I'd like to welcome back Shawneda Marks. Shawneda last visited to talk about her book, It's In My Blood, which is about a woman living with HIV. There's a link to that interview further down. Shawneda continues to take on tough issues with her writing. It's my pleasure to host her again as she tells us about her latest project.
For those who are just learning about you as an author, would you please tell us about yourself, Shawneda.
I'm a simple girl determined to live a life pleasing to her heavenly Father who loves to pray and spend uninterrupted time with God . . . then I climb out of bed to be a wife, mother, chauffeur, healthy living enthusiast, nontraditional college student, author and blogger . . . then I read my before bed devotional, pray and return to being a girl living a simple life.
Tell us about your new book?
My next book is WEIGHING MY OPTIONS, part of the wholeness series (which features the last book I talked with you about an HIV novel called It's in My Blood.) The series follows flawed women facing health issues (in a way often unaddressed in the Body of Christ) on their path to wholeness. This novel deals with obesity. Four cousins plan to meet at the family reunion. One of them isn't able to attend due to complications from obesity. The remaining three make a bet to lose the weight.
Wow! What inspired this story? Obesity is one of the "pink elephants" in the pews (and behind some pulpits) in most churches. I've struggled with obesity and some of the complications it carries due to emotional eating over the course of my life. Writing about health issues helped me face the root of my own problems. Conviction about the irony of writing about unaddressed health issues in the Body of Christ and having one (I ballooned up to 299 pounds) led me to lose fifty five pounds to date (I changed my lifestyle and am still losing) and write the obesity novels.
Is there an underlying theme? The underlying theme deals with emotional issues that lead to emotional eating and the need to address them to live a full life. Each character develops an unhealthy relationship with food due to a different childhood event and recognizes the need to do something about it.
What's your favorite scene/character? It is so hard for me to pick a favorite character (so I won't try) but I do have a favorite scene. The characters go through different weight loss programs and Toney is picking up a client from the airport while trying to alleviate the pressure from one of her diets. It is a hysterical scene (to me anyway.)
What do you hope readers take away from reading your book? I hope readers take away the seriousness of using food as more than it was created to be or giving it a place God reserved and created for himself to help them with emotional issues in their life. I hope it inspires women to be honest with themselves about their unhealthy eating habits and make them aware that changing is an option.
Let's turn this interview to the personal side of being a writer. How did you get started? I've been writing as long as I can remember. My Dad planted the seeds in my heart to pursue sharing "my gift" with the public. He entered a poem into a contest and it was published my freshman or sophomore year in high school. Since that happened, I've been writing and sharing "my gift" with people.
Do you have any particular method to your writing, any quirks that help you along in the creative process? I find inspiration for writing every day. I'm a detailed plotter so I'm able to write based on my original creativity bursts. I hear book titles first and have covers for several series to keep me busy for three to five years. One of my quirks is that I make a "write track" of songs to listen to while I write.
What are some of your favorite books? That is a hard question to answer and it changes all the time. Last year I found a book I think every Christian should read in, Arron Chambers "Eats With Sinners." I read Chosen by Stacy Hawkins Adams and it was a good book and The Reunion by Dan Walsh brought tears to my eyes several times. I review a lot of books so it is hard for me to choose.
What genre(s) do you write and what draws you to this genre?
I write women's fiction about flawed characters because I'm a flawed woman and I believe there are readers who want to read about real women while they're on the path to wholeness. I write devotionals in hopes of helping someone else learn from the lessons the Holy Spirit has taught me on my journey to wholeness. I'm developing a YA fantasy collection because I want to write something fun and exhilarating where girl heroes kick some serious demon butt!
What was your journey to publication like? My road to publication involved several writer's groups, coming within two points to winning a publishing deal on a Gospel writing cruise with a traditional publisher, then following the leading of the Holy Spirit to learn the business of publishing and release my work as an indie author. It has been more rewarding than I ever imagined.
What's up next for you? Whew! Where do I start... as a writer I have a new women's fiction series for Natural Sistahs (MY CROWNING GLORY December 2012) and at least two more obesity collection installments in the wholeness series(EXERCISING MY OPTIONS May 2013) . . . did I mention I restart as a full time college student in January 2013. I'll be busy relaxing and enjoying life between being a wife, mother, writing, studying and a few other things. I'm really looking forward to it.
You are amazing! What might surprise readers about you? Readers might be surprised to know I don't watch a lot of TV and when I do it is children's shows on PBS or netflix (I don't believe in cable.) Most of the songs I write aren't traditional gospel. I prefer Contemporary Christian Music (loving Jamie Grace right now!), NeoSoul and urban inspirational artists (love love love Mary Mary and Darlene McCoy.)
What do you think of the ebook explosion, pros and cons, and what do you think will happen with print books? The ebook explosion has afforded me the opportunity to connect with readers and share my stories so I'm a VERY biased. I LOVE it! The pros are the power it places in the hands of authors and readers, the cons are the power it places in the hands of authors and readers. The biggest con is the fear of readers and authors new power to choose their books themselves, and has made some people afraid of change, viewing the technology as divisive instead of another option for reading. I don't believe print books or even hardcovers are gonna disappear anytime soon. Reading will continue to be driven by the story there are now more formats available for readers to have access to it.
Three favorite things: movie, place and food?
Favorite movie: I don't really have just one but a movie I think is really cute is Music and Lyrics
Favorite place: Anywhere I'm surrounded by love ...I know sappy but it is true. In worship, around my family ... I love being in a place where I feel true genuine love
Favorite food: VitaLish Protein Shakes (I make them in my Vitamix)
Thank you, Shawneda. This has been great and your new book sounds wonderful, and also incredibly relevant. I'd love to have you back for the next in the series!
About the Author: