Shannon Taylor Vannatter loves to write about romance, especially romance through Christ-centered relationships. She is the author of nearly a dozen published books, and her short stories have appeared in Mature Living and The Writers’ Journal. The recipient of several awards, Shannon has taught fiction workshops for a number of writer’s groups, including the ACFW conference.

She is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife and lives in Central Arkansas.

What sparked your writing journey—and why did you choose to write inspirational romance?

I’d had a story in my head since my teens. I’d replay it over and over, sometimes acting it out when no one else was around. I’d change scenes and the ending and add to the story, but I never knew what to do with it. I thought it was a movie and I didn’t want to go to Hollywood. Finally when I was in my thirties, I figured out it could be a book.

That story was romantic suspense, but once I started writing it, I realized I stunk at suspense. Years later, I was at a writer’s conference and the speaker said that whatever genre you read most is probably the genre you should write. Duh. I’d read romance all my life, not suspense.

We are often blessed with detours, unexpected side paths, in life. Can you tell us about a personal “detour” that turned out to be positive?

When I was twelve, my parents uprooted me from a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia and moved back to rural Arkansas where they’d grown up. It was major culture shock. Our town has more cows than people. But I met my wonderful husband here and small town life grew on me. The nearest city has 10,000 people—much too big for me to live in.

Let’s talk about your latest book, Arkansas Weddings (Barbour Books, September 2013). Please tell us about it.

It’s a 3 in 1 that includes my first series of published books including White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls. White Roses was my debut novel and won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. When the books were initially published they were sold pretty much exclusively to Heartsong Presents book club members. But Arkansas Weddings will be in stores and online.

Here’s the backcover copy:

Arkansas Weddings: Love’s never easy in three Arkansas romances.

Pastor Grayson loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. He knows he needs to move on, but it’s not until florist Adrea Welch arrives at his church that the seeds of healing are planted in his heart.

Laken left home eight years ago and never looked back. Who knew when she applied for the promotion to postmaster that she’d end up in Romance, Arkansas, and much too close to her past—and Hayden Winters?

Shell doesn’t have a good reputation. But no matter what everyone in Rose Bud, Arkansas, thinks of her, she’s back in town with a job to do. Ryler also has reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they don’t include Shell.

But God’s love can soften the hardest heart and overcome the darkest past. These hearts may not know it, but they’re about to change.

God often uses our stories to teach us something when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?

White Roses was really for me. I wrote it 16 1/2 years into my marriage when my husband answered the call to preach. I was feeling very inadequate for preacher’s wife material and Adrea’s story helped me. The deceased pastor’s wife, Sara, was little Miss Perfect. Adrea nor a few outspoken characters think she’s up to the task of filling Sara’s shoes. So writing her story helped me sort through my feelings of inadequacy—I don’t play the piano, teach Sunday school class, or head up the ladies mission group. I do support the pastor and, in the end, I think that’s my only calling.

You often speak at writer’s conferences, women’s groups, church events, and other gatherings. What are some of your favorite speaking topics?

Keeping the romance in your marriage for church events or ladies groups. For writers, I love teaching “Cutting the Fluff.” It shows writers how to hone in on stuff that doesn’t need to be in the book.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Coffee. It’s like dessert to me. For thirty years, I never drank the stuff. I thought it was bitter. My husband, an avid drinker, would ask every time he made a pot if I wanted a cup. For thirty years, I said NO. Then I had a really sore throat and he told me coffee would help. He made me a cup with just the right amount of cream and sugar. It’s been my crutch or my reward ever since.

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

None whatsoever. I always wanted to play the piano and took lessons as a teen. But when I had to start playing with both hands, it was hard and I quit. I still wish I hadn’t. I will sing with a group at church—but no solos for me.

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

Something by Todd Agnew. His music always speaks to me and I love his gravelly voice. His lyrics are very humble—I’m not worthy, but you love me anyway. His songs prick my heart every time.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I’m the one running in circles trying to get everything done with not a drop of organization—flying by the seat of my pants.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I have three wienie dogs in wienie dog heaven. Right now, my son has a chocolate lab and I have two charcoal gray cats with grass green eyes.

Thank you, Shannon. It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

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For more information about Shannon, visit her website.

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