Heya, TWNers! If you’re visiting for the first time or a returning reader, on behalf of TWN, I want to say welcome and thank you for joining us for day three of TWN’s FIRST-EVER Teen Writers’ Rally. We’re kicking-off National Novel Writing Month with back-to-back posts featuring amazing authors, bloggers, and more! Tune in every day until November 5th for new posts full of writing tips, advice, and encouragement. Posts are live at 6:00 EST, and if you’re not already, subscribe to Teen Writers’ Nook via email to receive a notification when the next post for the rally is up. (Form can be found to the right if on a computer or at the bottom of the page if on a mobile device.) And as always stay until the end of the post for information about the giveaway running through the entire event!
I am super stoked to be sharing our next author interview with the one and only Chawna Schroeder!!! Chawna is the author of the YA Christian fantasy titles Beast and The Vault Between Spaces (published by Enclave Escape)! She has SO many great advice and encouragement that I can’t wait to share with you today. So I’m gonna stop talking and let her take the the spotlight. *virtual round of applause*
Thank you SO much for joining us at Teen Writers’ Nook today, Chawna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your books, and where we can find/follow you online?
I’m a bibliophile who loves chai tea, museums, and Disney’s original animated version of Beauty and the Beast. As you probably can guess, my imaginary friends and the imaginary friends of my fellow writers absorb vast amount of my time. When I do take a break from them, I enjoy studying the Bible in its original languages, playing piano, or working on one of my handwork projects.
I have two fantasy novels currently published. Beast is a coming-of-age fairytale about a feral girl raised among dogs and who become prey in a royal hunting tournament. The Vault Between Spaces is set in a world with a WWII/Cold War vibe and follows a girl who intentionally gets herself arrested in order to escape from a prison camp reputed as inescapable. I also have a few non-fiction resources, including a curriculum that teaches the basics of discernment.
As for where you can find me, I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChawnaSchroederAuthor/) and a website (www.chawnaschroeder.com), where you can sign up for my newsletter (https://www.chawnaschroeder.
Disney’s original animated version of Beauty and the Beast IS the best! I like grew up on that movie. XD (Plus, readers, y’all probably aren’t surprised to hear my history nerd side is kicking in when I learned that The Vault Between Spaces‘s setting has a WWII/Cold War vibe. That just makes it EVEN cooler!)
#2. When did you first discover your love for writing and what inspired you to pursue it seriously?
I don’t necessarily remember discovering a love for writing, though my love for books and story are part of my earliest memories. But my kindergarten teacher had us write and illustrate several “books” throughout that year, so I suspect that is when I developed a love for writing itself, at least in part. (And yes, I still have those “books.”) What I do know is that, by the time I turned six, I had a goal to someday write down the stories my dad invented for bedtime, and by fifth grade I wanted to be a historical novelist.
But I didn’t start pursuing writing seriously until the middle of high school. I was looking at college options and felt frustrated with deciding where to go, what to pursue. My parents finally sat me down, and asked that, if education or money were no object, what did I want to do? My answer: I want to write. And I’ve spent over the last 20 years doing exactly that.
That’s awesome! I love how God was working everything out, even if you didn’t realize, and brought you to the writing career. (I mean, my bookshelves are also very happy. XD)
Yes, I had to add a Beauty and the Beast GIF. I mean, since we were already talking about it. XD
#3. What’s the first thing you do when you get a story idea before you begin writing it?
Since I’m often working on other projects that cannot be immediately be set aside, my first step is to log the idea when I get it into an idea notebook. That way I won’t forget about it.
Then when I select idea to pursue it further, the first step can vary depending on the idea and how well developed it is. For example, my current project, since it is based on a mash-up of two favorite stories, required me to do a comparison list of characters and events to see where I could weld the two stories together. But most often I will draft a few pages—what I call a “false start.” This gives me a chance to see if I like the story and the characters before returning to do more in-depth brainstorming about the story.
Those are great ideas for the first-step! Also, readers, I am going to second that the “false start” really does do wonders. There’s nothing wrong with deciding you don’t quite love this story idea like you thought you would, but it’s much better to see that before you invest a lot of time into it.
