| || |
I love these books more than I can say. After reading Enchanted Inc. nearly ten years ago, I became obsessed with things supernatural, magical and just plain extraordinary in nature. Which is so funny because this book is about a girl who is extraordinary due to how ordinary she is. Not a drop of magic in her, and that makes her the very best candidate for the job she's about to be offered.
Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she’s a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn’t help.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Katie gets a job offer from Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that tricks of the trade to the magic community. For MSI, Katie’s ordinariness is an asset. Lacking any bit of magic, she can easily spot a fake spell, catch hidden clauses in competitor’s contracts, and detect magically disguised intruders. Suddenly, average Katie is very special indeed.
She quickly learns that office politics are even more complicated when your new boss is a real ogre, and you have a crush on the sexy, shy, ultra powerful head of the R&D department, who is so busy fighting an evil competitor threatening to sell black magic on the street that he seems barely to notice Katie. Now it’s up to Katie to pull off the impossible: save the world and–hopefully–live happily ever after.
This series really touched a chord with me and made me think more outside the box than I ever had when it came to writing. Though I didn't publish my own work until much later, I often thought "what if" after reading Shanna Swendson's series, which, at the time, only had four books total. You can imagine my distress as I waited anxiously for the rest of the books. I finished reading the first book this week, and I'm plowing through the rest of the books so I can get to the new ones I have not yet had a chance to read. I call the Enchanted Inc. Series "book cocaine" for the reading addict. Fortunately for all of us she agreed to do an interview. Squeeeeeeel!
Interview with Shanna Swendson
Me: What inspired you to write Enchanted Inc.?
Shanna: It was what I wanted to read at the time. I’d been reading a lot of chick lit books and found myself wishing they had a little more magic in them, and I’d started reading the Harry Potter series and wished there was something like that for adults – putting some of everyday life into a magical setting. I thought that it would be fun to have a story about adult life, with things like work and the struggle to find someone to date, incorporating magic. At that time, I was in a job that had once made me happy but that had recently become something of an ordeal, and one morning I found myself wishing that I’d find an offer for a magical job in my e-mail. That kicked off the idea.
Me: I've had a few of those jobs myself. I find it funny that reality tends to be a major inspiration for fiction. Tell us about the fantasy series and what we can expect.
Shanna: (I’m assuming you mean the Fairy Tale series?) This is a series that draws from some of the folklore relating to fairies and brings it into a contemporary fantasy setting. It’s different from the Enchanted, Inc. series in a lot of ways, but I think there’s a lot that Enchanted, Inc. fans might like. There’s the mix of fantasy and real-world stuff, some humor, and a hint of the potential for romance. I had a lot of fun taking elements from folklore and fairy tales and playing with them to create a new story.
Me: Which character in your books would you say you are most like?
Shanna: It’s hard to say because all my characters come from me – little pieces of me taken apart, mixed together with other things and then put back together again. I probably have the most in common with Owen from the Enchanted, Inc. series. The poor guy got all my worst traits, including a tendency to retreat from the world when focused on a problem and being a bit of a slob when it comes to books and papers. But some of my friends would probably say I’m kind of like Sophie, one of the heroines in the Fairy Tale series. I’m not really sure why, but I have a reputation for being both sweet and scary and for being able to make things happen the way I want them to happen without anyone feeling like they’ve been manipulated or coerced. (If I’m really doing this, I wish I knew how so I could do it on purpose.)
Me: What inspired you to become a writer?
Shanna: I always made up stories for fun. That’s how I entertained myself, going all the way back to early childhood. Writing the stories down and sharing them with other people seemed like the obvious next step. I always seem to have some narrative running in my head, so writing is a way of staying sane by getting the narrative out of my head.
Me: I hear that. You and I do the mind racing thing. There's no sleep for people like us. Not until everything in your brain is transported to paper or computer. What are you most excited about for readers to learn or experience from your newest books?
Shanna: I’m hoping they’ll discover that they like me as a writer, that it wasn’t just that one set of characters they liked. And I want them to enjoy being a part of this world. I think just about everything I write has that escapist element, where it’s a fun place to spend a few hours.
Me: How did you feel when you published your first book?
Shanna: It was a little unreal, actually. I was very young, so I didn’t yet realize how difficult it really was to sell a book. It was only later that I learned (the hard way) just how challenging it could be. I had a bit of a dry spell before relaunching my career with Enchanted, Inc., and there was a weird mix of elation, relief and a sense of inevitability when that book sold.
Me: Tell us a little bit about your other writing adventures.
