Being an author can sometimes be a lonely business. While you may run across a lot of people who enjoy reading and maybe even dabble in writing, it can be rare to run across someone who is also an author. (By the way, if you dabble in writing, keep on dabbling!) I was blessed this year to run across Shanna at a friend of a friend's release party. Shanna writes sweet romance, a genre which perfectly fits my craving for hopeless romance without making me skip pages of blush-worthy scenes. Shanna has written a wonderful story, The Christmas Crusade as part of a new boxed set by 19 talented authors called Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 being released today. Shanna offered me an advance copy of her story and I absolutely loved it! The characters were so real and the story so fun. I laughed out loud so many times and had my heart touched. And yes, I cried a little too. She agreed to join us today for an interview so you can find out how to make this charming story part of your holiday collection.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Shanna - I grew up on a farm where my family raised cattle, wheat, alfalfa hay, and me. After going away to college, I returned home, went to work for a daily newspaper as a reporter, and fell head-over-heels in love with a boy I met on a blind date (set up by our dads). Captain Cavedweller and I have been happily married for more than two decades. Although we no longer live on a farm, we do live out in the country, which provides a perfect setting for my active imagination to conjure up ideas for my sweet romances. My favorite things in the world (besides Captain Cavedweller) are roses, chocolate (the really good stuff), and the heavenly scent of babies.
Can't think of much that top those three. What inspired you to become a writer?
Shanna: I’ve always loved to read. My mother shared her love of books with me early on. The first story I recall writing was in the third grade about a raccoon (my brother had a pet one at the time). In addition, my dad frequently told stories. I used to listen to him spin a tale and see the amusement and enjoyment on the faces of others. The combination of my love of books, my interest in writing, and knowing someone who shared stories helped point me in the direction of becoming a writer.
Story-telling parents are the best! When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Shanna: I enjoying cooking and love baking. Yesterday I made a banana cake that made the whole house smell so yummy, I wasn’t sure Captain Cavedweller was going to make it through dinner before he cut a piece. Once in a while, I like to do craft projects, but nothing that requires a lot of time, supplies or attention. I’m more of a whip out my glue gun and go to town kind of girl.
I know a new recipe I'll need to try. My sweetie loves banana. Who is your favorite author?
Shanna: I can’t pick just one. Honest. There are just too many wonderful authors out there. But I’ll give you a list of some I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks and they include Melanie D. Snitker, Lia London, Marcia Lynn McClure, and Karen Witemeyer.
Too many favorites is a common predicament with readers. Tell us about the books you write.
Shanna: My fiction books are all sweet romances. I write both historical and contemporary. I don’t have a favorite of one type over the other. Because I love history and research is something I enjoy (yes, I’m weird), the historicals are fun to write. It’s fun to envision all the beautiful clothes of yesteryear and the polished manners. On the flip side of that coin, the contemporary stories allow me to incorporate sassier, sarcastic characters. When the bug bites, I also write humorous stories and a random cookbook or two.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?
Shanna: I would love it if they’d pop on by my website: http://shannahatfield.com/books
They can browse through all my books there and find fun extras like character info sheets with the “faces” I used as visual inspiration for the stories as well as little tidbits about the characters.
Congrats on your new release! Tell us about your contribution to Sweet Christmas Kisses 2, The Christmas Crusade.
Shanna: In the story, Levi Clarke has recently taken over as the director of Center For Hope — a community outreach center that helps families in the Portland, Oregon, area. Desperate for funding to help bring Christmas to the needy families, Levi seeks support for a large corporation in the city and ends up face-to-face with Kathleen Kingsley. Kat and Levi have a bit of history. He fell in love with her, she dumped him because she needed to focus on her career, and neither one of them have gotten past their attraction to each other.
What was your inspiration for this story?
Shanna: A few years ago, I wrote a sweet romance called The Coffee Girl. The hero had a friend named Levi. The heroine’s best friend was a girl named Kat. In the story, when Kat and Levi meet, sparks fly… but then we don’t really know what happened to them because they were only secondary characters in the story. They became increasingly insistent that their story needed to be written — so here we are.
Those minor characters have a habit of doing that. I know some of your books have snippets from your life experiences in them. Were there any true experiences in The Christmas Crusade?
Shanna: Several years ago, I served on the board of a philanthropic organization. We collected toys, clothing, food and monetary donations for families in need. Generally, we were able to bring Christmas cheer to about three hundred needy families. Seeing how our combined efforts brought so much joy to others always touched my heart. That’s where the inspiration for Levi’s crusade for Center for Hope came to life.
What a wonderful Christmas gift to give! You mention several popular Christmas carols in your book. Is one of them your favorite?
Shanna: I love (LOVE) Christmas carols and would play them year round if no one would complain. And I have so many of them that touch my heart or make me smile, or evoke a sweet memory. One of my all-time favorites, though, is Mary Did You Know? Makes me cry every time I hear it.
