Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Author Snapshot: Shanna Swendson

We join the Texas-based author previously known as Samantha Carter at a beautiful moment in her career: Don’t Hex With Texas (Ballantine Books), the fourth novel in her widely acclaimed Enchanted, Inc. series is appearing in bookstores right now and the reviews that have been heralding the way have been sunny and enthusiastic. Last fall, the first book in the series, Enchanted, Inc., has been optioned for film by Universal's Strike Entertainment.

The Enchanted, Inc. books are… well… enchanting. And certainly charming. A small town Texas girl pulls up stakes and moves to the big smoke where she gets a job with a mysterious company called MSI, Inc. Magical high-jinx follow. In a review of Don’t Hex With Texas, Booklist said the Enchanted, Inc. books comprised “one of the best romantic-fantasy series being written today.”

A Snap
shot of... Shanna Swendson

Born: Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Reside: Irving, Texas
Birthday: August 7
Web site: shannaswendson.com

Please tell us about your most recent book.
Don’t Hex With Texas is the fourth book in my Enchanted, Inc. series about an entirely unmagical woman who works for a magical corporation.

In this one, the action moves to Katie Chandler’s home town, which means that for a change, she’s not the fish out of water. I had a lot of fun making odd magical stuff happen in a small Texas town.

What’s on your nightstand?
A towering pile of partially read books that I’ll get back to someday and read, books that need to be reshelved that’s someday going to topple and kill me, a telephone, alarm clock, earplugs (I have noisy neighbors) and a flashlight (it’s thunderstorm season).

But if you mean what am I reading now, well, I just started reading Pyramids by Terry Pratchett, but it’s on the floor by my bed instead of on my nightstand because the nightstand is where books go to die (or wait to be re-shelved).

What inspires you?
Just about everything inspires me. I like playing games of what-if, taking things too literally, fixing things that I feel were done wrong in another story, trying to see what I can get away with. Most of my story ideas seem to come from me being a brat.

What are you working on now?
I just started playing with a new idea, and I’m way too early in the process to have the slightest idea of whether or not it will go anywhere, so I’m a little hesitant to talk about it.

Tell us about your process.
My process seems to change with each book. Each one has its own rhythm. I write on a computer (because if I wrote by hand, I’d never be able to read it), and usually in the late afternoon or at night. I seem to have the worst of both worlds between plotting or writing free-form -- I can’t get very far without plotting everything out, but then I don’t really seem to know what the book is about until I’ve written it, and then I have to do a lot of revising. I usually write enough to get a feel for it -- as little as five pages, as many as 60 -- then do some brainstorming, plotting, character development, that sort of thing. Then I write a very, very rough, fast draft. And then I take it all apart and put it back together again. My first draft usually takes about a month, and then revisions can take up to six months.

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?

If I look straight ahead, I look out the glass doors onto a balcony that overlooks a little lawn area, the major street beyond that, and then the buildings across the street. The signal lights at the intersection are blinking red thanks to a storm last night, so the traffic flow is fairly entertaining as people unexpectedly encounter a four-way stop and aren’t sure what to do. If I look any other direction, I see a terribly messy office that I really do plan to clean someday.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think my very first inkling that writing was fun came in fourth grade when we were supposed to write a paragraph describing a picture and I found myself writing a whole short story. I first started really thinking about writing as a career when I was about 12. I figured out then that if I wrote down the stories I made up in my head, I’d have a book, and it was around that age that I looked up “publishers” in the phone book. But as I didn’t live in New York, I didn’t find any.

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
I have no idea. I keep thinking of things I could do as a fallback career, and none of them hold much appeal for me -- or else they somehow come back to writing. I suppose if I got truly desperate I could go back to doing marketing and public relations work, which was my career before I started writing full-time, but I dread the thought of that. I’m fascinated by psychology and have thought that might be something to pursue, but then I’d still probably end up writing psychology books. I guess if I can’t make this writing thing work, I’m doomed.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
A few days before the release of the first book in my series, I got a copy of the review Charles deLint wrote in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, in which he raved about the book and about how original my concept was. He was one of the writers I’d looked to as an example in writing contemporary fantasy, and I love his work, so seeing one of my role models praising my work and really getting what I was trying to say was overwhelming. I burst into tears when I read it and spent the rest of the day shaking.

For you, what is the easiest thing about being writer?
Coming up with story ideas is probably the easiest thing. Just about everything I see or do gives me some fragment of idea. I doubt I’ll ever run out of things to write because I have a huge backlog of ideas.

What’s the most difficult?
The most difficult thing is releasing my baby over to other people and realizing that once I’ve written the book, I have very little control over it. I may get to make suggestions, but ultimately, I can’t control where the books are shelved, how they’re distributed and how people can find out about them.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?

When’s the next book coming out?

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
Can we please pay you large sums of money to write something for us?

What question would like never to be asked again?
For frequency and futility: Why aren’t your books shelved as fantasy? (Not that I don’t think that’s a brilliant idea. I’ve been politely suggesting it for a while now, but questions about where/how my books can be found are best directed to the publisher or bookseller since I have no control over that.)

For making me deeply uncomfortable: Can you read my manuscript and critique it/recommend it to your editor or agent/give me an endorsement blurb? (I’m not a very good critiquer, I have a reading backlog so you might get a faster response just submitting your work to agents or publishers without my recommendation, and I only take blurb requests that come through editors or agents because I only give blurbs for books when I enthusiastically recommend them, and I’m a huge weenie so I never want to have to tell someone directly that I didn’t like her book enough to give it a blurb. It’s hard enough telling an agent or editor that it’s not for me. I guess the weenie thing also applies to critiques or giving referrals. I don’t want to have to tell anyone I don’t like it.)

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I’m not sure there is anything that no one knows that I’m willing to share. That’s a hazard of blogging regularly for years. If I wanted to tell it, I already have. My readers already know about my crippling shyness in the presence of people I admire, my huge crush on a local TV anchorman, my telephone phobia, my aversion to bananas and my extreme levels of geekiness. What more could I tell?

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Blogger grace said...

This article would be a great addition to the Feminist Fantasy and Science Fiction blog carnival we're hosting at Heroine Content (www.heroinecontent.net) this month. If you would consent to having it linked, please drop us an email (avengingophelia at gmail dot com). Thanks!


Wednesday, April 30, 2008 7:05:00 AM PDT  

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