Thursday, May 21, 2009

Savvy Scribblers: Shanna Swendson (+contest!)

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Shanna Swendson, author of the Katie Chandler and Enchanted, Inc series via email. Shanna enjoys reading when she's not writing as well as singing in her church choir, watching sci-fi television shows, and working crossword puzzles, among other things. Check out her other works in addition to the Katie Chandler series.

About Shanna's Books:

IHM: Was there a real-life inspiration for Katie Chandler?

SS: Not directly, no. She grew out of the plot. My initial idea was "Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter" because I wanted to mash-up my two favorite genres, and so I needed a very ordinary young woman who could have stepped out of a chick-lit novel to be my heroine. Then I got the idea about her being so ordinary that magic didn't even work on her. From there I realized that part of the underlying theme of the story would involve her being a fish out of water, so I decided she'd have to be an outsider in general, someone who'd come to the big city from elsewhere. I've lived in a small Texas town, so I decided to make that be her backstory, but other than maybe a few traits and that one bit of backstory, Katie isn't meant to be based on me.

IHM: Have you ever considered writing a spin-off series of the Katie Chandler books based on one of the other characters? If so, who?

SS: I've played with the idea of writing a short story that's sort of the old-fashioned hardboiled detective story, as narrated by Sam, but otherwise, my ideas for this universe mostly revolve around Katie's perspective, so it would be difficult to imagine writing a whole book from someone else's viewpoint.

IHM: Who is your least favorite character of the series?

SS: I don't really have one that I don't like to write, but I love to hate Mimi. She's all the bad bosses I've ever had, rolled into one character, and it's fun to think of ways to torture her.

IHM: Was the location description of Cobb, TX in Don't Hex With Texas based on a real town?

SS: Sort of. There's a town I drive through pretty often that more or less embodies my idealized image of what a small Texas town should be, and I used that town as a rough basis for Cobb. There is a courthouse and a square, and a movie theater, grocery store, park, church and motel more or less in the same places, and the real town is sort of in the same approximate place as the town in the book, with the main roads being about the same, but beyond that rough layout, I made the rest up to suit the needs of the story. There's an inside joke to the town name that gives a clue to the real town, but so far only some of my close friends have figured out what the real town is. No other guesses have been accurate.

IHM: Are there any hints you could give us of what would be in a fifth book if you were to get the chance to write it?

SS: That book would be about the person who's been behind the scenes, orchestrating everything, finally showing up to make his move and throwing everything into a tailspin, and that has a lot to do with who/what Owen really is, which comes as a complete surprise to him.

About Shanna

IHM: You mention on your website that you took a lot of different classes at the University of Texas that you thought might help you in your pursuit of a real career. Of all of the college courses that you took, what was your favorite?

SS: That's hard to say because there's a difference between the courses I loved when I was taking them and the ones that have had a long-term influence on me. I suppose I'd have to choose the Parageography course as a favorite. It wasn't quite what I expected it to be when I took it because it really was a rigorous course and not just a chance to talk about Middle Earth, but that course has been a big influence on me in my writing.

IHM: You also mention that you like to watch Sci-Fi TV shows. Which is your all-time favorite?

SS: Firefly! Not only did I love the characters and situation, to the point I still yearn for more stories, but through that series I met some of my closest friends and have had some amazing experiences. It really was a life-changing TV show for me, and it's still something I can watch and enjoy.

IHM: Do you own a copy of any author's entire literary collection?

SS: Not other than my own, unless maybe I have some book by an author who's only written one. Even for my favorite authors, I seem to be missing one or two, either the most recent that I haven't caught up with or perhaps some more obscure earlier books or auxiliary works (like I have the whole Harry Potter series, but none of the little side books like the fairy tale book or the Quidditch book).

IHM: If money was no object, and you felt you needed to travel for inspiration, what would be your first pick destination?

SS: Right now, I really want to go to Germany, to the area near where I used to live. I'm working on a book set roughly in that area, and I want to revisit it from that perspective. It's been a long time since I was there, and there are different things you look for when you're considering a place for a setting than when you're just touring or just living there. In addition to the research aspect, it's a good place to walk and hike and explore castles, which is always good inspiration for me, in general.


Thank you Shanna for being so open and honest with us about your life and your writing. We've enjoyed learning about you and we really heart your books!

Check out IHM's book inspections on Enchanted Inc, Once Upon Stilettos, Damsel Under Stress, and Don't Hex With Texas.

And now for a special treat, I bring you...

Shanna Swendson's Top 5 Travel Destinations:

1) Scotland -- history, castles, great scenery and supposedly good hiking

2) Wales -- see above

3) -- where my family is from, and I've never been there. Plus, I hear the hiking is good.

4) Italy -- maybe Florence or Siena, and then somewhere in the mountains or the countryside

5) the Black Forest in Germany -- something about it has always fascinated me, and even though I've lived nearby, I've never managed to go through there in daylight. The hiking is supposed to be wonderful (are we sensing a theme here?)

Can you guess where Shanna's family is from and the third destination on her list? Leave your guess in the comments. Guess correctly and enter to win a new copy of Enchanted Inc. Special bonus: I'll throw in my copies of the rest of the series!

Entries accepted until Friday, June 5th, when I will announce the correct answer and the winner. This is open worldwide.


Storyheart said...

Hmm used to live near Germany, does not look Swedish so I will say NORWAY

Kate said...

I'm going to guess Denmark because I have a friend who is from Denmark. There's no logic to it :)

Recent blog post: Teaser Tuesday... on Wednesday again

Sumthinblue said...

I'm also guessing Norway. Swendson sounds Norwegian.

Recent blog post: Kare Kano Marathon

Ella Press said...

her family's from Texas (?), and the 3rd destination on her list is Germany :)

Recent blog post: YAY! finally my inspiration is back! welcome to the dark side!!!

Dottie Taylor said...

I'm going to go with Norway because Shanna has some of the features associated with a Scandinavian heritage and I've heard the hiking there is the best. Also Swendson has a Scandinavian sound, just my opinion though.

Recent blog post: Reviewette: Demon's Delight --- The Angel and The Hellraiser --- by Vickie Taylor

Cindi said...

Hi! I will guess that her roots are Norwegian.
Many thanks, Cindi