My children would join you in playing Christmas songs year-round. Sometimes I humor them. Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?
Shanna: Throughout my growing up years, my family always went to the wood to cut down a Christmas tree. We lived in a part of Oregon that grew sagebrush, not lush fir trees, so we’d pile into trucks and drive almost two hours to the woods then spend the day. One year, my brother brought different flavors of soda pop and made us all snow cones. Another time I went with a cast on my foot. A few weeks later when the doctor removed the cast, it contained an ample supply of pine needles. It wasn’t just picking out the trees and bringing them home, it was spending the day doing something fun with all of our family.
I love family fun too. What great memories! What is your favorite Christmas story?
Shanna: My favorite all-time Christmas story is one of drama, disappointment, perseverance, surrender, and love beyond comprehension… the birth of Jesus. My favorite holiday romance is a wonderful little story written by Kathleen Morgan called The Christkindl’s Gift. And reading it always makes me crave German food.
The story of Christ's birth is one of my favorites too. The characters in this book are so easy to love and relate to. Was one of them your favorite to write? (We won't tell the others.)
Shanna: (LOL!) I didn’t plan on it, but I became quite attached to Levi’s brother, Mike. He’s been hinting that he’d like his own story next year. We shall see… Of the two main characters, though, I’d probably say Levi is my favorite just because he grew up in a middle class home with a “normal” family structure which is easier for me to relate to than Kat’s background.
Ooh, I'll have to keep watching to see if Mike gets his wish. There are so many beautiful and fun scenes in The Christmas Crusade. I'd share mine, but I don't want to spoil the ending. What was your favorite scene to write?
Shanna: The ending is one of my favorites, but I also got a kick out of writing the scene where Kat shows up for a meeting with Levi wearing a One Direction T-shirt. Normally, she’s so professional and the T-shirt is so far out of Kat’s realm… I think that’s what made it so fun. I think anytime we can take characters out of their comfort zone, it makes them seem more realistic, more relatable.
That was one of the scenes I laughed the hardest at! I understand there's a Facebook party celebrating the release of Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 today. What can you tell us about it?
Shanna: All nineteen authors are joining in the fun… so there will be many giveaways, prizes, games and tomfoolery. Anyone interested is welcome to attend. The party runs from noon to 10 p.m. (ET) and I’ll take over hosting duties from 2:30-3p.m.
I'm definitely going to be there! Right now The Christmas Crusade is an eBook in the anthology. Are there plans to release it in print?
Shanna: Yes! Kat and Levi’s story will be available in paperback next week.
Yay! That will be exciting. Where can readers go to order Sweet Christmas Kisses 2?
Thank you for joining us today! Good luck with your release.
Shanna: Thank you so much for hosting me today! It’s a pleasure to be here!
Be sure to check out all the fun at the release party on Facebook and definitely add this sweet story to your reading list. It's a fun Christmas tale you won't want to miss!
The Christmas Crusade by Shanna Hatfield
Levi Clarke is on a crusade to create a merry Christmas for the patrons of Center for Hope community center. He’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen, even if it means seeking a sponsorship from Kat Kingsley, the woman too stubborn to realize she’s still in love with him.
Levi pulled her to a halt. “Are you limping?”
“It’s nothing. I know better than to wear such high heels to an event like this, but they matched my dress.”
Levi bent over and placed his shoulder against Kat’s midsection, lifting her like a sack of potatoes.
She shrieked and grabbed onto the first thing she could reach, which just happened to be his firm rear end. He jumped at the unexpected touch, but didn’t set her down, continuing to the front door of her building. The doorman grinned so broadly, Levi thought the old gent might drop his dentures.
Ah, fall! I love fall, much like the beloved hero of the Charming Academy series, Lucian. I love the colors, the smells and most of all the cooler temperatures. This is the time of year I start harvesting my pumpkins and turning them into pies, breads, muffins and more. Apples turn into butter, cider and applesauce. My house almost always smells like something is baking whether cookies, bread or cake. The air outside becomes crisp and it starts heading toward cocoa season. And there's always football to cheer for.
It's a beautiful time of year. Perhaps because during this time I prepare for the holidays. I start looking to Thanksgiving and Christmas, planning out what I'll do and who will be on my lists.
And of course, there's Halloween.
It was never a big deal in my house growing up. We never went Trick-or-Treating or dressed up. Instead we stayed at home with homemade goodies and watched the old Disney classic, Blackbeard's Ghost. It was fun and I loved it. But you know, I always kind of missed the dressing up. I guess it's the girly-girl in me that loves getting all dressed up. The imaginative side of me loves games of make-believe. So costumes always satisfy both sides of my personality. As much as I enjoyed our family's tradition, I couldn't help thinking that getting all dressed up would have made it even better.
Now I'm grown and yes, I dress up each year for Halloween. Mostly because it's fun to play pretend with my kiddos. I love seeing what they'll do. This year, Halloween will be even more fun as I celebrate the release of the final book in the Charming Academy series: Prince Charming's Quest.
