Last week Shauna shared her post titled, “Getting Published: Public Speaking and Building a Platform.” Did you get to read it? It’s an informative and inspiring piece!
Today Shauna’s taking the time to answer some questions and introduce herself to us all, so we can get to know her better. If you have any questions for Shauna, leave them in a comment or get in touch with her on social media.
Q: Writing-related stuff aside, introduce yourself to us in 100 words or less.
I’m a geek, a fantasy artist, graphic designer, and event planner. I’ve built reproduction Star Wars scenery (life-size Jabba the Hutt) and worked at the Renaissance Faire. I’ve toured internationally teaching Pagan and metaphysical workshops and leading rituals for hundreds of people. I’ve taught leadership and facilitation and been a corporate design consultant. I’ve lived in a cabin without running water and I’m an environmental and social justice activist. I’m almost always working on something creative. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the writing and artwork projects I have in mind.
Q: Introduce us to your writing. What kind of genres do you gravitate towards? Certain types of characters? Settings?
For genres, I love writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and epic fantasy. I also have a few sci-fi romances on the back burner, and a few dystopian future stories as well. If there aren’t sword fights, spaceships, or magical duels, I’m generally not interested in watching the movie or reading the book, and it’s the same with my own writing. I don’t know what it is, but big epic battles, people with magic powers, chthonic creatures, vampires, werewolves, spaceships…all that stuff has always inspired me.
For themes, I tend to write about the dark nights of the soul, the hard choices, the characters who have made mistakes in the past but who are still trying to do the right thing. Particularly in my longer epic and urban fantasy, I often deal with heroes who have to go do a thing—even though they know they probably won’t survive it. That it’s not how we act when things are going well, but rather, the choices we make and the actions we take when things are at their worst that define us. My newest book, The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves, has a definite mix of sexy and romantic as well as grief and loss.
Q: Can you remember your first publication? What was it? How did it feel to have your work published?
I’ve had a few firsts. I remember the first time I had an article published in a magazine—it was an article on dreams, and those articles became the basis for my book Dreamwork. I remember the first time a bigger magazine published one of my articles. And it was just a year ago that my first book was published. For some firsts, I felt a rush of excitement. For the books, I felt a little numb…or maybe shock would be a better way to put it. After all the work it took to get to that point, it was hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it was finally happening. By the time my first nonfiction book Spiritual Scents was coming out, the same publisher had accepted a fiction novella from me, Werewolves in the Kitchen. I remember feeling almost a relief…after decades of writing fiction, I finally had something published. It felt really good!
Q: What are you working on currently?
I have a paranormal romance about a vampire coming out soon called A Fading Amaranth. Nathaniel’s been a vampire long enough that he’s just going through the motions of life; he’s starting to wonder if he can keep going. Then he meets Alexandra and rediscovers some of his passion, his muse. Alexandra hasn’t been able to be with anyone for years because of her psychic abilities, but she can’t hear Nathaniel’s thoughts. They fall for each other, but, there are complications…aren’t there always? There’s a Faerie monster in the city, and one of the city’s magical guardians is hunting Nathaniel down since she mistakenly assumes he’s one of the monsters, like most vampires. Nathaniel and Alexandra have to decide what they’re willing to give up, and what they are willing to risk, to be with one another.
I’m also finishing a couple of books that take place at the same retreat center as Werewolves in the Kitchen. In A Golden Heart of Glass, Angel and Ben meet at the SpiralStone retreat center. They find themselves called to the ancient gods Aphrodite and Hephaestus, but shadow creatures begin to come after them. In A Lick Along Her Skin, Sonya meets Kade, a sexy wereleopard. Then Sonya’s life gets weirder; she discovers that her prophetic gift is actually an ancient oracular truth-speaking magic, and she’s also under a Faerie curse. So there are lots of vampires, were-creatures, Faeries, and monsters on the way.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Most of my best story ideas come from my dreams. I have been writing down my dreams since I was a kid. I’ve always had really intense dreams, including nightmares. The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves, is an urban fantasy that begins with Meredith having a prophetic dream of her own death. It’s actually a dream I had when I was 19, and it haunted me until I wrote it down as a story.
I’ve done so much work with my dreams that I published a nonfiction book, Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path, as an introduction to exploring your dreams.
For me, dreams are a direct link to the mythic language of our subconscious. I won’t go into a deep dive on Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey and the importance of myth. But any modern stories—the stories that really engage us—are working with those themes we find in myths the world over. And those are the same images and patterns and archetypes that come up in our dreams. Nothing inspires me to write a story like one of my intense dreams.
Q: Have you faced any struggles as a writer?
