Shawna K. Williams is an Inspirational Romance writer 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.
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, editor, blogger, and jewelry designer.
RA: Hi, Shawna! Happy Holidays and Congratulations on your new release! Could you tell us a little bit about it?
Orphaned Hearts is my third book. It’s a wonderful little story set in Northwestern Arkansas, during 1932.
The main character, David, is a preacher who grew up in an orphanage. His family was killed during a fire and David was severely burned. However, since his scars are hidden beneath his clothing no one knows about it.
David believes that his scars make him unlovable, so when he encounters an orphaned boy, who lost him arm in the accident that killed his family, David is set on finding him a home. In a way, he feels that if he can find a home for Caleb there is also hope for himself.
Sadie is a spinster. After her fiancé died she devoted herself to caring for her father. After his passing she finds her loneliness exasperated by having no outlet for her care giving nature. So when David asks her to take Caleb in she readily agrees, completely overlooking his handicap.
David begins to see hope for himself and Caleb in Sadie, but their entire future is threatened when a small deception committed by David is revealed.
RA: What was the inspiration behind this work?
I love this question, Regina. This story was inspired by my granddad. The story isn’t based on his life. He wasn’t a preacher, nor was he burned, but he was an orphan, brought up in an orphanage during the 1920s -30s. My grandmother’s father ran the orphanage’s dairy and that’s how my grandparents met. Many of the small details in this story are directly from memories told to me by my grandmother.
As for the plot. One day I started to wonder about a family made of not just orphans, but also misfits finding a home with each other. Things evolved from there. The original draft was a 10,000 word short story, but the characters intrigued me. I realized there was much more to them so I wrote it into a 42,000 word novel
RA: How does this work relate to other works you’ve written?
Orphaned Hearts is a stand alone. The only relation it has to other works is that is also a historical, and it’s a character driven (self discovery) sort of story.
RA: What role, if any did your personal memories play in creating this Christmas book?
I love Christmas! It’s kind of hard to say how my own memories influenced the Christmas scene. It seems like the setting belonged to the characters, and evolved from them. But…my grandmother baked the best goodies. If love has a flavor, that’s what she added. I see Sadie as the same way.
Also, the train at Christmas time is a toy in the story, but my grandfather was a train conductor and he loved it. I chose a train not just for the nostalgia, but also because of him.
RA: Did the tone and theme of this work relate to any other of your works? How?
No, but it may relate to future works. The couple that backs out of adopting Caleb has a little girl. As the reader you won’t know this, only that Mrs. Sheldon is pregnant, but I’m the author so I’m privy to this sort of information. Anyhow, I’m contemplating that there might be a future romance between a grown up Caleb and this girl, whose name is Amanda btw. I think it’s a neat idea to consider that perhaps things worked out the way they did, with the Sheldons backing out of the adoption, because Caleb couldn’t very well marry Amanda if she’d been his sister. So it would be like God knowing His plan for Caleb and Amanda’s lives all along. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten with this idea, but I like it. A lot of my stories are written with this in mind and I guess it’s because I believe it so strongly. It’s a pretty amazing thing to look at something you thought was bad, and years later see where it turned into something good. This is actually a huge theme in No Other and In All Things.
RA: There’s a saying, “write what you know”. What do you think of this? How does it apply, or not apply, to your work?
Well, I’m extremely introspective, over thinking and analytical. I like to understand people, why they think, feel and do. I’m sure I acquired this interest over trying to decipher my own inner workings, so in this regard, I am writing what I know. Insecurities have had a role in my life, too big of a role, and I think on some level this may always be a struggle for me. So, I guess this may be one of the reasons I like dealing with these things in my stories. Maybe I’m like my character David. If it can work out for the people in my stories, then it can work it out for myself.
RA: You’ve created many characters! Any new ones in the works?
Yes, she’s actually a character I cut from In All Things who is making a reappearance in an unexpected way in the new project I’m working on. I’m also looking forward to fleshing out some secondary characters in this story.
RA: How has your life changed since you became a published author?
My house is messier and I get less sleep, but I’ve made lots of new friends so it’s totally worth it.
RA: Many writers have discussed writing flashbacks. What are your thoughts about this technique?
Be careful. It can be great, but it has to be done with skill. You need an effective lead-in and a way to pull your reader back to the present. Otherwise the flashback becomes something separate from the story your reader is reading. They have to leave and then come back and it interrupts the flow. You want them to make a detour into the flashback, and you want it to flow naturally so as they don’t even realize they’ve done it.
