It is both an honor and a pleasure to welcome author Shannon Kennedy, today. Hello Shannon!_____________________________________________________
Thanks for inviting me – I’m delighted to be here and to talk about my writing journey.
Writing In The Real World
I am a writer. I have always been a story-teller. It’s a family tradition. I remember my grandmother as the queen of pithy comments who served putdowns at her Sunday dinners, along with her pot roast. Grandma never swore. It wasn’t ladylike, but insulting someone’s intelligence, morality, behavior, manners and children or mate was an art form. Grandma ran the Pine Tree Tavern below First Avenue in downtown Seattle, and kept a “cuss jar” for her clientele. Funds collected from the foul language paid for the annual Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas party at the bar, while the leftover money went to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
I started writing down Grandma’s stories as a young teen although I knew nothing about the techniques or mechanics of what would become my passion. Most listeners, my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins squirmed at her turn of a phrase. I always admired Grandma’s use of language. When I graduated from high school, I was determined to be a writer. My creative writing teacher had told me I had talent and suggested college. I came from a poor, single-parent household, and higher education wasn’t possible. No one in our extended family had ever attended college. The girls got married and the boys went to work.
I was the first girl in the family to graduate from high school and the last thing I wanted was a husband. I went to work for a temporary office service and washed dishes at night in a restaurant. I wasn’t able to fulfill my dream of joining the Army because I was needed at home to raise my younger sisters. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve instead. When the wolf was at the door with a litter of pups, as my grandfather used to say, or when times were even harder, the civilian liaison of my Army Reserve unit, Ed Matthews would put me “on orders.”
This meant I did office work for him, answered phones, and taught myself to type on his new electric machine, and was paid well for that time. Ed didn’t care what I typed as long as I looked busy and didn’t allow anyone at his desk when he was out playing golf with the General who commanded Fort Lawton. So, I began my first novel.
At nearly eighteen, I was fascinated with romance. I had read tons of them growing up and they were my favorite fantasy. I always wanted a hero on a white horse to rescue me although I knew it would never happen. Life in a single-parent household taught reality. Men came with baggage and they always expected women to buy the suitcases. While I happily typed away on my masterpiece, Ed occasionally looked over my shoulder. If he felt my hero was turning into a jerk, or worse acting like a coward, Ed told me so.
My orders ran out about the time I finished the novel, so I bundled up my baby and shipped it off to Harlequin Books in Canada. I didn’t know anything about the publishing business, so I mailed the only copy I had. In addition to this no-no, I also didn’t have a clue about setting up a manuscript. I finished each chapter and began the next one on the same page, a fatal flaw. I also used up every scrap of paper and didn’t worry about such things as margins, or double spacing the lines of text.
Worst of all, while the man my heroine thought she loved was dashing, romantic and charming – he was also unfaithful, dishonest and nasty, a little too much like the real life I knew about. She ended up with her nice, quiet, dull best friend, Toby – the kind of guy a woman could spend a lifetime loving, but he wasn’t a traditional romance hero.
Still, as Ed pointed out – our Toby was a Vietnam veteran who could survive anything – even the garbage our heroine threw at him – not literally – just emotionally. Well, Toby survived the trip to Canada and Harlequin. Eventually, I received a letter. Harlequin liked my book. However, all the purchases at the time were made in England, so my book was going somewhere I HAD NEVER BEEN, LONDON!
It took a few more months for the book to finally be rejected, but by then I was hard at work on my next romance novel. At eighteen, I had almost made it and I was determined to become a successful novelist. College still wasn’t an option. I could only learn so much from books and magazines, so I began to attend talks by published authors. Many offered classes in writing for nominal fees. I saved every extra cent to pay for these courses, usually by riding the bus and not driving the car to work. Grandma let me stay in her guest room so I wouldn’t have to pay rent and I packed my lunch every day.
I also attended conferences and workshops, not only with these authors, but also with editors from large (New York) publishing firms and literary agents. From these published authors who were paid to write, I started to learn the mechanics behind the mysteries of creating saleable work. They taught the requirements of specific genres, good novel proposals, effective synopsis writing, enticing query letters and even the proper use of adverbs as well as so-called “being” words, i.e. “try to cut as many of those as possible.” I joined Romance Writers of America. I also submitted my work to editors and literary agents and began to collect rejection letters.
I love to watch a story unfold on the pages. Nothing compares with the feeling of success when I read my words in a newspaper, magazine or between the covers of a paperback. It’s the writing that matters most of all. I agree with other writers who say if they never published again, it would not matter – only the writing does.
Grandma’s love of language was the legacy she passed on to me. As she told me more than once, “Your words have power. Use it wisely. Don’t shout when a whisper will do.” So, when I chose a pen name for my romances, I opted for part of hers as a tribute. Josie Malone.
When people ask what I do, I say, “I’m a writer. Telling stories is a family tradition. I just write down mine.”
The Stewart Falls Cheerleader series is about a cheer squad at a private high school in western Washington, because “Sometimes, you have to be your own cheerleader.” And these books have a special place in my heart – I think I have a new “fave.” In the series, selected girls overcome problems that life hurls at them.
The second book, Asking For It is about dating violence. The flyer of the squad, Sarah Flynn thinks she’s found the boy of her dreams, only to discover she’s living in a nightmare. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t seem to please him. When she disagrees with him, it grows harder and harder to explain her constant injuries. Will she even survive to Homecoming, much less the end of football season? Can she get out of this relationship alive?
I have two different websites so if you like cowboys and western romances, pop in for a visit at www.josiemalone.com or if you’re ready to go to Stewart Falls, see me at www.shannonkennedybooks.com
Either way, it was good to meet you!
It was great to meet you Shannon! Please feel free to stop by anytime!