Where to start on that one? Definitely I’ve faced struggles in a lot of areas. There’s the whole finding time to write thing. There’s figuring out the publishing industry and actually getting your work read and published. There’s dealing with rejection letters. And then there’s getting edits back and realizing I’ve been incorrectly punctuating my dialogue for years. There’s promoting the work once it’s out. And there’s the cold reality that the royalty checks aren’t enough to pay the bills. At least, not yet.
I’d say my biggest struggle is in the writing itself. I have started writing dozens of stories, but sometimes finishing them is the really rough part. I often am so clear about what happens in the middle of the book. I have written this scene at the end of the book in clear detail…but maybe I don’t know how the story starts or ends. In the past, I’ve waited for the bolt of lightning to hit me on the head and “tell” me what happens, but what I’ve realized is that sometimes I just have to sit there and work on the story and write until I figure it out.
That can be really hard to do, particularly when I’m fighting off depression symptoms. I admit it. I’m a moody artist/writer. When I’m in one of my moods, it’s pretty darn difficult to get anything useful done. On the other hand, that moment when the story becomes clear, when I figure out what’s going on…when the scene comes to me…that’s pretty satisfying.
Q: On to the reading-related questions: What books have made an impact on you as a reader and a writer?
Certainly Anne McCaffrey is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been reading her work since I was about eleven. McCaffrey blazed a trail for women writing in the fantasy and science fiction genre. Her Pern series is definitely one of my biggest inspirations as an author, and the story Moreta still makes me cry.
I’ve always loved The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson, as well as books by Mercedes Lackey, Katherine Kurtz, and Janny Wurts. Janny’s Wars of Light and Shadow series is just epic, dark and deep. I admit it; I’m a fan of the epic, and the angsty. My favorite books are the ones that make me cry.
For romance authors, I’m inspired by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Karen Marie Moning as well as by Emma Holly. I love Emma’s work and how hot it is. I know that if I pick up an Emma Holly book it’s going to be toe-curlingly spicy. I’d love to know how she gets that perfect edge of spice; she manages to use the word “spurt” without it sounding tacky, gross, or silly.
Q: What are you reading currently, or what do you plan to read soon?
Right now I’m reading some nonfiction by Taylor Ellwood. I have a pretty huge TBR pile because I signed up for Bookbub [Note: check out Gabriele’s post on Bookbub here!] and I’ve been downloading a lot of free paranormal romances, but I have to delete a bunch of them because I couldn’t even get through the first few pages. That’s sort of disheartening. However, when I have a little free time I will probably dive into an Emma Holly romance, or catch up with some of Karen Marie Moning’s work. I’ve also been enjoying Jory Strong’s writing.
Q: Where’s your favorite place in the world to read?
Definitely in bed. When I’ve been traveling and teaching and I’m totally wiped out after an event (I’m actually an introvert so social time takes a toll on me), I love to hide out in bed and burn through a couple of books. Plus I get to cuddle with my cats. When I’ve had too much social interaction, I turn into a total cave-dweller for a while. Also, I tend to haunt thrift stores and I have scored some pretty awesome sheets and comforters over the past years.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you can give to an aspiring writer?
Keep writing. And then, actually finish your book. And then…actually send it out to publishers. I’ve been writing for decades, and what will never get you published is half-finished manuscripts. If you keep writing, your writing will get better. Do yourself a favor and start to learn about the publishing industry; attend workshops and talks or join webinars when you can, or at least read articles online.
Also, despite the temptation, don’t self publish your first book. Or your second book. Or your third. Learn the industry first, and take advantage of the edits you get from your publisher. I learned so much from the editing process! I wish more indie-published authors spent more money on editors.
As I said—sometimes you need to write the story that needs to be written and not worry about what genre it is or who will publish it. At the same time…it’s worth making sure your story is good. Editors add a level of quality control that will improve your work.
Q: How can we follow you online? Website? Social media profiles?
Web Site: http://www.shaunaauraknight.com
Fiction Blog: https://shaunaknightauthorartist.wordpress.com
–-I post excerpts here so you can keep up with new work coming out.
–-This is my fan page, however, Facebook doesn’t really show these posts to most folks, so following my main profile, Shauna Aura Knight, is also a way to keep up with me. You can message me through Facebook even if we aren’t friends, I love to hear from people!
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/shaunaaknight
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/ShaunaAuraKnight
Shauna Aura Knight is an artist, author, and presenter. She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy including Werewolves in the Kitchen, A Winter Knight’s Vigil, and The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations. She travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of community leadership, public speaking, facilitation, and personal transformation, and is the author of numerous articles and books on those subjects including The Leader Within and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. Visit her at http://www.shaunaauraknight.com, or her Leadership Blog or Fiction Blog.