GLM: Hello, I’m Gina Leigh Maxwell and you’re listening to Passions on Paper on WPOP, the blogosphere’s hit station for paranormal romance and beyond.
The theme of today’s show is FAN-tastic Friday and I’m very excited to have one of my favorite fans with us in the studio today. She’s the Cat Girl from Southern Cal and a fellow triple-namer. She hates blogging and loves vlogging…please welcome Shannon Whitney Messenger to the show! *recorded track plays of applause and cheers*
Thanks so much for being here today, Shannon! It’s so great to have you with us.
SWM: Aw, thanks for having me Gina, it’s great to be here. Oh, but one tiny thing—I don’t actually love vlogging. It terrifies me. Like, a lot. And I love blogging. Reading comments from my followers is always one of the highlights of my day.
GLM: *exaggerated sigh* I’m so sorry, Shannon. I’m working with a new production assistant and he seems to have copied my notes wrong. *knocks on the glass of the studio* DL! Shannon hates vlogging. Not loves. Hates. *DL shrugs his shoulders and gives apologetic grin*
Okay, moving on, let’s start at the beginning. We actually have something in common, you and I. Although you studied art and film in college out in Hollywood, I studied musical theatre and dance in college in the hopes of one day making it to Hollywood. It wasn’t until halfway through my college career when I realized I was a terrible actress and abandoned that dream for another.
What was the deciding factor in changing from chasing the stars to writing about your own? And as a follow-up question, why don’t you have a studio filled with your artwork? The portrait sketches you feature on your blog are so amazing!
SWM: Oh boy, you start with the big guns right away, don’t you? :)
GLM: *DL flexes biceps proudly and waggles his eyebrows at Shannon* No, DL, she wasn’t referring to your guns. Sorry, Shannon. Go on.
SWM: Well…there were a lot of reasons why I left Hollywood, but I guess the major one was that I came to realize that I just didn’t love it enough. Hollywood has to be your LIFE if you want to be a success, and I wanted more than that. I didn’t want to spend 18 hours a day on set—and yes, the screenwriter is required to be on set most of the time. And I hated how all consuming the stress was. My poor boss—who was VP of Production for a television production company—used to leave himself voicemail messages at all hours of the night, because he’d wake up and realize there was something he needed to do and he needed a way to remember it. One of my first tasks every day was to try and decipher his half asleep mumblings. I didn’t want my life to become that way. I knew I couldn’t take the stress. So I walked away.
And aw, thank you for the compliment on my drawings. I actually did sell prints of my portraits for a while, but if there’s any business tougher to break into than publishing, it’s art. Plus I’d rather dedicate more time to writing.
GLM: Your super awesome blog, Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe, is so much fun to read. Not only do you have great posts about all-things-writing, you have tons of other great things on there as well. Some of my favorite posts are what you like to call Shannon Shame. Can you give our listeners the history of how Shannon Shame came about and some examples?
SWM: Ah, Shannon Shame, how do I hate thee? You know, it actually happened very gradually. I started to notice that the posts my followers seemed to enjoy the most were the ones where I’d relate some horrible, humiliating experience I’d had. So I created the label as a way to keep track of those posts. Then my followers started pushing for it and it just sort of became a thing, like, ‘how can we make Shannon humiliate herself this time?’
For example, I made the mistake of posting about the time I went on a game show and lost—horribly. After reading it, my followers made me promise that I would post a clip of it on my blog when my book sells, as a way of balancing the Universe for the success I’ve found. It almost makes me hope my book doesn’t sell. I’ve already endured the horrible vlog they made me make after I signed with my agent, and the game show clip is going to be so much worse. I mean, I have bangs in it. BANGS!
GLM: *LOL* Holy funny shite! I’ve never heard someone so distraught over bangs before. Now I have one more reason as to why I can’t wait for your book to sell!
You recently had a guest post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog on how you acquired your agent, Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Can you give us a brief synopsis of how it all went down and you ended up being the super agented author you now are?
SWM: Ooo—you said the “s” word. Don’t you know that word strikes fear into the heart of writers everywhere? It even sounds evil. Synopsisssssssss *shudders*
*DL yelps and hides under his desk.*
No, but seriously, it was a whirlwind process that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around. I met Laura at a conference and pretty much fell in love with her—even before I pitched my project and she requested a partial. She was just so sweet and approachable, which amazed me because she’s LAURA RENNERT—uber agent extraordinaire. I’d expected her to act more like she knew it.
But even though she’d been so awesome, I was still terrified to send her the pages she’d requested. I kept thinking there was no way someone like her would want to rep me (um…self confidence isn’t one of my strong-suits—just ask my CPs) and I wasn’t sure I could bear her rejection (given that I’d become such a Laura fangirl at the conference). So my friends had to kick my butt into gear on Twitter, with a #hitsend campaign that somehow got about forty people—including one of my favorite writers—pressuring me to send out my queries. Took about half an hour to convince me (and #hitsend came very close to trending) but I finally caved in and sent the emails.
Two weeks later I had an offer of rep from Laura in my inbox and even three months later I still have a hard time believing it.
GLM: That’s amazing! A couple of years ago who would’ve ever thought a sentence like, “And I owe it all to Twitter” would actually make sense! *recorded track plays of applause and cheers* Uh, DL, that wasn’t really needed right there, but thanks anyway.
Shannon, you write Middle Grade Fantasy. I know your current book is super hush-hush until it sells, so instead can you give us a description of the genre itself and some generic examples of what one might find in a Middle Grade Fantasy?
