Shannon here: My fifth title in my Texas rodeo series releases this month. I’m celebrating by giving away two copies of my latest contemporary romance with a light dash of suspense, Rodeo Queen. Comment on any post dated Nov 4 – 8 to enter the drawing. Deadline Nov 16th, 11:59 pm central time.
This is a long story. When I was twelve, my parents moved from our suburb of Atlanta home, back to where they’d grown up—rural, central Arkansas. It was major culture shock and I thought my life was over. It took a while for me to fit in and make friends.
To pass my time, I read books, watched detective shows, and made up stories. The story in my head took shape about a girl with a stalker and her bodyguard. I played the story over and over in my head, moved scenes around, and added complications and twists, but there was always plenty of romance with a happy ending. Sometimes, when I was really bored, I’d play out the story in my bedroom. I thought it was a movie, but I didn’t want to go to Hollywood, so I never planned to do anything with it.
Life went on, I met the man of dreams, and I forgot my story since I was living my own romance. Over the years, I decided rural Arkansas was just fine and dandy—who needs the city? There’s a city of 10,000 ten miles from us and it would be way too big for me to live in now.
Anyway, we got married. A dozen years later, I was in my thirties and my husband went to work nights. We didn’t have our son yet, so my evenings were suddenly open. I decided to go to the library and take up reading again. But I couldn’t find any clean romances like the ones I’d read in my teens.
That’s when I finally realized that story in my head could be a book. But I didn’t have a computer and I wasn’t that good of a typist. So, I decided if I ever got a computer, I’d write a clean book. Three years later, my stepfather-in-law got a new computer and gave me his old one. As soon as we got the computer hooked up, I was writing the book.
My husband was still working nights, so I had time in the evenings and he was supportive from the beginning. He encouraged me and listened to my ideas. Of course, he always thought I should throw in a Barbarian in the distant future who found the last copy of the Bible and had to protect it to save the world–the kind of book he likes to read. But he was still encouraging. And that small picture above is my favorite. I was hard at work back in 1999, writing my first draft and he took the picture. I was so involved in my story, I didn’t even know he’d taken it until I got the film developed.
As I wrote my clean romance, my characters kept talking to God. I went with it, even though I’d never read anything like I was writing. Three months later, I was finished. But I had no clue how to go about getting published, so I went to the library. The librarian showed me several books including the Writers’ Market Guide.
I learned there was a whole Christian romance genre I’d missed. Yes, I shopped at Christian book stores, but not for books. I thought they were all nonfiction and went straight to the music section. I soon learned how to send proposals to publishers and sent out fifty-two. Over the next six months, I got fifty-two rejection letters.
So, I wrote another book. From scratch, the ideas started rolling in. Fifty-two more rejection letters later, I wrote number three. Only nine rejection letters on that one and then an acceptance. I thought I’d made it, in two short years, I was a published author.
But then I learned what Print on Demand meant—at least at that particular house. They didn’t edit the book. It wasn’t in stores. Books were printed only when someone ordered one and no one did, other than seventy-eight friends and family members. No one else knew my book had been published and it was overpriced.
I quickly learned I wanted a traditional publisher—one that publicizes their new releases and lets the world know about my book. The next seven years, my trusty husband babysat while I attended local writers’ group meetings, conferences, and eventually discovered a national group and conference, American Christian Fiction Writers.
I finally got my first contract in 2009 and my first book released in 2010. In 2012, when Harlequin bought my line, Heartsong Presents, my agent learned that the Harlequin editor had read one of my Texas rodeo books and loved it. She wanted to know if I had anything similar. I had one dangling character I knew I could build a story around.
To expand it into a series, I looked through all my early, badly written attempts. And there was that story—the one in my head since my teen years. I didn’t try to go back and fix that original, awful manuscript. I rewrote it from scratch and it flew off my fingertips. I knew this story and these characters. I’d lived with them for years.
Rodeo Queen releases this month and I’m as excited about it as I was that first traditionally published book. I moved my girl with the stalker from rural Arkansas to the Fort Worth Stockyards, made her a rodeo queen at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, and gave her a blingy western clothing store to own. The bodyguard became a Texas Ranger who also happens to be her high school sweetheart. And of course when her stalker shows up, guess who ends up on her case and whisks her away to his family’s ranch? A ranch based on my father-in-law’s ranch in tiny Medina, TX.
About Shannon: Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She happily lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.
Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/. Connect with her on Facebook: facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor
About the book – Rodeo Queen:
CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN
Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.
Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?
Come back Nov 6th for a romantic character interview and get to know Caitlyn and Mitch better!