Friday, June 18, 2010

FAN-tastic Friday: Shannon Whitney Messenger

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.”


  1. Great interview girls! I love the story of how Shannon landed her dream agent. :D

  2. Great interview! I wanted to help increase your followers since Shannon asked us all to on her blog - but I already follow you, oh well.

    Today's guest blogger is Faith Hough.

  3. I go through all that effort...get the studio set up just right...arranging the limo...making sure Shannon had her water, cupcakes, and that dang fluffy pillow for her chair...choreographing the sound effects...losing half my hair and a layer of skin from my arm because of that friggin tape...and what did I get? Nada!

    But that's okay, because I love Shannon anyway. She rocks...and so did this interview. I'm so glad FANtastic Fridays are back!! :)

  4. Gina & Shannon you two literally rock my socks off!!

    I am loving Fantastic Fridays! I'm also loving triple-namers!!! Haha I like saying that!

  5. *applause*

    Another great interview! lol That's pretty awesome that the #hitsend campaign rallied up for you, Shannon. =)

  6. Great interview! I love how it was done; quite funny! Following! :) Can't wait to see you get to 100.

  7. Awww! I love Shannon & am so glad to have discovered your blog Gina!!!Such fun!!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  8. Great interview ladies. I can't wait to read your book, Shannon...loved Harry Potter and Percy Jackson!

    DL, you are a fantastic production assistant, don't let Gina tell you otherwise!

  9. Great interview, I'm glad Shannon sent us over here. Love your blog and am now following. Both of you are fantastic and great interview :) Have a fab weekend!

  10. Awesome interview! Totally love Shannon. And you're always a fav Gina. Happy Friday to all!

  11. Hi everybody! I'm so thrilled you enjoyed my segment with the one and only Shannon Whitney Messenger today!

    And just for the record: DL had no idea I was placing him in the part of bumbling PA today. In real life he's actually a way cool, suave dude. ;) Thanks for being such a good sport about it, DL. You crack me up and it's why you're so much fun!

    I'm so excited about all of Shannon's "peeps" joining my Passions crowd! I truly hope you'll all find something you like enough to stick around.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

  12. Super fun interview! I'm a 'Shannonite' Yes, I've officially coined the term ;) And I heart Shannon tons.

    *Why in the world would you change your name? You've already built a platform around this one and I think Whitney is a nice touch too. I have to admit I'm a tad confused about Write con so I'd better go and review the info on your blog.

  13. Shannon sent me over (aren't I a dutiful follower?). So now I'm following you and awaiting your command...where do I go next? hahaha.

    Great interview!!!

    Have a great weekend!

  14. Aw, thanks everyone. I feel like I'm eavesdropping on a conversation as I read these comments, but you're all so sweet! *sniffles* Thanks! And thanks for coming over and following Gina. You won't be disappointed, I promise!

  15. I am officially addicted to Fan-tastic Fridays! Great interview, ladies.

    Shannon, I'm really looking forward to buying your book when it hits the shelves. And I know it will! Good luck to you...:)

    Gina, you crack me up! Oh, and great job, DL...;)

  16. I just popped over from Shannon's - love the blog ;)

    Great interview ladies - lots of fun - and cupcakes AND chocolate - it's all good!

  17. What a great interview. You only need one more follower now! I hope you make it today!!!

    Shannon - I feel like I learned so much more about you through this interview. I see why you left Hollywood (your way too nice!) and that decision was probably for the better, I think the best part is you came to writing which is something you are really good at and an industry where people like you succeed.

  18. Great interview. I learned so much about you Shannon, like that you used to live in Hollywood. It wouldn't be for me either.

    Thanks for doing all the work on the conference. I can't wait to read your book. I write middle grade fantasy too.

  19. YAYYYY you hit 100! Congrats!

    That Shannon's got da power doesn't she?

  20. What a great interview! Thanks very much to Gina and Shannon.

    Also, Shannon, your sketches are fantastic! A talented writer and artist, you can't go wrong :-)

  21. hahah this interview was hysterical =) Shannon's awesome, AND as her CP I can verify the needing more confidence thing... Maybe we can start a twitter campaign for THAT!!

  22. Loved it! Thanks, Gina and Shannon. And the story of how she got her agent... brilliant.

  23. Whoah, lots of comments girl! I'm just stealing a moment away from our family reunion to comment (I *swear* I'm not addicted to the computer!) Anyway, great interview, and I loved the touch of adding DL. I'm super interested in this writing conference thingy. I'll have to look into it. Thanks!


Take a few seconds to commment, I'd love to hear your thoughts...