Today I continue my highlight of my future label-mates at Urban Christian Books by introducing author, Shana Burton.
Hi Shana! Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction. Tell us about your debut novel, Suddenly Single. Suddenly Single is about a woman, Vashti Hunter, who gets stood up on her wedding day and her vow to find love again within 365 days. During the course of this journey, what she actually finds is herself and the unconditional love of God… that and a whole lotta drama in between!
Sounds interesting. Nice twist adding the time-limit. What inspired you to write Suddenly Single? I suppose the “politically correct” answer would be that I wanted to inspire woman to seek out a relationship with the Lord before trying to find one with a man—and that much is true! But the truth is that I was cleaning up one day and found an Ebony magazine article entitled “What to do When You Find Yourself Suddenly Single” or something like that. The words “Suddenly Single” were in bold red writing, and something about it struck me. I started outlining the story in my head after that.
Your novel is a little edgy for Christian Fiction because it contains sex scenes. Tell me how the Christian Fiction reader community has responded to it? The response has been mixed. I did have one reviewer to actually say I was a "disgrace to Christian fiction," but most people have said that it's real life and that they appreciate the honesty. Without giving too much away, there is a sex scene at the beginning of the novel where, the over-whelming response has been that they felt like she was raped, so it wasn't seen in the same light as a casual fling. Pre-maritial sex wasn't glamorized in the book, however. There were always consequences to Vashti's actions.Tell us about your journey to publication. I’ve always like to write, but I never seriously tried to make a career of it outside of some freelancing for magazines and newspapers. While I was writing Suddenly Single, I was reading a lot of other novels and thinking, “My book is just as good as theirs.” Once I completed my book, I started shopping it around. There was some interest but nothing concrete. Then I hooked up with my agent, and she had my book deal in about a week or two.
You’re a full-time educator, a mom and wife, tell us how you juggle it all. What’s your writing process like? I juggle it all through prayer and time management. I concluded a long time ago that between having a family, a clean house, and a fulfilling career, I had to choose two. There was no way to have all three and maintain sanity. So after God, my focus is on my family, on teaching from 7:00-3:00, and on writing after that. Needless to say, the house is a wreck, but my family and I are happy.
Are you a member of a critique or writer’s group? If not, what resources did you use to learn to write? I read a lot of books about writing, and I am a member of a writer’s group, but I have mixed emotions about that. All of the members of the group are talented writers, but I’m the youngest one, the only Black one, and the only one who writes in my genre, which presents a challenge during critiques. I’m constantly having to explain concepts like “CP” time to them or certain cultural idiosyncrasies that I might use in the book, which leads to all sorts of racial tension within the group.
What’s been the most exciting thing about Suddenly Single’s debut? The overwhelming response has been the most exciting and surprising. Even though I had great hopes, in the back of my mind I was thinking that my mama and my husband would probably be the only ones buying my book. But I’ve gotten so much wonderful feedback and interest in the book. I still get excited when I see it listed on people’s MySpace pages as one of their favorite books or when, like today at work, a co-worker said that she was visiting relatives in Tampa this past weekend, and one of her cousins had it. That kind of report is such a blessing!
What advice do you have for an aspiring writer? Keep trying and learn everything possible about the craft as well as the marketing side. I’ve always been sort of a natural writing, but I’ve learned so much about being an effective writer from reading and talking to the experts.
What’s on your TBR (to be read) pile? I have more of a TBW (to be written) pile. I’m trying to finish my third book, which I’m about 240 pages into. As a punishment to myself and to motivate me to finish, I’ve forbidden myself to read anything new until I finish writing the book. This will also keep me honest while I’m writing because I don’t want to inadvertently steal someone’s ideas. So, basically, I will have to get back to you with that TBR list!
I asked Shana to get personal with us and she shared these answers.
Favorite Worship Song: “Work it Out” (original, not the re-mix)
Favorite Time of Year: Summer
Beach or Mountains: Beach Bunny all the way!
Name a U.S. city that you haven’t been to that you most want to visit and why? Any city in California. Cali is one of the few states I’ve never gone to or ridden through
Who are your heroes? My mother, Myrtice C. Johnson, and Zora Neale Hurston
What’s next for Shana Burton? My second book, First Comes Love, comes out around Thanksgiving, so I will be very busy promoting that. First Comes Love is about two best friends, London and Bernard, who get harshly dumped on the same day. To forget about their broken hearts, they jet off the Las Vegas for a night of gambling, drinking, and fun, only to wake up the next morning married to each other. Their plan is to quickly and quietly annul the marriage, but London's grandmother urges them to seek God's word and plan for marriage. They agree to try to make the marriage work, but lingering exes, fights over money, and meddlesome family members are a constant threat to the already fragile union. They soon find themselves having to decide if loving someone means holding on to that person no matter what or being able to let go.
I also just won "Teacher of the Year" for my school, and there’s this whole packet thing that I have to put together for the county and state competition, which I’m sure is going to eat up my time. The house probably won’t get cleaned before Christmas!
Congrats on the Teacher of the Year award! That's great news and I look forward to First Comes Love.
Thanks for stopping by!
Shana's novel was published by Urban Christian books. You can learn more about Urban Christian at http://www.urbanchristianonline.net/ You can also pick up a copy of Suddenly Single at Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Books-a-Million, Wal-mart and online at Amazon and where ever books are sold. You can also visit Shana at http://www.shanaburton.com/