SWM: Well, it’s probably one of the most well known categories out there, thanks to a little series called Harry Potter—maybe you’ve heard of it? And there are a lot of different approaches to the genre, but my favorite are the books where you follow a kid who finds out about a secret world within our world, where magic and fairytales all come together. My project *hopefully* puts its own spin on that, but you’ll have to decide when you can finally read it.
GLM: I have to admit I’m really excited that my kids are at the perfect age for that genre. I can’t wait to buy your book and say, “Here’s a book you’ll love! It was written by Mommy’s friend.” :) My daughter already thinks she’s a celebrity because she made friends with a Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher who lives next to us.
As I mentioned in your introduction, you’re a fellow “triple-namer”. A lot of writers (including myself) struggled with their author names, or even whether or not to use a pen name. Did you consider using other names before settling on your full name? Was there a specific reason for going with a triple-decker?
SWM: LOL. Funny thing: I actually haven’t decided on my publishing name yet—which is why I’m a triple-decker. I’ve had a few people tell me that Shannon Messenger doesn’t have the right ‘ring’ to it (yeah, I know. I always try not to be insulted by that). I have no idea if a publisher will feel that way too, but if they do, I always figured I’d go with Shannon Whitney. So I use my middle name in my profile so everyone’s used to seeing it—just to cover my bases.
GLM: That was good thinking! When you sell your book (which, seriously, should be any day now) and you’re officially a published author, will you change the name of your blog since you’ll no longer be in the “wannabe” category?
SWM: Ha! I’ve wondered about that myself. When I started the blog I never thought I’d make it out of the ‘wannabe’ stage, so I didn’t really consider that I might run into problems someday. But honestly, I think I’ll always feel like a wannabe. Whenever I read other people’s writing it makes me want to throw rocks at my own (or delete my draft and flee to Mexico to start a new life as a maraca player.) So I think I’ll probably keep the name. It’ll remind me of my roots--that once upon a time I was just a rambling nobody telling the stories in my head and hoping that somebody would read them someday.
GLM: Wow, it’s no wonder you didn’t feel comfortable in Hollywood. You’re way too sweet and grounded for a dog-pit like that.
You and several other bloggers recently announced a breakthrough idea called WriteOnCon. For those who don’t yet know about it, tell us what that is exactly and how it’s going to work.
SWM: The seven of us are all about paying it forward—and we all had friends tell us they wished they could go to writer’s conferences, but simply couldn’t afford it. So we decided to create our own, a totally, 100% free writer’s conference, held online so everyone can attend.
GLM: *recorded track plays of applause and cheers* Thanks, DL! That was actually really appropriate. A totally free online conference – that’s such a phenomenal idea, Shannon! Do you think the founding group will branch out to hosting other genres as well? And if not, would you be terribly upset (like have you patented this idea and can I expect to hear from your attorney) if other genre-like-minded got together and did their own version? *strokes chin and looks off into space as the wheels begin to turn…then slaps self as a reminder that self is busy enough as it is!*
SWM: It sort of depends on the success of the first conference—though it’s looking like it’s going to be AWESOME. We have some amazing things happening, but we’re waiting to announce until it’s been finalized a bit more. *smiles mysteriously*
And sure, the more free online conferences, the better. Though I warn you, this project is not for the feint of heart. I knew it would be a lot of work, but WOW is it ever. We’ve all pretty much planned on not having lives until the conference is over—but that’s okay. Seeing everyone’s enthusiasm, and knowing that we’re creating something that will help so many writers is definitely worth the effort.
GLM: Let’s play a quick little game I like to call “Tomato-Tomahto”. Ready? Here we go.
I say: Dark Cherry Mocha from Starbucks (favorite drink)
You say: Pepsi. I can’t drink coffee, so it’s my primary source of caffeine.
I say: Chocolate Devotion from Cold Stone Creamery (favorite treat)
You say: Cupcakes. Any flavor. Any time. Preferably with extra frosting.
I say: Gena Showalter (favorite published author)
You say: Rick Riordan
I say: The Sweetest Thing (favorite movie)
You say: Pirates of the Caribbean (um, hello, Johnny Depp AND Orlando Bloom?)
I say: Shannon Whitney Messenger (favorite unpublished author)
You say: Gina Leigh Maxwell. Obviously! :)
GLM: Fantastic! I haven’t had that much fun since I laughed at all of the Pittsburghers trying to drive in the snow!
Well, folks, I’m getting the “wrap it up” signal from DL – oh, wait…no, sorry, he’s just got himself tangled up in a roll of packaging tape. At any rate, it’s time for all of you who aren’t already one of the hundreds of Shannon followers to head on over to her blog and click that button. I guarantee you, you won’t regret adding her to your blog roll (if only for the frequent viewings of Shannon Shame *stage-wink*).
Thank you so much, Shannon, for joining us here at Passions on Paper. It was an honor having you with us and I hope you’ll come back to visit when you’re finally allowed to tell us all about your super-awesome book!
SWM: Definitely! And thank you so much for having me. I hope I haven’t lulled all your followers to sleep with my rambling answers.
GLM: You’re right. We need to work on your self-esteem, girl. Get with the program - you so totally rock!
Until the next episode of Passions on Paper where I’ll be featuring another lucky fan (and most likely another production assistant), this is Gina Leigh Maxwell saying, “May all your passions be paranormal ones. Good night, everyone.”