My children are already begging to be part of the fun. My daughter insists on being Moira while my oldest son is set on being Lucian. The baby will be Torch, possibly a frog prince. We'll see. I'll be dressing up as Allegra and, if I can manage it, my Prince Charming will become Adrian.
But why should I have all the fun? With this being the release of the final book in the series, I want you to have lots of fun too! So there will be giveaways and games, but I'm going to tell you about the big one so you can start preparing. We're going to have a Costume Contest!
That's right! You get the chance to dress up as your favorite character, or any character from the series. And you've got lots of options. There are princesses, princes, witches, fairies, mermaids, dragons and, in the coming book, there will even be dwarves. You can be the hero or the villain, a friend or foe. It's all up to you. And it doesn't have to be complicated. The year Charming Academy was released, I decided I wanted to dress up as Phillipa Rosepetal, one of my favorite characters. Much as I would love to have one, I don't own a riding habit. So I modernized her. Jeans, inexpensive fairy wings, riding boots and a fluttery cardigan later Phillipa emerged.
Here are the rules:
1) Choose a character to dress up as. Don't worry if someone else is dressing up as the same person. If we have 15 Moiras it will still be a lot of fun!
2) Assemble your costume. It does not have to be expensive or handmade. And it doesn't have to be true to the time period. Want to bring Lucretia forward to the 21st century? Go for it! But you should try to keep true to the character's personality. Lucretia's not likely to be found wearing anything frumpy and in the books is only seen to wear red or blue.
3) Take a picture of yourself in costume and send it to me in an email before 10pmCST on Oct. 25. On Monday, Oct. 26 I will set up a Facebook album where the voting will take place.
4) After the album is released, vote for your favorite character costume(s) and share it with your whole Facebook world. The costume with the most votes will be the winner. Voting for the contest will go through the week until midnight Oct. 30. The winner will be announced on Oct. 31.
What is the prize?
This is going to be the grand prize of the release party. The winner will receive an ultimate Charming Academy fan basket. I don't want to spoil all of it, but there will be a hand-painted horse figurine, signed books, and other great prizes.
Start planning now and get your costume together. Not sure who to dress up as? Read one of the books and see who jumps out at you. Haven't read any of the books yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Get a copy today and start reading!
Good luck! Comment and let me know who you plan to be. If you want help costume planning, I'm happy to offer tips.
As you can see, there have been a few changes made in the Elliott world. Life is always an adventure and with adventure comes change, new projects, and excitement. I've been telling you about some of the new changes and some have been hinted at. Now I'll give you the full run-down of newness.
That's right! The clunky, but effective, website has been replaced with a new, colorful, and professional-looking website. Thanks to my amazing tech-guru (love you sweetheart!) I've been able to update the website with pages dedicated to my books, special sales (though we're still working on that page), and best of all a new blog! Look over at that, I can add pictures now!
You've been waiting so very patiently and the day has finally arrived. I am getting ALL of the books formatted for eBook release. A few have already been added, such as Charming Academy and Finding Prince Charming. But I still have a teensy bit of work to do before Prince Charming's Search and Becoming Prince Charming will be out. Just as promised, however, they will all be available on Sept. 18. Each book has gone through vigorous edits and some minor rewrites so that the story you read is the one I envisioned. Most (if not all) of my typos have been removed and the stories have been tightened up and polished until they practically glow! Okay, maybe not glow, but they're really good. Not only will they be available through Smashwords, and the corporations they work with, but they will also be coming available on Kindle for the first time!
Only one of my current books has a new cover and that one would be Charming Academy. With the new revisions, I wanted to give it a cover that better matched with the rest of the series. I think you'll agree this new cover does the trick. The other book to receive a new cover is my new book, Prince Charming's Quest which I will tell you more about in a second.
While it is not being released this month, I am busily working on Prince Charming's Quest, the final book in the Charming Academy series. I've set a release date for October 31. Yep, Halloween is going to be awesome this year! Be watching the fanpage on Facebook for the announcement of the Masquerade Ball and if you feel so inclined, start preparing to dress up as your favorite character from the series. Trust me, it will be worth the effort.
Many of you wonderful fans have told me how much you enjoy my artwork and let me tell you, nothing boosts an artist's ego like being told people like their work! Some of you have been fortunate enough to win illustrations from me during my word count guesses (and yes, you should still watch for those to be announced). Because I am not quite talented enough to do the same drawing over and over again to perfection, I've made a new way for everyone to enjoy my illustrations. I now have a Cafepress shop, Sanalbereth Souvenirs (follow the link below). There you can buy calendars, mugs, shirts, hats and other paraphernalia related to my books. Keep watching the shop as I will be adding new designs and products as I have time.
So, keep watching the fanpage and now my new website for news of my adventures. And be sure to tell me what you think of all the newness here in the Elliott world.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius