and husband all use my studio as a catch-all for all the gear of their many activities. So maybe I should be reading zen-like posts about setting boundaries instead. Would it help? Who knows, but hope springs eternal, which is what aspirational lit is built upon—and co-incidentally enough, romance is built on it too!
LL Convention questions
Aurian: Could you tell us why you are attending the convention in Berlin, Germany, Europe, again? I know we had a blast last year, but how was it for you as an author? What are some of the differences with American conventions?
Shannon: I went to the RWA writer’s convention three years ago in NYC, (first one ever!) and met some wonderful readers and bloggers there, but it was a huge zoo, and totally overwhelming. I liked the smaller, more intimate scale of the Love Letter convention, I must say. It was like going to a week-end long party!
Maia: The convention is in Berlin, a beautiful city. Are you planning to do some sightseeing? In Berlin or even in the rest of Europe?
Shannon: I have only one precious, precious day after the convention to do something in Berlin—and then it’s straight back to the real world of kids’ schedules and book deadlines.
Aurian: There is a lovely group of authors coming this year. Last year you came with your friend and fellow author Lisa Marie Rice. Do you personally know any of the new authors present?
Shannon: Lisa Marie is coming again, (yay!) and I will be thrilled to see again all the people I met last year, Tina Folsom and Maya Banks and Michelle Raven and the rest. And as for new people, I do know Erin McCarthy, who I met many years ago, and I met Cherry Adair briefly seven years ago at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera. I’m looking forward to seeing them both again!
Maia: The convention promo and books are in German. Will it be possible for you to bring some English swag?
Shannon: What a great idea! Thanks for suggesting it! I’ll load up my suitcase. (what else can I do with all my author copies, here in Italy?)
Maia: I like that your villains are so three dimensional. What is your favourite part about writing complex villains?
Shannon: I’m glad you like my villains! I think I enjoy writing filthy nasty horrible bad guys because it’s fascinating to contemplate what kinds of life experience can twist people into monsters, what it would be like to be willing to hurt others to obtain one’s end--or worse still, for fun. In real life, I’m terrified of hurting people’s feelings or making them angry. It makes me physically sick. So it is very odd, to be known for super-nasty villains. People who know me and read my books always look at me funny and say, um . . . you wrote that?
Maia: I have read Tasting Fear. In here you write about three sisters. In the McCloud books you write about a bunch of brothers and their friends. Do you prefer to write about a family, or friends, what is so special about it?
Shannon: I love connected series. I like the momentum they gain, with each book, and I like them both as a reader and as a writer. It’s great to already know the characters, to be hooked already, to be anxious to go back to that world and know that you can. I like being spurred on by unanswered questions, unsolved dilemmas. And as a writer, it is both problematic and totally awesome to start a book with a clearly defined character already. Maybe it’s a cheap trick, but it works—both for me and on me!
Aurian: Do you ever think about writing in another genre, or did you find what you love most with erotic romantic suspense? And if so, what would you like to try?
Shannon: I enjoy the hell out of hot sensuality, so since I’m having so much fun with it I don’t see why I would abandon it. But I could see myself doing sexy historicals, or sexy fantasy, or sexy paranormal.
Aurian: What is next on your writing schedule?
Shannon: I just turned in FATAL STRIKE, which is Miles’s story, and I’m starting Sveti’s story, as yet officially untitled. That rounds off the McCloud series. After that, the future yawns, wide and undefined.
Maia: We both have enormous TBR mountain ranges, how big is yours? And what do you plan on reading next?
Shannon: I have years worth of unread books waiting for me! I have to stop whining about how little I get to read. My kids are old enough now that I can get through more than a half a sentence, so I’m finally starting to churn through some books again, and it’s great. I just read Sylvia Day’s BARED TO YOU and REFLECTED IN YOU, very hot, very intense, and I read Moira Young’s dystopian YA series, BLOOD RED ROAD and REBEL HEART, both good. I read Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, also excellent. I just read Lisa Marie Rice’s delicious erotic novella, “The Italian.” Mmmmm, marvellously sensual. I’ve barely started the huge mountain of swag I brought home from the RWA convention back in 2010! Can you imagine? All those juicy books sitting around unread, for three years? It’s a crime, I tell you, a crime. I just downloaded Hugh Howey’s sci-fi sensation, WOOL, onto my Kindle, and that’s next. I also have GONE GIRL waiting, and SHIP BREAKER, another dystopian YA (love those, loved THE HUNGER GAMES) and Stephen Hunter’s DEAD ZERO.
Aurian: What would you be if you could not be an author?
Shannon: Oh, easy. Singer. Hands down. No question. I love to sing. It was my main professional activity before the writing took off, and then took over. Love it, love it, love it. Miss it, too.
Aurian: Who are some of your favourite authors? Do you still have the books you loved reading as a young girl?
Shannon: I adore JRR Tolkien, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay. For romance, I love Lisa Marie Rice, Emma Holly, Linda Howard, Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt, and more recently, Sylvia Day. I really enjoyed the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. For thrillers, Thomas Perry, Lee Childs, Barry Eisler are the first that pop to mind but there are so many great ones. And oh yeah, I do indeed have the books I read as a child, and I sometimes reread them, too! I’m so excited that my little girl is reading the Little House books of Lara Ingalls Wilder. I loved those. Plus, I loved The Singing Tree, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Prydain, and everything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Judy Blume.
And now for some fun quick questions:
Are you left-handed or right-handed?.
What is your favourite movie, and which is the last one you saw in the theater?
Some big genre classics: The Terminator, 1 and 2, Blade Runner, Die Hard 1, Alien 1 and 2, Dances with Wolves. Those are the historic ones. I whine as much about missing movies as I do about not reading. I managed to catch almost all of the American version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” a while back, and enjoyed the hell out of it. (David Craig, swoon!) Beautiful Creatures was the last film I saw in the theater, and it was fun. But I don’t get to see movies much. I wanted to see Argo, and Skyfall, and Django Unchained! I love Quentin Tarantino. I did watch the first season of Breaking Bad, and loved it, and I watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, and loved that, too, if TV counts. And I loved the GAME OF THRONES books, too! Oh man how I loved them. I ache, physically, for the next one. Having to wait for that next GOT book is my karmic punishment for writing so damn slow myself.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
These days, I wind down at midnight and rev up at 7, which is when I have to get the kids ready for school. Their schedule dictates mine. I have fond fantasies of following my zen-blogger’s advice and learning to get up at five AM. There I would be, clear as a bell, scribbling fabulous prose as I sipped my unsweetened green tea, getting my entire word count out before my children even woke up. Ahhhh. Like I said before, hope springs eternal.
What famous author, dead or alive, would you love to meet and why?
JRR Tolkien seems like a wise, benevolent person that it would be fun to take tea with. And I bet Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte would have been great to hang out with, too. Those are the first ones that pop to mind.
Yes, I am one of the ladies in this picture
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I started writing my first romance novel in secret. I was working a temp job in an insurance office in Manhattan at the time, and the office manager had made it clear that even if there was nothing to do, I still had to look busy-- never one of my big talents. I felt bad about the wasted time, though, and I needed something to round out my other chosen career, which was singing. Yeah, that's right. Most artists choose a more practical Plan B to back up their improbable Plan A. Me? No way. "Long Shot" is my middle name.
So I sneakily set up a Document 1 and a Document 2 with a spreadsheet on it. If my Boss du Jour walked by I could quick-like-a-bunny switch screens, and whenever the coast was clear, I went back to my story. Not that I was slacking, mind you. If there was work to be done, I did it. The sneakiness felt familiar, though, because I've been teased about reading romances since I was a kid. I think the day I finally grew up was the day I stopped trying to cover up what I was reading on the bus, train or subway. Let people think whatever they like.
It wasn't until I moved to Italy (details of that Long Shot provided later on) that I got serious about writing, though. I found myself with many long, quiet days alone with nothing to do, so I slogged my way bravely to the end of the manuscript and sent it out. Everybody rejected it-except for Kensington. I wrote for them for a few years, and then made a bid for an erotic novella for the new Brava imprint, and oh joy, they accepted it. Then I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. And so on, and so forth.
That's how I started. I can't think of anything I'd rather do. I never knew it would be so scary, and so hard . . . all that solitude and silence, a blank computer screen, and no one to blame. But still. It's worth it. It's great.
MY OTHER LIFE
I was originally convinced that I wanted to make it as a singer in NYC, so I was temping to support my music habit. I sang with various ensembles that performed medieval and renaissance music, I sang lead in a fabulous Celtic fusion band, I sang church gigs, I sang weddings and funerals, smoky cabaret and country/blues, Christmas carols dressed in a Dickens outfit in shopping malls, I was even a strolling madrigal singer at the Renaissance Faire in one of those cleavage-enhancing lace-up bodice thingies. I did everything I could possibly think of to make the rent. Those were my wild years. Then, Italy…which is a lot mellower than NYC. And oh. The food. Words fail me.
Where to find Shannon?