Interview & Contest: Shannon A. Hiner

Jen: Today we welcome YA Fantasy author Shannon A Hiner to Romancing the Book.  Shannon, will you please share a short bio with us?

Shannon: Sure! I was born in central California twenty-one years ago but spent the first six years of my life in Vermont. My family moved back to California after that and I’ve been very fond of summer heat since then. At the age of 16 I graduated from high school, got my first job and first car in the same summer. For the last five years I’ve been living in the Northern California mountains, which are an amazing source of inspiration. Recently I have received my AA in Language Arts from Butte Community College. I work full time and write in between graveyard shifts. I am planning on returning to college for my BA in a few years, but am currently on an education hiatus to concentrate on my writing.

Jen: Tell us about Only The Stars Know and where it can be purchased.
Shannon: Only The Stars Know is the first chronological book in The Immortal World series. It is the second published book in the series. The story was originally written as a submission for a short story competition. It was years later that I stumbled across it again in the depths of my computer. I realized very shortly that though the old writing was shoddy, the plot and the characters were not. I started rewriting it as a project for a creative writing class. A title change and 200 new pages later, the book was a full length novel.

In the story, two extraordinary young people have managed to be in the same place, at the same time to meet each other. A small village on the Montana border, Rowan seems an unlikely place to for two such people to meet. Kalina is hiding from her past and Zane is running from the present, and in Rowan the outside world is far away.

Only The Stars Know is available through Amazon.com and Create Space currently. It is an ebook and an on-demand book.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Shannon: For as long as I can remember I’ve been making up stories and characters. When I was little my imaginary friends were normal people like you and me, but around the age of 14 they were vampires and dark angels. When I started writing my first story it was just innocent fun between myself and a friend from school. I had no idea what I was unleashing.

I had some idea early on that I wanted to be published. I was enjoying myself so much, I knew that I wanted to be a ‘real’ writer. I wanted to be an author.

I started contacting agents and publishers around the age of 16 and for the next three years didn’t have any luck breaking into the business. I was annoyed, more than discouraged. It seems like no one will talk to you if you don’t have two degrees, an already successful book and some serious connections. There are so many wonderful writers who don’t get discovered while some mediocre ones who ‘know somebody’ are picked up on the first or second try.

By the age of 19, I was sick and tired of waiting for an agent to get a clue. I took matters into my own hands. For weeks I researched self-publishing options and finally settled on Author House. I was contacted by a representative and then scraped together the money to go through with it. Submerged In Darkness was published in August of 2009.

The first time I held my book my heart almost burst with pride. I still look at it on the shelf and feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I know that some people look down on self-published authors because they didn’t earn it. In my mind, self-published authors are often the ones that have tried the hardest and the longest.

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?

Shannon: My family is incredible. Without the support network they provide I never could have achieved so much already. It is because of my parents that I have such a love for books. Some of my earliest memories are being read to. Trips to the bookstore were the greatest treat my brothers and I could receive.

As soon as I decided I wanted to be a writer I was provided with notebooks and pens for presents. My mother was my first editor, my father was my first marketer. My brother would help me to bounce ideas around. Being a little bit odd is normal in my family, so my strange writer-ways were not frowned upon but respected.

I always know that my first fans are my family.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.

Shannon: Extemporaneous. Immersed. Empathic.

Jen: Do you struggle with deadlines? How do you deal with the pressure?

Shannon: Deadlines? Heck no, I love them. If I don’t have a deadline the likelihood of anything getting done is little to none. I am a procrastinator and will be up halfway through the night before the deadline finishing up.

The pressure is what gets me going. I feed off of it. If there is no pressure then I feel no need to work.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from? Why?

Shannon: I am very happy in the fantasy genre, and have a lot of books waiting to be written in it. When I’m bored with fantasy I would really love to write a ghost story, or even something historical. I tend to avoid murder-mystery, I feel like there is too much of that. Plus, detectives just don’t do it for me.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?

Shannon: Taking criticism is probably the most challenging thing for me. I don’t mind reworking a scene or paragraph, but if my editor doesn’t take the time to listen to why it is that way in the first place I get frustrated and obstinate. The easiest is the rough draft, of course. When I am on my own just letting the words flow I am most happy and comfortable. I’ve noticed that during a really good rough draft I draw even deeper into myself and truly escape the real world.

The absolute most rewarding aspect of being a writer is watching new people read my work. There is the sickening anticipation until they are finished, and then the relief when they look up and smile. Nothing can feel better than reading a good review or listening to someone telling me how much they love the characters.

Jen: Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting them go, or are you happy that their story is told and you can move on?

Shannon: That question can only be answered on a character to character basis. There are some characters that, once I finish their story, I am happy because they are happy. Other characters, mostly the ones who don’t come to a precisely happy ending, never leave my conscious mind. In The Immortal World there are many characters who need their stories told. Every story introduces someone new, whether as a main character or supporting, who has a very real life and needs my words to feel complete.

Some of my most favorite characters pop up in more than one story because I simply cannot let go of them that easily. Even after their lives are put right I have to go back and visit them.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?

Shannon: When I pick up a book the first thing I like to do is read the Acknowledgements and Dedication. In that way, every author inspires me.

Authors that really get me itching to write include Lynn Kurland and Tamora Pierce.

Specifically, though, my best inspiration would currently have to be Amanda Hocking. After reading her publishing story turned phenomenon I know that I have chosen the right path for my writing. Technology is being used these days to cut out the agent/publisher middleman. Now writers can go straight to their readers, and then duke it out for supremacy.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Shannon: When I can find a spare day I love to go on long drives. When I’m driving I do my best brainstorming. When some spare money can be found I spend it all on books, and then finish them far too quickly.

In reality though, spare time is a myth we like to torture ourselves with. If you want something to be done, you have to make the time.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Shannon: There are so many stories I have to tell, I’m hoping to publish at least one a year. I have recently been over taken by a new idea and next month I will be traveling to the California coast to do research for my next book.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Shannon: My website is shannonahiner.com, which has information about my Immortal World Series as well as updates about what I’m working on. I have a blog as well, shannonahiner.blogspot.com, where I post writing scraps and exercises. I also update my Facebook Page very regularly with my upcoming activities. I do have both a Twitter account and Myspace page, but I use both so infrequently it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Shannon: Only one, for the sake of my curiosity: What is your favorite mythological creature and why?

Contest details:

  • The prize is a signed copy of Only The Stars Know as well as a Submerged In Darkness bookmark!
  • The contest is open to everyone, international readers included.
  • You must leave a meaningful comment for entry.  This means your comment needs to be more than “please enter me in the contest”.
  • A valid email address needs to be included in your comment.  If you’re worried about spam, please modify your address, such as admin.bookblog AT gmail.com.  You can also send a message to this email after your comment has been posted.
  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Friday, August 26.
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