Q&A: Shawna K. Williams
Pastor David Langley did not have a idyllic childhood. He was horribly burned in a fire that killed his whole family. David grew up in an orphanage where he was shunned and ridiculed. When he meets six-year old Caleb Holsheyer, he can't let him share that fate. Unfortunately his plans for adoption can't be realized so he turns to his community in the hopes of finding Caleb a family. But it's the Great Depression and nobody has the means to support another child... especially one who's crippled. Nobody except for spinster Sadie Miller. But Child Welfare does not believe that Sadie will be able to provide a suitable home by herself. So she joins David in searching for a family for Caleb... a family that maybe they've already found in each other.
WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE ORPHANED HEARTS?
Orphaned Hearts isn't my grandparents' story, but it was most definitely inspired by them. My granddad was orphaned when he was ten, and he and his five siblings were brought to live in an orphanage in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My grandmother's father ran the orphanage's dairy. My grandmother often helped and this was how she met my granddad.
When my granddad passed away, I spent a lot of time reflecting on his life, at first thinking it sad and unfair that he'd been orphaned. According to my grandmother, the orphanage my granddad was raised in wasn't very sympathetic to the children cared for there.
My attitude began to change when I considered all of the wonders that God had brought about from my grandparents' experience at the orphanage. For one, they wouldn't have met, married and shared a compassion for children in need. Over the years of their life together my grandparents were involved in foster care and a number of children's ministry programs. My grandmother has a number of beautiful stories. I've often wondered if she's aware of how many lives she and my granddad touched.
These things played about in my mind, and the concept of the story, Orphaned Hearts is the result. It's a short novel, but writing it was a precious experience for me, and my hope is that I'm able to share some of that experience with others.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Francine Rivers has been my biggest inspiration. Next would be Deanne Gist and Liz Curtis Higgs. I love the way these three ladies portray human nature and God's Grace with compassion and yet never compromise on Biblical principles.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
As Christians I think we see and interpret pretty much everything through our faith, always looking for those teachable moments when we get a glimpse of God's bigger picture. My writing is no different. My stories are inspired by things I've experienced firsthand or seen close up and personal. Life happens, and faith sustains and guides us. My stories are all character driven. So when I write a story, I'd be leaving out a big component of my character's journey if I didn't include faith. I think it would feel a little hollow to me to try and leave it out.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I hadn't intended to be a writer. I was a fashion merchandising major when I was in college. Then I was a homeschooling mom.
About nine years ago, I had this bizarre dream that was like a story of someone's life. Sometimes I was the person, and sometimes I was an observer in the dream, but I always felt the emotion. When I woke up the next morning it felt like I had lived someone else's life. Very weird. Strange enough that for six months I continually pondered on the story and tried to fill in details.
As the story grew in my mind it became too big to keep straight, so I started writing it. At first, the writing was to satisfy my own curiosity. Over time though, I grew to love the characters and their story. Eventually I came to love writing. I toyed and played with the idea of getting published for about six years, but would talk myself out of trying. At one point I convinced myself that the story I'd written was only for my personal growth and put it away for almost two years.
In 2007, I felt like God was telling me it was time to do something with what He gave me, and that's when I got serious about the craft. I revised and revised and revised the story, until eventually it became two, and then threw my effort into getting it published. No Other and In All Things are my debut novel and its sequel, and they are the stories that resulted from the dream that started me on this journey.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
One thing I've learned as I've grown older is that we are never alone in our struggles. As Christians it's sometimes hard to admit that we don't have it all together, but the truth is that nobody does. My hope is that readers will take comfort in the fact that none of us are alone. We're strengthened by one another when we share our burdens. And God's grace can't be experienced until we admit our weakness. In Him there is a renewing of our spirit. This is such a joy, and it inspires me. My hope is that my stories can be used as a tool to inspire others with this message of hope.