#4. I love the Biblical truth you include in your books. Did you always intend to write Christian fantasy? If so, what encouraged you to stick with it? If not, what changed your mind?
Yes, I think I always wanted to write Christian fiction. I grew up reading Christian fiction with series like the Trailblazers by Dave and Neta Jackson and Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard, and I quickly jumped to the adult work of Janette Oak and Michael Phillips. I was especially inspired by Phillips and loved how he would have full spiritual discussions in the middle of his books. So to me, fiction was the perfect place to explore and wrestle with spiritual things. Moreover, my faith is so central to who I am, it finds its way onto the page, whether I’m thinking about it or not.
But what you might notice from the book list above is that all those Christian books were historical fiction, and my intention early on was to become a historical novelist. I enjoyed fantasy as kid, being a fan of Dr. Suess, Tomie dePaola, and all things Disney, but I hadn’t considered meshing that with my Christian faith. It wasn’t until Arena by Karen Hancock was first published that I even because aware of the concept of Christian fantasy (at least, beyond Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings). Then when I discovered Firebird by Kathy Tyers, something clicked in my brain. These were the type of stories I wanted to write, full of far-reaching imagination and deep spiritual threads.
Because Christian fantasy can be a hard genre to get publish—especially when I started pursuing professional writing over twenty years ago—I did dabble with other genres. But I always ended up returning to Christian fantasy and science fiction, because that’s simply how my imagination is wired, and truthfully, what I believe God wanted me to write.
That is awesome!
#5. What is the most difficult part of the writing process and how do you overcome the challenge?
Every part of writing has been difficult for me at some point. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate the magic of each stage: the wonder of playing with possibilities and what if (brainstorming); the joy of exploration, getting to know characters and watch plots unfold (first draft); the surge of confidence as all the pieces lock into place into a fully coherent story that others can enjoy (editing); the satisfaction of getting the words to say exactly what I want them to say (polishing). If I can focus on the joy of the stage I’m in, rather than being impatient to reach (or feeling pushed to reach) the next stage, then I generally find contentment in doing my work, even the difficult parts.
When I do have a day when writing is being difficult, no matter the stage, my strategy is twofold. First, I tell myself that all I have to do is show up. I have to sit down, open my story, pull out my pen, or whatever is needed for that stage of writing and simply be there for fifteen or thirty minutes. I don’t have write anything. I just have to be available and willing to write, and if nothing happens within that set period, I can go do something else.
Second, I simply pray, often in written form. I just tell God about my frustration or why I don’t want to write or what I would like to do, but can’t for some reason. Then I usually conclude with some form of acknowledgement that I can’t do this on my own, and I need His help. If He gives me words, wonderful! If not, that’s okay too. It’s His choice. Interestingly, words almost always follow.
First, I don’t think I have ever heard someone describe the entire writing process so beautifully! I love the way you described it! And this is such great advice to just show up and to pray!
#6. What is one thing you wished you had known when you first start writing?
Remember to keep play with your writing.
The more you learn about writing and the world of publishing, it’s easy to be caught up into all the do’s and do-not’s of writing. To let the rules dictate. To worry whether I’m doing something “right.” To feel like if something is not publishable, it’s not worth writing.
Yet that sense of play and experimenting, of adventure and trying new things, even knowing many of them will fail—this is what keeps writing fresh and fun for the writer. And when it is fresh and fun for the writer, that will bleed through the words to the reader, who is more likely to enjoy reading.
YES JUST YES!!! Readers, I cannot stress how important this is! I have been there, with getting all caught up in rules and publishing trends. But your writing is an art, and like Chawna said, remember to keep playing with it!
#7. Can you describe a typical writing session for you? Are there things you do that help you write faster or better (i.e. listening to instrumental music, writing at night/in the mornings, etc.)?
If there’s something that would help me write faster, I haven’t found it yet! I’m a very slow writer and frequently get frustrated with my turtle pace.
That said, the two things that help me are routine and a lack of distractions. (I’m very easily distract—oh look, there’s a squirrel!)
As a result, a typical writing session for me is pretty basic. I prefer mornings to write, as that is when my brain is most alert—and I’m least likely to be distracted by something else. My mornings are intentionally structured in a set routine so it creates a pattern in my brain that A follows B and B follows C. This allows my mind to automatically shift gears into writing mode when I reach that part of my day.
Also, I intentionally set aside a large, single block of time—usually about two hours. Some writers can write in short bursts, but my mind can actually take several minutes to transition from reality to story world and from story world back to reality. So I work best in large blocks.
When I start my actual writing time, I try to take a few minutes to write out a simple prayer—anything from one line to a couple of paragraphs—simply acknowledging my need for God’s help in the work ahead. Then I enter “do not disturb” mode: I ignore phone calls and texts, I work in silence, and I general don’t engage with anything or anyone except the story I’m working on. That’s it. Nothing complicated or magical, but it works for me.
#8. What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
With every story I write, there’s a core theme or thought that I hope will connect with readers, and that changes from book to book. But lately I’ve come to realize that more than some lesson or theme, what I want most is for the books bring the reader to a place of worship. A place where they gain a greater understanding of who God is in a way that inspires awe and the humble acknowledgement that He is indeed God and worthy of all that position entails.
I don’t know if my current books do that, but that is something I’m working to be more intentional about now.
Okay, I love that! I think it’s such an amazing and beautiful goal!
#9. Do you have any advice, encouragement, or words of wisdom for teen writers who want to take their writing seriously?
Don’t get impatient, don’t rush the process. As writers, we often think both our persons and our stories are ready for publication long before they are. I know I did. Sometimes still do. And with the availability of self-publishing these days, skipping ahead to publication is a strong temptation.
Don’t give into it. Take the time to learn the craft thoroughly. Read books and magazines on writing. Attend classes, workshops, and conferences. Get professional feedback. Find a group of critique partners, including other writers who are also pursuing writing as a profession. Write, rewrite, and rewrite some more. Expect this process to take years, not months.
For you need this time before publication to grow, not only as a writer, but also as a person and a Christian. The writing business is difficult and can take a strong toll on you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The time spent writing in the shadows, without a contract and without a published book, is an important, if not essential, preparation for what will come afterward.
Yes! Chawna is just so full of wisdom and amazing advice, y’all! I 100% second her about not rushing the process. I know the temptation is so hard. I have been there, as a young author just starting out and getting frustrated when I realized just how long the road to publication takes. But as someone, just like you, who is still taking that journey, I’m learning to enjoy the ride. Because when you take the pressure off yourself to be published in a certain amount of time or years, you can begin to enjoy every part of the process. That first draft you feel like you’ll never finish? That’s the only time you’ll be able to write that first draft and discover that story for the first time. The editing the endures forever? That’s a time of growing in your craft and making your story stronger, and just like a plant needs time to grow, so does your book, so don’t grow weary! You are doing amazing and keep pressing forward!
Wow, readers, wasn’t Chawna’s answers just PURE AWESOMENESS????!!! She has so much golden wisdom right here, and TWN is SO grateful to have been able to interview her for this rally! I hoped you enjoyed reading Chawna’s answers as much as I did! If you did, show your gratitude to Chawna Schroeder by getting a copy of one of her books or if you’ve already read them, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or recommend it to a friend! Not only is writing books hard, but trying to get your name out into a very competitive mark is just as difficult. So every bit of support means so much to these authors!
Now it’s GIVEAWAY TIME! During the rally (October 24th-November 5th) Teen Writers’ Nook is running a giveaway. Three winners will be chosen and the winners will win their choice of one of the books pictured below. (Imagine anthology is also included, though not pictured.) This giveaway is open to both U.S. and international entries!
Every post you comment on during the rally earns you an extra entry into the giveaway! To enter with this post comment below and tell me: What genre do you write and is it the same one you’ve always written in?
Remember to tune in tomorrow for my interview with Hannah Currie, Christian romance novelist of Heart of a Royal and Bring Her Home.
Do you love the original version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? What’s your favorite Christian fantasy novel? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!
Keep on being awesome and never stop writing!