The exception is a prologue. This can stand out on its own. I also think flashbacks should be used sparingly. If a story relies heavily on back story, look for a variety of ways to pull the back story in. Flashbacks are just one tool.
RA: Do you belong to a writer’s group? Have you in the past?
I’ve belonged to several critique groups in the past and they were very helpful. Now I have a writing partner who is also a great friend. She gets me, gets my work, and isn’t afraid to tell me when it stinks. I do the same for her. I wouldn’t mind joining a local writing group. I just haven’t found the time yet, but maybe soon.
RA: What would be the best advice you could give a beginning writer?
Well, this is the same advice as my last interview, but that was only a few weeks ago, and I still think it’s good advice worth repeating. Back to your question about writing what you know: I think it’s equally important, if not more-so, that an author writes who they are. Yes, we have to learn the craft, pay attention to trends and whatnot. Those things are important. Just be sure that in doing so you don’t lose yourself. God gave you this calling because of who you are, and the best stories come from the heart.”
Every heart is unique! We start off with this dream to write because of this passion deep inside, and of course we want to get published, but I hope beginning writers will ask themselves which is more important; to write what you love, or to write to get published. There’s a difference. I’m not saying that they are exclusive of each other because obviously they aren’t. It’s just that it’s a tough journey and there are a lot of things to take into account while pursuing it.
RA: Time to get personal! Could you tell us about yourself?
Sure. Just an average gal. I’m a Christian, wife and mother. I love old houses, Christmas and critters, especially dogs. I enjoy hiking, rock hounding, reading and making jewelry. I enjoy other things too, but at the moment I can’t think of what they are (It’s 3:30 am). I don’t know what else to say really, I’m just normal most of the time, and a little kooky on occasion.
RA: What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Song? Personal memory?
My favorite is that for a week before Christmas I sneak little gifts under the small trees in my kids’ rooms. It’s little stuff: a candy bar, pair of earring, beef jerky. But it’s fun and it builds the anticipation. Not so much anymore since they are teenagers, but now they want me to do it for the sake of nostalgia. We also eat this outrageously buttery, syrupy, oatmeal for breakfast on Christmas day. I wrote that into No Other and In All Things.
RA: And what’s next for you, writing-wise? Could you tell us what to expect in any other books you’ll be releasing?
I have ideas, one of them is a spin off from No Other and In All Things. I haven’t done much with it because I’ve been so busy promoting. I probably won’t do much until after the holidays. I’m trying to decide if I want it to be a one book spin off or a series.
RA: Thank you so much for sharing with us. Good luck with your releases and please come back again soon!
(Please feel free to insert an excerpt here with intro)
The squeals of happy children playing outside on a warm summer day drew his attention to the window. David rose and paced across his small office inside the church.
Across the field, the Carson children played on the schoolyard. Twin little girls, Christine and Caroline, dressed alike as usual, bobbed up and down on the seesaw, and their pigtails bounced along with them. Their older brother, Marcus — maybe eight or nine now — hung upside down from a tree branch, and Mrs. Carson sat on a park bench with her youngest son — what was his name… Daniel, playing at her feet. The toddler’s back was to David, and he scooted a toy David couldn’t see along the ground. Mrs. Carson called out to Marcus to be careful.
A mother and her children, a beautiful sight. Soon she’d take them home and cook dinner. When their father arrived from work, the children would rush to greet him, hugging his legs as he entered the house. Then the family would sit down together to eat and talk about their day. David pictured the scene with clarity. A family as it should be. A family like Caleb used to have.
David wasn’t sure which was worse; to be old enough to remember your family and have to endure the pain of losing them like Caleb had or to be spared that pain because you were too young when they died. Like himself. He may have escaped the pain of loss, but throughout his childhood he’d wondered how it felt to be loved.
Even so, he’d recovered.
Perhaps his own story could comfort the six-year-old boy? David tried to imagine Caleb’s face as he heard the tale.
“You see, Caleb, I was orphaned when I was two. I had a mother and father and a sister, just like you — so I was told. But they all died and I went to live at the children’s home, the same one as you. Good people came into my life there. The person I best remember was a minister, Brother Rice. He visited every Sunday with his family. He’s why I became a minister and why I come to the orphanage to see the children and try to find homes if I can.”
“Did you ever find a home?” the boy would ask.
And then he’d have to answer. “No, son. I didn’t.”