Shanna: I went to journalism school, studying to be a radio or TV reporter, and I did some internships there (and stuff I wrote was actually on TV and the radio), but I ended up working in public relations. I spent about five years working at a medical school, where I wrote about health issues and medical research, and I got to meet all kinds of interesting people, including Nobel Prize winners. Then I worked for a couple of different PR firms, doing technology PR writing. I know way too much about how cellular networks work. When I got laid off from one of these firms, I decided to freelance so I could focus more on fiction, so for a few years, I did all kinds of writing and editing – sales and marketing documents, radio scripts, speeches, etc. I’ve also done some pop-culture essays, which were a lot of fun because watching TV or reading books counted as work! Now, though, I’m just writing fiction, which for me is a lot easier. All that marketing and PR experience does help in promoting my work.
Me: I can imagine. For most authors today, writing their novel is half the battle. It's great that you have so much experience in marketing. If your books were made into a movie or television series do you have a dream cast in mind?
Shanna: I may have some casting in mind when I’m creating characters, just to give myself a mental image, but by the time I’m done with a book, the characters have become themselves and no longer are personified by the actors I had in mind. I try not to get too tied into any one mental cast because I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment on the off chance a movie or TV series is made. It’s been more than ten years since I wrote Enchanted, Inc., so my initial mental cast has mostly aged out of the roles.
Me: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Shanna: I read a lot. I probably watch too much TV and spend too much time discussing it online. I knit. I take ballet classes. I sing in the choir at church and direct the church’s kindergarten choir. I cook and bake. I don’t do housework unless things get really bad.
Me: LOL I'm a fan of last resort cleaning, and ballet is a favorite past time of mine. I'm so glad to know you take classes. Do you ever experience writer’s block and if you do how do you overcome it?
Shanna: I seldom have true writer’s block where I just can’t write or don’t know what to write. I’m more likely to have a bad case of what I call the “don’t wannas,” where for some reason I can’t quite make myself sit down to work. I’ll go to all kinds of crazy lengths to avoid writing, even doing housework. I generally get over it by setting an “appointment” to write – at whatever time, I will start writing, but I’m not allowed to until then. I usually end up getting bored with whatever I’m doing to procrastinate before the appointed time. When I really am stuck, I get out a pen and paper and make a list of things that could happen next until something sparks an idea. Sometimes taking a walk or doing something physical but mindless helps.
One thing that helps prevent both writer’s block and the don’t wannas is ending each day’s writing by planning out what happens next and what the next scene will be. Then I can daydream about it as I fall asleep that night or when I first wake up the next morning, and that makes me eager to write it.
Me: That is sound advice, and definitely something I will start doing. What do you love most about being an author?
Shanna: I love the flexibility of this life – setting my own schedule and working when and where I want. I recently found a piece of paper where I wrote out my plan for getting this kind of life – I’d taken a vacation day from work a long time ago and spent it writing, and having that kind of day of working the way I felt like working was sheer bliss, so I wrote down what I wanted to do and what I’d have to do to get there. Fortunately, I was able to pull it off because I love my life.
Me: What writers/authors have inspired you?
Shanna: I think I first started really wanting to write fantasy when I was in high school and discovered Katherine Kurtz. She created a world I wished I could live in and people I wish I knew, and that made me want to do the same thing.
Reading Connie Willis or Neil Gaiman makes me want to write better. I feel both inspired and like a total hack when I read them.
Me: Do you listen to music when you write? What kind is the most inspirational?
Shanna: It depends on what I’m writing whether or not I listen to music. With some books, I need total silence. Sometimes instrumental music helps me block out the world and concentrate. And then I have some books where I need to set iTunes on my computer to shuffle. The kind of music that works varies by book. I usually make a “soundtrack” for a book to find the best music for it, either for the mood or for the emotions it stirs.
Me: What do you dislike about being an author?
Shanna: It’s difficult to deal with so much of the business being out of my control, even when I’m publishing my own books. Everything depends on other people’s reactions. If readers like it, talk about it, write reviews, etc., I make money. If not, I don’t. It’s hard to put so much work into something, then send it out into the world and have no idea what the results will be.
Me: I think most authors can relate to that. Where is your favorite place to write?
Shanna: In the summer, I take my laptop downstairs to sit on the sofa under the ceiling fan. In cool weather, I go to the chaise on the loft overlooking my living room, which is the warmest spot in the house.
Me: Do you have advice for aspiring authors?
Shanna: Try to gain some objectivity about your own work. You’ll be a lot happier if your view of yourself and your expectations are realistic. That doesn’t mean you have to be down on yourself, but you can’t get better if you already think you’re perfect, and if you’re already a harsh critic of yourself, you’ll be less likely to be devastated when other people don’t think you’re a genius.
I want to thank Shanna for agreeing to this interview. I've been geeking out about it ever since I got in touch with her. For several years her books have held a special, almost shrine-like, place on my bookshelves and in my heart. So once I rediscovered her online and realized she had added more books to the Enchanted Inc. Series, I could not contain my seriously goofy happy dance. Thank heavens there were no witnesses.
If you would like to learn more about this fabulous author and her fabulous books you can visit her on her website.
You can also visit her on her Amazon Author Page or B&N to take a look at her books.