Q&A With Shannon McKenna

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Q&A With Shannon McKenna 

Shannon McKenna is the New York & USA Today Bestselling author of romance many of which are part of a series & some are standalones. Some of her many series are The Obsidian Files, The Hellbound Brotherhood, The McCloud series, The Men of Maddox Hill, Dynasties: Tech Tycoons & The Unredeemables. I have the honor of doing this Q&A with Shannon today which I am very excited about! 

Q: Shannon, would you please tell the readers & I about yourself & what made you choose to be an author & what made you choose romance?

A: I grew up deep in the mountains in Oregon, in a remote canyon that didn’t get any TV reception. I thought I was desperately deprived at the time, not being able to see all the TV shows I heard about at school, but in retrospect, it was a gift. I became an avid reader of all genres, but once I discovered romance, I never looked back. Stories for women, by women, about love, pleasure, adventure, fulfillment, oh yes, please. Those romances got me through some dark times. As a compensatory coping mechanism, romance novels are unbeatable.

So since romance took me by the hand and helped me up when I was down, I decided that I’d like to return the favor. I wanted to write stories that thrilled and excited and entertained me. It seemed a noble calling to me, but at first, it also seemed as unlikely as winning the lottery. But I got lucky, and sold that first book. 

That partly came about because of where I was in my life. I’m also a singer, and I met my husband while I was working as a singer at a Renaissance Faire, all dressed up in one of those Elizabethan corset thingies. He was visiting from Italy, playing fife, drum, and lute, dressed in tights, which pushed all my romantic buttons. Fast forward a couple years, and I was in Italy with him. It was a grand adventure, but with no language, no social life, no job, there were a whole lot of lonely, empty, what-the-hell-do-I do-with-myself-now times. I figured, if I don’t take my shot right now, I never will. So I wrote a category of romance, aiming for Harlequin Temptation, or a Silhouette Desire, if any of you remember those lines. Exciting, spicy, sexy. I sent out the manuscript, got a bunch of rejections, and finally sold that book to Kensington. And I was off and running. I am so grateful for that opportunity. 

Q: Do the ideas for your fictional worlds and characters come from bits and pieces of real places & people?

A: Oh, good heavens, yes! Always. It’s crazy. Often I’ll be leafing through a book I wrote ten or fifteen years ago, and something in it will bring back the memory of some news story that happened then, some scientific or medical breakthrough that blew my mind at the time and wiggled its way into my story, sometimes a bit exaggerated, but always springing from what I see around me. My McCloud heroes and my Hellbound Brotherhood heroes, for instance, are a mishmash of the people I knew when I was growing up in the mountains. Misfits, survivalists, off-the-grid individualists, who hid themselves away deep into the hills because they got into trouble when they went into the “real world.” Then, my Tech Tycoons and Maddox Hill series are all brilliant scientist types who want to save the world from its own folly, my fondest daydream. The Obsidian Files stories, which have a sci-fi, urban fantasy vibe are not really sci-fi at all, because all the augmentation that was done to my protagonists, the brain augmentation, the eye augmentation, the genetic modifications, all of that wild stuff is based on books and magazine articles that I’ve read of real, current, public scientific experimentation. And those were the stories that were for public consumption. I cannot even imagine the stuff that they keep in the vault. Wait…who is “they?” Can you tell that I’m a lazy conspiracy theorist? It’s a natural state of being for a writer. Plant a seed in my mind, and it will sprout into a story and start to grow. It simply has no choice.

Q: Do you have any upcoming releases and current works in progress you are writing now that you would love to share with us?

A: I’m working on a romantic suspense trilogy right now that’s based on something I wrote years ago, but finally I have the rights back and can expand and update and juice it up into what it should have been all along! That should be out in a few months. I’m also thinking of recording my own audiobooks—read by the author! Whoo hoo! I’m just about to do my first recording session. It’s hard to decide which one to start with, but I think I’ll do my Unredeemables first, since they’re the newest series. It will be exciting—but yikes. It occurs to me that I have never read my own love scenes out loud. Oh boy. That will be … interesting.

Q: What lessons do you want readers to learn from reading your novels?

A: I’ve never gotten a question like that! I had to really think about it, because you usually don’t think about lessons to be learned in the context of entertaining genre fiction. But there are lessons hidden there, when I reflect on it. I think the key takeaways should always be, remember that you deserve respect. You deserve love. You deserve pleasure. You deserve kindness and tenderness and fun. Another lesson might be to pay attention, and to take responsibility. To hang in there, no matter what. To never let anyone stomp on you. That life always flourishes anew, even when things look dead and barren.

Q: How does it feel knowing that you are on the USA Today & New York Times Bestsellers Lists? It sounds like a dream come true to be on not just one but two lists?

A: Oh, it was wonderful when it happened. I was so pleased and grateful. And it helps even now, years later, to boost my confidence when it starts to waver and Imposter Syndrome rears its head. The voices whisper, it was just a fluke, a flash in the pan, nobody really likes you, you’re all done, you have nothing left to say, you’re all played out, etc., etc. Those voices never shut up. They probably wouldn’t even if I had a massive, huge mega-commercial success. But who knows? That’s a hypothesis that I would REALLY love to test out personally, heh. 

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? The entertainment industry needs new content again & not the same remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and spin offs. 

A: From your mouth to God’s ears! Movie or TV producers have never optioned any of my work so far. I would love to see a Netflix series of my stuff. I often cast my own stories myself from the current crop of brooding Hollywood hotties! 

Q: What are healthy ways you deal with negative reviews, online trolls & family and friends who aren’t supportive that could help aspiring authors who deal with the same?

A: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. I have several artist friends from college who don’t “get” the choice to write romance. I have family members who judge me having never even read my books, and others who are embarrassed because they are so sexy. I have people around me who think I’ve sold out as a writer by deciding to write genre fiction. All of them bug me. But I think that I write more freely and more joyfully as a genre writer than I would if I were trying to write “serious” literature. I’d get all self-conscious and nervous and constipated. Hell with that.

And when it comes to trolls? Whew. If you or anyone else can think of a healthy and effective way to deal with those bottom-feeders, I wish you would tell me what it is. Trolls are awful. Just lately, I had an encounter with one. I’d posted a free story for subscribers, and a troll reached out just to slap me down and make me feel bad and ashamed about what I’d written—which was a free gift! She hadn’t even paid for it! I could sense the strange, sick pleasure she took in it. She’d gone out of her way, taken time out of her day just to be ugly to me, and I was not braced for it, so it really shook me. It took a couple of days to recover my equilibrium, and yes, I know, that is far, far too long. But when I write, it’s from the heart. I’m wide open, all my secret thoughts and emotions, fears, sexuality, all that stuff is put out there on display. It’s a very strange trade. It leaves you uncomfortably vulnerable. 

My litany is, and repeat after me—that person Was Not My Target Audience. Not everyone is going to love what I write. It’s impossible to please everyone. You have to please yourself, and your core readers, in equal measure. And if someone hates on it, that does not mean you’re a bad person and should lower your head, put your tail between your legs and wallow in shame and self-loathing.

There is no way to keep it from bothering you—but you cannot let it stop you.

One more thing. Do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances, give in to the temptation to engage with trolls. Let them fester all alone, ignored, unconsidered, irrelevant. It’s what they hate more than anything. If you reach out to them, they will sink their claws into you and try to drag you down into their smelly pit. Not a good use of your time. Trust me on this.

Q: What are healthy ways you deal with self-doubt as an author that may help aspiring authors deal with the same?

A: For me, the first hurdle was when I realized that the self-doubt will never go away, no matter how many years I do this work. I should stop expecting that it will, and just learn to navigate around it, like a big hole in the asphalt that you have to steer around without veering off the road. When the work feels dull, dead, tired, derivative, I just grimly keep my hands moving, because I know from experience that it has to be awful before it get better. Then, after you’ve got that big raggedy pile of raw material that is your first draft, THEN you dive in and turn it into a story. That’s when things come to life, and characters start to talk of their own accord, and things happen that you never planned or foresaw in the outline.

It’s not guaranteed, and you have to persist, but you’ll only get there if you’re willing to slog through the swamp of crap. You just have to keep at it.

At least, that’s my process! Others might be different.

Thank you so much, Bianca, for featuring me, and for your fun and inspiring questions! It was a pleasure to be here!